News

Crawford cleared, FDA confirmation still blocked

The Department of Health and Human Services said an internal agency review has found no evidence to support allegations that acting Food and Drug Administration chairman Lester Crawford had an affair with a personal assistant. That appears to clear the way for the confirmation process to proceed for the highest ranking official at the regulatory agency.

But at least three senators threatened to block a Senate vote on Crawford's confirmation. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray …

AMA proposes ban on corporate hiring

The American Medical Association is considering supporting a new idea which could radically change the way in which the healthcare industry operates. Officials want legislation that would prevent corporations or hospitals from directly hiring doctors. The AMA board of trustees endorsed the proposal this week. The argument is that corporations influence physician independence, potentially impacting patient care. The logistical problems any such requirement would cause for hospitals and …

J&J handling of Propulsid examined

An investigative report published in this morning's New York Times looks at how Johnson & Johnson handled safety problems with the heartburn drug Propulsid after the company learned of evidence suggesting possible risks with the drug. According to the paper, the drug giant continued to market the drug even as evidence mounted that the medicine posed serious health dangers, particularly for children. The report also notes that the FDA knew of evidence that the drug was less …

IT: Vendors team up to market solutions to RHIOs

Eight technology vendors are teaming up to a form a consortium which will market their products to regional health information organizations (RHIOs) around the country. The CollabraCare Consortium will offer steep discounts on member company products. Participants include smart card vendor Cardtronic, e-prescribing company Dr. First, information systems specialist Healthtrio and web portal and EMR vendor Wellogic, as well as four other companies. The group is seeking new members.

- see this press release from MEDecision

IT: Horizon, Allscripts team on e-prescribing

New Jersey Blues parent Horizon Healthcare Services is the latest health plan to try to nudge physicians in its area along the e-prescribing path. Horizon has signed a deal with EMR and e-prescribing player Allscripts in which selected physicians will be given connectivity tools and PDAs with ePrescribing software installed. Thus far similar technology initiatives by Wellpoint and BCBS of Massachusetts have had slow starts, but recent presentations at the TEPR conference suggest that …

SPOTLIGHT: Promise of personalized medicine


Following last week's report in the New England Journal of Medicine on a new method of using genetic testing to determine the best coumadin dosage for patients, the Boston Globe examines the potential of personalized medicines. The report examines similar experiments being pursued by cancer researchers and doctors looking for better ways to treat asthma. Story

ALSO NOTED: Govt. drops demand for industry sponsored anti-smoking programs; HMO rate increases at lowest pace in 5 years; and

> Eli Lilly announced last night that it will pay $690 million to settle about 8,000 class-action suits filed by people who say they developed diabetes and suffered from other health problems after taking the company's schizophrenia drug Zyprexa. The drug remains on the market, although sales fell about 8 percent last year. Story

> In a move guaranteed to …

HealthSouth agrees to $100M settlement

HealthSouth said it will pay a $100 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges stemming from the $2.7 billion accounting fraud uncovered by government investigators in 2003. The Birmingham, Alabama-based chain of rehabilitation hospitals still faces a series of shareholder lawsuits filed after the scandal broke. Wall Street analysts believe the HealthSouth case may be one of the last big corporate fraud cases we'll see for some time. The departure of SEC …

DOJ decision in tobacco case prompts anger

Critics assailed the Justice Department's decision to sharply reduce the settlement the government is asking for in the racketeering case against Big Tobacco. Yesterday, government lawyers dropped a bombshell when they announced that they will ask the tobacco industry to pay $10 billion for smoking cessation programs over the next five years, a figure substantially lower than the $130 billion estimate over 25 years many experts had expected. The news has provoked anger in health …

IT: IMS Health buys PharMetrics

IMS Health announced this week that it is buying PharMetrics of Watertown, Massachusetts, for an undisclosed sum. PharMetrics has a database which links patient claims data to prescription claims data. That information is used by insurers to monitor disease management programs and by drug companies to help understand how effective their drug is in capturing "share of disease." IMS Health is the dominant franchise in pharma information and maintains a data set of all physicians prescribing …

San Diego hosts ADA's Scientific Sessions

San Diego hosts the 65th annual American Diabetes Association (ADA) Scientific Sessions this weekend. That means we can probably expect a lot of talk about diabetes and chronic diseases in general over the next week. Eli Lilly is expected to talk up its partnership with Amylin Pharmaceuticals, which produced the recently approved Byetta, a new twice-a-day treatment for controlling blood sugar levels which appears to show great promise.

We'll also be hearing a lot about the things …

Cardiologists avoid angioplasties in risky cases

New research seems to offer evidence that physicians avoid riskier procedures when data on their performance is made public. A study released today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that cardiologists in Michigan, a state with no reporting law, are far more likely to perform angioplasties on high-risk patients than their counterparts in New York, a state where reporting has been required for a decade. The mortality rate in Michigan was approximately twice …

SPOTLIGHT: Pharma's influence in continuing medical education

The Philadelphia Inquirer examines the state of continued medical education programs after new guidelines had been established limiting pharma companies' spending on the programs. Critics say the programs are used to influence physicians in ways which aren't always healthy. Story

ALSO NOTED: Tufts signs physician group; Canadian province might allow private health insurance; and much more...

> Tufts-New England Medical Center announced a partnership with Primary Care, the region's largest independent physician group. Story

> In a potentially far-reaching decision, Canada's Supreme Court struck down a Quebec law banning private insurance coverage for services covered by the country's Medicare program. …

Specialty care moratorium expires

The federal moratorium on the construction of new physician-operated specialty hospitals expires today. An extension authorized by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid chief Mark McClellan today keeps the ban in place for another six months. Congress enacted the moratorium in 2002 in response to claims from the hospital industry that the specialty facilities represent unfair competition.

The American Medical Association issued a statement in support of specialty hospitals this …

Healthcare costs cited by GM for layoffs

On Tuesday, General Motors announced that it will lay off 25,000 workers and close several plants around the country in an effort to contain rising costs. The automaker said high healthcare costs were a major factor in its decision. The company spends about $5 billion per year on health insurance for its current and former workers. GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner noted that healthcare costs add $1,500 to the cost of each vehicle the company makes. "This puts us at a serious disadvantage …

Woman gives birth after ovary transplant

An Alabama woman gave birth to a healthy baby this week at St. Luke's hospital in St. Louis, becoming the first woman to do so after receiving an ovary transplant. The development appears to raise hope for thousands of women left infertile after receiving chemotherapy treatments. Details of the case were published on Tuesday in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. Experts argue it may now be possible for surgeons to routinely reimplant a woman's own …

IT: Digital photography finding new role in healthcare

Digital cameras are making their presence felt in hospitals across the country. Doctors and other healthcare workers are finding innovative ways to use digital cameras in the workplace, The New York Times reports.  ER docs are snapping pics on admission to document injuries. Surgeons are taking quick snapshots before and during operations to use as reference. The list of potential applications is a long one.

- see this story from The New York Times

UPMC signs Oncology deal with Whitfield clinic

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is turning to the international healthcare market. UPMC's latest move has it running oncology services at a new state of the art hospital in Whitfield, Ireland. Under the terms of the deal, UPMC Cancer Center will share the costs of operating the 150,000-sq.ft. facility and split revenues. UPMC also has plans in the works for similar agreements with hospitals in Dublin; Dubai; United Arab Emirates; and Palermo, Italy. In the US, UPMC …

SPOTLIGHT: Pfizer's Rost feels heat after60 Minutes interview


Pfizer executive Peter Rost says he is being ostracized by management at the company following his appearance this week on 60 Minutes. Rost, who supports reimportation of drugs from Canada, says his email account was shut down in retaliation for the interview he gave. A company spokesperson denied the charge. Story