News

Calif. Medical Board gains clout

The California Medical Board will gain broad new powers to investigate complaints and go after problem physicians, following changes which go into effect January 1. Under the state's new system, the board will work more closely with the state's attorney general's office. Investigators will also have the power to impose heavy fines on doctors who try to block access to their records. The changes, as well as a number of others, will be financed by a 30 percent increase in the Board's …

Home HIV test proponents make their case

Supporters of a controversial at-home HIV test told an FDA panel this week that the benefits of the new technology would probably outweigh the risk that users might overreact to a positive result. If the FDA approves the OraQuick test, the product would become the first over the counter test on the market that produces results quickly--generally within 20 minutes. OraSure Technologies argues that faster results would mean earlier treatment for people with HIV and might substantially cut …

Metric: HIT spending to increase 11% annually

Spending on healthcare information technology will grow at a rate of 11 percent per year over the next five years, according to a new market research report by Kalorama Information. By 2009 sales of HIT services and products should reach $38 billion. The report cautions, however, that the US government lacks "a coherent program of support" for healthcare IT investment.

- see this article from Government Health …

SPOTLIGHT: Kaiser posts Q3 results


The Kasier Foundation Health Plan and the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals reported an operating margin for the third quarter of 2.5 percent. That's down quite a bit from last year when Kaiser's margin was 6.5 percent. The non-profit healthcare system reported its membership is up 151,000 for the year to date, giving it a current membership base of 8.4 million. Chairman and CEO George Halverson said the company's financial success will allow it to complete ongoing hospital construction …

ALSO NOTED: Wall Street disappointed by Emdeon, Fresenius says Renal Care deal may be delayed;Spitzer suit may be last straw fo

> Fundamental changes may be on the way at the massive IT program at the Department of Veterans Affairs. New legislation which would "streamline operations" by $1.7 billion passed in the House this week. Article

> Emdeon, (the company formerly known as WebMD), said its revenues and profits was 3.23 for 3Q were up slightly on a year ago, but investors traded the stock down by 15%. …

Merck scores victory in second Vioxx trial

A jury in Atlantic City, NJ, ruled in favor of drug maker Merck in the company's second trial involving the painkiller Vioxx. Jurors deliberated for little more than a day before rejecting former postal worker Frederick "Mike" Humeston's claim that his heart attack was caused by the drug. The jury also flatly rejected Humeston's argument that Merck committed consumer fraud when it marketed the drug to consumers and doctors.

The controversy over Cox-2 painkillers has led to an …

Administration flu plan draws criticism

The media focused on the details of the Bush administration's plan to fight a potential H5N1 pandemic yesterday. Reaction was largely mixed, with Democrats calling the plan inadequate and most Republicans in Washington calling it a good start. The official government estimate that an influenza epidemic could infect three quarters of the US population and kill as many as 1.9 million Americans led the headlines.

Some observers worry that the hospital system could be completely …

J & J mulls breakup with Guidant

The other big story of the day remains the news that Johnson & Johnson may walk away from its $25.4 billion deal with heart device maker Guidant, a merger that many healthcare analysts had expected to transform the industry. Is Johnson & Johnson's talk about abandoning the deal for real? One observer likens the situation to "a high stakes game of chicken." J&J reportedly wants to renegotiate a share price in the "low to mid sixties." Guidant is arguing that the …

International study finds medical error rates higher in US

Patients in the US are more likely to experience serious medical errors than their counterparts in other industrialized countries, a new Commonwealth Foundation sponsored study published in Health Affairs argues. Researchers found that medical errors are a serious issue from Canada to the UK, but noted that rates are slightly higher in the US. The study also examines international differences in physician-patient communication, pain management, timely access to care, care for …

Metric: Brand drug prices surge ahead of inflation rate

(From our sister publication FierceBiotech...) Drug prices moderated somewhat over the past year, but brand-name prescription prices are still soaring far ahead of inflation, according to AARP. Their report on the wholesale prices of 200 brand name medications commonly used in the US shows a 6.1 percent price hike in the 12 months through June. That's down slightly from 7.1 percent a year ago. One bright spot: The prices of 75 generic drugs remained flat. PhRMA called …

SPOTLIGHT: FDA mandates electronic labels

The Food and Drug Administration said it wants pharmaceutical companies to submit label information in an electronic format. Drug companies will now be required to submit prescribing and product information in the structured product labeling (SPL) format. The idea is to make sure that the latest drug safety information is readily accessible to both practitioners and consumers and that updates can made quickly. The FDA is also establishing DailyMed, a new Web site that will serve as a …

ALSO NOTED: AHA, JCAHO data mining dispute continues; Wis. creates electronic medical records board; and much more...

> The American Hospital Association continues to fight efforts by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) to resell hospital data gathered during the accreditation process. Release (pdf)

> Physicians who work closely with law firms pursuing medical malpractice and product liability suits are finding themselves under increasing scrutiny. …

J&J may abandon Guidant deal

Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson announced that it may not complete its $23.4 billion purchase of Guidant, saying the company's recent problems have had an "adverse impact" on its value and that its negotiations with Guidant have not been productive. The news came on the same day that the FTC announced its approval for the original deal. A complete abandonment of the transaction would be something of a surprise; many analysts had speculated that J&J wanted to renegotiate its price.

- see this article from the Associated Press

Ore. hospital chain settles class action suit

The Providence Health system became the first non-profit hospital chain to settle charges that it failed to meet its obligation to provide charity care. The chain said it is has reached an agreement which will see it compensate uninsured patients who paid higher rates for treatment. The settlement is said to impact at least 10,000 low-income patients in Oregon. Mississippi-based attorney Dick Scruggs is involved in similar lawsuits against non-profit hospitals in 27 states. Scruggs gained …

Tenet posts Q3 loss, may face more problems

Tenet reported much worse than expected third-quarter results, disappointing Wall Street once again. The Dallas-based hospital chain reported a loss of $408 million for the quarter. The company, which was hard hit by Hurricane Katrina in September, said it had a 1.4 percent decline in new admissions. Tenet also reported a drop in referrals, a trend that may reflect lower physician confidence in the provider. Analyst concerns include the ongoing SEC investigation into managed care …

CMS releases e-prescribing rules for Medicare Part D

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its long awaited e-prescribing standard. The new rules, which go into effect with the arrival of Medicare Part D in January 2006, will require health plans which offer prescription drug plans in conjunction with Medicare to support e-prescribing. The new rules fall short of the more sweeping changes some critics had wanted, however. Some observers had argued the government's e-prescribing initiative should cover all e-prescribing …

Most Americans want regulation of healthcare industry

A Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive poll finds that a majority of Americans want regulation of key industries, particularly those involved in the healthcare field. Americans want tougher regulation of the pharmaceutical (51 percent) and insurance sectors (46 percent). However, despite higher insurance premiums, the appetite for regulation appears diminished. Most Americans seem to think hospitals are doing fairly well on their own, with only 28 percent favoring …

SPOTLIGHT: HHS releases influenza pandemic plan

The Department of Health and Human Services released details of the federal plan to respond to a possible H5N1 epidemic, following yesterday's announcement by President Bush that his administration plans to spend $7.1 billion preparing to fight the disease. In the event of an outbreak, authorities are likely to impose travel restrictions. State and local officials are reportedly "concerned" that they will be responsible for rationing vaccines and flu medicines and also for ensuring that …

ALSO NOTED: Cigna Q3 profit down 16%; Blogging nurses; and much more...

> The Bush administration says it will veto a budget bill if Congress goes through with cuts that would impact funding for managed care providers. Article

> A pilot program at Lakeland Regional Medical Center gives doctors wireless PDA access to patient records. Article

> Could blogs be the next big …

Support grows for national patient ID standard

Support appears to be growing for a national data standard for patient identification. Proponents of a National Health Information Network (NHIN) have played down the idea of a national patient identifier for years fearing a political fight with privacy groups that could slow or stall progress. Last week, the Commission on Systemic Interoperability, a federal advisory group, released a report supporting a system that will allow patient data to be correctly identified and shared. A patient …