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PhRMA leader Tauzin resigns

Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, announced on Feb. 12 that he would step down at the end of June, about five years after he took the job. "I now believe it is time I move on and hand the mantle of leadership of this great organization to others as passionate as myself, and to explore the many other interests I would like to pursue," Tauzin said in a statement, adding that he only committed to the position for 5½ years. Tauzin, a cancer survivor, said he is in good health. His resignation comes after a pivotal year for health system reform in which PhRMA played a major role. Tauzin negotiated a deal last summer with Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D, Mont.) and the White House to trim drug costs for seniors by $80 billion over a decade -- an agreement that enabled the organization to back reform but that has proven to be controversial. PhRMA spent millions of dollars on ads supporting the Obama administration' ...

Flu-shot mandate nets 98% vaccination rate in Mo. health system

A St. Louis-area health system achieved 98% influenza immunization among its 26,000-plus employees after making the vaccine mandatory in 2008. The results at BJC HealthCare were documented in a Feb. 15 study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. The system already had seen its vaccination rate improve from 54% to 71% in 2007 with a policy requiring its employed doctors, nurses, other health professionals and employees to get immunized or sign a statement declining the shot. Nationally, the flu-shot rate among health care workers has hovered at just below 45%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But BJC officials were eager to push the immunization rate up higher and faster and opted for a mandate, said Hilary M. Babcock, MD, MPH, lead author of the study ( "Our goal is not to put all of our time and effort into getting declination statements," said Dr. Babcock, medical director of occupational ...

Senate fails to stop 21% Medicare pay cut -- for now

The Senate adjourned for the weekend on Feb. 26 without approving a measure that would have stopped a 21% Medicare physician pay cut from taking effect March 1. The House on Feb. 25 had passed legislation that would have extended a number of expiring unemployment benefits and delayed the Medicare cut until March 28. But Senate Democratic leaders were repeatedly blocked in their attempts to obtain unanimous consent to pass the "extenders" bill. Sen. Jim Bunning (R, Ky.) objected each time on the basis that the $10 billion total cost of the bill -- roughly $1 billion of which would go toward the doctor pay freeze -- would add to the federal deficit. The American Medical Association, which has been pushing lawmakers for a permanent repeal of the formula that helps determine Medicare pay, said the Senate had failed Medicare beneficiaries and opened the door to a "Medicare meltdown." "Our message to the U.S. Senate is stop playing games with Medicare patients and the physicians who ...