GA Cancer Drug Shortage

If you rely on Taxol to treat your cancer, you may be in trouble. Several Georgia cancer facilities are reporting difficulty in obtaining some cancer drugs.

According to the FDA:


"We are continuing to see these increased numbers for shortages, especially for older sterile injectable drugs," said Valerie Jensen, director of the  FDA Drug Shortages Program. "These drugs are mainly used in hospitals and include cancer drugs, drugs needed for patients undergoing surgery and emergency drugs."

The reasons for the shortages vary. Some drug manufacturers are discontinuing older drugs and replacing them with newer ones, which are usually more profitable, according to the FDA. They are also recalling some drugs because of quality problems.



Dr. Bancroft Lesesne, chief executive officer and president of Georgia Cancer Specialists, said the drugs affected are most commonly used in breast, lung, lymphoma and colon cancer treatments. "There's a standard treatment we might recommend to a patient based on the disease and the stage," he said. "If the drugs aren't available we have to make substitutions. We think they're just as effective but you can never be quite sure."

"I don't see [the shortages] getting any better," he said. "One drug will become available and then there's a shortage of another. It's seems to be a moving target."

‚ÄčThis is a serious problem for Georgia cancer patients.

Many major medical plans sold in Georgia do NOT cover brand name drugs, including many of the popular cancer medications. If you own one of these plans from Aetna, Blue Cross, Golden Rule or other health insurance companies the time to change your coverage is now. Ask for a free, no obligation review of your existing coverage.

‚ÄčGeorgia Insurance Shop offers competitive health insurance rates in Georgia.

Is Your Pharmacist Smart?

There are a lot of things you should ask your pharmacist, but advice on which medication (including OTC) to take is not one of them. They SHOULD know more about drug interaction than your doctor, but they may not be up on how herbs and supplements interact with prescription and over the counter medications.

Consumer Reports wants you to know . . .

How much does your druggist know?

Last reviewed: April 2011
Illustration of pharmacist scratching his head




Illustration by Jason Schneider







An undercover investigation byConsumer Reports suggests that some pharmacists are uninformed aboutpotentially harmful interactions between over-the-counter supplements and prescription drugs.

We sent shoppers to 20 pharmacies in five states to ask the pharmacist or an assistant whether it was permissible to take atorvastatin (Lipitor), a widely used cholesterol-lowering drug, along withred yeast rice, a dietary supplement that is touted as a natural way to reduce cholesterol. Red yeast rice is a rice extract fermented with a strain of red yeast, and laboratory evidence has shown that it contains a substance essentially identical to the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin. Consumer Reports has recommended against using it. Moreover, taken together, the two might raise the risk of side effects such as muscle aches and pains and a rare muscle disease that could result in kidney failure. Over time, it might cause liver damage as well.

Twelve of 20 times, shoppers got incorrect or fuzzy advice, sometimes even after the druggist consulted an online medical database. In two cases, a pharmacist said taking both medications was a good idea. One of those pharmacists, in Albany, N.Y., revealed that he and his wife used red yeast rice and said he recommended it to all his customers who take a cholesterol-lowering product. A pharmacist-technician at a Safeway in Richland, Wash., was clearly bothered by our shopper’s questions and directed her to a health-food store for advice. Other pharmacists seemed unfamiliar with the supplement, shrugged, or gave wishy-washy answers.

The responses suggest that many pharmacists might not know enough about supplements, which aren’t subject to the kind of federal regulations that drugs are.

Orly Avitzur, M.D., a board-certified neurologist and Consumer Reports medical adviser, said she wasn’t surprised by the results of our investigation or convinced that physicians know more than pharmacists about dietary supplements. “When more physicians have electronic medical records with fully functioning medication modules, drug and supplement interactions will be flagged automatically, and we hope these problems can be avoided,” she said.

How to avoid medicine missteps

Bad advice is just one reason behind medicine mistakes. You might miss a dose or take it with food or drink instead of on an empty stomach. Other reasons include confusion between similar-sounding medications, poor handwriting on prescriptions, and incomplete information about your allergies. To make sure you get the right medicine in the right dose:

Give the pharmacy your complete history

Include a list of drugs, vitamins, and other dietary supplements you’re taking and information about medical conditions, allergies, and adverse reactions. Some drugstores let you create a secure profile online that you can update with new information.

Understand how to take medicine

Does it matter whether it’s in the morning or at bedtime; or before, during, or after a meal? Can you crush or chew it? Should you avoid any foods, beverages, other drugs or supplements, or activities while on the medicine?

Ask what happens if you miss a dose or take too much. If too much time passes, do you double up or wait? If you suspect an overdose, should you go to the hospital?

Know the side effects

Do any problems warrant immediate attention?

Ask whether you can stop once you feel better

With some drugs, notably antibiotics, if you cut the regimen short, the bacteria might survive and cause the infection to recur.

Know the time frame

Does “three times a day” mean during waking hours or during a 24-hour period?

Store medications properly

In general, select a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. A bathroom medicine cabinet isn’t ideal because of moisture and heat, which can cause some drugs to break down. If you store pills above a sink, they could fall down the drain. Keep refrigerated medications out of the door because of temperature variations.

Remove roadblocks

Sometimes, difficulty opening the bottle, illegible instructions, and bad taste are reasons people don’t take their drugs. Ask for an easy-open bottle, large-print labels, or special flavoring.

The one area where you SHOULD ask your pharmacist for advice is in choosing a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

In looking for affordable Medicare supplement plans, consider Georgia Insurance Shop, the leading resource for information on health coverage in Georgia.

GERD Medication Warning

If you have acid reflux the FDA issued a warning about OTC drugs Prilosec and Prevacid. Do not take them for more than 14 days at a time. I know several people that take these medications on  a daily basis and, according to the FDA, they run the risk of having a greater tendancy toward fractures.

There must be better ways to treat this illness.

We found two very interesting articles on natural prevention and treatment for GERD. Visit Georgia Medicare Plans and use the search box to find information on GERD.

You can also find the post on the FDA warning which is linked above.

Viagra – Medicare Part D Paid Due to Software Problem

Officially, Medicare Part D doesn't pay for Viagra; unofficially …

By Tami Dennis, Tribune Health

12:36 PM CDT, March 15, 2011


Cialis, Viagra, Levitra and other erectile dysfunction drugs are not considered  
necessary by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Apparently many men disagree. Hence the $3.1 million charged to Medicare Part D for the drugs in 2007 and 2008.

A new report from the department's Office of Inspector General chides the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which runs the labyrinthian Medicare program, for the error. Sure, the drug can be covered when prescribed for non-sexual reasons. But that doesn't seem to have been the issue.

Not that it's anyone's fault really. The report blames … yes, a software problem!

Actually, what it says is this: "According to CMS officials, the software edit in place in CMS’s Medicare Drug Data Processing System during our audit period enabled CMS to identify and reject PDE data that sponsors submitted for ED drugs prescribed for the treatment of sexual or erectile dysfunction. However, according to the officials, the edit did not prevent CMS from accepting PDE data for some ED drugs in CY 2007 and most of CY 2008 because the Part D program used an incomplete list of excluded drugs as the basis for the edit."

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services agreed with some of the report's recommendations. The agency said that yes, it would try to get money back from insurers, and yes, it would take all sorts of actions to ensure such problems don't happen again. You know the routine. But when it comes to working with the Food and Drug Administration to keep a list of prohibited drugs … the agency doesn't think that's necessary.

The full report, with a summary of the response, can be found here. It's fun reading. Not really — but some of the headlines about the report have been fun. Not this one, of course. We're a family newspaper/website/media empire. offers a primer on Part D (prescription drug) plans.

But for easier reading, you might want to skip to the explainer. Here's the relevant portion:

"Not all drugs available in the United States are covered by Part D. The most notable exclusion is the class of anti-anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines: Valium (diazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam), to name two. Drugs used for purely cosmetic purposes, as well as ED remedies such as Viagra and Cialis, are also excluded. Finally, some plans refuse to cover drugs on the basis of prohibitive cost or lack of a rebate from the manufacturer.

Sorry about the Valium news, guys. But now you know. (And the "software" excuse has been used already.)


Medicare Prescription Drug Plan

Georgia seniors have questions about a Medicare prescription drug plan. Am I required to buy a drug plan? Which prescription plan is best for me?

Q. – Am I required to buy a Medicare prescription drug plan?

A. – No, you are not required to buy a drug plan. However, if you do not choose a plan when you first become eligible for Medicare Part D (drug plan) you will be charged a late enrollment penalty. When you buy a drug plan when you first become eligible for Medicare you can avoid the late penalty and higher premium.


Q. – What is the Medicare drug plan late enrollment penalty?

A. – Medicare requires insurance companies to charge you a late enrollment penalty. The penalty is 1% per month for each month in which you are eligible for Medicare Part D and that penalty is charged every month for the rest of your life. To find out how much your penalty is, use this Medicare late enrollment penalty calculator.


Q. – Should I purchase a drug plan even if I do not take any medications or my medications are not expensive?

A. – At the very least, you should consider a low price Part D plan to avoid paying a late enrollment penalty.


Q. – When can I switch prescription drug plans?

A. – As a general rule, you can only switch drug plans during the annual enrollment period that occurs at the end of each calendar year. Other qualifying events, such as moving in to a nursing home, will allow you to switch plans at that time.


While you can only make changes in your prescription drug plan during the annual enrollment period, you can switch your high priced Medicare supplement plan for a lower priced on ANY TIME DURING THE YEAR. Georgia Insurance Shop and Georgia Medicare Plans have the lowest Medigap supplement plan rates in the state.

Medicare Part D – Help You Choose the Right Plan

Georgia Medicare Coverage Plans vary greatly. When you select the best Georgia Medicare Coverage Plans should you include Medicare prescription drug plan benefits? Finding the best GA prescription drug plan is not as simple as you may think. Do you contact Medicare? Or will a health insurance company or Georgia agent give the best advice?

With all the options for prescription drug plans in GA, becoming confused about uncovering the best plan for you is common. Do you choose the plan endorsed by a large senior advocate association? Or do you buy a plan advertised on TV commercials

Where will you turn?

Mary Tries to Find an Affordable Drug Plan

Turning 65, Mary signed up for Medicare A and Part B. Then she bought a popular Medigap policy F from an agent in Georgia that was highly recommended by a neighbor who was also a dear friend. Bob took the time to discuss all options and help her choose the best plan for her needs and budget.

Saving money and living on a budget is important to Mary. She asks Bob “how do I find the best Part D, prescription drug plan?”

His answer totally caught her off guard. Bob tells Mary she should not talk to an insurance agent, or call a carrier and speak with them. He says Medicare is a resource, but he mentions there is a caveat. Mary can call the government, or use Medicare's prescription drug finder.  The site is intuitive, and relatively simple to follow.

First you enter your GA zip code, then enter the information on any medication drug you are taking. Next you enter the local pharmacy where you fill your prescriptions. Then you are shown a list of plans that cover your medication and offering coverage in your area.

But which is the best? Do you need Medicare Part D? Even if you use the Medicare drug finder and talk to someone at Medicare,you still need to find someone who understands your drug history.

Your Local GA Pharmacist Knows Best

Bob tells Mariy to take her list of prescription drugs and talk to her druggist about which option is best for her. Next Bob opens up to Mary and delivers this shocker. He says “agents that offer Georgia presciption drug plans don't know as much about prescriptions as a pharmacist.” He says “Agents are only allowed to tell you about prescription plans that they are approved to discuss. Quite often the best plan for you might be one the agent can not tell you about.

Agents May Give the Wrong Part D Advice

When an agent suggests a “solution”, is it the right one for you? Perhaps it is the plan that pays the agent the highest commission? Similarly, those who work for the government are not qualified to review your medical history and suggest a plan that is right for you. Do you want the government telling you which plan to buy?

Your druggist is an unbiased resource. The plan you choose does not matter to him or her. Who knows more about medication: a Georgia insurance agent, a government employee or your pharmacist?

Prescription Drug Plans and Supplemental Medicare Insurance

Georgia Medicare Plans does not offer Medicare Part D plans because we believe those decisions are best made by you and your pharmacist. Ask us how to avoid late entry penalties attached to Medicare Part D plans. You can only change prescription drug plans during your annual enrollment period, but Medicare supplement plans can be purchased at any time. Ask us for an affordable Medigap quote.



Georgia Colleges Just Got More Expensive

Georgia college students on HOPE scholarships will have to pay more to go to college and now their health insurance will increase dramatically as well. As reported by the GSU Signal, provisions of Obamacrap will apply the same rules to student health insurance that apply to everyone else. 


The law not only provides for more affordable coverage, but also allows young adults to stay on their parents' coverage until the age of 26. Also starting in 2014, insurance companies will not be allowed to discriminate on the grounds of preexisting conditions young adults may have.

The new proposal attempts to extend these rights to those students who buy healthcare through their university.

The HHS proposes that protections like the patients' bill of rights be extended to college students, meaning that students enrolled in college health plans will not have to worry about losing health coverage if they become sick. They will also have full access to emergency room services and can receive preventive care.

Insurance companies will not be allowed to limit the lifetime amounts spent on health benefits.

All of these things, plus a few others, are what kept premiums for students at GA State University somewhat low. Now, in addition to paying more in tuition and books, they will also see their premiums rise significantly for the 2012-2013 school year.

Having had two students in Georgia universities at the same time I know just how lousy the coverage was that was offered to students. It was so bad, I put both children on individual health insurance policies that were REAL major medical plans, not limited benefits.

Among the limitations in the current plan, pre-existing conditions are not covered during the first 12 months.

May not sound that bad, but the policies are issued for 12 months or less so pre-existing conditions are NEVER covered.

The maximum out of pocket per person is $10,000 per year. That is tough enough for a student (or their parent) to come up with but then you have to remember the plan has an annual cap on benefits of $100,000 so you really should say your out of pocket is $10,000 plus anything in excess of $100,000.

And then what happens if you become ill or injured toward the end of your policy term?

You can apply for a new policy but . . . your condition will not be covered under the new plan.

What about prescription drug coverage?

Well your GSU plan limits outpatient drug benefits to $1,000 per year.

OK, so you are probably thinking, big deal. College students never get sick or seriously injured.

Well why not just Google it?

Guess what.

It is not just accidents. College students can develop all kinds of serious illnesses without warning. They are not bullet proof.

Premiums will increase 3.5 percent for mandatory undergraduate students, 3.5 percent for mandatory graduate students and 15 percent for students who voluntarily buy healthcare through the Student Health Insurance plan for the next academic year.

I find that statement to be incredulous.

As a professional with more than 35 years in the health insurance industry there is no way the new plans can remove lifetime and annual caps as well as providing a full Rx benefit with only a 3.5% increase.

Of course they could achieve that by revamping the plan and dropped Rx altogether, added in new and higher deductibles and higher out of pocket limits.

In other words, take a bad plan and make it even worse.

If your Georgia college student needs affordable health insurance and a good plan, ask Georgia Insurance Shop for a competitive quote.





Health Insurance Companies in Georgia Are Ripping You Off

Health insurance companies in Georgia are robbing you blind. Used car sales tactics like bait and switch are rampant. They trick you when you buy. They trick you when you renew, and you won't know it until it is too late.

Every health insurance company in GA have these plans. They look nice. They are relatively inexpensive. They appear to cover everything, so what's not to love?

These sneaky plans do not cover prescription drugs.

So what (you may say)? I don't use medication.

True, but health insurance is not designed for medical conditions you currently have but those that develop after the coverage is in force. If you currently have a treatable health condition, the premium or policy is designed to make you self insure that condition and they take care of the new stuff only.

Bet you didn't know that, did you?

All GA health insurance companies including Blue Cross, Humana, United Healthcare and others have plans that do not cover prescription drugs . . . EVER.

If you purchased health insurance direct from a carrier, or through an online direct marketing agency you may have bought one of these financial death trap plans and did not realize it. There are also some misinformed agents, as well as some just out to make a quick buck, that will push these plans on you if you are not careful.

One thing health insurance companies do at renewal is offer you a way to save money by making a change in your plan. One of the options they will put forth is a plan that does not cover prescription drugs. Often you can save 7 – 11% in premiums by opting for one of these plans.

But what happens when your health changes and you need a drug?

You pay for it.

Every time you fill the prescription, you pay and pay and pay. The carrier never opens their wallet and pays a dime toward the cost of your medication.


And drugs can be quite expensive. I have clients with drug costs in excess of $5,000 per month but they only pay a fraction of that. Many pay nothing for their drugs beyond the first couple of months of the year.

Before you buy or renew any major medical plan with any health insurance company, make sure you have not bought a financial snake that will come back and bite you. At Georgia Insurance Shop we only recommend plans that cover everything, including prescription drugs.

HHS Sebelius Throws the Poor Under the Bus

In order to "help" states save money when Obamacrap expands the Medicaid roles by 16 million people, HHS Sebelius gave states the right to cut benefits as a cost saving measure.

The folks at New York Times give us this tidbit.

While state Medicaid programs must cover hospital and doctors’ services, Ms. Sebelius said, many other services are classified as optional. The optional services, she said, include prescription drugs, physical therapy, respiratory care, optometry services and eyeglasses, dental services and dentures.

I am all about saving money, and while one may argue that any medical service is a necessity, I would submit that dental and speech are nice benefits but not totally necessary. There are plenty of people with full time jobs that don't have dental or vision insurance.

As for eliminating coverage for prescription drugs, one has to wonder why seniors on Medicare were given a drug benefit in 2006 after going for years without one, and now Medicaid says poor people will have to buy their own meds.

Given the way Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) operates, I fail to see that as a real benefit for most but I also realize some will disagree. 

But I have to question the logic behind improving benefits to seniors for Medicare Part D while cutting benefits for the same coverage when it comes to the poor. Is Washington now deciding who is more deserving of prescription drug coverage?

“Just 1 percent of all Medicaid beneficiaries account for 25 percent of all expenditures,” Ms. Sebelius said, and 5 percent of the recipients account for more than half of Medicaid spending.

Well there you go.

Find those 1 and 5 percenters and kick them off the plan.

Seriously, those numbers are not just indigenous to Medicaid. You will find similar inequities in any health insurance program for individuals under the age of 65.

In addition, Ms. Sebelius said, states could save large sums by reducing premature births and medically unnecessary Caesarean sections, by reducing hospital admissions and by using proven techniques to improve the care of children with asthma.

I can't speak for other states, but over half of all births in Georgia are paid for by taxpayer dollars through the Medicaid program. Many of those are unmarried females under the age of 20.

Many who deliver here under Medicaid are not US citizens and they pay little if any taxes.

As difficult as these decisions may be, the few that actually do pay taxes in this country cannot continue providing unlimited medical care for anyone in this country legally or otherwise.


Medicare Death Panels – How Real Are They?

Just how real are the Medicare death panels and why should I be concerned? Will Medicare really pull the plug on Grandma? Is my doctor in cahoots with Medicare to end my life?

The death panels have been in the news before but then they died off . . . in a manner of speaking. In an attempt to save Medicare from financial ruin the folks in Washington decided to use Obamacare as a way of killing off the seniors before their time.

One way of achieving this goal is to disallow use of certain life-saving medications on the premise they are not cost effective. Two drugs that have come under scrutiny and may be withheld by Medicare are Avastin (used for colorectal cancer) and Provenge (prostate cancer).

Medicare alleges the cost of the drugs is too great at $5,000 (Avastin) to $8,000 (Provenge) per dose.

But hey. These are old folks who aren't going to be around much longer any way, right?

A few months back CMS head Donald (I just LOVE Britain's National Health Service) Berwick decided to pay Medicare doctors to INITIATE conversations about how much, or how little care seniors who are terminal actually need. In other words, Medicare will not only pay for your office visit but will pay an additional sum to your doctor if they encourage talk about end of life counseling.

We hadn't heard about this development until Mr. Pear's story, but evidently Medicare tried to prevent the change from becoming public knowledge. The provision is buried in thousands of Federal Register pages setting Medicare's hospital and physician price controls for 2011 and concludes that such consultations count as a form of preventative care.

Preventive care indeed!

The regulatory process isn't supposed to be a black-ops exercise, but expect many more such nontransparent improvisations under the vast powers ObamaCare handed the executive branch. In July, the White House bypassed the Senate to recess appoint Dr. Berwick, who has since testified before Congress for all of two hours, and now he promulgates by fiat a reimbursement policy that Congress explicitly rejected, all while scheming with his political patrons to duck any public scrutiny.

So the game plan is, strip the death panels from Obamacare but put them back in by decree.

And so it goes, at least until blogs and the lame stream media caught wind of what was coming down.

Barely 4 days in to January, 2011 payment for doctor initiated end of life counseling is gone, at least for a while. The patient may broach the subject if they wish, and the doctor will be paid as part of their routine "preventive care" discussion.

Somehow I don't think this, and other plots to kill off Medicare beneficiaries is completely dead yet.

On a positive note, Georgia Insurance Shop and Georgia Med Supp is your resource for affordable senior insurance plans. We have the best Medigap plans with the lowest prices in Georgia. Let us help you compare the cost of Medigap insurance today.