News

Study: Bypass methods equally effective

A new study published today in the journal Circulation finds that two competing approaches to coronary bypass surgery are equally effective. Researchers compared the conventional technique of stopping the heart and using a heart lung machine to the newer approach, in which surgeons operate while the heart is still beating. The study, which was sponsored by the American Heart Association, found very little difference in outcomes between the two strategies. "The key is to try to …

Brownback proposes new rules for fertility clinics

Congress is expected to take up the debate over embryonic stem cell cloning again this week after a break for the Memorial Day holiday. The debate now moves to the Senate. On Sunday, Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a leader of the movement against the legislation, called for new rules which would limit the number of embryos fertility clinics can produce. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would allow federal funding for research on embryos left over from fertility treatments. "This is not …

FDA investigates blindness link in Viagra

Regulators with the US Food and Drug Administration continue to investigate reports of blindness linked to Pfizer's impotence drug Viagra and Eli Lilly's Cialis. The news follows demands from lawmakers last week that Medicare and Medicaid stop paying for the expensive and controversial drugs after revelations that convicted sex offenders have received government compensation for the lifestyle drugs. The government spends an estimated $2 billion per year on such drugs, which has outraged …

IT: RFID tracking system goes live for painkiller

The maker of Oxycontin and a drug wholesaler are launching the first attempt to use RFID technology to track the movements of prescription drugs through the supply chain. Purdue Pharma, which makes the controversial painkiller, and drug wholesaler H.D. Smith are teaming up with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Supplyscape and Unisys on the pilot. The news comes at a time when more than a dozen states are pushing for stricter rules. Purdue says it has spent about $2 million on the …

SPOTLIGHT: Surgeon sold exam questions on eBay


A Florida surgeon has lost his board certification after it was revealed that he sold the answers to the American Board of Surgery's written exam online. The ensuing scandal has prompted the board to change its rules and develop a new set of questions for the multiple choice test. The surgeon involved admits having copied questions and answers for the exam when he was permitted to review the test in private after failing in 2002. Story

ALSO NOTED: Ill. lawmakers approve malpractice cap; Study: Statins underprescribed; and much more...

> Democrats said they would not participate on an advisory panel charged with finding ways to cut $10 billion from this year's Medicaid budget. The legislators object to not being given a vote on the panel. Story

> Lawmakers in Illinois voted today to authorize legislation which limits awards in malpractice cases and strengthens oversight of both doctors and lawyers.  …

Editor's Corner


Chuck Grassley is a fiercely independent Republican Senator from Iowa. Parochially he's interested in defending rural hospitals, but on the national scale he's one of the main voices pushing for reform of the FDA and to stop what he perceives as specialty hospitals "gaming" Medicare. Now he's gong a step further. As reported in FierceHealthcare on Thursday, Grassley is now …

Non-profit hospitals angered by charges

Non-profit hospitals reacted with dismay to the news that lawmakers in Washington are questioning their tax-exempt status. Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee began an investigation into the issue, saying the public deserves to know how its tax dollars are being spent. That follows word of a similar development in the Senate, where Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) opened his own investigation yesterday.

Non-profit hospitals account for about 60 percent of the tax exempt sector, …

Humana, University of Miami take on 'pre-sick'

This week the University of Miami and Humana announced that they will work together on a research center to study the ways in which wellness and disease management programs can be combined to help improve patient care and reduce healthcare costs. Humana chief innovation officer Jack Lord, says the research facility, which will be called the Health Services Research Center, will explore ways in which strategies developed for wellness programs can help patients considered likely to develop …

Filibuster looms on stem cell issue

Legislation which would relax the Federal ban on stem cell research moved forward this week as the US House of Representatives approved the Castle-DeGette bill, which would authorize medical research on stem cells obtained from embryos stored at fertility clinics. The action now moves to the Senate next week, where the debate is likely to be fierce. Roll Call reports that opponents led by Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) are seriously weighing a filibuster. Supporters are led by Sen. …

Ga. Medicaid proposal surprises

There was controversy after it was revealed that officials in Georgia are working on a compromise deal which would give the state more flexibility in how it spends its Medicaid funds. Under the proposed plan, residents participating in the state's Medicaid program would pay more for prescription drugs. They would also be required to pay co-pays for the first time. Governor Sonny Perdue's proposal came as a shock to many local observers who said the details of the plan had been negotiated …

IT: SAP inks South African healthcare deal; GE likes climate in India

There was a lot happening in the international health IT front this week as several major players made moves worth noting. South Africa's NetCare announced a deal which sees the healthcare network adapting software made by Germany's SAP for managing patient medical records and bookeeping needs.

Meanwhile, in India, GE Healthcare announced it will work with local investors who are building a $250 million healthcare and R&D complex in Gurgaon, a city close to New Delhi. The …

SPOTLIGHT: FDA probes Viagra blindness link


There is a lot of coverage on a story this morning about a possible link between Pfizer's lifestyle drug Viagra and blindness. Federal officials are investigating reports of up to 50 cases of users developing a syndrome called non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy blindness, or NAION. Pfizer is reportedly already weighing a label change. Story

ALSO NOTED: NGOs: HIV numbers wrong; KFF puts out malpractice report; and much more...

> Critics attacked new HIV figures released by the Indian government, saying the estimates are far too low. Story

> The Kaiser Family Foundation releases a report on medical malpractice. Report

> GlaxoSmithKline has high hopes for its new vaccine for cervical cancer. …

Finance committee chairman challenges nonprofit hospitals

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) released a letter to 10 leading non-profit hospitals yesterday signaling his intent to investigate charges that some facilities are abusing their non-profit status, and that he wants them to justify their tax-exempt status. Grassley, who is also a sponsor of legislation targeting physician-operated specialty hospitals, wants detailed information from the hospitals on 45 details ranging from their policies on executive travel to …

Study:Bypass surgery may be more effective

Patients with heart problems may be better off having coronary bypass surgery than undergoing a procedure which uses a stent to help restore the flow of blood, a new study finds. The research, released in today's New England Journal of Medicine, finds that patients who undergo bypass surgery have much higher survival rates and are far less likely to need repeat surgery than those treated with stents. However, the authors admit that a lot has changed since their data was collected …

What will Medicare rule changes mean for hospitals?

What exactly will proposed changes in the way the government reimburses healthcare providers for treating Medicare patients mean for the future of hospitals? There are many theories. Some argue that things will even themselves out in the end. TheStreet.com's Melissa Davis counters that the new rules could seriously impact a sector which is doing very well these days.

Davis quotes UBS analyst Kevin Weakley, who argues, "If CMS is successful in altering the …

UMDNJ adopts rules on no-bid contracts

Officials at New Jersey's University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ) said the school will adopt strict new spending rules following a scandal involving no-bid contracts and questionable political contributions. UMDNJ President John Petillo, who oversees the sprawling network of teaching hospitals and research facilities, also said executives at the institution will be required to give back their credit cards.

- see this story from the Newark Star-Ledger

IT: High prescription error rates at wired hospital

The conventional wisdom in health IT is that e-prescribing cuts down on preventable medical errors. A study done at the Salt Lake City VA Hospital appears to cast some doubt on that conclusion. A joint team from the University of Utah and the Veterans Administration looked at adverse drug events and found a much higher than expected number of ordering errors.

The authors conclude that decision-support software is needed to help physicians make better use of CPOE systems. The study …

SPOTLIGHT: TeleDoc lets patients dial-in for appointments


A new service created by a company in Dallas lets people talk to a doctor over the phone and even get prescriptions. TeleDoc bills itself as a "convenience for busy, time crunched people" and as a possible solution for people who lack health insurance. After an initial signup fee, the service costs $4.95 per month and $35 per call. The company says it has licensed doctors on call in every state. Initial feedback on the service from doctors is not entirely positive, however. Many …