Healines: August 16, 2010
by Meg Larkin
In public health news, pharmacists are beginning to play a larger role in patient care. Pharmacists are increasingly partnering with insurers and employers to help tackle the widespread problem of patients not taking their medications as prescribed. Additionally, many pharmacies are expanding the range of patient services that they offer, and attempting to pick up some of the slack left by the national primary care shortage. However, some people are concerned that pharmacists may begin to usurp the role of the primary care physician. The American Academy of Family Physicians has urged that the pharmacists’ services should complement physician care.
In regulatory news, the FDA has approved a controversial 5-Day emergency contraceptive. The drug, called ella works to prevent a pregnancy when taken within 5 days of having unprotected sex. Although it will be available by prescription only, it is reported to be more effective than Plan-B, which is currently available over the counter. According to the New York Times, “Women who have unprotected intercourse have about 1 chance in 20 of becoming pregnant. Those who take Plan B within three days cut that risk to about 1 in 40, while those who take ella would cut that risk to about 1 in 50, regulators say. Studies show that ella is less effective in obese women.” Ella’s approval is controversial because its mode of operation is similar to RU-486, also known as the abortion pill. Both pills manipulate progesterone to either prevent ovulation or make the uterus inhospitable to a pregnancy. Animal testing has shown that unlike RU-486, ella has little effect on established pregnancies, but abortion opponents remain strongly opposed to ella’s approval. Ella will be distributed in the United States by Watson Pharmaceuticals and it is expected to be available by the end of the year.
In health reform news, it appears that some states may lack the authority to implement changes made by the federal reform law. According to the Boston Globe, “Insurance commissioners in about half the states say they do not have clear authority to enforce consumer protection standards that take effect next month.” In the mean time, federal and state officials are looking for ways to make the federal reform measures work in the face of mixed levels of state authority. Although States have a primary role in enforcing the reform law’s standards, if the States are unwilling or unable to enforce the federal law’s provisions, the federal government will step in. States have taken divergent approaches to the problem with some passing laws that enable them to enforce the Federal provisions, and others relying on broad consumer protection statutes and discussions with insurers to effectuate the reform law’s changes.
Meg Larkin is a law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns.