News

SPOTLIGHT: Research praises antioxidant powers of coffee

New research finds that coffee provides more healthy antioxidants than any other food or beverage in the American diet. Chemistry professor Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton studied the antioxidant properties of about 100 foods and beverages. Coffee ranked as highest in naturally occurring antioxidants, with adult Americans getting on average 1.29 mg per day from their cups of Joe. Bananas ranked second. On the other hand, the researchers point out that coffee has other health …

ALSO NOTED: 911 responders unhappy in NYC; Trend: India makes gains in HIT; and much more...

> There is anger among 911 first-responders in New York City who say an HHS sponsored health monitoring program set up to track their well-being has gone off the radar. Story

Trend: India is advancing rapidly in the healthcare IT race, according to some reports. Story

> …

Editor's Corner


This week's news was dominated by last Friday's verdict in the Vioxx case that was either a decisive blow against the evils of capitalism or the end of Western civilization as we know it, depending on your point of view. The Vioxx case is perhaps a sentinel event. It could be what's needed to spur big pharma, the FDA, the medical profession and the public into a new compact. In this …

Merck may settle some Vioxx cases

Merck said it will consider settling a limited number of the Vioxx lawsuits filed against it. In an interview Thursday, the company's general counsel said the company is weighing settling cases which meet certain narrow criteria, particularly those in which the painkiller was taken for more than 18 months. Kenneth Fraser said the company may settle a "small number of the suits" filed against it. Fraser ruled out a "broad global settlement," however. Legal observers say the decision is an …

NIH to ban researchers from consulting work

The National Institutes of Health will no longer allow its employees to do outside consulting work with pharmaceutical companies. The NIH announced the new policy on Thursday at a press conference led by director Elias Zerhouni. The agency did not go as far as some critics might have preferred. Scientists will still be able to own up $15,000 worth of stock in any given drug company and will be able to receive compensation from pharmaceutical companies for teaching continued medical …

UnitedHealth-PacifiCare deal scrutinized

Some Californians are worried that the UnitedHealth-PacifiCare merger could lead to higher premiums and might end up limiting their healthcare choices. California's Department of Managed Care held hearings yesterday in Santa Ana to investigate the likely impact of the deal. Critics say customers are likely to end up footing the bill for the $300 million in bonuses scheduled for executives at PacifiCare. Representatives for UnitedHealth denied that the merger would have any impact on the …

Study: Medical group performance varies

Researchers at the University of California Berkeley revealed details of one of the first studies to look at measures of quality performance at medical groups nationwide. The team examined 700 groups across the country and found wide variations in quality between the top-performing and poorest groups. The research, which appears in the August issue of Managed Care Research and Review, studies six care dimensions including care management, health promotion, disease prevention, …

Metabolic syndrome diagnosis questioned

Two top organizations in the fight against diabetes said they doubt that a condition known as metabolic syndrome exists. The American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes said that doctors should not diagnose patients with the condition until more evidence is available. The announcement is a blow for pharma companies, such as Sanofi-Aventis, hoping to increase sales by marketing treatments for the condition. Metabolic syndrome is commonly said to be …

SPOTLIGHT: Delphi Medical Systems' 'cost effective' EMR


Delphi Medical Systems, a subsidiary of the automotive industry supplier, is releasing a new EMR and PDA called PocketChart designed to offer physicians a convenient and inexpensive ($1,495) means of accessing patient electronic medical records. Delphi has some products in the monitoring business, but this is yet more indication that non-healthcare companies see the healthcare IT market as maturing. Release

ALSO NOTED: Medicare Part D may save seniors; Tufts tries to reform itself; and much more...

> A new study finds that Medicare Part D may help seniors save even more than expected. Story

> In an attempt to return itself to financial health, the Tufts HMO is giving managed care strategies another try. Story

> AARP comes out …

Panel votes to close Walter Reed Medical Center

A federal commission voted this morning to officially close the US Army's historic Walter Reed Medical Center. Critics had argued against closing the storied facility in Washington, DC, which has treated presidents and generations of soldiers wounded in wars in Europe, Southeast Asia and most recently Afghanistan and Iraq. Under the Pentagon's new plan, existing operations at the hospital will be shifted to a new facility in Bethesda, Maryland, currently the site of the National Naval …

Chutes & Ladders: Wall Street insider named to FDA post

Wall Street reacted favorably to the appointment of Dr. Scott Gottlieb to the FDA's No. 2 job this week. Critics, however, are questioning Gottlieb's ties to investors and his stance on fast-track approval for new drugs. The Seattle Times, which recently ran a series exposing questionable business relationships between prominent medical researchers and Wall Street, writes that the appointment may "send exactly the wrong message." Gottlieb denies any potential conflict of …

HIT: Intel launches healthcare push, focus on wireless

Intel is the latest big technology company to turn its attention to the healthcare sector this month. On Wednesday, Intel Digital Health Group general manager Louis Burns gave a keynote speech at InfoWorld, talking up the ever-popular theme of all the good things technology can do for healthcare if only we'd let it. The Intel executive said new technologies like wireless and electronic medical records will help both business and government control rising healthcare costs. Burns noted that …

Trend: RFID use at hospitals growing rapidly

Despite the reservations of privacy advocates and others concerned about the implications of the tracking technology, many hospitals are planning to adopt RFID systems, according to a new survey released this week. Spyglass Consulting found that 45 percent of healthcare CIOs plan to implement RFID at their facilities by the end of next year. The consultancy interviewed 100 health care CIOs for their views on the subject. These days about 10 percent of hospitals use RFID. According to …

California AG to broaden price-gouging suit

The California attorney general is expected to announce that the state is significantly expanding a lawsuit against two pharma companies accused of unfairly setting prices for prescription drugs. As many as three dozen additional pharmaceutical companies could be named as defendants in the case, according to a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer. California sued Abbott Pharmaceuticals and Wyeth in 2003, accusing the two companies of unfairly setting the prices they charge …

SPOTLIGHT: Galvanon wins Baylor contract

In a major step forward for the maker of automated patient registration kiosks, Galvanon announced that it has signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the Baylor Health System to install its patient self-registration systems at 15 hospitals, clinics and ambulatory surgery centers in Dallas. Supporters say self-registration holds the promise of drastically reduced wait times for patients and improved administrative efficiency. Release

ALSO NOTED: US seniors warm to Medicare Part D; Shortage of pain management specialists; and much more...

> American seniors are warming to Medicare Part D, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation. KFF said 22 percent of seniors interviewed in its August poll say they plan to enroll, up from 9 percent in its last poll. Story

> Massachusetts officials say they will probe the sale of cosmetics by physicians due to the …

State of the Union: Fat

A new report finds that more Americans than ever before are technically overweight. More than one-quarter of the US population can now be classified as obese, according to government statistics. The advocacy group Trust for America's Health released a survey on Wednesday which looks at obesity levels in all 50 states. The healthiest state, according to researchers, is Colorado. The heaviest is Mississippi, where more than 25 percent of the population is overweight. Alabama and seven other …

Med students complain of poor training

A survey of American medical students released this week finds most think they aren't being taught many of the things they need to know to keep up with a rapidly changing field and get ahead in their profession. Thirty-five percent of medical students say they they are not offered courses in medical ethics, 47 percent say their medical schools offer no training in the business of medicine and a further 35 percent say they are not being given a chance to study the latest technological …

Boston Scientific gets FDA rebuke over faulty devices

Boston Scientific is in trouble after regulators discovered last month that the company shipped a number of faulty devices to hospitals. The FDA issued the strongly-worded warning this week after investigators determined that the company shipped the defective devices from its Quincy, Massachusetts, distribution center instead of quarantining them after quality problems were discovered. The specific devices involved include eight Taxus coronary stents, five Vaxcel ports and an unknown …