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NEW HEALTH INFORMATION APPS AVAILABLE ON USA.GOV

Smartphone users can now get important health information from 5 of 18 brand new mobile applications released by the US government on July 2, 2010. The free apps, part of the revamped www.USA.gov Web site, are designed to make government services and information more accessible. Pharmacists can direct their patients toward the apps that provide information about general health and prescription drugs, promote healthy eating, and help prevent excessive ultraviolet (UV) exposure.

The Medline Plus Mobile app, from the National Institutes of Health, provides information on a variety of health topics, including prescription medications, in both English and Spanish. My Food-a-Pedia, the US Department of Agriculture app, allows users to look up nutritional information for over 1000 food products. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a calculator to measure body mass index, complete with links to ideas for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. An app from the Environmental Protection Agency checks the UV index and the air quality of a specified location. The Product Recall app provides recall information from a variety of agencies, including the FDA.

Most of the apps on USA.gov are compatible with iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android devices. According to Peter R. Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, more apps will be available in the coming weeks. To learn more about all 18 new apps, visit http://apps.usa.gov/.

PANEL CALLS FOUL ON REGULATION OF CANCER-CAUSING CHEMICALS

The impact of environmental carcinogens on the nation’s cancer burden has been “grossly underestimated,” according to a report issued in May by the President’s Cancer Panel (PCP) of the National Cancer Institute.

In “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now,” panelists examined the carcinogenic potential of chemicals commonly found in the homes, offices, and schools where Americans live and work. They found that lax regulation and inadequate scientific study has resulted in an abundance of chemicals whose effects on cancer risk are largely unknown.

Among the PCP’s chief concerns was the regulation of chemicals such as bisphenol A, which—despite its documented presence in consumer goods and potential ties to cancer—remains unregulated. Public awareness was also found to be lacking, even for known carcinogens, such as radon, formaldehyde, and benzene. In a letter to President Obama, the panelists called for a concerted national effort to educate citizens and to identify and remove environmental toxins from food, water, and air.

“Efforts to inform the public of such harmful exposures and how to prevent them must be increased,” the report said. “All levels of government, from federal to local, must work to protect every American from needless disease through rigorous regulation of environmental pollutants.”

PHARMACY ADVOCATES RALLY BEHIND MTM BILL

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) voiced strong support for a new bill to expand medication therapy management (MTM) benefits for Medicare patients.

Introduced June 29, 2010, by Senators Kay R. Hagan (D, NC) and Al Franken (D, MN), the Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Expanded Benefits Act will widen the eligibility requirements for pharmacist-provided MTM services through Medicare.

Seniors suffering from any single chronic illness—such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease—will be able to participate in the program, which is currently only available to 12.9% of Part D patients. The bill maximizes the clinical expertise of pharmacists as a means to improve medication adherence and manage the high costs of chronic disease.

This approach is supported by a “treasure trove of compelling evidence,” according to Douglas Hoey, RPh, NCPA’s acting vice president and chief executive officer. He characterized the bill as crucial to the success of health care reform, and urged the Senate to move quickly in passing it.

“For many Medicare Part D patients, the challenges of coping with numerous chronic conditions and diseases require an expert’s consultation, and pharmacists are clinically trained in helping ensure their patients are getting the best possible results,” said Hoey.