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Prescription drug overdose cases skyrocket at emergency departments

With newly released data showing that prescription drug misuse now rivals illicit drug use as a cause of emergency department visits, the Food and Drug Administration in June released a long-awaited proposal aimed at curbing recreational use of opioid analgesics. Physicians and advocates for pain patients hailed the FDA's proposal for addressing the growing opioid abuse problem while not impeding legitimate access to pain treatment. Fatal poisonings from opioid overdoses tripled to nearly 14,000 deaths from 1999 to 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in September 2009. The tally of near-deadly incidents involving opioids is far higher and growing rapidly, as revealed in the CDC's June 18 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Emergency department visits related to misuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs doubled from 500,000 in 2004 to 1 million in 2008, said the report, based on estimates from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Ad ...

Teen girls advised to see a gynecologist before age 16

Young women should first see a gynecologist between age 13 and 15, and the visit should focus primarily on education and guidance, according to an updated Committee Opinion by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The initial visit should not include a pelvic exam or a speculum exam unless there is a medical reason for one or both, states the four-page opinion in the July Obstetrics & Gynecology. St. Louis ob-gyn Diane F. Merritt, MD, chair of ACOG's Committee on Adolescent Health Care, said the minute she tells a new teen patient that a Pap smear is unnecessary, "everything changes. That glassy or sullen look dissipates and the mother's shoulders relax." "I've always tried to make the first visit to the gynecologist a learning experience that is age appropriate," she said. "Let up on these kids. Let them come in and ask questions. Teach them about their body. Teach them about their anatomy. Teach them good hygiene." Guidelines advising when teens should ...

Primary care boosted in proposed Medicare pay rule

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued a proposed Medicare physician fee schedule rule that it says will expand preventive services for Medicare beneficiaries, improve payments for primary care services and promote access to health care. The proposed rule, announced June 25, would implement provisions in the national health reform law that will eliminate out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries for most preventive services, including a new annual primary care visit benefit, CMS said. However, it also projects a 6.1% reduction to physician payment rates in 2011 as mandated under the sustainable growth rate formula -- and that would be on top of a roughly 23% cut that is planned for the end of November. "Beginning in 2011, Medicare will cover an annual wellness visit that will offer an opportunity for the physician and patient to develop a more comprehensive approach to maintaining or improving the patient's health and reducing risks of chronic disease," said Jonathan ...