News

HIT: Patient groups lobby for stronger EMR rules

The Patient Privacy Rights Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center are lobbying Congress for stronger privacy laws to protect electronic medical records. The development comes at a time when consumer groups are increasingly suspicious of employers plans for their workers' healthcare data. The release of a secret Wal-Mart memo detailing the company's plans to cut back on health costs by changing its hiring focus to encourage healthier employees brought the issue to the …

SPOTLIGHT: GE Healthcare


With electronic medical records the official designated topic of the hour in the healthcare industry, not as much attention goes to companies which provide diagnostic imaging and other medical technologies anymore. But it's a huge business--much bigger than any of the HIT companies--and each of the big four (GE, Siemens, Philips and Toshiba) also have some interest in the HIT market. Article

ALSO NOTED: Humana posts poor Q3; ERs jammed in Fla.; and much more...

> Dark days at Humana, as the health plan's third-quarter profit plunged 41 percent. Article (Wall Street Journal sub. req.)

> With many local doctor's offices closed a week after Hurricane Wilma, emergency rooms in South Florida are jammed. Article

> PBS airs Rx for …

Editor's Corner


In a little over a week from now, there's a special election in California
with several propositions on the ballot mostly to do with the political
future of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the two initiatives to do with drug
pricing (Props. 78 and 79) have seen an out-pouring of money, almost all of
it from drug companies. Their "Yes on 78, No on 79" commercials …

Guidant to release safety data on its devices

Guidant said it plans to regularly release data on its pacemakers and defibrillators in an effort to address safety concerns. The Indianapolis-based device maker has been the focus of attention since reports earlier this year that it failed to inform regulators about problems with its popular Ventak Prizm and Contak Renewal implants. This week, the company announced it is the subject of a Department of Justice probe into the circumstances surrounding its recall of both models. Over the …

Tenet investigation in New Orleans gains steam

The Louisiana attorney general's office has issued subpoenas to 73 employees at Tenet Healthcare's Memorial Hospital in a sign that the investigation into possible mercy killings at the hospital has intensified. Attorney General Charles Foti is reportedly extremely angry about the way the company's management has resisted his investigation into rumors of possible euthanasia. A spokesman for the company denied the charge, saying it is cooperating with officials.

- see this …

NxStage Medical shares begin trading

NxStage Medical, a Boston-area company which markets a promising home hemodialysis system that some analysts think could revolutionize care for patients with chronic kidney disease, completed its initial public offering on Thursday. The company's shares rose $1.70 or 17 percent from their opening price of $10. Home hemodialysis is seen as a major breakthrough by advocates and physicians concerned about the suffering of patients who have traditionally had to endure two to three pilgrimages …

PHR companies use the hard sell

Makers of personal health records (PHRs) are using the chaos and fear created by this year's hurricane season to try to win the public over to their products, a logical strategy which could win over customers if handled properly. Supporters of electronic medical records are pursuing a similar strategy in Washington, arguing that EMR technology could help play a major role in shaping a government response to future disasters or potential national security threats like a biological attack …

Medco to launch e-prescribing study with CMS

Pharmacy benefits manager Medco will conduct a pilot study funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to assess the value of e-prescribing in economic and clinical terms. The project, which is likely to be closely watched within the industry, will track the South East Michigan E-Prescribing Initiative (SEMI) over the next two years. The initiative will look at the program's impact for employees of General Motors, Ford Motor and DaimlerChrysler. On the healthcare side, BCBS …

SPOTLIGHT: Eclipsys reports Q3 numbers, draws attention

Expect Wall Street to pay close attention to how healthcare information system company Eclipsys performs over the quarter to come. Yesterday, the company announced its third-quarter revenue was $97.9 million, an increase of 23 percent over last year. This week Eclipsys named Andrew Eckert CEO, solidifying its management team. With shares priced at around $16, the company is seen as a bargain by some analysts, who feel the company is poised to overcome some problems with a technology …

ALSO NOTED: Membership up at Aetna, PacifiCare up; BMS may withdraw Pargluva; and much more...

> Membership grows at Aetna and PacifiCare, which both reported reasonably positive third-quarter results Thursday. Article 

> Following an article in JAMA criticizing the methodology used in submitting
data to the FDA, Bristol-Myers Squibb may withdraw Pargluva. …

Metric: 25% of US physicians from other countries, and rising

A new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine adds evidence which appears to support critics who have argued that "a brain drain" is stripping countries in the developing world of productive physicians who would otherwise stay at home. George Washington University's Fitzhugh Mullan--a leading expert on physician workforce issues--offers data on physician immigration rates to the US, UK and several other modern industrialized countries. Mullan's research shows that …

Roche suspends Tamiflu shipments to US

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding said it has suspended shipments of Tamiflu to pharmacy benefit management companies and other wholesale distributors after receiving reports of distribution problems. A Roche spokesman told The New York Times that some companies have been building stockpiles of the antiviral to guard against a possible H5N1 outbreak but did not provide more specifics. The company said shipments will resume when flu season begins in earnest. For those …

Metric: US pharmaceutical sales to grow at 8-9% rate

IMS Health released its forecast for the 2006 pharmaceutical market. The provider of drug industry intelligence anticipates that the US market for prescription drugs will grow at a rate between 8 percent and 9 percent. The company notes many factors will be at play in the market this year which could lead to significant changes. IMS identifies the launch of Medicare Part D in January, the loss of patent protections for six major branded drugs and state efforts to control rising …

Weird but true: Philip Morris enters healthcare field

The news that a major tobacco company is trying to get into the healthcare business is dividing the healthcare community. Scientists at Philip Morris developed a new design for a handheld inhaler during the years the company was attempting to develop a "safe" cigarette. The tobacco giant now plans to market the technology as a delivery device for inhaled aerosol medicines. A team of researchers working for the company have tested the Aria and found that the device delivers up to 90 …

Metric:20.8M Americans live with diabetes

The Centers for Disease Control released new diabetes numbers which appear to suggest the disease is tightening its grip on American society. According to CDC researchers, 20.8 million Americans now live with some form of the condition, an increase of 14 percent from two years ago. The jump reflects an increase in the age and weight of the average American. The growth trend for the disease is not limited to the US alone, researchers note. The World Health Organization recently released a …

SPOTLIGHT: Canadian hospital wait times fuel controversy

Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has published data on average patient wait times at hospitals in the Canadian province, often the subject of spirited debate between backers of the free market and supporters of Canada's health system. The information, which has been made available on a new Web site, may provide ammunition for critics who think delays in wait times to see specialists are too long. Web site

ALSO NOTED: Richard Scrushy indicted again; Consumers skeptical of retail healthcare clinics; San Francisco mayor to announce u

> In the wake of the Wal-Mart memo, The Wall Street Journal looks at strategies some employers are using to select healthier employees. Article (sub. req.)

> A Harris Interactive/Wall Street Journal poll finds Americans to be generally skeptical about in-store clinics that offer basic healthcare services. …

DOJ wants data on device payments

The Justice Department has launched an investigation into possible violations of anti-fraud and anti-kickback laws by leading medical device manufacturers. Medtronic, Guidant and St. Jude Medical are the focus of an investigation headed by the US attorney's office in Boston into possible improper payments made to doctors. With competition in the market for defibrillators and pacemakers intense, some critics have questioned the tactics companies use to win customers. In September, The …

Chutes & Ladders: MedCath CEO steps down

After just moving into the role as CEO of MedCath at the start of the month, Charlie Slaton has left to "pursue other opportunities." Chairman and former CEO John T. Casey is back in the CEO role, at least temporarily. MedCath announced yesterday that revenue estimates for the year ending September 30 would be between $756 million and $758 million, well below previous forecasts of $760 million to $780 million. MedCath owns a chain of heart surgery hospitals and has been a catalyst for the …