News

Circumcision alleged to combat HIV spread

Researchers said circumcision can dramatically reduce the chances that men will be infected with the HIV virus during sexual intercourse. A study conducted in a South African township by South African and French researchers finds that circumcision reduced the risk of transmission by 70 percent in men, a far more successful rate than observers had been expecting. Some experts are calling the development "a major breakthrough." Others want to see more data on the experiment.

Other …

SPOTLIGHT: Long-term impact of Reciprocal collapse

The Tennessean examines the aftermath of the 2002 collapse of malpractice insurer Reciprocal of America on the lives of both doctors and patients. Two years after the insurance company failed, many are still picking up the pieces. As more details emerge, critics are getting angrier. Story

ALSO NOTED: Merck wants postponement in Vioxx trial;Sharp nixes Blue Cross contract; and much more...

> Merck is asking for a postponement in the first Vioxx trial. Story

> The University of Maryland is taking an innovative new approach to the treatment of heart disease, offering patients the option of having an angioplasty and a bypass in the same operation. …

Editor's Corner


This weekend we celebrate our nation's birthday and its proud heritage of freedom and justice. It seems that the most important freedom left in America is the freedom to push the limits of laws, especially those designed to protect the interests of investors and taxpayers. In the last couple of decades, and especially the last five years, corporations and other powerful …

Texas AG files suit against Merck

The attorney general of the state of Texas filed a lawsuit against Merck and company, charging the drug maker with misleading consumers about the safety of the painkiller Vioxx. The suit seeks at least $250 million in damages from Merck, alleging the pharmaceutical company violated Texas Medicaid fraud rules by not informing patients and their doctors of the growing body of evidence linking the drug to serious cardiovascular problems.

While thousands of patients have filed …

Mr. Scrushy wants his job back

As expected, ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy appears to be moving quickly on his plan to get his old job back. The Wall Street Journal reports that Scrushy plans to contact large shareholders in an effort to convince them he should be brought back on. The HealthSouth board has said it has no intention of allowing him to return. At an investor meeting in New York, current CEO Jay Grinney attempted to reassure shareholders saying, "the board has made it absolutely clear he will …

IT: Cisco initiative targets doctors, medical groups

Cisco systems has launched a new project, led by Jeff Rideout, a chief medical officer who's previous job was at California Blue Shield, that encourages doctors to use technology and adopt pay-for-performance measures. BusinessWeek reports that the company is in talks with Intel, Oracle, and Hewlett Packard in an effort to use Silicon Valley's influence to push for adoption. Unlike government quality programs, which largely target hospitals, the plan focuses on doctors and …

Judge seizes California prison health system

A federal judge took control of California's prison health care system, saying "extreme measures" are necessary to fix widespread problems.  California's system is one of the largest in the county. It serves 163,000 prisoners, employs 6,000 people and has an annual budget of $1.1 billion. Conditions in California prisons have been a target of reformers for years. Critics allege at least one inmate a week dies as a result of inadequate medical care. The seizure is the first of a large …

FDA warns on antidepressants, suicide

The Food and Drug Administration warned about a possible link between antidepressants and suicide on Friday, its second statement on the issue. The agency said adults who take the drugs should be closely monitored -- especially when they first begin their prescriptions or when a dose is changed. The agency had earlier warned that children given antidepressants are vulnerable to increased suicidal tendencies. There is some controversy over the need for such warnings. Many critics have …

SPOTLIGHT: Study highlights effectiveness of email reminders

A study conducted by Canadian researchers finds that regular e-mails can be an effective way of encouraging healthier attitudes and behaviors. Researchers at the University of Alberta looked at the impact of weekly reminder emails sent to Canadian workers by a nutrition program. Those who got emails showed "an increase in activity levels" and "more receptiveness to dietary changes."  The authors say more study is needed to better understand the role email plays in shaping behaviors. Story

ALSO NOTED: FDA knew about Viagra-blindness link; More commentary on Scrushy acquittal; and much more....

> The FDA knew about a possible link between Viagra and blindness months before the news was made public, it was revealed. Story

> More disbelief that Scrushy got off, and the implications for the SOX laws. Commentary

> Agriculture officials are checking for more cases of mad cow in a …

Canada moves to block drug exports

This time it appears the Canadians are serious. Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh said on Wednesday that Canadian lawmakers will draft legislation banning the bulk export of prescription drugs to the US. Legislators will also consider a measure which would make it difficult for Canadian doctors to write prescriptions for patients without seeing them. About 2 million Americans rely on inexpensive prescription drugs from Canada, according to some estimates. Sales are believed to be worth only …

Pay-per-peformance legislation likely

Business Week reports that Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will propose legislation today that would move all hospitals in the country to pay-per-performance plans. Providers who meet certain measurable quality goals will be rewarded with incentive payments. According to the magazine, the bill also calls for similar incentive programs for doctors, nursing homes and home healthcare providers.

The legislation is not the only bill in the works on …

Senate votes $1.5B in extra funds for VA

Facing a major budget shortfall, the Senate approved an extra $1.5 billion for the Veteran's Affairs administration yesterday. The added money will largely go to fund medical centers operated by the agency. Over the past two years, the VA has been hard hit by the increased costs of providing healthcare to veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After first suggesting that they didn't need the money, the Bush Administration asked for it in the face of strong pressure from …

GlaxoSmithKline plans 5 new vaccines

GlaxoSmithKline announced plans to launch five new vaccines over the next five years. All told, the new drugs have a projected market value of $11 billion to $18 billion. The five include Cervarix, designed to protect against cervical cancer; Rotarix, which fights rotavirus gastroenteritis; and Streptorix, for pneumococcal disease. The company is also touting an improved flu vaccine and a new combination designed to combat meningitis.

- see this story from the Philadelphia Business Journal

IT: Arizona 211 system goes live

Arizona launched an ambitious database project designed to provide the public with information about health, human services and emergency response information. The Arizona 211 website gives users access to listings for more than 17,000 entities offering services in the state. In phase 2 of the project, users will offer referrals to doctors and other healthcare providers.

- see this story from the Business Journal of Phoenix

SPOTLIGHT: AIDS treatment goal probably won't be met

The World Health Organization and the United Nations said they probably will not meet their goal of providing 3 million people with HIV/AIDS with retroviral drugs by the end of 2005. Current estimates indicate that health groups have been able to get retrovirals to about 1 million people in poor countries, according to WHO AIDS project head Dr. Jim Yong Kim. Story

ALSO NOTED: USDA releases some news about that mad cow; Scrushy takes a vacation; and much more...

> After a long silence, agriculture officials said they had traced a case of Mad Cow disease to a Texas herd. Story

> Unhappy with the handling of the case, health groups, including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, have petitioned to join the government's lawsuit against big tobacco. …

Scrushy legal fight not over

The acquittal of ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on federal fraud charges dominates healthcare news this morning. Most legal observers had predicted a guilty verdict on the strength of the evidence against Scrushy. A Birmingham, Alabama jury was not convinced, however. The Wall Street Journal notes that "the acquittal casts a long shadow on the Sarbanes-Oxley law in its first test."

The ex-CEO will now try to enforce a clause in his employment agreement which his …

Medtronic makes play for obesity market

Medtronic is expected to announce this morning that it is entering the obesity market with the acquisition of Transneuronix, a company which makes an implantable stomach pacemaker. Minneapolis-based Medtronic will pay $260 million to take over Transneuronix, which has been in business since 1995. The deal will allow Medtronic to market the company's Transcend pacemaker, which it describes as a "gastric stimulator." Although the technology, which sends impulses to the brain telling it …