News

ALSO NOTED: Happy days for GE in HIT;GAO critical of Medicare fraud enforcement; and much more...

> A new report notes that merger and acquisition activity has surged in the healthcare sector in the third quarter. Release

> HIT: Will GE's acquisition of IDX pay off? Frost and Sullivan's Steve Tobin thinks so. Analysis

> The New York Times looks at the plight of seriously ill …

Pay-for-performance study questions plan

A study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that pay-for-performance may not performing quite as well in real life as some health policy wonks had predicted. The two-year study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health compared the use of pay-for-performance at physician practices affiliated with PacifiCare in California with practices in the Pacific Northwest which do not use incentive programs. Clinical quality scores for …

HCA inquiry takes another twist

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) owned hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of HCA stock outside of the blind trust created to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, the Associated Press reports. The news agency has obtained documents which it says show Frist retained control of shares in the company, which his father co-founded through a family partnership maintained by his brother. Ethics experts say that the arrangement allowed Frist effective control of …

Privacy measures key to PHR acceptance

Americans like the idea of electronic health records. They are worried, however, about the privacy implications of the technology, especially when it comes to employers and insurance companies. Those are two conclusions highlighted by a recent study funded by the Markle Foundation and conducted by polling group Public Opinion Strategies, which found that more than 60 percent favored personal health records. The group says emphasis must be placed on ensuring consumer confidence in privacy …

British court upholds Lipitor patent

A British court sided with Pfizer in its patent battle over its cholesterol drug Lipitor, a ruling seen as a much needed respite for the pharmaceutical industry. Indian generic maker Ranbaxy had filed the suit asking the court to overturn the patent, which covers atorvastatin, the drug's active ingredient. Lipitor, with sales in excess of of $10 billion, is the world's best-selling drug. The decision at least partially resolves an issue which had been widely seen as a major question mark …

Roche considers allowing other companies to make Tamiflu

Faced with growing pressure from the US and other governments, Swiss drug maker Roche said it is willing to discuss allowing other companies to produce its antiviral drug Tamiflu, which is believed to be the most effective weapon in the fight against avian flu. The company has qualified that offer by saying it doesn't think anybody else has the capability to produce the drug. Roche shares have hit all-time highs in recent weeks driven by the demand for Tamiflu and the excellent …

SPOTLIGHT: Drops in heart attacks, LDL cholesterol levels

Preventative strategies and cholesterol fighting drugs are paying off in decreased cholesterol levels and reduced hospital admission for heart attacks, find a pair of important new studies. A report being published in the Journal of the American Medical Association today finds that LDL cholesterol, known as "bad cholesterol," fell 4.5 percent in the last decade, with the average level dropping to 123 from 129. A second report by Solucient notes that hospital admissions for heart …

ALSO NOTED: CHW accused of gouging uninsured; Big pharma spending big in Calif.; and much more...

> A class action suit filed in California charges Catholic Healthcare West with price gouging in the rates it charges the uninsured. Article

> Blog Therapy? In case you hadn't noticed, medicine is changing. Article

> In a decision with …

Signs point to flu vaccine shortage

Despite assurances that manufacturers would be able to produce an adequate supply of flu vaccine for the 2005 flu season, early indications suggest there will be shortages across the country this year. While the problems do not yet seem to be as severe as those last year, many healthcare providers are reporting at least limited disruption of expected shipments. Partly to blame is more problems at Chiron, which was expected to supply between 18 million and 26 million doses of Fluvirin. So …

Critics question sale of HCA hospitals

Lawyers representing a group of patients pursuing malpractice action against a West Virginia osteopath said HCA is trying to dodge a financial bullet by selling off all of its hospitals in the state to LifePoint Hospitals for $330 million. The group argues that the Nashville-based chain only announced plans to sell the four hospitals involved after it learned that a West Virginia court intended to set aside state malpractice caps in the case, potentially leaving it liable for hundreds of …

Ga. threatens to fine United on late payments

Georgia is considering fining UnitedHealth Group $2.4 million for delaying payments to doctors and hospitals. Under Georgia law, insurers must pay insurer claims within 15 days or face a penalty. The state said that hasn't been happening in UnitedHealth's case. Officials said more than 80,000 claims have failed to make the deadline. If commissioner John Oxendine approves the fine, the penalty will be the highest ever issued to a Georgia insurer. UnitedHealth is proclaiming its innocence …

Patterson rebukes Brailer on national health IT strategy

Wall Street has long thought Cerner will benefit from the Bush administration's plan for a national health IT infrastructure. But now some people are wondering if relations have worsened between the well-connected company and the White House. Over the weekend, Cerner CEO Neal Patterson made remarks critical of National Health IT coordinator David Brailer's performance. Speaking at a Cerner event, Patterson expressed doubts about the way in which Brailer has handled government HIT …

Medicare Part D and big pharma

Despite the fact that many analysts see Medicare Part D as the biggest thing to happen to the pharmaceutical industry in years, pharma companies have been reluctant to talk about how much they stand to gain. Some even argue that in the end the benefit will end up hurting manufacturers more than it helps as customers move over to low-cost generics. Not many people buy that argument. Some analysts think the winners are likely to be companies like Sanofi-Aventis, Roche, Johnson & Johnson …

SPOTLIGHT: The business case for health reform

Brian Klepper and Pat Salber, from the Center for Practical Health Reform, argue that the health system is facing a deep crisis as the number of employers offering benefits falls rapidly, which in turn increases the pressure put on public programs and healthcare providers. They call for all parties in the system to put aside their narrow interests and agree to use modern management techniques based on IT and industrial processes to improve the cost-efficiency of care. They also call for a …

ALSO NOTED: ERs key to hospital profits; Race-based medicines; and much more...

> Can bigger, more modern emergency rooms boost profitability? Many hospitals are rethinking old theories. Article

> Genentech reports net income up 56 percent on strong sales of Avastin and Herceptin. Article

> Health Affairs examines the issue of race-based medicines, revisiting the BiDil story. …

US releases pandemic plan

Over the weekend, with the bird flu threat getting major media play, details of the government's plan for coping with a pandemic were emerging. Officials said they expect local agencies to take the lead in the event of an outbreak. Less stress is placed on military involvement than critics had feared. The Department of Health and Human Services said it thinks a major outbreak could kill as many as 1.9 million Americans and affect about half the population. Anxiety was heightened by …

Emdeon responds to allegations

Last month Emdeon put together a pretty decent IPO for its Web MD Health spin-off. Wall Street liked what it heard about the company's potential in the consumer health segment. But on Saturday the Associated Press ran a long investigative story on the company--the kind CEOs have nightmares about. It detailed an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the company and parent Emdeon (which changed its name from WebMD last month) surrounding accounting questions at Medical …

FDA announces contracts for adverse events database

On Friday the Food and Drug Administration announced contracts for its adverse event monitoring database, a key to the agency's plan for monitoring drug safety in the future. The FDA will use the technology to look for possible signs that a particular drug may be experiencing problems. The four organizations selected to participate in the project are Vanderbilt University, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, Ingenix and Kaiser Foundation Research Institute. Of course, since the Vioxx withdrawal …

IBM to put worker genetic data off limits

Entering an area of healthcare law expected to become a hot topic, IBM announced a privacy policy covering employee genetic information. The company pledged not to use genetic testing in hiring decisions or to determine eligibility for its healthcare or benefits plans. The announcement is said to be the first of its kind by a major corporation. Experts said the announcement establishes an important precedent.

"What IBM is doing is significant because you have a big, leadership …

More problems for Merck defense

The Vioxx litigation is widely seen as a key turning point for Merck. That's the reason why so many people are surprised that miscues continue to haunt the company's legal defense. The latest snafu came on Friday when defense counsel Diane Sullivan got into a shouting match with Judge Carol Higbee, leading some observers to compare the proceedings to an episode of The Jerry Springer Show. Ill will between the two has been palpable since the beginning of the second Vioxx …