OKC Medical Briefs: March 10, 2004

Article excerpt

State House members have approved legislation that would provide assistance to Oklahomans who require long-term support services in order to remain at home.

House Bill 2300 by state Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, would establish the Oklahoma Consumer-Directed personal Assistance and Support Services Act. The measure passed the House 92-3 and was referred to the Senate.

The bill would mandate that Medicaid-eligible frail, elderly individuals and adults with disabilities be assisted with basic mobility, self-care and health maintenance. Qualified Oklahoma residents would be afforded the ability to have maximum control over the selection of persons working on their behalf and the manner in which personal assistance services are to be provided.

Recycled meds

A test program that redistributes leftover medications to those who cannot afford them would be expanded and eventually made permanent under legislation passed by the state House.

State Rep. Darrell Gilbert, D-Tulsa, author of House Bill 1866, said a pilot program in Tulsa County has been successful, dispensing thousands of dollars worth of medication each month to the state's uninsured.

Nursing homes throw away millions of dollars in medications, Gilbert said. This program just redirects those prescriptions to people who have no opportunity to have health insurance coverage.

The test program, which was created through 2001 legislation, allows county pharmacies and pharmacies operated by city-county health departments, to distribute unused medications from nursing facilities to people determined to be medically indigent. Gilbert said only Oklahoma and Tulsa counties have been able to participate in the program.

HB 1866 would expand the pilot program to allow nonprofit health care clinics and pharmacies under contract with the county health department or the state Department of Health to also disperse recycled prescription drugs.

The pilot program would be replaced Jan. 1, 2005. Under the new scope of the program, any prescription drug manufacturer, health care facility or individual could donate leftover medication to any participating hospital, pharmacy or nonprofit clinic. The state Department of Health would oversee the program.

Gilbert, who is chairman of the House Committee on Human Services, said that by expanding the program to eventually allow companies and individuals to donate unused drugs, he predicted the state could dramatically reduce health care costs while eliminating waste.

Drug may replace surgery

An experimental gene transfer agent available at OU Physicians is being investigated for people with severe circulation problems in their legs or feet. Cardiologist Jorge Saucedo is participating in the evaluating the safety and effectiveness of this non-surgical technique. The standard treatment for people with this debilitating condition is surgery and/or amputation.

An injectable drug that has shown promise in stimulating the growth of new blood vessels within the legs and feet is now being evaluated in this clinical trial. The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is one of about 20 U.S. centers participating in this research. According to Saucedo, this approach provides an advanced biotech technology approach for Oklahomans who suffer with vascular problems.

For more information about this clinical trial, call 271-9060 and press option 2.

New test for breast cancer

According to data presented by John Mulvihill, professor of pediatrics at OU Health Sciences Center, the next-generation breast cancer-risk test must consider the impact that gene combinations have in determining a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

The next generation of breast cancer risk test will be based on polygenic risk estimates that look at the impact of multiple combinations of genes or polymorphisms - single-base pair changes in a person's genetic blueprint that can have a great effect on the gene and gene-product functions - rather than the influence of a single gene, he said. …