Health Beat

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have reported that Medicare Part D drug plans will get more expensive in 2009, up roughly $3 per month from ’08. Payments will now be $28 a month for beneficiaries – a 12 percent increase from ’08.
The fee will not cover all program costs, however. Medicare will still need to subsidize drug coverage with an estimated $36 billion, as the program’s basic plans only cover about 25 percent of costs. The change, Medicare officials say, is less than estimates indicated, due to lesser member enrollment, lower-than-expected drug prices and negotiable insuring agents; critics, however, assert that the changes won’t be enough to match natural cost-of-living increases.
Also in 2009, the Medicare coverage gap will widen. This means in ’09, patients will pay for 100 percent of prescriptions once an initial $2,700 is used up; Medicare will pay bills again once the patient incurs $4,350 or more in charges. This means patients using over $4,350 in drug benefits will wind up spending $1,650 on gap payments for ’09. Patients in ’08 paid less – $1,540. nCongratulations to Dr. Margaret Tennyson, Professor of Nursing at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Nursing, recently appointed by Governor Bobby Jindal to a two-year term on the Louisiana Advisory Committee on Midwifery. This committee establishes and manages midwifery standards. Tennyson has been a Certified Nurse Midwife since 1997.
nChu Chen, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Neuroscience at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, published a piece August 15 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry positing endogenous (“from within”) cannabinoids can protect the brain from diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  
Chen found that 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), a cannabinoid produced naturally by the body (an endocannabinoid), seemed to lessen the inflammation encouraged by one enzyme, Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2).
“Our findings provide a basis for opening up new therapeutic approaches to protect neurons from inflammation and toxicity-induced neurodegeneration,” says Chen, quoted from an LSUHSC press release. Where classic COX-2 inhibitors led to cardiovascular complications in some patients, “the use of endogenous cannabinoid 2-AG may avoid such side effects,” Chen says. (CB1 and CB2 receptors are largely non-present in the medulla oblongata, the brain’s control center for respiratory and cardiovascular function.)
The full text of Chen’s study, “Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol Protects Neurons by Limiting COX-2 Elevation,” is online at www.jbc.org.

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