News

Wireless ECGs speed heart attack treatment

A new study by cardiologists at Duke has found evidence that appears to back the effectiveness of wireless systems that transmit electrocardiogram data from ambulances on their way to hospitals. Doctors were able to access data on heart attacks on their PDAs, giving them more time to evaluate cases before they arrived in the emergency department. That difference, the researchers argue, is critical.

Lead researcher George Adams comments, "When the cardiologist can directly see an …

Studies downplay avian flu threat

A pair of new studies suggests that the avian flu is unlikely to develop the ability to spread from human to human, a finding that could mean the risks of a pandemic are far lower than had been believed. The reports, published in Nature and Science, argue that the disease is unlikely to spread in its present from because it targets the deepest branches of the human respiratory tract. Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a virologist at the University of Tokyo and the University of Wisconsin, …

Calif. releases cardiac bypass death numbers

California released comprehensive data on cardiac bypass death rates at hospitals in the state. The report is from 2003, the last year that data is available. The best performers were St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard and UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. Interestingly, the four worst performing hospitals were all once owned by Tenet healthcare, which has since sold three of the facilities in question. The state plans to release a …

SPOTLIGHT: Report details Genotropin controversy

BrandWeek has a long and detailed investigative piece looking into Peter Rost's role in the scandal over off-label sales of the human growth hormone Genotropin at Pharmacia. The article looks at the involvement of Pharmacia head Fred Hassan, who now has the top job at Schering-Plough. Article

ALSO NOTED: Von Eschenbach clarifies cancer goals; Guidant faces new suits; and much more...

> Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, the Bush administration's pick to permanently head the FDA, clarified controversial statements on cancer which opponents have criticized. Article

> Some analysts think Guidant may face more lawsuits after an internal review criticized the company's handling of safety problems with its defibrillators last year. Two new lawsuits were filed yesterday. …

Cambridge Heart Test wins Medicare approval

Medicare will pay for a potentially revolutionary test that will allow doctors to determine if patients will benefit from a defibrillator. Supporters say the non- invasive test, which measures heartbeat fluctuations, could lead to major changes in the market for cardiac rhythm management devices. Some analysts think the test could dampen the defibrillator market by eliminating people who don't really need the devices. Companies like Guidant, Boston Scientific and Medtronic, which have …

Company behind controversial medicine stumbles

Last year a tiny company named NitroMed made headlines with a clinical trial that appeared to offer dramatic evidence suggesting that a heart drug that didn't do very much for some patients did wonders for others. That evidence suggested that blacks who were given the drug BiDil after going into heart failure increased their odds of surviving beyond six months by a shocking 40 percent.

The news ignited a heated debate in the healthcare community over the ethical and scientific …

Theranos secures $10M in VC

Theranos said it has secured $10 million in funding for its handheld device designed to wirelessly monitor adverse drug reactions. The device tests tiny blood samples using a biochip and sends an alert if overly-high drug concentrations or other warning signs are detected. Patients can log on to the company's Web site to view details of their current status. Physicians can check results online via the web. The company will initially focus on the oncology market. Theranos is based in Menlo …

Focus on private rooms in new construction

New design guidelines set to be released this month all but abolish shared rooms in new hospital construction. Private rooms, it is argued, reduce the chances of infection, lower the risk of medical errors and decrease the odds of privacy violations. The guidelines, which are released every four years by the Facilities Guidelines Institute, are widely used by state governments in the licensing and constructional approval process. The new rules also call for better ventilation systems to …

Michigan providers to study online consultations

The Henry Ford Health system will participate in a pilot project designed to test the effectiveness of online consultations. The University of Michigan is participating in a concurrent but separate project. Supporters have argued for years that online consultations can help improve physician efficiency and improve the quality of care. Several players, including RelayHealth, have been trying to develop a business in online consultation technology, but adoption has been slow.

- read this Detroit Free Press article

SPOTLIGHT: More med schools requiring PDAs

A growing number of medical and nursing schools are requiring that students purchase PDAs, The Boston Globe reports. The newspaper looks at programs that have adopted PDA policies and giveaways by companies like Epocrates that allow students to receive free and discounted PDA software for use in their classes. Article

ALSO NOTED: Louisiana AG's investigation said to be still active; Ekos wins $26M in VC; and much more...

> The Tenet Shareholder's Committee emailed evidence that suggests that Louisiana AG Charles Foti's investigation of the company's role in the deaths at Memorial Medical Center is still ongoing. Blog

> Colorado lawmakers rejected a law that would have required PBMs to open their books and disclose ownership interests. …

Google said to mull health service

Google is weighing a new service that will allow Web surfers to search for specific healthcare information, according to The Wall Street Journal. Although no official announcement has yet been made, the company has assigned a senior engineer to work on the project. The newspaper looks at health-focused "vertical search" engines developed by a number of companies including WebMD, Healthline, Mamahealth and Kosmix.com. Bay area-based MedStory, which currently offers a service for …

Bird flu likely in U.S. this year

The Bush administration warned Monday that bird flu will probably arrive in the United States this year. Officials announced plans to test 75,000 to 100,000 birds for early signs of the disease. The most likely route into the country for the disease is believed to be along the Pacific flyway, the path followed by migratory birds as they cross into the country. The flyway stretches the length of the West coast from Alaska to California.

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said that the …

Study questions Part D impact

A new study finds that Medicare Part D restricts the choice of drugs available to participants in some cases. The research, which looks at California plans, finds that the they offer participants a generally narrower selection of medications than they would be eligible for under Medi-Cal, the state program for low-income residents. The study was conducted by Washington-based Avalere Health for the California Health Care Foundation.

In a press conference yesterday, CMS administrator …

Panel chastises Guidant over recall

An independent review panel sharply criticized Guidant for its past handling of patient-safety issues. The panel said the company's response to evidence of serious defects involving its pacemakers and defibrillators was inappropriate. Guidant executives learned of the problems three years ago, but chose not to release the information. The group's report finds the company relied on engineers to make decisions about the release of safety information rather than turning to medical experts. …

S&P warns law could hurt non-profits

Standard and Poors warned that a proposed Illinois law that would require not-for-profit hospitals to spend a fixed percentage of their operating costs on charity care would probably have a negative impact on hospital credit ratings if the legislation passes. The Tax-Exempt Hospital Responsibility Act is sponsored by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The Illinois Hospital Association has argued that the new law could put as many as 24 hospitals in the state out of business.

- see this article from Crain's Chicago Business

SPOTLIGHT: Rethinking Medicare reform

Veteran health economist Ted Marmor and his fellow Yale colleague Jerry Mashaw make an impassioned defense of Medicare and Social Security in Health Affairs. They argue that attempts to "reform" Medicare and Social Security are attacks on the bedrock of social insurance, and are usually proposed by people who disapprove of social insurance. Marmor and Mashaw point out that social insurance programs are actually conservative in nature, as they were introduced to prevent state socialism and …

ALSO NOTED: Northfield laboratories shares fall; Controversy over depression treatment; and much more...

> Juke Systems is marketing software that allows consumers to store personal medical information on their cell phones and mobile devices. Article (sub. req.)

The Washington Post examines the controversy over the vagus nerve stimulator, a pacemaker implant designed to treat depression developed by Houston's Cyberonics.  …

Cleveland Clinic plans Canadian venture

With the Canadian healthcare market warming to private care, the Cleveland Clinic is among the providers testing the waters north of the border with a new venture calculated to attract patients who want quick access to a specialist. Cleveland Clinic Canada, a joint-partnership with the Copeland Group, will operate out of a 25,000 square foot office in Toronto. Organizers hope the project will lure Canadian customers to the United States for further treatment. The provider hopes to attract …