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March 7, 2003, Issue No. 91

AHRQ News and Numbers

Self-employed people were nearly twice as likely as wage earners to be uninsured during the first half of 2001. Roughly 31 percent lacked any type of health insurance, compared with 16 percent of wage earners. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MEPS Statistical Brief #11: The Health Insurance Status of U.S. Workers, 2001, February 2003 (PDF File, 307 KB; PDF Help).]

Today's Headlines:

  1. Outpatient prescription drug-related injuries are common in older patients, but many can be prevented
  2. AHRQ patient safety grantees share success stories, new ideas at second annual meeting
  3. National survey details Americans' experiences with asthma treatments and medications
  4. Overview of AHRQ 2002 accomplishments in U.S. Medicine
  5. AHRQ policy on the inclusion of priority populations in research
  6. New evidence report summary says bronchiolitis is commonly treated with medicines that may be ineffective
  7. AHRQ workshops on HIPAA Privacy Rule
  8. AHRQ in the professional literature

1.  Outpatient Prescription Drug-Related Injuries Are Common in Older Patients, But Many Can Be Prevented

In a new study sponsored by AHRQ and NIH's National Institute on Aging, medical researchers found that Medicare patients treated in the outpatient setting may suffer as many as 1.9 million drug-related injuries a year because of medical errors or adverse drug reactions not caused by errors. About 180,000 of these injuries are life-threatening or fatal, and more than half are preventable, say the researchers, who based the estimates on a study of over 30,000 Medicare enrollees followed during 1999-2000. The study was led by Jerry H. Gurwitz, M.D., of the Meyers Primary Care Institute, a joint endeavor of the Fallon Foundation and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The study, "Incidence and Preventability of Adverse Drug Events among Older Persons in the Ambulatory Setting," was published in the March 5 issue of JAMA. Select to access the press release.

2.  AHRQ Patient Safety Grantees Share Success Stories, New Ideas at Second Annual Meeting

Nearly 350 AHRQ patient safety grantees, staff, and others gathered in Washington this week for their second annual meeting to discuss highlights of their ongoing research, lessons learned, and the best ways to make sure their findings are being put to use by practicing clinicians, hospital officials, and others. Several grantees also joined AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy, M.D., at briefings for the media and for Capitol Hill staff. Articles from the media briefing about several patient safety projects, including the newly launched WebM&M site, have appeared this week in Reuters Health and AHA News, and additional articles are expected next week in several other trade publications.

3.  National Survey Details Americans' Experiences with Asthma Treatments and Medications

More than 25 million Americans have been told by a physician or other health care provider that they have asthma, according to data collected in 2000 by AHRQ's MEPS. In the 12 months prior to their interview, 6.5 million adults and 3.2 million children had an asthma attack. Among people who had an asthma attack in the last 12 months, more than half of adults and more than 40 percent of children reported using inhaled corticosteroids. Females were more likely than males to use inhaled steroids. This is the first time that MEPS has collected comprehensive data on asthma treatments for adults and children in the United States. Select to access the press release and for details in the statistical brief, Asthma Treatment: Use of Medications and Devices, 2000 (PDF File, 420 KB; PDF Help).

4.  Overview of AHRQ 2002 Accomplishments in U.S. Medicine

AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy's article, "Partners in Transition: Together Crossing the Chasm", was published in U.S. Medicine's annual overview of federal government health care in January and is now available. In addition to providing an overview of AHRQ accomplishments in 2002 and looking ahead toward major Agency activities in 2003, the article pays tribute to the late John M. Eisenberg, M.D., who was AHRQ's director from 1997 to 2002.

5.  AHRQ Policy on the Inclusion of Priority Populations in Research

On February 28, AHRQ published a notice in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts establishing a new Agency policy on the inclusion of priority populations in health services research. This policy was developed to implement a directive in the Healthcare Research and Quality Act of 1999, which re-authorized the Agency. The policy will begin with all grant applications submitted to AHRQ for the October 1, 2003, receipt date. The Agency intends to use this policy to help develop and maintain a broad portfolio of research inclusive of a diverse set of populations. Select to access the notice.

6.  New Evidence Report Summary Says Bronchiolitis Is Commonly Treated with Medicines that May Be Ineffective

We announced the summary of a new evidence report, Management of Bronchiolitis in Infants and Children, that was prepared for AHRQ by the Research Triangle Institute-University of North Carolina Evidence-based Practice Center. Although doctors commonly use a wide array of medications to treat bronchiolitis—the most common lower-respiratory tract condition among infants and toddlers—there currently is no compelling evidence to support these treatments, according to the report. Physicians often use medications such as inhaled, oral, or intravenous corticosteroids, inhaled epinephrine, and nebulized bronchiodilators to treat bronchiolitis because they are inexpensive and generally considered to be safe. But whether the medications actually work will not be known until they are studied in well-designed, adequately sized randomized clinical trials, according to the researchers. Select to access the press release and the summary. A print copy of the summary is available by sending an E-mail to

7.  AHRQ Workshops on HIPAA Privacy Rule

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rule will go into effect on April 14, and two workshops are being offered by AcademyHealth and AHRQ on the topic. The workshops, "Playing by New Rules: Privacy and Health Services Research," are intended to educate the health services research community about responsibilities and obligations under the HIPAA privacy rule. Participants will learn practical approaches to implementing the privacy rule, such as effectively working with institutional review boards and privacy boards. The workshop will address critical questions that health services researchers will face related to data privacy, including: Which data meet the legal requirements for personally identifiable health information? What entities are covered by the regulation, and how are their identifiable data acquired? What are the consequences for failing to protect this information? How can researchers use data while protecting confidentiality? What advantages does the limited data set (LDS) offer researchers? The 1-day workshops will be held in two locations: March 19 in San Francisco and April 29 in Washington, DC./p>

8.  AHRQ in the Professional Literature

We are providing the following hyperlinks to journal abstracts through PubMed® for your convenience. Unfortunately, some of you may not be able to access the abstracts because of firewalls or specific settings on your individual computer systems. If you are having problems, you should ask your technical support staff for possible remedies.

Lin HM, Lyles RH, Williamson JM. Bias in a placebo-controlled study due to mismeasurement of disease status and the regression effect. Control Clin Trials 2002 Oct; 23(5):497-501. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Schoenbaum M, Unutzer J, McCaffrey D, et al. The effects of primary care depression treatment on patients' clinical status and employment. Health Serv Res 2002 Oct; 37(5):1145-58. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Gergen PJ, Mitchell H, Lynn H. Understanding the seasonal pattern of childhood asthma: results from the National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma Study. J Pediatr 2002 Nov; 141(4):631-6. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Basu J, Friedman B, Burstin H. Primary care, HMO enrollment, and hospitalization for ambulatory care sensitive conditions: a new approach. Med Care 2002 Dec; 40(12):1260-9. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Schneeweiss S, Maclure M, Soumerai SB, et al. Quasi-experimental longitudinal designs to evaluate drug benefit policy changes with low policy compliance. J Clin Epidemiol 2002 Aug; 55(8):833-41. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Contact Information

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Current as of March 2003


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