Policy & Practice


Immigrants Must Get HPV Vaccine

Young women seeking to immigrate to the United States currently are required to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, under an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the 1996 amendment, individuals seeking immigrant visas must provide proof of vaccination for all vaccines recommended by the U.S. Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices. This list, which is updated periodically, now includes HPV vaccination for females aged 11-12 years, with catch-up vaccination among those aged 13-26 years. The addition of the HPV vaccine to the list of required vaccines for immigrants was automatic and required by statute, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Curtis Allen, and was not part of ACIP deliberations when the committee originally recommended use of the HPV vaccine. According to a spokeswoman for Merck, the HPV vaccine Gardasil costs approximately $290-$375 for the three-dose series. The company was not aware of the immigration policy and did not lobby for that provision, she added.

FDA Backs Calcium/Vitamin D Claim

Food and beverage manufacturers soon will be able to assert a link between the consumption of products containing the combination of calcium and vitamin D and a reduced risk for osteoporosis, under a new Food and Drug Administration rule. The final rule, which was issued last month, goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2010. The health claim does not need to include information on the sex, race, and age of those at risk for osteoporosis or identify the mechanism by which calcium reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Previously, manufacturers could make health claims linking only calcium intake with a reduced risk of osteoporosis. The labeling change is based in part on a health claim petition from the Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness LLC, part of the Coca-Cola Co.

NIH Targets Menopause Symptoms

Officials at the National Institutes of Health have formed a multisite research network to perform randomized clinical trials of treatments for common menopause symptoms. The MsFLASH network (Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers for Symptoms and Health) includes a data-coordinating center and five clinical research centers, which will be funded at about $4.4 million a year for 5 years. “Studies such as the Women's Health Initiative, which raised concerns about the safety of using menopausal hormone therapy, underscore the urgent need for treatments that have been proven safe and effective for alleviating menopausal symptoms,” Dr. Richard J. Hodes, director of the NIH's National Institute on Aging, said in a statement. “MsFLASH will speed the evaluation of treatments deemed promising by an independent panel at the recent NIH State-of-the-Science Conference on the Management of Menopause-Related Symptoms.” Some of the treatments and interventions being considered for study include antidepressants, paced respiration, yoga, low-dose estradiol patches and gels, and exercise. The effort is being led by officials at the National Institute on Aging, along with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the Office of Research on Women's Health.

Calif. Insurers to Cover HIV Tests

Next year, health plans operating in California will be required to pay for routine HIV testing regardless of whether the test is related to the primary diagnosis, under a new law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) late last month. Recent data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that “the HIV epidemic is worse than previously known. The alarming new number of infections [underscores] the need to take all possible steps to prevent the spread of this disease,” Gov. Schwarzenegger said in a signing statement. “By preventing the spread of infection, the population [not only is] healthier, but avoids the costly medical interventions required for people living with HIV and AIDS.”

HPV Toolkit Coming in January

To bring clinicians up to speed on the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the vaccine, a new “toolkit” for health care professionals, community educators, and practice managers will be available early next year. The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America designed and developed the toolkit. Qiagen Inc., Merck & Co., GlaxoSmithKline, Graceway Pharmaceuticals LLC, Roche, and Hologic Inc. provided the funding, according to Sandy Worthington, director of continuing medical education at PPFA, who spoke at the annual ARHP meeting in Washington. The toolkit will contain laminated algorithms, FAQs on laminated cards in lay language to be shared with patients, a manual for community educators, and a manual for medical office managers that contains instructions on billing codes, securing reimbursement, and storage and shipping.

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