News

Study says studies need more study

A study which appears in today's Journal of the American Medical Association tackles the tricky subject of the reliability of studies. Researchers at Tufts New England Medical Center and the University of Ionnina in Greece looked at about 100 frequently-cited clinical research studies appearing in JAMA, the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet. The researchers found that findings were later contradicted or called into question in about …

Penn. study says hospital infection rates still high

A new study looks at infection rates at Pennsylvania hospitals. The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council found that 11,600 patients contracted infections during their hospital stays last year. Nearly 1,800 died as a result, the group says. Pennsylvania is one of only six states in the nation to require that hospitals report infections. The cost containment council report estimates the annual cost of hospital acquired infections to be around $2 billion.

- see this story from The New York Times

King/Drew problems continue with another patient death

The Los Angeles Times reports that a seventh patient has died at King/Drew Medical Center under circumstances which are described as "highly unusual." A patient in the hospital's cardiac unit died in March when nurses ignored monitor alarms indicating he was having problems for an "extended period of time." An anonymous tipster reported the incident to authorities last month. In an unrelated incident, the paper reports an orthopedic surgeon at the facility is in trouble after …

HCA warns, stock tumbles

The nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, HCA, warned that second-quarter profits were going to be complicated by a series of accounting moves. The market has decided that means they'll be lower than expected and took note that HCA also stated that same-facility admissions were flat and the number of uninsured admissions rose 5 percent.

- see this story from TheStreet.com

SPOTLIGHT: Abbott Labs reports 38% jump in profit


Abbott Labs said second-quarter profit was up over 38 percent due to increased sales of its arthritis drugs Mobic and Humira. The drug maker says sales of Mobic have nearly tripled, largely as a result of the withdrawal of Pfizer's pain reliever Bextra. Sales of Humira, which is designed to treat rhumatoid arthritis, were up 58 percent. Even though Abbott beat second-quarter estimates by a penny, Wall Street was looking for a little more. Story

ALSO NOTED: Bariatric surgery bulges; Specialty drug costs rising; and much more...

> New research finds that the number of bariatric surgeries performed in the US has risen sharply in the past 10 years and that outcomes have improved markedly. Story

> The San Jose Mercury News reports on McKesson's latest run of good fortune. Story

> In a case which may set a precedent, the …

US health spending higher because of prices

A new study confirms that Americans pay about twice as much for their healthcare costs as people in other industrialized nations. The research, which appears in today's issue of Health Affairs, finds that Americans spent $5,267 per capita for healthcare in 2002, 53 percent more than their counterparts in other wealthy countries. Authors Gerald Anderson and Hugh Watson argue that higher incomes in the US and the cost of medical care are the major factors responsible.

"There …

Pricing for cancer drugs questioned

The New York Times explores the economics of several expensive new cancer drugs, looking at the history and advantages of relatively new treatments like Genetech's Avastin and ImClone's now notorious colorectal drug Erbitux. Pricing for these drugs is often prohibitively expensive, sometimes as much as $100,000 for a treatment lasting only a few months. The paper examines the trade offs involved with the use of these therapies and the factors which often lead doctors to prescribe …

IT: Most-wired hospitals list released

Hospitals and Health Networks has released its annual ranking of the most-wired hospitals in the US. The journal also ranks the 25 most-improved, most-wireless and most-wired small and rural hospitals. Most wired hospitals are much more likely to have most of their physicians using CPOE and medication alert systems -- 41 percent versus 27 percent for all hospitals surveyed and 8 percent for the least-wired. Incidentally, these numbers seem to significantly overstate the accepted …

Med Tech: Trend towards home dialysis systems examined

Ten years ago it would not have been technologically possible. But today home dialysis systems are transforming the way many patients with kidney failure receive their care. Newer hemodialysis systems are about the size of a suitcase, much smaller than the older generation which took up the space of a refrigerator. That makes it possible for patients to receive dialysis at home. The FDA has approved new models from Aksys and NxStage Medical. In Southern California, Kaiser Permanente has …

IT: EDS wins $73M Oregon Medicaid deal

Electronic Data Systems has signed a $73 million deal with the state of Oregon to develop and implement a new Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS). The seven-year contract includes three one-year options. Over the past year, EDS has won similar contracts from Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. The Oregon system will be a modified version of the InterChange Medicaid system, which EDS has already deployed in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Kansas. The Oregon Medicaid program …

SPOTLIGHT: Patient ID number concept falls into disfavor

Despite the inherent logic of assigning every American a personal patient identification code to help manage their electronic medical record information, it is unlikely to happen, Government Computer Week reports. Newer proposals lean towards a decentralized approach to managing the data. Current thinking favors either a probabilistic approach, similar to that used by some search engines, or a record locator model, which would rely on indexes to organize detailed information on the location of patient records. Story

ALSO NOTED: Ohio workers' comp scandal grows; McKesson's ex-CFO cleared of charges; and much more...

> A study finds Ohio has overpaid hospitals for workers' compensation claims by $544 million over the past seven years. Story

> McKesson's ex-CFO cleared of charges related to HBOC merger fraud. Story

> What does the future hold for Revolution Health Group, Steve Case's bold new experiment with …

VNU acquires IMS Health for $7B

Dutch information services conglomerate VNU said it is buying US healthcare data provider IMS health for $6.93 billion. The Connecticut-based IMS has a dominant position in monitoring sales in the pharmaceutical industry. The company's sales in 2004 were approximately $1.6 billion. VNU, which is based in Haarlem, the Netherlands, already owns Nielsen Media Research, the television ratings service, and AC Nielsen, which tracks retail sales in the US.

- see this story from the Associated Press

Jury selection to proceed in Tex. Vioxx trial

Jury selection begins this week in the first Vioxx lawsuit to go to trial. Opening arguments are expected in a federal court in Angleton, Texas, as early as Thursday. Carol Ernst, who lost her husband to a heart arrhythmia, is suing drug giant Merck for failing to warn patients of the risks involved with the painkiller. Ernst is represented by W. Mark Lanier, who The New York Times calls "one of the best trial lawyers in the country." The paper notes that the case will draw major attention.

- see this story from The New York Times

WellPoint to settle national lawsuits

WellPoint announced this morning that it will pay $135 million to settle class-action lawsuits brought by physicians who accuse the company of unfair reimbursement practices. The deal would affect more than 700,000 physicians in the US participating in two major lawsuits against the insurer and other managed care companies. The settlement, which still must be approved by the courts, appears to resolve a major question mark for the nation's largest insurer at a time when it faces increased …

UPMC weighs start-up investments

Buoyed by the success of its start ups, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is considering expanding its portfolio of small companies pursuing promising medical technologies. Last week, Dutch giant Philips said it would pay $280 million to acquire Stentor, a California-based diagnostic imaging company built around an idea developed by a UPMC radiologist. UPMC is weighing investments in a company that makes a laser scalpel about the size of a pen and another firm which is …

Abbott will lower cost of AIDS drug

Abbott Laboratories said it will drop the price Brazil must pay for the AIDS drug Kaletra, ending an embarrassing standoff with the Brazilian government. Brazil had threatened to break the patent on Kaletra and two other drugs made by Merck and Gilead. The Brazilian government says the price adjustment will save it $259 million over the next 6 years. The move may, however, increase international pressure on Abbott to reach similar accommodations with other governments in countries where …

SPOTLIGHT: Annual listing of top hospital rankings

US News & World Report released its annual ranking of the top hospitals in the US this week. The top five hospitals making the magazine's honor roll as all-around performers were: 1) Johns Hopkins (32 pts); 2) The Mayo Clinic (28 pts); 3) Mass. General (24 pts); 4) The Cleveland Clinic (23 pts); and 5) UCLA Medical Center (22 pts). Some cynics will note that a Dartmouth study last year showed dramatically different care patterns among the esteemed "Top 100" group. Story 

ALSO NOTED: Omnicare buys excellRX; McKesson acquires D & K Healthcare; and much more...

> McKesson has acquired D & K Healthcare, a drug distributor with a strong presence in the South and Midwest, in a deal valued at $206.8 million. Story

> Following up on last week's buy of Neighborcare, long-term care provider Omnicare said it will acquire excellRX for $269 million. …