2008 News of the Day Archive

• With an eye toward reducing infections in hospitals, several top epidemiology (disease origin) groups have joined with the Joint Commission and the American Hospital Association to issue a list of guidelines to help reduce six lethal conditions. The CDC backs the new guidelines. The CDC estimates that 1.7 million infection cases occur each year in hospitals and that 99,000 patients die from the infections. 2008-10-08.
— The New York Times

• A Utah medical malpractice insurance company asserts that it has no legal obligation to pay out on wrongful death claims that resulted from a doctor’s willful criminal behavior in prescribing painkillers. The doctor, Warren Stack, has been indicted on several criminal counts, including dispensing drugs outside the legal bounds of medical practice. 2008-10-09.
— The Salt Lake Tribune

• A jury awarded a woman, Candida Diego, $10.7 million in late October after a jury found that a hospital tarried too long in giving Diego a brain scan. Diego had fractured her skull, was allegedly cleared for a scan to check for bleeding and then lapsed into a coma shortly after the scan and a two-hour wait. The hospital is appealing the decision. 2008-10-13.
— AP

• Hearing loss hastened? EU experts are warning that portable MP3 players are too often used at too-high volume levels, particularly by young people. 2008-10-13.
— Reuters

• Lifeline Systems, a maker of medical alarms, was sued after 70-year-old Robert Cundiff’s alarm failed to summon help via telephone line. Cundiff died of a heart attack. Cundiff’s son, who had Down syndrome and was immobile, subsequently died from dehydration. Lifeline’s suit was dismissed. Jurors may have been swayed by the fact that lightning could have caused the phone line outage, by the fact that Cundiff had signed a contract affirming his understanding that a working phone line was needed, and by the fact that a functioning blinking light indicated that the phone line was out. 2008-10-10.
— The Roanoke Times

• About half of nurses responding to a survey said they had been asked to obtain a patient’s informed consent, which is outside the scope of practice for nurses. The survey did not include nurse practitioners. October.
— Nursing2008

• The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that circumstantial evidence provided by a plaintiff’s spouse can be sufficient to prove a lack of informed consent. The case was Fitzpatrick v. Natter. The court did not feel that a plaintiff had to be deceased or incompetent before the viewpoints of a spouse could come into play. 2008-12-22.
— law.com

• MRIs can be interpreted in wildly different ways, leading to inaccurate diagnoses. Factors that make MRIs not as uniform in quality as they could be: 1) differences in quality of imaging coils, 2) differences in computer programs that read the coils’ scans, 3) differences in skill levels of the radiologists, and 4) age of the MRI machines. 2008-10-13.
— The New York Times

• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently added a pre-emption clause in a new rule concerning seatbelt safety. The rule, known as the “desig-nated seating position,” will restrict state personal injury suits, according to pro-plaintiff critics. Critics also say the verbiage was done contrary to Congressional intent. 2008-10-09.
— The National Law Journal

• A California woman is suing her ex-husband for giving her AIDs on the couple’s honeymoon. The suit, by “Bridget B.,” claims that “John B.” engaged in high-risk sexual behavior (using emails as evidence) outside their relationship while he was dating her. The state supreme court said in 2006 that Bridget could sue her former partner for infecting her with the HIV virus even if he did not know he was HIV-positive. 2008-10-04.
— AP

• On Oct. 15 a new California law took effect that eliminates “balance billing” by hospitals and doctors. Such billing often occurs when patients go to ERs outside of their insurance companies’ networks. The patients’ insurers then receive bills much higher than what the insurers normally would have paid to in-network hospitals or doctors, and thus decide to pay out only what they would otherwise have paid. The out-of-network hospitals and doctors then feel short-changed and bill the difference to patients. 2008-10-15.
— L.A. Times

• The St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, Calif., had its cardiac surgery program shut down last May related to patient infections. The state cleared the hospital after about a week. The hospital’s board shut down the program again in June and the state cleared the unit in July. In August, the state fined the hospital $25,000 for health and safety violations. David Moeck, an attorney for patients, has planned lawsuits, according to a news story. 2008-10-21.
— The Fresno Bee

• After federal tax rules for health savings accounts (HSAs) were changed in 2003, the accounts have become very attractive to money managers. Health insurance companies are now eyeing the HSAs and desiring to act as financial planners, or banks. 2008-10-22.
— L.A. Times

• Some dental sealants used to coat teeth for cavity prevention have been found to contain bisphenol-A, or BPA. BPA, found in plastics, has come under fire lately for possibly causing health problems. Most experts agree, however, that any small amount of BPA in the sealants is outweighed by the benefits of cavity protection. Some sealants contain no BPA, according to a study. 2008-10-20.
— The New York Times

• How bad is BPA? The FDA is considering putting the chemical on a list of toxic substances. 2008-12-23.
— The New York Times

• There’s a new kid on the block for hospital accreditation. Det Norse Veritas Healthcare (DNV), based in Norway, received approval in late September to accredit hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. DNV uses ISO 9001 compliance, which is often used in industries for quality management. DNV joins the Joint Commission and the American Osteopathic Association in accrediting ability. 2008-10-27.
— Modern Healthcare

• Computerized physician order-entry systems (CPOEs) sometimes (from 10 to 20%) fail to catch serious drug interactions and medications errors, according to the Leapfrog Group. 2008-10-27.
— Modern Healthcare

• A study has found that the effective window for giving tPA to stroke victims is four and a half hours, not the previously-believed three hours. 2008-9-25.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• Believe it or not: If you want to do CPR chest compressions at the correct speed, keep the Bee Gees’ song “Stayin’ Alive” in your head. “Stayin Alive” has 103 beats per minute  — almost the exact timing needed for the compressions. 2008-10-27.
— Modern Healthcare

• From 2000 to 2007, healthcare costs rose more than five times faster than family income.
— Families USA

• The Illinois Supreme Court in late November heard arguments in a challenge to that state’s caps on non-economic damages in med mal suits The cap law was passed in 2005. A lower court in Illinois found the caps unconstitutional in 2007. 2008-11-13.
— Chicago Tribune

• Believe it or not: If you want to know the breed of your dog, the Orvis DNA Dog Breed test can help. A swab is done of the dog’s cheek and the sample mailed to Orvis. Cost $129; orvis.com. 2008-11-15.
— Bottom Line Personal

• Two Indiana families are suing the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization and claim that donated organs were cancerous, which resulted in cancer being passed along to their deceased loved ones. 2008-11-11.
— The Indianapolis Star

• Heart attack and heart failure patients who take ibuprofen, Celebrex or Vioxx have an increased chance of having a second heart attack. 2008-11-12.
— Bloomberg

• A Las Vegas eye doctor has been sued for false advertising after he promoted himself as a board certified ophthamologist using state-of-the-art equipment for laser vision correction. The suit says neither claim was true. The doctor, Vilkas Jain, also known as Ken Johnson, lost his license in Ohio in 2005. He has been sued for medical malpractice at least 17 times, has been licensed in six other states and was the subject of a negligent eye care story on ABC’s Primetime in 2001. 2008-11-12.
— Las Vegas Review-Journal

• The FDA is replacing the old A, B, C, D and X fetal-risk labeling system on drugs with newer narrative-summary labeling. The average pregnant woman in the U.S. takes three to five prescription medicines during fetal gestation. The old system has been criticized as confusing. 2008, November.
— AJN, pg. 32

• Believe it or not: Eating popcorn and nuts does not make diverticulitis worse. If fact, regular nut and popcorn consumption lowers the risk of diverticulitis. Consumption of corn did not affect diverticulitis one way or the other. 2008, November.
— Nursing2008, pg. 26

• An experimental diagnostic breast exam called molecular breast imaging (MBI) appears to be superior to mammograms. The Mayo Clinic is conducting studies to see how MBI compares to MRIs. 2008, November.
— Nursing2008, pg. 27

• Some insulin syringes sold at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club have been recalled. The FDA said that Covidien Ltd.’s ReliOn syringes contained labeling that could be confusing and cause an overdose. 2008-11-05.
— Bloomberg

• A Utah registered nurse, Lisa Speckman, recently settled a lawsuit claiming that caregivers ignored signs of necrotizing fascitis, or flesh-eating bacteria, and allowed the infections to spread. Speckman lost some limbs and organs. She settled with LDS Hospital and the University of Utah. She also had sued her medical insurance carrier after the carrier stopped paying her medical bills when she filed suit. 2008-11-07.
— The Salt Lake Tribune

• The FDA has started posting a list of drugs that are being investigated for safety problems. The list is to be updated quarterly. Find the list at www.fda.gov/cder/aers/default. htm. 2008, November.
— Nursing2008, pg. 14

• A Massachusetts woman’s survivors recently won $13.5 million from doctors for the woman’s death. Amy Altman had contracted Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of cancer normally found in children, and was undergoing an experimental chemotherapy regimen. Altman died from a massive infection in her stomach, and doctors were faulted for not investigating her extreme stomach pain. Ironically, an autopsy showed that her cancer had been cured. 2008-11-06.
— The Boston Globe

• Wyeth recently lost a fen-phen suit, and was victorious in another one. In Stribling v. Wyeth, from New Jersey, the jury decided that fen-phen was a “substantial contributing factor” in the plaintiff’s death by causing her primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) and awarded her $3 million. People with PPH were not covered in the class action program that was set up to handle fen-phen cases. In Crowder v. Wyeth, from Texas, one of the individual cases still pending against Wyeth, the plaintiffs were unable to prove causation. 2008-10-24.
— Bloomberg; The Legal Intelligencer

• The heat is growing hotter for Merck and Schering-Plough over their cholesterol drug Vytorin. The DOJ is investigating the two companies for false claims to healthcare programs, 35 state AGs are investigating whether the two companies violated state consumer protection laws, and 140 class action civil suits have been filed. The civil suits are based on consumer fraud theories. The two drug makers have been accused of sitting on a report that showed Vytorin to be no more effective a drug than Zocor, a cheaper generic. 2008-11-05.
— AP

• Schering-Plough recently agreed to pay Missouri $31 million for inflating drug prices. 2008-10-31.
— St. Louis Business Journal

• A court has denied class action status to the roughly 6,000 patients of a Nevada clinic who came forward with fears that they may have contracted hepatitis C from improperly reused single-use vials. Defense attorneys had argued that emotional distress-type cases are not suitable for class action status. A judge agreed. 2008-11-06.
— The Las Vegas Review-Journal

• A California state official says the records of 1,041 patients at the UCLA Hospital System were improperly accessed by as many as 165 staffers. The staffers allegedly were disclosing information about various celebrity patients. 2008-11-06.
— The L.A. Times

• Future product liability? The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating the design of recreational off-highway vehicles. These large vehicles usually have doors, steering wheels and a roll-over cage and are larger than ATVs. Brands include Yamaha’s Rhino, Honda’s Big Red, Kawasaki’s Mule, Arctic Cat’s Prowler and Polaris’ Razor. 2008-11-05.
— Bloomberg

• China is rapidly becoming the largest manufacturer of most pharmaceuticals, but the FDA and its European equivalent rarely inspect Chinese factories that make drugs. By one estimate, it would take U.S. inspectors 13 years to visit all 3,249 foreign medication plants. 2008-10-31; 2008-10-24.
— The New York Times; AP

• The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that a defendant has a duty under Florida law to protect the public from the unauthorized release of lethal substances. In this case the defendant was the U.S. government and the question concerned the illegal mailing of anthrax spores to a newspaper photo editor, who died from exposure. 2008-10-30.
— AP

• A New Jersey appeals court recently held that a hospital is liable for the actions of non-employee, subcontractor doctors when the hospital’s “actions or inactions” lead a patient to believe that the doctor is acting with “apparent authority” from the hospital. The case is Cordero v. Christ Hospital. 2008-10-30.
— New Jersey Law Journal

• New York is considering taking indoor bug-bomb foggers off the consumer market and restricting their use to professional exterminators. Explosions and illnesses can occur when the foggers are used improperly. 2008-10-20.
— AP

• A recent study found that patients given Medtronic’s Endeavor stents were more likely to have heart attacks, repeat procedures and blood clots than patients who were given Johnson & Johnson’s Cypher stents. 2008-10-16.
— Reuters

• The parents of 3-year-old Laine Jelinek of Wisconsin recently won $11.4 million to take care of Laine for the rest of his life. The parents’ med mal suit claimed negligent care by a nurse and a nurse midwife during Laine’s birth. 2008-10-23.
— AP

• A woman who did not have cancer was diagnosed with cancer, was sent to a hospice and then was overdosed on painkillers, according to a court decision in Mississippi. Ersel Allen’s family won $4 million in the case. 2008-10-25.
— The Clarion-Ledger (Mississippi)

• Thoratec Corp. recently recalled certain batches of heart pumps, citing problems with wear to an electric wire. Catalog numbers 1355 and 102139 were affected. 2008-10-26.
— AP

• A study has found that older stored blood is twice as likely to give patients infections, pneumonia and sepsis, even though the blood has not expired by FDA standards. The FDA says blood can be kept for 42 days, but the study found that blood older that 28 days doubled patients’ risks of complications. 2008-10-28.
— Reuters

• A 25-year-old California woman, Alexis Sarti, won $3.2 million after eating ahi tuna sushi that was allegedly contaminated by raw poultry. Sarti was temporarily paralyzed, had to use a walker and wheelchair for a while and had to drop out of college for medical treatments. Her suit claims she has some permanent disability and had medical bills of $1 million. 2008-10-28.
— AP

• A widow, Mozelle Purifoy, has filed a $4 million emotional distress lawsuit after a New York medical examiner allegedly harvested her husband’s brain for medical study without the widow’s permission. A similar suit was filed in Seattle where decedent Jesse Smith’s brain was allegedly harvested in its entirety when in fact only permission for small tissue samples had been given. 2008-10-28.
— Newsday

• Powerful antipsychotic drugs such as Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon are being used too often in children and the drugs’ risks outweigh their benefits, according to some medical experts. Many of the drugs are used off-label. In 2007, 240,000 children under 12 were treated with Risperdal for attention deficit disorders, though Risperdal is not approved by the FDA for such problems. 2008-11-18. [See a related story about kids’ medications on Page 15].
— The New York Times

• The FDA has begun looking into the safety of skin filling gels that are becoming more popular in cosmetic surgery. By and large the fillers seem to be safe, though allergic reactions have occurred in a minority of patients. The various fillers are made from several different materials, complicating consistency. 2008-11-19.
— AP

• An appeals court has ruled in favor of a New Hampshire law that bars the sale of information about doctors’ medicine-prescribing habits. Such information is usually sold to pharmaceutical companies whose sales reps, armed with the data, can target doctors whom they feel are not prescribing enough of the companies’ name-brand drug products. Lawmakers believe such sales pressures increase the use of high-priced drugs and run up state Medicaid costs, and many doctors are opposed to having their prescribing patterns revealed. 2008-11-18.
— The New York Times

• A Pennsylvania jury awarded $20.5 million in November to Cody White, who was injured at birth. The jury felt that caregivers had delayed too long in delivering Cody after it was clear he was in fetal distress. 2008-11-17.
— The (Scranton) Times-Tribune

• A newspaper investigation has discovered another hidden danger in baby cribs  — mattress platforms that drop and create a void that might entrap or strangle infants. The investigation came on the heels of a recent massive crib recall involving drop rails. 2008-11-16.
— Chicago Tribune

• Women often do not receive all the latest information about breast reconstruction options after cancer. Reasons: Not all doctors are trained in the latest procedures, and complex surgeries are less profitable. 2008-12-22.
— The New York Times

• Colonoscopies fail to detect 30 to 40% of colorectal cancers. 2008-12-16.
— Annals of Internal Medicine

• A Hawaii rancher won $4.1 million in special damages and $2 million in general damages against a doctor who treated the rancher for high blood pressure but ignored tests showing the rancher had kidney disease. 2008-12-13.
— The (Honolulu) Star-Bulletin

• The FTC recently sued Ovation Pharmaceuticals for alleged price gouging on drugs used to treat premature infants who have holes in their hearts. The FTC said Ovation, once it came to own both Indocin and NeoProfen, upped the price of Indocin by 1,300%. 2008-12-16.
— Reuters

• A Broward County, Fla., circuit judge has allowed a plaintiff, Thomas Glasson, to seek punitive damages in a medical malpractice case. Punitive damages are rather rare in med mal actions. The case is against two doctors, Jason Frost and Jonathan Weiser. 2008-12-09.
— law.com

• JPS Health Network of Texas, which has had low ratings in patient satisfaction, is considering a plan to base executive pay on patient care and satisfaction. 2008-12-11.
— Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

• A Chicago-area family won a $9 million verdict in a case where their 12-year-old son, who was undergoing surgery to repair a tendon, was given an antibiotic to which he was allergic. 2008-12-12.
— Chicago Tribune

• Community hospital profits were way up in 2007. The margin was about 7%, but uncompensated care by Medicare and Medicaid is on the rise as well and expected to be worse once data from 2008 are known. 2008-11-10.
— Modern Healthcare

• Parents are more often taking legal action or seeking stronger laws to protect the “rights” of their diabetic children in public schools. 2008-12-08.
— Chicago Tribune

• Incontinence drugs such as Detrol and Ditropan have been associated with increased rates of memory loss. 2009-01-01.
— Bottom Line Personal

• Seventy-five of 77 foot entrapment incidents on escalators since early 2006 have involved soft-sided flexible clogs (such as Crocs), and slides. In 2006, 11,000 people were treated in hospitals for injuries involving escalators. Most of the injuries were fall-related. About 90 billion people per year ride escalators. 2008-12-07.
— Consumer Product Safety Commission

• According to court documents, AstraZeneca knew about the possibility of its antipsychotic drug Seroquel causing diabetes in a small fraction of patients. AstraZeneca faces about 15,000 claims. 2008-12-05.
— Bloomberg

• Believe it or not: A man may have been cured of AIDS after a bone marrow transplant. About one in 1,000 people is naturally resistant to the HIV virus, and when a marrow donor was being selected as the man’s donor, doctors found a donor sample that also carried an immunity to AIDS. After the transplant, the man appeared to be AIDS-free. Results are preliminary, but the results have sparked interest in gene therapy to fight AIDS. About 33 million people worldwide are HIV-positive. 2008-11-12.
— AP

• A Medtronic spinal implant, Infuse, was used off-label in a woman’s neck. The woman died and the woman’s family has filed a suit, claiming that a Medtronic representative encouraged the off-label use. While doctors have considerable latitude with off-label uses, representatives of device companies are not allowed to promote such uses. 2008-12-03
— Bloomberg

• According to a U.S. Justice Department study, Texas does a poor job of caring for the health of its developmentally disabled residents at state facilities. The study said 53 residents died in 2007 of easily preventable medical conditions, and said that 800 employees had been fired or suspended since 2004 for abusing residents. 2008-12-03. Georgia will be paying its second million-dollar settlement in two years for substandard treatment of residents in its mental hospitals. Georgia paid out $1.25 million for Sarah Elizabeth Crider in 2007 and will now pay $1 million for Michael Ernest Webb. Both residents died from untreated bowel obstructions.
— Houston Chronicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

• Plaintiff Ginger Marolf is suing Novartis over its Zelnorm drug, which was used to treat irritable bowel syndrome until it was withdrawn in 2007. Marolf claims that Novartis concealed Zelnorm’s risks of creating heart problems in some patients. Marolf, 35, had no heart trouble prior to taking the drug. 2008-11-30.
— Quad-City Times

• Overworked medical residents and related poor patient care have been in the news for the past several years. Yet another report says residents are too fatigued to render safe care. 2008-12-03.
— The Washington Post

• The family of James Kornak won $4.5 million against doctors at Broward General Medical Center. A jury decided Kornak’s pacemaker surgery should have been delayed once he developed lung problems. 2008-11-25.
— South Florida Sun-Sentinel

• Avastin raises blood clot risk in veins by about 33%. 2008-11-25.
— JAMA

• McKesson Corp., the U.S.’s largest drug distributor, will be paying $350 million to settle a class action suit alleging it jacked up the prices of more than 400 popular medications. 2008-11-24.
— The Legal Intelligencer

• Believe it or not: People who drink one to two drinks per day have an 18% lower risk of developing lung disease than non-drinkers. Men who have more than six drinks per day, however, have a 9% increased risk of lung disease. 2009-01-01.
— Bottom Line Personal

• About 11,000 people per year are treated in ERs for holiday decoration-related injuries.
— American College of Emergency Physicians

• In a Virginia case a circuit court held that a consulting review of medical records by a doctor does not establish a doctor-patient relationship between the reviewer and another doctor’s patient. In finding for the defendant doctor, the court reasoned that there was no allegation that the doctor undertook the plaintiff’s care by consent. 12-06-07.
— Virginia Medical Law Report

• Four organ transplant patients at three Chicago hospitals contracted HIV and the hepatitis C virus from organs from a high-risk donor. The infections were discovered in late 2007. Officials blamed the viral infections on a rare flaw in the testing procedures. The last time HIV was contracted through organ transplants was more than 20 years ago. 12-08-07.
— Chicago Tribune

• A brain-damaged toddler will receive $11.5 million for his medical care and life-long expenses after an alleged botched birth. A settlement was reached in a case that claimed a doctor failed to use a vacuum extractor. 12-08-07.
— AP

• Japanese and U.S. scientists announced in early December that a gene has been discovered that, when activated by cholesterol drugs (statins), causes toxicity to muscles. Muscle weakness and pain are sometimes side effects of these drugs. 12-13-07.
— UPI

• A new software called SimVascular takes MRI data and converts it into imagery that allows doctors to better gauge the correct heart surgery for a patient.
— Stanford University

• On Aug. 1, 2007, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed in the Federal Register that home medical equipment (HME) suppliers be required to purchase a surety bond in the amount of $65,000. This proposal is based on the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) of 1997.
— Elizabeth E. Hogue, Esq.

• The rate of accidental poisonings from prescription drugs increased sharply from 1999 to 2004.
— Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

• Healthcare providers who receive Medicare or Medicaid money must ask admitted patients if they have a living will or other directive.
— Patient Self-Determination Act

• Americans spend about $275 billion per year on prescription medicines. By 2012, about $60 billion worth of these drugs will lose their patents. Patients will have more and cheaper drug choices.
— The New York Times

• Connecticut has been experimenting with GPS devices to track criminals, as opposed to keeping them incarcerated.
— NPR

• A new use for DNA testing: Archaeologists have found that DNA can be extracted from the saliva of North American humans who have been dead for thousands of years. The saliva is nestled in quids, blobs of plant matter from plants such as yucca, that ancient people chewed and then spit out.
— NPR

• Half of all traffic accidents involving commercial vehicles are not caused by the commercial vehicles.
— NPR

• An Ohio court has ruled the child sex offender “1,000 ft.” rule to be unconstitutional.
— NPR

• The teen and young adult suicide rate jumped about 8 percent from 2003 to 2004 (76 percent for young girls). In 2003 the FDA issued black-box warnings about anti-depressant drugs (SSRIs) such as Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil, and SSRI prescriptions dropped 22 percent afterward. Some experts believe that lessened use of the medicines is linked to the increased suicide rate. The rate among teens lowered during the 1990s after the SSRI drugs were released in 1988. Experts are skeptical of making any causal links.
— wire services, The New York Times

• The demand for lawyers has grown at about half the rate of the rest of the economy since 1988. The number of JDs conferred has risen from about 38,000 in 2001-02 to almost 44,000 in 2005-06, while legal work in some sectors (med mal, PI, securities class actions) has fallen, and the number of law schools has increased by 11 percent since 1995 to 196. The top one-fourth of law school graduates have seen starting salaries rise, while the bottom 75 percent have actually seen income drops. Adding to young attorneys’ pain: tuition rates have tripled those of inflation in the last 20 years.
— Wall Street Journal, 9-24-2007

• A large study found that half of all abortions in the world are unsafe. The study also showed that the abortion rate is fairly consistent worldwide, even in countries where abortions are illegal.
— Guttmacher Institute, WHO

• The first kidney removal via a small incision in the navel has been completed, eliminating the usual long scars to the lower back.
— University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

• As cars are made lighter to increase fuel efficiency, the death rate in accidents rises as a result of the reduced weight.
— National Center for Policy Analysis

• A new and simple Alzheimer’s blood test has proven about 90 percent accurate in early testing.
— Stanford University

• A jury in Massachusetts awarded $26 million to a boy who suffered brain damage in a delivery gone wrong. The case is one of the largest in the state’s history.
— The New York Times

• The average RN makes $56,558 per year if paid by the hour, and about $68,000 per year if on salary.
— RN

• Tattoo inks are approved by the FDA for cosmetic use, but not for subcutaneous injections. The FDA does not track adverse events stemming from tattoo inks.
— Science News

• Three children in Albany, N.Y., were awarded $2.5 million in late October for exposure to lead paint and dust found in two apartment buildings where they once lived. The siblings, Jasmine, Tina and Juan Vasquez, suffer from learning disabilities.
— Newsday

• The FDA is requiring that impotence drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra bear label warnings about the possible side effect of hearing loss.
— wire services

• Baby crib bumper pads are too dangerous when compared with the benefit they give, according to a study from Washington University School of Medicine.
— Health Day News, The Washington Post

• Johnson & Johnson must pay $1.25 million for the death of a 14-year-old who died from blood clots linked to use of the Ortho Evra® birth control patch. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed claiming that clots and strokes resulted from the patch’s use.
— Bloomberg

• Scientists are exploring the possibility of prodding female human eggs to spontaneously grow (parthenogenesis) as a way to create stem cells. Some species of fish, reptiles, birds, insects and plants can create viable young from eggs that have not been fertilized, but humans cannot. Such “virgin” eggs in humans will not grow into a fetus for chromosomal-defect reasons. Tricking human eggs into growing in such a manner would create clumps of cells (blastocysts) that could be used as stem cells, but because the cells cannot grow into a viable fetus, ethical concerns are skirted. President Bush’s Council on Bioethics, and even the Roman Catholic Church, have not yet dismissed these eggs on ethical grounds.
— Science News

• A new HPV blood test is purported to be significantly better than Pap smears in detecting cervical cancer.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• A Spanish chemist has modified a common CD player to read biochemical reactions that are smeared onto the surface of what used to be CDs. The inexpensive modified CD players perform as well as $40,000 to $80,000 micro array detectors and can have as many as 300,000 samples crammed onto a single disk. Commercial uses may include homes, doctors’ offices and use in outdoor settings.
— Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain

• Bayer AG has stopped sales of its drug Trasylol® because the drug has been found to increase the risk of death. The drug is used during heart surgery to slow bleeding.
— The Washington Post

• A British study released in early November found that, among babies who died of SIDS, nine out of ten had mothers who smoked during pregnancy. Women who smoked were four times more likely to have a child die of SIDS, or cot death. The U.K. government is considering tighter laws to curb smoking during pregnancy.
— Bristol University’s Institute of Child Life and Health via XProLegal.com

• A new wave of plaintiff litigation is swirling around the chemical gadolinium. The heavy metal is used in kidney disease patients, but the substance can cause nephrogenic system fibrosis, or NSF, which hardens the skin. Managing NSF is very expensive – as much as $30,000 per week for blood treatments – which makes the potential for damages high. Bayer, General Electric and McKesson Corp. are three companies who are prime defendants.
— law.com

• The GAO says about 7,000 foreign companies manufacture drugs that are sold on the U.S. market. Congressional investigators assert that the FDA is woefully lacking in oversight of these companies.
— The Washington Post

• Pharmaceutical companies spent $4.5 billion in 2006 on ad campaigns directed at consumers – more than 400 times what they spent 20 years ago. Legal experts note this expenditure weakens the companies’ defense strategy in “failure to warn” claims, and weakens their “learned intermediary” (the doctors) shield. [Story, Page 5].
— Medical Malpractice Law & Strategy

• On the heels of Wyeth’s $134 million loss in Nevada wherein three women claimed the companies’ hormone replacement drugs caused their breast cancer, a Minnesota judge in late October dismissed a similar suit after a plaintiff’s failure to prove causation. Next, a jury verdict in Philadelphia was overturned wherein it was alleged that hormone replacement therapy causes cancer. In tossing the verdict the judge said that the plaintiff did not provide enough evidence to show that Wyeth was “factually negligent” in linking HRT to cancer. Thousands or HRT cases are pending nationwide. 12-08-07.
— The New York Times, law.com

• The Massachusetts Medical Society is hoping the state’s legislators will approve a law to shield an “I’m sorry” from being used in court against a doctor when he or she commits a medical error. Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut and Washington have such laws.
— The Boston Globe

• A Syracuse woman has sued a dentist who allowed a drill bit to break off in her jaw. The dentist tried to excise the bit, but pushed it farther into her sinus cavity. The dentist allegedly had been swaying to the tune of “Car Wash” when the bit broke off. The woman alleges her suit was prompted when the dentist, who had promised to pay her subsequent medical bills that would be incurred in the bit’s removal, declined to pay.
— Chicago Tribune

• Bristol-Myers and AstraZeneca will have to pay $14 million in damages, says a federal judge. In a class-action suit, the drug makers were found to have inflated their pharmaceutical prices, thereby defrauding customers, insurance companies and Medicare.
— Reuters

• A Massachusetts jury awarded $4.1 million to the family of a woman who died in 1999 after having an ovarian cyst removed. Bernice Edwards’ attorneys claimed she caught pneumonia at a hospital, and that the doctors proceeded to do her surgery anyway. She was left on a ventilator and soon died. 11-06-07.
— Boston Herald

• The cost of giving care to an aging parent or spouse is about $5,500 annually. When incidental costs such as fuel, food and copays are added, the cost swells to $8,700. These estimates are double previous estimates. 11-19-07.
— National Alliance for Caregiving, Evercare

• Almost half of early stage pancreatic cancer patients are not offered the Whipple surgical procedure. The procedure has become safer in recent years and offers a 25 percent better chance of survival after five years than does no surgery at all.
— Annals of Surgery

• Surgical fires may be more common than once thought. While they still are rare, a study extrapolated data and concluded that several hundred probably occur per year — one in every 87,000 surgeries of the 50 million or so surgeries performed per year. Most fires happen during head, face, neck or chest surgery. 11-07-07.
— ECRI Institute

• Several women in Georgia have filed a lawsuit against California-based Mentor Corp. over problems with the ObTape medical sling. The sling, which has not been sold since 2003, was supposed to stop incontinence but allegedly created side effects of pain, infections, abscesses, discharges and cellulitis. 11-09-07.
— The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

• The makers of Amgen, Epogen, Aranesp and Procrit have issued stronger warnings for the drugs. The anemia drugs can be harmful if overused by causing heart attacks, death or a worsening of cancer. The use of the drugs has been in decline in recent years. 11-09-07.
— The New York Times

• In a study, about one-third of users of dry powder inhalers for asthma and chronic obstructive disease were found to use the devices incorrectly. 11-11-07.
— Newscom

• The FDA in late November ordered a “black box” warning be put on the drug Avandia®. The diabetes drug has been shown to increase the risk of heart attacks. Canadian and European officials have been much harsher with restrictions. Another study has linked Avandia (rosiglitazone) to an increased risk of osteoporosis. The drug appears to increase the activity of cells that degrade bone structure. 12-03-07.
— AP, Bloomberg, Nature Medicine

• A 93-year-old nursing home resident’s family was awarded $4 million following his death after he was given solid food instead of liquids against doctor’s orders. A replacement aide fed the elderly man. The regular staffers for the home were on strike. 12-02-07.
— AP

• A woman won $10 million against a Macon, Ga., hospital in late November after a sponge was left in her abdomen following colon surgery. Though the lost sponge was discovered within a few days of being misplaced, the woman had kidney failure, infections, follow-up surgeries and is now disabled. 12-03-07.
— Macon Telegraph

• A study of 1,600 doctors revealed that, while 96 percent of them say that incompetent or impaired colleagues should be reported to authorities, only about 45 percent of them actually do this. While most doctors claim that they would reveal any financial ties to referral services to which they send patients, only 24 percent actually do. And not as many doctors actually take uninsured patients as espouse to. 12-04-07.
— Annals of Internal Medicine

• The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released its list of special focus facilities, of SFFs. These facilities are the worst performing 54 nursing homes in the country. The list can be found atwww.cms.hhs.gov/ CertificationandComplianc/ Downloads/SFFList.pdf. 12-05-07.
— Modern Healthcare

• A lawsuit involving hospitals’ state-granted physician peer-review privilege may be headed to the Supreme Court. Critics of the privilege argue that it makes discovery impossible when a doctor’s civil rights might be violated or his employment is terminated without merit. Proponents contend that peer-review standards and anonymity, as mandated by the Joint Commission, are best maintained when peer-review records are off-limits. Adkins v. Christie, 488 F.3d 1324 (Ga. 2007). 12-05-07.
— Modern Healthcare

• A class action suit has been filed against Cailfornia’s largest emergency room doctor organization, CEP America, alleging price gouging. The suit contends that it is unfair and unreasonable for healthcare providers to charge uninsured patients “retail” prices while insured patients pay prices that are deeply discounted. Such suits have failed in the past as courts have reasoned that giving discounts to volume purchasers (insurance companies) is within normal business practices. The plaintiffs are Pamela Hope Cincotta and Joyce Kraus represented by Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann and Bernstein. 12-06-07.
— San Jose Mercury News

• The E. coli bacterium has more than 3,500 strains. 12-08-07.
— Science News

• In the last issue of this newspaper we carried a story about a Paris, Texas, medical center that was suing an anonymous blogger for critical comments he or she was making about the center. Essent Healthcare Inc., owner of the Paris Regional Medical, had sought to expose the blogger. A court in mid-December ruled that the blogger’s identity could remain secret unless the center could show “actual losses.” 12-14-07.
— Houston Chronicle

• Cardiologists have been waiting for two years for the drug companies Merck and Schering-Plough to come forward with clinical trials that assess the effectiveness of the cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin. Unpublished studies hint that Zetia may cause liver damage. 11-20-07.
— The New York Times

• The American Tort Reform Foundation released its annual “judicial hellholes®” list in December (www.atra.org/ reports/hellholes). The list names state courts that the foundation considers overly friendly to plaintiffs. Critics charge that the list is not scientific in its data or conclusions. Clark County, Nev., and Atlantic County, N.J., are new to the list. 12-18-07.
— law.com

• Amgen’s Aranesp® and Epogen® and Johnson & Johnson’s Procrit® have been linked to leukemia in some patients with bone marrow disease. 12-18-07.
— Mayo Clinic

• Actor Dennis Quaid and his wife filed a lawsuit against the maker of Heparin®, Baxter International, after the couple’s infant twins were gvien 10,000 units of the blood thinning drug instead of ten units. The suit alleges that product packaging contributed to the error. 12-04-07.
— Wire services

• CT scans produce far more radiation than traditional X-rays, and some experts believe CT scans’ popularity exposes patients to dangerous levels of radiation. 11-28-07.
— Brown University, Columbia University

• From 1998 to 2005, serious adverse drug events increased 2.6 times. Fatal adverse drug events increased 2.7 times in this same time period. 12-19-07.
— Archives of Internal Medicine

• The government in 2006 and 2007 paid 250 contractors – 16 major ones – $735 million to help enact the new prescription drug benefit program. Now auditors say about $90 million in payments were questionable. 12-21-07.
— wire services

• A survey of corporate executives by Price Waterhouse revealed that whistleblowing is the best resource for detecting fraud. 10-17-07.
— wire services

• The Medicare program spent $1.8 billion on oxygen in 2006, a cost double what the same oxygen would have cost at a drug store. Though lawmakers are aware of the problem, heavy lobbying from equipment suppliers, and vote pressure from seniors, serves to maintain the wasteful system. 11-30-07.
— wire services

• The Washington Supreme Court in Stewart-Graves v. Vaughn held that a malpractice action cannot be brought against a doctor for saving a baby’s life. The infant was born without a heartbeat, and the doctor tried for one-half hour to revive the child. The child did revive, but suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen. Plaintiff parents had claimed they should have been asked before resuscitation was begun. Defendants argued that such consent under duress might not be valid. The court debated the right to refuse lifesaving treatment by parents on a child’s behalf. The court held that failure to obtain consent was defensible not just because of physical distance from a consenter, but because of situational impossibility. “We will not recognize a standard of care that requires a healthcare provider to withhold treatment of a newborn infant based on the likelihood that the infant will be severely disabled if it survives,” the court said. 11-11-07.
— AP, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

• In a survey, RNs cited the following reasons why they believe a nursing shortage exists: Poor salary and benefits, 32%; more career options for women, 30%; nursing school faculty shortage, 26%; undesirable work hours, 24%; and nursing not seen as a respected profession, 21%. However, the U.S. Department of Labor cites nursing as the No. 1 job-growth profession over the next 10 years with almost 600,000 positions being added. 2007-12-24.
— nursingeconomics.net

• Consumers Union has filed a petition with the FDA asking that medical devices in direct-to-consumer ads be required to carry warnings about side effects and infections rates. 2007-12-24.
— Modern Healthcare

• The chief resident in general surgery at the Mayo Clinic’s Phoenix hospital found himself in trouble recently after taking a photo, with his cell phone, of a titillating tattoo on an unconscious patient’s penis. The patient said he plans to contact a lawyer. 2007-12-24.
— Modern Healthcare

• A report says that 87% of hospitals are not following guidelines to prevent infections. 2007-12-24.
— Leapfrog Group

• Hospitals and providers often fail to follow these steps to reduce infections: 1) properly clean and sterilize instruments, 2) thoroughly wash hands between patient encounters (and change garments after an encounter with patients who are infected or have open wounds), 3) give antibiotics to a patient one hour before surgery, and 4) clean a stethoscope’s diaphragm with alcohol between patient visits. 2007-12-24.
— IHI

• Minnesota is going to stop medical payments on 28 adverse events identified by the National Quality Forum. This is above the eight events for which the CMS has recently said it will no longer reimburse. 2007-12-24.
— Modern Healthcare

• Hospitals’ net revenue in 2006 was $587 billion. Net revenue has nearly doubled since 2000. About 6 percent of care goes unpaid. 2007-12-24.
— AHA

• About 100,000 traffic accidents and 1,500 fatalities result each year from drivers who are drowsy or asleep at the wheel. 2007-12-27.
— Inside Edition

• Severe psoriasis shortens a person’s life span as much as does high blood pressure. The cause may be psychological, or a result of the systemic drugs taken by many sufferers. 2007-12-22.
— Archives of Dermatology

• About half of depressed people who take antidepressants fail to improve. Commercial genetic tests claim to better match patients with the proper medicines, but the CDC is skeptical that such tests are valid. 2007-12-22. Additionally, studies favorable to antidepressants’ effectiveness are more likely be published. 2008-01-17.
— Genetics in Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine

• Three recent cases are most likely indicative of the res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) concept of negligence.
In Rodriguez v. Palm Springs General Hospital, Fla., 2007, a hip surgery patient was burned by a hot IV bag placed under the patient’s armpit for two hours.
In Univ. of Miss. Medical Center v. Pounders, Miss., 2007, an oxygen humidifier was turned on its side during a patient transport. Water escaped into the patient’s lungs, causing pneumonia and time in the ICU.
A plaintiff brought a successful ID theft suit against a doctor when she was able to prove that the theft must have happened in the doctor’s office after a medical chart had been left behind in an exam room: 1) The thief had been seen in the doctor’s office by the plaintiff, and 2) the thief used an incorrect work phone number the plaintiff had given out for her medical record. While the plaintiff could not prove that the ID theft occurred in the office, the inference was strong that it did, and the defendant could not prove that it did not occur there. Lack of an expert witness by the plaintiff did not affect the case. Hurchanik v. Swayze, Ohio, 2007. 2008-01-02.
— Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter

• Consumer-driven health plans are creating a need for greater transparency in pricing. About 30% of payer organizations will spend more than $500,000 in 2008 on transparency technology. 2008-01-02.
— Health Data Management

• In about 30% of sudden cardiac arrest cases in hospitals, the staff takes too long to respond. Experts say a shock from a defribillator should be given within two minutes of heart stoppage, but in many cases this window is not met. The rate of slow care could be higher, as hospitals in the survey were believed to be of better quality than average. Patients admitted on weekends, those admitted for noncardiac illnesses, those admitted to hospitals with fewer than 250 beds and those in units without heart monitors fared the poorest in quick care. 2008-01-03.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• A consumer advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against the FDA asking it to put strong “black box” warning on the antibiotics Cipro, Factive, Levaquin, Maxaquin, Avelox, Noroxin and Floxin. This fluoroquinolone family of antibiotics can cause pain followed by tendon injuries, according to the watchdog group Public Citizen. 2008-01-04.
— Boston Globe

• When a drug is prescribed over the phone, the Joint Commissions requires that the medicine be written in the patient’s chart and that the drug be repeated back to the ordering party. 2008-01-04.
— Nursing 2008

• The “superbug” Clostridium difficile is making headway. Heavy usage of antibiotics kills organisms in the digestive tract that keep C. difficile in check, allowing the bacterium to cause violent diarrhea, cramps and other conditions. 2008-01-04.
— Bottom Line Health

• Believe it or not: Menstrual blood contains a type of stem cell that is more adaptable than bone marrow or umbilical cord blood cells. 2008-01-04.
— BoiMed Central

• Believe it or not: The antipsychotic drugs most often given to mentally-handicapped people to lessen aggression are not as effective as placebos. Only Risperdal by Janssen, and an older drug, Haldol, were studied, but the U.K. study findings are believed to apply to all similar medications such as Zyprexa from Eli Lilly and Seroquel from AstraZeneca. This class of drugs accounts for about $10 billion in sales per year. 2008-01-11.
— The Lancet

• New Jersey passed a bill in January that allows recovery of damages for emotional harm in wrongful death suits. 2008-01-08.
— Newark Star Ledger

• A California study has found no link between the controversial vaccine preservative thimerosol and autism in children. The study found that the autism rate continued to climb even after the mercury-tainted preservative was eliminated from vaccines in 2001. 2008-01-08. However, a University of Kentucky professor, Boyd Haley, says the study is flawed and says a link between thimerosol and autism still exists. 2008-02-04
— AP, The New York Times, Lexington Herald-Leader

• Two new studies from Massachusetts General Hospital and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have found genetic links to autism. 2008-01-16.
— Science News

• A study was initiated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after the near-fatal overdoses of actor Dennis Quaid’s newborn twins with Heparin in late 2007. The study found that the hospital did not follow established safety procedures in its handling of high-risk drugs for its pediatric patients. 2008-01-10.
— California Department of Public Health

• Physician-owned specialty hospitals have come under intense ridicule by federal officials. Of the hospitals surveyed, about 7% failed to meet Medicare staffing requirements by not having a nurse on site, two-thirds used 911 as part of their emergency response procedures, and less than a third had a doctor on staff at all times. About half of those with emergency departments had only one bed in the emergency department. 2008-01-10.
— U.S. Inspector General; oig.hhs.gov; report No. OEI-02-06-00310

• For a second time, a court has found no causal link between Celebrex and heart attacks or strokes. The drug’s maker, Pfizer, was optimistic in a statement that the rulings would help it dismiss a lot of pending cases. 2008-01-10.
— AP, Yahoo News

• The Virginia Supreme Court will rule this spring on medical malpractice immunity for tax-exempt physician foundations. The immunity could be given to the states’ three medical schools that offer charitable care, yet one school only does 1% in charity work. Plaintiff lawyers charge that the institutions would be unfairly shielded. The defense argument is that costs to patients would be raised to offset insurance increases. Virginia has a med mal cap of $2 million. [See Page 20 for a related story on unconstitutionality of too-low caps]. 2008-01-15.
— Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Harvard Medical School and the J. Craig Venter Institute both are working on building primitive artificial life from scratch. The Harvard group’s “life” currently is a collection of RNA snippets that can reproduce. Craig Venter is the U.S. biologist who published a map of his personal DNA in 2007. 2008-01-16.
— Science News

• Breast augmentation surgery is the most popular cosmetic surgery in the U.S. However, complications like ruptures, build-ups of scar tissue, deformities, pain and rippling beneath the skin are often played down. Also, many women have to replace the implants — a study found that about one-third of women needed replacements within four to five years. 2008-01-17.
— The New York Times

• $22 million was awarded to a woman’s family after a hospital and surgeon were found liable for failing to treat the woman’s high blood pressure during childbirth. The woman suffered a brain hemorrhage and died. The award is the highest on record in Illinois: $20 million was for lost companionship and $2 million was for lost income. The plaintiff attorney said that the hospital, St. Francis Hospital of Evanston, did not follow its own procedures. 2008-01-17.
— Chicago Tribune

• U.S. property and casualty insurance companies are overcharging customers and underpaying on claims, the Consumer Federation of America says. The CFA reported that in 2007 the insurance industry paid out 55 cents on every dollar taken in. From 1987 to 2005 the pay-out rate was about 60 cents, with some years having rates as high as 75 cents. 2008-01-10.
— Reuters

• Johns Hopkins Hospital has eliminated latex surgery gloves and most all latex-based products. About 6% of the general population and 15% of healthcare workers are allergic to latex. 2008-01-22.
— Modern Healthcare

• A strong correlation exists between concussions and depression, particularly if accompanied by ongoing pain. 2008-01-24.
— National Football League

• Breast cancer patients who receive implants after surgery are twice as apt to contract infections as are women whose breasts are rebuilt with natural tissue. 2008-01-22.
— The New York Times

• The number of MRI and CT scans done between 1998 and 2005 shot up by anywhere from 189% to as much as 615% depending on procedure type and whether radiologists or nonradiologists were doing the scans. One theory is that doctors self-refer imaging services. January’s Medicare funding bill would have required imaging professionals and centers to be accredited, but that part of the bill was stripped out. 2008-01-22.
— Modern Healthcare

• An investigation of tuna sushi in New York restaurants found levels of mercury in the fish that would exceed FDA safe limits. 2008-01-23.
— The New York Times

• A transgendered woman is suing Seton Medical Center in Daly, Calif., for refusing to allow a breast augmentation surgery on her. Seton, a Catholic hospital, refused on the grounds that the hospital does not perform surgeries contrary to catholic teaching. 2008-01-14.
— Modern Healthcare

• Insulin is frequently involved in medication errors. 2008-1-23.
— Institute for Safe Medicine Practices

• About 30,000 qualified nursing candidates were turned away from schools last year due to shortage of nurse faculty. 2008-01-23.
— RN

• The anemia drugs Aranesp, Epogen, Procrit and danazol may increase the chances of leukemia. These erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) are used to relieve fatigue. 2008-01-23.
— Mayo Clinic

• Several healthcare companies made Fortune magazine’s Top 100 Companies to Work For in 2007: Methodist Hospital System (No. 10, innovative patient programs); OhioHealth (No. 18, they offer lots of rewards); Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (No. 45, culture of idealism, employee referrals); Griffin Hospital (No. 49, great benefits and patient service); Mayo Clinic (No. 59, “hire for life” attitude); Alcon Laboratories (No. 60, rich retirement programs); Southern Ohio Medical Center (No. 75, patient services); Arkansas Children’s Hospital (No. 76, “patients first,” wage hikes); Healthways (No. 80, employee perks); AstraZeneca (No. 83, employee perks); Lehigh Valley Hospital & Health Network (No. 85, free health insurance and “wellness dollars”); Baptist Health South Fla., (No. 89, bonuses, adoption aid and child-care centers). 2008-01-24.
— Fortune

• Depression affects an estimated 25 to 40% of lawyers. 2008-01-17.
— ABA Journal

• An Ohio nurse was charged with raping a paralyzed patient who he was watching as a night-side nurse. The nurse, John Riems, pled not guilty. However, police say he claimed to have abused almost 100 patients in 10 nursing homes since 1985 and was only able to recall the details of a couple dozen assaults. 2008-01-28.
— wire services

• High caffeine consumption is linked to increases in miscarriage. 2008-01-29.

— American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

• In a survey of 338 physicians, only 17% admitted to reporting minor errors and only 4% fessed up to serious errors. Only 55% of the doctors knew how to report errors and only 39% knew what kinds of errors to report. 2008-01-14.
— Archives of Internal Medicine

• About 7,000 children under 5 are taken to ERs every year because of improper use of cold and cough medicines. The CDC says two-thirds of the cases involve unsupervised use of the medicines, while about one-fourth of the cases involve reactions to an otherwise proper dose. The FDA warns against such medicines for children under 2 . 2008-01-28.
— wire services

• Residential CRF, an assisted living home, and Indiana Family and Social Services will have to pay $1.5 million and $375,000 respectively after a mentally disabled man was put into a tub of scalding water. The money is for future medical care. 2008-01-30.
— Louisville Courier Journal

• A West Virginia doctor, Anandhi Murthy, has had two multi-million dollar legal defeats in the last year. In one case the plaintiff received $5.76 million after Murthy used a relatively untried procedure to correct acid reflux. The plaintiff lost her esophagus and stomach. In the second case Murthy prescribed fluids and antibiotics for a woman who was suffering from an ischemic bowel blockage. The woman died and her family was awarded $4 million. Murthy has lost her license in West Virginia, but is believed to be licensed in Ohio. 2008-01-30.
— Charleston Daily Mail

• A consultant for GlaxoSmithKline has created shock waves in the journal peer-review world after he leaked an article to Glaxo that the New England Journal of Medicine had asked him to review. The consultant, Dr. Steven M. Haffner of the University of Texas, faxed an article unfavorable to the drug Avandia to Glaxo two weeks before publication. U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, known for his derision of coziness between doctors and drug companies, disclosed the leaked letter in a statement in January. 2008-02-01.
— The New York Times

• Children who have viral infections of the central nervous system (such as mumps or cytomegalovirus) before age 12 have a slightly increased chance of developing schizophrenia later in life. 2008-01-26.
— American Journal of Psychiatry.

• Epilepsy anti-seizure drugs slightly increase the rate of suicidal thoughts or behaviors in patients using the drugs. The FDA studied Neurontin, Tegretol and Depakote, but the agency believes the results apply to all such drugs. 2008-01-30.
— wire services

• Shareholders of Eli Lilly and Co. have filed a class action suit against the company accusing it of illegal marketing tactics for Zyprexa. Zyprexa-related suits have cost Lilly about $1 billion thus far. 2008-01-30.
— Kansas City Star

• Pfizer’s drug Chantrix may slightly increase rates of suicide and suicidal thoughts. There have been 39 suicides and 491 incidents of suicidal thoughts and behavior among the 5 million users of Chantrix, says the FDA. 2008-02-04.
— Bloomberg

• Phthalates are in the news again. While evidence that these chemicals — often listed as DEP or DEHP — are harmful is inconclusory, the risks are unknown. Phthalates are found in plastics, cosmetics and shampoos, and some countries and California forbid their uses. Phthalates have been linked to reproductive problems in animal studies. 2008-02-04.
— Pediatrics

• The New Jersey Attorney General is investigating doctors and Synthes Spine who allegedly had financial ties to each other regarding Prodisc, an artificial spinal disc. The doctors were involved in the disc’s clinical studies and presumably stood to gain if the disc’s outcome was favorable. 2008-02-05.
— The New York Times

• Two government reports are critical of the FDA’s oversight of medical devices. High-risk devices (stents, pacemakers) are inspected every three years, and medium-risk devices (catheters, IV needles) are inspected very five years. 2008-02-05.
— Modern Healthcare

• A study has found that even good handwashing is not enough in the fight against germs. The study noted that rings and long fingernails are hard to clean, and said that catheters and unsanitary treatment areas contribute to high rates of infections. 2008-02-05.
— Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology

• Chronic healthcare costs the U.S. $1.3 trillion a year and will cost $6 trillion by 2050. 2008-02-05.

— Modern Healthcare

• A report by the medical inspector of the VA Health Administration found that a patient, and possibly 18 others, died because of substandard care at the VA’s Marion, Ill., facility. The report noted that surgeons were doing operations they were not authorized to do, and cited a flawed credentialing process and a surgical program that was “in disarray.” 2008-02-05.
— Modern Healthcare, wire services

• The Lipitor ads, featuring artificial heart pioneer Dr. Robert Jarvik, and other celebrity-endorsement ads, have been drawing Congressional scrutiny from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. With regard to Jarvik, the committee is concerned 1) that Jarvik is not a cardiologist, 2) he has no medical license, 3) he does not actually do some of the sports he feigns to be doing in the ads, and 4) there were questions about when he actually began taking Lipitor. Pfizer stopped running Lipitor ads in February. 2008-02-07.
— The New York Times

• The drug Plavix, a blood clot-preventing drug, has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and death. It affects people who took the drug and then stopped suddenly after stent surgery. 2008-02-06.
— JAMA

• A major federal study on diabetes was halted when it was discovered that strictly controlling blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes led to more deaths than in subjects whose blood sugar levels were less-stringently controlled. 2008-02-07.
— The New York Times

• A whistleblower who brought suit against Merck will receive a $68 million reward on the $400 million settlement Merck will pay to the government. H. Dean Steinke brought the suit alleging that Merck improperly enticed doctors to prescribe its medicines. 2008-02-08.
— Chicago Tribune

• A woman has brought a suit against the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after her son was given cancerous lungs in a lung transplant. The 43-year-old patient, Tony Grier, allegedly received the lungs of a smoker, not the healthy lungs that were expected. The $750,000 suit is for medical malpractice, wrongful death and common law fraud. 2008-02-08.
— Daily Pennsylvanian

• A floor refinishing product called Fabulon, used widely in the 50s and 60s, has been linked to high levels of PCBs in homes. 2008-02-02.
— Environmental Health

• Several studies have shown that people living near coal-fired electric plants have elevated levels of respiratory problems. 2008-02-08.
— American Journal of Nursing

• In healthcare quality, America lags behind other developed countries in several areas: 20% of adults cannot pay their medical bills, U.S. doctors ranked last in having patient medical charts at the ready, and the U.S. had the highest rate of laboratory test errors. 2008-02-09.
— 2007 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey

• A new healthcare coalition has been formed to address electronic health data security. The Health Information Trust Alliance (www.hitrustalliance.org) plans to create a common security framework in the industry. 2008-02-12.
— hitrustalliance.org

• A study has found that medical-error reporting systems can create confusion and frustration in patients and providers. Noted: 1) many systems have not be evaluated, 2) reported information may not be specific enough, 3) indecision exists over which data should be recorded, 4) information to consumers is not standardized, 5) experts disagree on what to measure, and 6) patients do not understand terminology well enough. 2008-02-12.
— Annals of Internal Medicine; Modern Healthcare

• Johnson & Johnson and Novartis AG’s Sandoz unit recalled some fentanyl pain patches in mid-February. The recall affected patches that release 25 micrograms of drug in an hour, and those with expiration dates on or before December 2009. 2008-02-13.
— Bloomberg

• The pharmacy benefits management subsidiary of CVS Caremark Corp. will pay $38.5 million to settle a civil deceptive-practices suit filed by the attorneys general of 28 states. CVS was accused of convincing doctors to switch their patients’ medications — medicines for which CVS was receving rebates from drug manufacturers. 2008-02-14.
— wire services

• A report has found that medication mix-ups have more than doubled since 2004. The increasing volume of drugs with similar-sounding names, shapes or colors was seen as key to the problem. 2008-02-14.
— United States Pharmacopeia

• The recent 350 adverse reactions and four deaths attributed to problems with the drug heparin have led investigators to a factory in China that has not been inspected by the FDA. 2008-02-14.
— The New York Times

• All-terrain vehicle accidents killed 555 people in 2006, with over 100 deaths being children. Kentucky leads the death rate at 106 between 2002 and 2004. 2008-02-16.
— U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

• In a survey, 64% percent of nurses said their organization’s wireless system is not reliable enough to handle point-of-care computing, 76% of acute care nurses said they leave the mobile information carts in the hallways because they are too heavy to lug into rooms, and many nurses complained of having to re-log into their wireless systems numerous times a day due to dropped service. 2008-02-16.
— Spyglass Consulting Group

• A jury has ordered a doctor to pay $4 million for failing to put a woman on a traditional course of cancer treatment after she complained of a painful breast lump. 2008-02-18.
— The Morning Call Online

• Five hospitals that employed Charles Cullen, the serial killer nurse, have reached a settlement with affected families after court-ordered mediation. 2008-02-20.
— Philadelphia Inquirer

• Patients who suffer from cardiac arrests during night shifts at hospitals have a heightened risk of death than do patients having arrests during the day. The difference appears to be based on staffing and response times. 2008-02-20.
— JAMA

• Bayer’s Trasylol, an anti-bleeding drug, has been found to increase the risk of death when compared to another drug or no drug at all. Bayer has stopped Trasylol sales. 2008-02-21.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• Health insurance companies are particularly fond of e-prescription technology because it can lower their costs by 1) increasing adherance to formularies, and 2) diverting patients and doctors to generic drugs. 2008-02-21.
— Modern Healthcare

• The CMS is looking at about 12 new reporting quality measures based on nursing performance for Medicare reimbursments. 2008-02-21.
— Modern Healthcare

• AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals will have to pay $215 million for defrauding Alabama’s Medicaid program. According to the suit, AstraZeneca overcharged the Medicaid system by inflating drug prices over a 15-year period. 2008-02-23.
— Reuters

• Merck has secured paperwork from almost all of the 44,000 plaintiffs in the Vioxx litigation. The $4.85 billion settlement should go forward. 2008-03-03.
— USA Today

• Last year 66,000 infants were injured in cribs, walkers or high-chairs. 2008-02-28.
— CBS News

• A federal judge in late February allowed a class action suit to go forward that hopes to force Aetna into providing health coverage to treat anorexia and bulimia. At the heart of the debate is whether the eating disorders are biologically based. If they are, state and contract laws demand coverage. 2008-02-29.
— law.com

• The FDA has reported that the drug Tysabri can cause liver damage in some patients. Tysabri is used to treat MS and Crohn’s disease. 2008-02-28.
— Bloomberg

• Abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs among adults over 55 has increased steadily in recent years. From 1995 to 2002, admissions to alcohol treatment centers jumped by an average of 21% and admissions to drug treatment centers jumped by about 111%. 2008-03-04.
— University of South Florida

• The FDA has asked the makers of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra to better display warnings about the occasional hearing loss side effect of these medicines. 2008-03-04.
— FDA

• Believe it or not: Placebos outperform antidepressant medications in all but the most severely depressed patients. 2008-03-01.
— Science News, FDA

• In a recent CMS report, Connecticut and Louisiana were found to have high incidents of the giving of anti-psychotic drugs to nursing home residents who had no psychotic conditions. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 calls for all residents to be free of “chemical restraints.” Staffing shortages are believed to be the reason for the prevalent drug dispensing. 2008-03-06.
— Hartford Courant

• A study has found that women who have been on hormone replacement therapy have a slightly elevated risk (0.3%) for cancer in the three years following the therapy. The study examined Wyeth’s Prempro. An Arkansas jury in early March awarded a $27.1 million to a woman who developed breast cancer related to Prempro and Premarin. 2008-03-06/07.
— JAMA, Bloomberg

• Fortune’s March 17 issue listed several healthcare companies as tops in their fields: Aetna, Manor Care, Medco Health Solutions, St. Jude Medical, Henry Schein and Genentech. Johnson & Johnson was No. 7 in the world’s Top 20 list. 2008-03-06.
— Fortune

• A new DNA test called MSDS1 or cytokine testing can determine whether a person has been exposed to toxic chemicals. Such a test may revolutionize evidence and causation in workers’ comp and toxic tort case. The test costs about $12,000, and the suspect chemical’s signature has to be known. 2008-03-17.
— ABA Journal

• A trial against Eli Lilly in Alaska opened in early March. The state accused Lilly of downplaying the dangers of schizophrenia drug Zyprexa —namely that the drug may cause weight gain and diabetes. The failure to warn allegedly cost the state’s Medicaid program millions. Expert witness Dr. John Gueriguian said that Lilly knew Zyprexa had these side effects. Connecticut filed a suit against Eli Lilly in mid-March. Lilly has spent about $1.2 billion on Zyprexa claims, and the amount could grow to $3 billion. Lilly settled with Alaska in late March for $15 million. 2008-03-06/10/12/19/26.
— The New York Times, Reuters

• The Mississippi Supreme Court has been asked by a lower court to clarify when the statute of limitations begins in malpractice cases involving the administration of medicines: Does the clock start when the medicine is administered, or when a doctor warns of the drug’s risks? 2008-03-06.
— AP

• Federal regulators announced in early March that a contaminant in heparin mimicked the drug’s active ingredient. The contaminant was made from an unknown material and was only revealed after MRI scans of the drug were done. The FDA has received 785 reports of injuries associated with the drug’s use and 19 deaths have been linked to the drug. The batches of heparin associated with illnesses were those that contained the errant substance, with Chinese-made ingredients, while batches not associated with illnesses did not have the substance. 2008-03-06.
— The New York Times

• A cancer patient’s widower has sued University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City claiming that the patient contracted Legionnaire’s disease from the hospital’s water. There have been seven cases of Legionnaire’s disease at the hospital since 2004. 2008-03-06.
— The Des Moines Register

• The Florida Supreme Court ruled in early March that patients have a right to access the safety records of hospitals and doctors, regardless of the age of the records. Under Florida’s “patient’s right to know” amendment, people are allowed to see records going back to November 2004, but not before. The recent ruling removes the 2004 barrier. 2008-03-07.
— AP, Orlando Sentinel

• The FDA has told Amgen to put the strongest possible warnings (black box warnings) on Aranesp and its other anemia drugs. Studies have shown that the drugs decrease survival rates in cancer patients and may promote tumor growth. A study by a Dr. Athanasius Anagnostou in 1990 alluded to the side effects. 2008-03-07/12.
— Reuters

• A New Hampshire jury awarded a man $1.75 million for being blinded in a surgery to fix a broken bone. Randolph Hinz had sued Dr. Eric Leefmans and two other doctors after Hinz was injured in a car wreck. Hinz alleged that the physicians did not give him blood to stabilize his condition. 2008-03-10.
— Boston Globe

• A Washington state jury returned a $40.1 million dollar verdict for a man who sued Edwards Lifesciences Corp. after a monitor made by Edwards heated and destroyed the mans’ heart during an operation. The patient, Paramjit Singh, had to have a heart transplant. An attorney, Paul Luvera, cited a faulty catheter. The manufacturer said that this incident was the only reported problem among millions of uses of the monitor. 2008-03-11.
— AP

• Believe it or not: Concern is growing that medical devices such as pacemakers or defibrillators could be hacked, thereby revealing patient data or even allowing the remote accessor to control the device and injure or kill the patient. Researchers from the Universities of Massachusetts and Washington led the study. 2008-03-12.
— The New York Times

• Believe it or not: Men whose testosterone levels are naturally high have a lowered chance of stroke, heart disease and other ailments. Testosterone supplements do not seem to offer the same benefits. 2008-03-14.
— Circulation

• Statin drugs may cause an increase in nightmares. 2008-03-14.
— U.C. San Diego, AHA

• Exposure to lead during infancy has been linked to Alzheimer’s development later in life. 2008-03-14.
— The Journal of Neuroscience

• New Jersey’s largest medical malpractice insurer has nearly gone out of business and has left 236 lawsuits pending. Another insurance company will cover the pending cases up to $300,000 each. 2008-03-20.
— AP, Newsday

• Drug maker OSI Pharmaceuticals will settle a class action lawsuit for $9 million. The parties in the suit claimed that OSI’s management made inaccurate statements about the effectiveness of OSI’s lung cancer medicine, Tarceva. 2008-03-17.
— AP, Houston Chronicle

• Cell phones do not interfere with medical equipment, according to 300 studies. 2008-03-18.
— Mayo Clinic Proceedings

• Researchers are moving away from testing toxic chemicals on animals to using automated robots that hastily test large numbers of chemicals on tiny dabs of tissue placed into test dishes. Advances in molecular and computational biology are credited. 2008-03-18.
— NIH, EPA, Science, Science News

• From January 1995 to September 2007, 615 wrong-site surgeries were done. Wrong-site surgeries are the most common sentinel event, and usually involve errors made preoperatively . 2008-03-18.
— Nursing2008

• The FDA inspects only one in 100 clinical trial sites of drugs and medical devices. 2008-03-18.
— HHS, Modern Healthcare

• New Jersey dentist Michael Mastromarino pleaded guilty in March to illegally harvesting human tissue for transplants or research. Some of the tissue was from cadavers with HIV or cancer. The dentist had used fake documentation to obtain the skin tissue and bone fragments from a funeral home in Brooklyn. He pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption, reckless endangerment and body stealing. He will pay $4.6 million to the New York district attorney’s office and the money will be dispersed to family members of victims. Mastromarino faces about 900 civil suits. 2008-03-19.
— The New York Times

• A man has sued Organon BioSciences and Schering-Plough over its NuvaRing contraceptive device on behalf of his late wife, Jackie Bozicev. The man claims the ring caused his wife to develop blood clots. The suit alleges a failure to warn of the clotting risk by the companies. 2008-03-21.
— Newsday

• Believe it or not: Multitasking is not productive. A study found that interruptions from e-mail, IMs and the internet resulted in lost efficiency to the tune of $588 billion per year. 2008-April.
— Basex via ABA’s Student Lawyer

• The increased popularity of high-energy MRI, PET and CT scans is drawing ire from many doctors and the health insurance industry. Critics charge: 1) that the scans emit high levels of radiation; 2) that the scans are sometimes prescribed as a way for doctors or hospitals to increase revenue; and 3) that such tests are ordered because of insurance reimbursement considerations ahead of clinical need. Supporters argue that “defensive” medicine is needed to limit lawsuits and for accuracy. 2008-03-24.
— Newsday

• A 10-year-old boy who is brain damaged and has cerebral palsy was awarded $19.25 million in late March in New Jersey for injuries he sustained at birth. According to the plaintiff’s lawyer, the obstetrician was culpable by: 1) not determining the expectant mother was hemorrhaging; 2) by not realizing the infant was in distress; and 3) by ignoring warnings from a nurse. 2008-03-20.
— New Jersey Star-Ledger

• The FDA has announced plans to relax some rules on direct-to-doctor marketing of drugs for off-label uses. Critics contend that pharmaceutical companies will not be objective in recommending potential off-label uses to doctors. The counter-argument is that potentially beneficial, but not thoroughly tested, treatments will come to patients faster. 2008-03-24.
— Orlando Sentinel

• A class action suit has been certified against McKeeson Corp. The suit claims that McKeeson, the country’s largest drug distributor, inflated wholesale prices on drugs. Treble damages — triple actual damages — could be awarded as the suit was brought under racketeering statutes. 2008-03-25.
— L.A. Times, Bloomberg

• About 1 in 8 births in the U.S. is a “preemie.” In 2007 more than 540,000 infants were premature. The long-term effects on the children when they are saved as preemies are not fully understood, though developmental problems are more common than in full-term infants. 2008-03-25.
— CBS News

• A study has found that drugs approved quickly by the FDA are more apt to cause safety problems later. 2008-03-27.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• The FDA has issued new guidelines to aid the testing and manufacture of drug-coated heart surgery stents. The new rules call for manufacturers to do larger and longer studies to assess safety. 2008-03-27.
— AP, The New York Times

• The FDA is investigating a possible link between asthma drug Sungulair and a heightened risk of mood changes or suicide. The FDA also plans to study reports of suicide and behavior changes connected with AstraZeneca’s Accolate and Critical Therapeutics’s Zyflo and Zyflo CR. 2008-03-28.
— FDA, Bloomberg, CBS News

• A study found that 45% of doctors have used placebos at one time or another in their careers. Most did not disclose that a pill was a placebo. 2008-03-28.
— Journal of General Internal Medicine

• Injectible (syringe) medicines are the most likely to be involved in administration mistakes, making up about two-thirds of errors. Only 37% of nurses in a study said they labeled syringes. Many respondents said that applying labels could interfere with their use of the syringe. 2008-03-28.
— RN

• All 50 states allow minors to consent to sexual transmitted infection (STI) services. 2008-03-28.
— RN

• From 4 to 9% of patients are believed to be hypochondriacs. 2008-03-31.
— Newscom

• The average person has about three unexplained pains, twinges or odd physical sensations per day. 2008-03-31.
— Swedish Medical Center via Newscom

• A study found a strong placebo effect between expensive pharmaceuticals and their perceived effect. Researchers split subjects into two groups to study the effectiveness of a fake pain medicine. Both groups were given the same placebo. One group was told the drug was expensive, while another group was told the medicine was cheap. More subjects in the “high-priced” group reported the drug as effective. 2008-03-31.
— Modern Healthcare

• In a study, 67% of patients said they definitely would recommend their hospital to friends or family. While some in the healthcare industry were disappointed with this number, critics noted that the survey data were old. 2008-03-31.
— Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems

• A whistleblower suit has been filed alleging that the insurance companies Unum Group and Cigna push disability claimants into the Social Security system as a way to cut costs and boost revenue. The companies claim that having a Social Security assessment done is standard practice. 2008-04-01.
— The New York Times

• Home defibrillators are not as effective a health strategy as once thought. A study of 7,000 heart patients found little difference in death rates between patients with the devices in their homes versus patients without the devices in their homes. In fact, only 14 patients in the three-year study actually suffered the type of heart rhythm malfunction that the defibrillator can remedy. 2008-04-01.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• The number of medicines with similarly spelled or pronounced names is growing fast. In 2004 there were 1,750 pairs of drugs that had names that were similar in some way. In 2008 the number grew to 3,170. The Medmark Data Report studied 26,000 drugs and their names. The antibiotic cefazolin had been confused with 15 other medicines. 2008-04-01.
— U.S. Pharmacopeia via Nursing2008

• Growing evidence links fetal development problems with aging fathers. Men produce the best sperm while in their 20s, and sperm abnormalities increase with age. Older fathers are increasingly associated with autism, schizophrenia, premature aging, dwarfism and Down syndrome in their offspring, among other maladies. 2008-03-29.
— Science News

• New Jersey has mandated that by 2011 healthcare facilities have programs in place for safe patient handling and violence prevention. The state hopes to reduce the number of injuries that befall nurses and healthcare staffers, thereby slowing the exodus of nurses and related workers from the profession. The state believes that the providers can recoup the costs of these programs quickly. 2008-04-03.
— AJN

• More than 900,000 infants, one in 50, is abused or neglected each year in the U.S. 2008-04-03.
— CBC News, CDC

• Vickie Milazzo’s book, Inside Every Woman: Using the 10 Strengths You Didn’t Know You Had to Get the Career and Life You Want Now has been in800CEOREAD.com’s top 25 for the last couple of years. Author Milazzo is best known as an educator of nurses seeking to become legal nurse consultants. The book has mostly five-star ratings onAmazon.com. 2008-04-03.
— Newscom, amazon.com

• India, Thailand and Singapore are reaping the benefits of American health “tourism.” An estimated 500,000 Americans per year seek inexpensive medical operations and treatments in foreign lands. The U.S. has 45 million citizens without health insurance, which is believed to drive the trend. 2008-04-04.
— National Coalition on Health Care

• Hospitalized children are the sufferers of drug errors more often than was previously thought. About 1 in 15 children falls victim to an overdose or an adverse reaction, says a new study. 2008-04-07.
— Pediatrics

• About 2,500 elderly people are injured by escalators each year. The number of such accidents among older citizens has doubled in recent years. 2008-04-08.
— Pediatrics

• In April an appeals court in Philadelphia backed the pharmaceutical industry, holding that drug companies are insulated from suits under a preemption theory (Colacicco v. Apotex and McNellis v. Pfizer). The parties had sued the makers of Zoloft and Paxil, claiming that these SSRI drugs needed stronger warnings about causing suicidal thoughts in patients. The court held that FDA-approved warnings are sufficient on medicines, and not subject to suits in state courts. Critics charge that the FDA bases its actions on data from drug companies, which may be slanted, and that plaintiffs must have redress through state courts. Supporters say FDA approval is sufficient and that confusion could arise with potentially conflicted label requirements. Most experts saw the case as a pharmaceutical victory and expect it to be expanded to other cases.
— The Philadelphia Enquirer

• The FDA has raised the number of deaths from 19 to 62 that are believed related to contaminated heparin that was made at a Chinese facility. 2008-04-10.
— The New York Times

• Pfizer has announced that patients who once used the now-discontinued insulin inhaler Exubera are at an increased risk for lung cancer. One researcher believes other inhalers may confer the same risks. 2008-04-10.
— The New York Times

• The FDA has recommended that Roche and Novartis place warnings in CellCept and Myfortic drug information to inform patients about a heightened risk of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, a type of brain infection associated with these organ-transplant dugs. 2008-04-10.
— Bloomberg

• Calcium supplements are linked to a sizeable increase in heart attack risk in women. 2008-04-12.
— British Medial Journal

• Colonoscopies often miss flat growths on the colon wall that are 10 times more likely to be cancerous than polyps. Patients can contribute to a faulty detection of these growths by not properly preparing for the exam. 2008-04-12.
— JAMA

• A new study indicates that stimulant drugs for ADHD do not increase patients’ risk of abusing illegal drugs later in life. 2008, May.
— American Journal of Psychiatry

• Normal-weight children tend to have more Bifidobacterium bacteria in their GI tracts, while overweight children tend to have more Staphylococcus aureus in their systems. The fist bacterium is linked strongly with breast feeding. The latter bacterium is linked with chronic low-grade inflammation, which has been linked to obesity. 2008, March.
— American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

• Roughly 42,000 nail-gun related injuries are seen annually in emergency rooms. A common complaint is that when the guns are in automatic mode — “contact trip” — they fire too easily. Wound costs are $338 million a year in emergency care, rehabilitation and workers’ compensation, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 2008-04-15.
— The Sacramento Bee

• A report accuses pharmaceutical-maker Merck of downplaying the risks of painkiller Vioxx and of disguising studies so as to indicate that they were conducted by independent researchers. 2008-04-17.
— JAMA, The Washington Post

• A study has found that bisphenol A, or BPA, which is commonly used in plastics, is harmful to the development of the brains and reproductive organs of children. At least one plastic company, Nalgene Outdoor Products, has stopped using the chemical. 2008-04-17.
— National Toxicology Program, The New York Times

• PetSmart is being sued in a failure to warn case where a man became infected by a rare virus caught from a hamster. The virus was later passed to an organ recipient, who died as a result of the virus. 2008-04-18.
— National Toxicology Program, The New York Times

• Police in Cincinnati have raided a nursing home for the second time in a month where neglect and abuse are alleged. A police spokesman said that the “filth, fleas and flies” were worse than in a crack house. The home’s owner pleaded not guilty to 27 building code violations. 2008-04-18.
— The Cincinnati Enquirer

• Los Angeles has filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Anthem Blue Cross for rescinding the policies of insured patients after they began filing claims. The suit accuses Blue Cross and parent company WellPoint of violating more than 25 state and federal laws. 2008-04-18.
— Los Angeles Times

• HIPAA rules do not apply to web-based health information records systems such as those being offered by Microsoft and Google. 2008-04-18.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• A Texas newspaper investigated a procedure called Rapid Sequence Intubation, often done by EMS personnel, and found serious risks. RSI, where the drug succinylcholine is used to immobilize a patient prior to intubation, is regulated in most states. 2008-04-21.
— Fort Worth Star-Telegram

• A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the VA claiming that veterans are not being properly treated for mental disorders. 2008-04-21.
— Reuters

• Many lawmakers and Iraq war soldiers are expressing mounting frustration with the Feres doctrine, which prohibits medical malpractice suits against military doctors. The widow of deceased Staff Sgt. Dean Witt plans to sue the U.S. government. 2008-04-21.
— The Los Angeles Times

• The GAO says the FDA will need an extra $56 million in its budget to properly inspect foreign suppliers of drugs and medical device parts. 2008-04-22.
— The New York Times

• The number of disciplinary actions against doctors has fallen in the last couple of years — down 4.6% since 2006 and off 14.4% since 2005. Watchdog group Public Citizen takes offense at the decline, noting that disciplines are declining while the number of doctors rises. Supporters of the disciplining groups believe that the declines are just normal fluctuations. 2008-04-23.
— Federation of State Medical Boards via Modern Healthcare

• A Kaiser Family Foundation study has found that most uninsured households do not have the money to fund consumer-driven health plans that are tied to heath saving accounts. 2008-04-23.
— Health Affairs, Modern Healthcare

• The Consumer Product Safety Commission has found that some types of artificial grass used in schools’ athletic fields have elevated levels of lead. More studies are forthcoming. 2008-04-23.
— Houston Chronicle

• A woman has won $10.5 million against the maker of Accutane. The woman’s claim was premised on Roche Holding AG’s failure to warn about the side effects of Accutane, an acne drug. The woman developed intestinal trouble and had to have several surgeries. 2008-04-24.
— Bloomberg

• The active ingredient in Accutane, Isotretinoin, doubles the risk of suicide in the drug’s users. 2008-05-28.
— Journal of Clinical Psychiatry

• Dallas TV station WFAA found that one in 20 nurses in Texas has a criminal record. Past felonies sometimes included such offenses as murder, arson or kidnapping. Texas has recently fronted the $5 million cost of checking all backgrounds of Texas’ 283,000 nurses, but the process will take time. Currently, new hires and transfers are checked immediately. 2008-05-08.
— AP

• Watchdog group Public Citizen is calling for the Othro-Evra birth control patch to be taken off the market. The group says the patch increases the chance of blood clots. The patch’s maker says it is safe when used as directed. 2008-05-09.
— AP, The New York Times

• CMS officials want a new law to prevent the elderly from being targeted by high-pressure salesmen who use scare tactics and false information to sign up seniors in unwanted Medicare plans. 2008-05-08.
— AP, Yahoo News

• The New Jersey Supreme Court in Hisenaj v. Kuehner, 194 N.J. 6 (2008) upheld a trial court ruling that “human dummy” low-impact crash test data is admissible. Plaintiff lawyers usually eschew the studies, claiming the studies bias jurors toward believing that low-impact crashes are unlikely to cause injuries. 2008-03-10.
— law.com

• Several lawsuits have been filed in West Virginia alleging that a hospital negligently installed AC units that allowed the airflow to spread TB. 2007-10-24.
— Andrews Health Law Litigation Reporter

• Among settled malpractice claims, “system errors” contributed to 30% of the cases. Such errors are medication errors, communication errors, records errors and those related to wrong sites and infections. 2007-12-12.
— The Doctors Company

• Find nursing homes that perform poorly at www.medicare.gov by clicking on “Compare Nursing Homes in Your Area.” 2008-05-15.
— CMS

• Among the elderly, a fatal home injury happens every 14 minutes. A disabling injury occurs every four seconds. 2008-05-15.
— StrengthforCaring.com

• The FDA has been under pressure to create clearer and stronger warnings about Lasik surgery. 2008-04-26.
— Seattle Post-Intelligencer

• Congress is looking into two studies that led the FDA to conclude that BPA (bisphenol A) was safe when used in plastics. The assertion is that the American Plastics Council produced the favorable studies. 2008-04-28.
— The Washington Post

• Researchers are calling for testing of artificial blood to be halted after they looked at data from 16 clinical trials. The researchers say artificial blood raised death risks by 30% and almost tripled the chances of heart attacks in study participants. The researchers say the FDA should have seen signs of trouble in information from 2000 and should have suspended the trials until a large-scale analysis was completed.
The FDA and an industry spokesman said that pooling all the data from 16 studies, a process called meta-analysis, was flawed, and that there are “vast differences” among the products studied. Products studied were from Baxter, Biopure, Hemosol BioPharma, Northfield Labs and Sangart.
Five studies currently are underway in the U.S., with another about to begin. 2008-04-28.
— AMA, Bloomberg

• A New York doctor, Harvey Finkelstein, has settled with a patient who claimed he contracted hepatitis C from the doctor who reused syringes on thousands of patients. 2008-04-30.
— Newsday

• Geriatric medicine suffers from a paucity of healthcare workers because: 1) geriatric medicine requires an extra year of medical school; 2) geriatric cases can be complex and take longer to evaluate; 3) doctors see fewer older patients (thus making less money); and 4) a high turnover rate for aides exists. 2008-04-30.
— Columbus Dispatch

• Believe it or not: About 4,000 lawyers per year are either disbarred, suspended or censured. About 20% of the lawyers who find themselves in problems are repeat offenders. And, in what sounds like an echo from the “sorry works” campaign urged on doctors, attorneys are often stunned to realize that they need to personally apologize to those they have harmed, according to an attorney with the National Organization of Bar Counsel. 2007, May.
— ABA Journal

• A Cleveland Clinic study has found that heart surgery patients who received “older” blood during transfusions had a higher risk of medical complications and death. 2008-03-20.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• Believe it or not: Carfax says that about 5 million wrecked cars per year are salvaged and returned to the market. The problem may be growing after Hurricane Katrina and its flooded cars. 2007-04-25.
— McClatchy Newspapers

• Delaware has the best legal climate. West Virginia has the worst. 2007-04-23.
— Legal Newsline

• The University of Virginia Medical Center will pay $1.35 million to a child, Hunter Morris, born with asphyxia-related cerebral palsy. The hospital had claimed charitable immunity, but its defense was tossed out by the state’s supreme court. About 40% of the $1.35 million will go to attorney fees. The estimate for lifelong care for Hunter was $9 million. Virginia’s cap on what parties can reap from med mal suits will reach its peak this summer at $2 million. The maximum in 2001, when Hunter was born, was $1.6 million. 2007-05-01.
— Richmond Times-Dispatch

• A trial alleging that the thimerosal preservative in childhood vaccinations causes autism began in mid-May. About 4,900 plaintiffs have filed suits. Three theories about causation have been advanced, and a handful of test case plaintiffs have been chosen. One theory is that thimerosal implants a type of mercury in the brain and the mercury then sets off a chronic neuroinflammation. Skeptics point out that autism normally begins in children at about the same time as when childhood vaccinations are given, and any perceived link is coincidence. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine said there was no credible evidence to show a link between thimerosal and autism. 2007-05-12.
— AP

• A Fulton, Co., Georgia judge has ruled that the state’s $350,000 cap on medical malpractice non-economic damages is unconstitutional because the cap causes med mal plaintiffs to be treated differently than plaintiffs in other suits. The ruling is only binding to the one case, unless there is an appeal and further adjudication. 2007-05-01.
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution

• Believe it or not: Internet experts say the net is so overrun with identity thieves that users have nearly no way of knowing which sites are safe. 2007-05-07.
— UPI, Newscom

• A watchdog group says the majority of doctors working on the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders have financial ties to pharmaceutical companies. 2007-05-06.
— The New York Times

• Hundreds of patients are complaining of squeaky hip replacements, and some experts fear the hips could be wearing out prematurely. Industry sources maintain that premature wear is extremely uncommon. 2007-05-12.
— The New York Times

• Thirteen deaths and 1,500 injuries have been attributed to insulin pumps used for Type 1 diabetes. Such pumps account for $1.3 billion in annual sales with roughly 100,000 teenagers using them. Pumps cost about $6,000 and supplies cost $250 a month. 2007-05-05.
— FDA, Denver Post

• According to a Suffolk University Law School study, doctors in Massachusetts paid less for medical malpractice insurance in 2005 ($17,810) than they paid in 1990 ($17,907). While the AMA has identified Massachusetts as being in an insurance crisis (with no caps on med mal lawsuits) the study’s data do not support such an assertion. Massachusetts ranks fourth in amount of money paid out for med mal claims. 2007-05-13.
— Health Affairs

• Fourteen residents at two nursing homes in Fort Thomas, Ky., were the victims of an identity theft ring. Two employees of the facilities were involved, police said. 2008-04-30.
— UPI, Newscom

• An Arizona jury awarded $6 million to the family of an 81-year-old woman who was overdosed on morphine. The court found the nursing home (Manor Care Health Services) 90% at fault and a hospital (Tucson Medical Center) 10% at fault. 2008-05-14.
— Tucson Citizen

• Thompson Publishing Group of Tampa has agreed to issue refunds in the amount of $1.2 million to customers who did not place orders with the company. Thompson had enrolled customers in a program in 2006 wherein customers would receive new books unless they opted out. The Florida attorney general investigated. Thompson agreed that future participation in the Automatic Update Program must be labeled clearly and conspicuously. Thompson publishes a number of materials on HIPAA, nursing home regulations and OSHA. 2008-05-13.
— Legal Newsline

• A study has found that Bayer AG’s anti-bleeding drug Trasylol increased the risk of death in heart surgery patients. The study said Trasylol performed poorly compared with other heart surgery anti-bleeding drugs. 2008-05-14.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• Suits against healthcare providers are not always medical-based: The family of a man killed in a May fire at an Illinois nursing home has filed a suit alleging that the staffers at Hampton Plaza Health Care Centre were negligent in handling the fire. The family hopes to have an expert look at smoke detectors and other safety equipment. 2008-05-20.
— Chicago Tribune

• The family of an Indiana man was awarded $4.45 million after a jury found an emergency doctor responsible for failing to diagnose an abdominal aortic aneurysm by not ordering a CT scan. The man was misdiagnosed as having a kidney stone and he died shortly after leaving the hospital. The award likely will be reduced to $1.25 million to comply with Indiana’s cap limit. 2008-05-19.
— The Times (Munster, Ind.)

• In what is one of the largest med mal settlements in Illinois, the mother of birth-injured Cody Smithey will receive $15.35 million to settle a lawsuit resulting from brain damage to Cody after his delivery in 2001. Cody has cerebral palsy and retardation that was allegedly caused by the use of a vacuum extractor. 2008-05-22.
— Chicago Tribune

• The California Department of Public Health recently issued 13 fines to hospitals for putting patients at risk of serious injury or death. The department has issued 39 fines since 2007. The fines cost $25,000. 2008-05-22.
— L.A. Times

• Medtronic will pay the government $75 million on behalf of its subsidiary company, Kyphon, to settle allegations that Kyphon, before its ownership by Medtronic, improperly inflated costs for back surgery known as kyphoplasty. 2008-05-22.
— AP

• The average family of four will pay almost $16,000 in medical costs in 2008, up from about $11,000 in 2004. Healthcare costs are rising just about triple the inflation rate. 2008-05-22.
— Milliman Medical Index

• Menu foods has agreed to pay $24 million to settle 100 lawsuits filed over tainted pet food. The proposed settlement would go to thousands of pet owners and the money will be used to pay for medical care of pets, burial costs and out-of-pocket expenses. Each plaintiff would receive $900 for economic losses without documentation of damages. 2008-05-31.
— The Philadelphia Enquirer

• A new test as been developed to detect ovarian cancer. When six proteins associated with ovarian cancer are all found by the test, there is a high probability of the cancer’s presence. 2008-02-15.
— Clinical Cancer Research

• Believe it or not: The average doctor office visit lasts about 17 minutes, but doctors usually interrupt patients within the first 23 seconds. Patients then remember less than half of what doctors tell them. 2008-06-15.
— Permanente Medical Group, Mayo Clinic via Bottom Line Personal

• Emergency patients admitted to level one trauma centers may receive the radiation equivalent of more than 1,000 chest X-rays, according to a study. Multiple X-rays and CT scans are the reason. The study encouraged the use of ultrasound and MRI tests as alternatives. 2008-03-07.
— Annals of Emergency Medicine

• The average retired couple, starting at age 65, will need $225,000 for medical bills if they live an average life span. This cost includes Medicare premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. 2008-06-15.
— Fidelity Investments

• In 2000 a new mother fell while showering in an Atlanta-area hospital and drowned in the bathtub. In May a jury gave her family $5 million. The family alleged that the staff should have monitored the woman and found her too weak to move about unaided. The attorney for the family of Wendy Wyckstandt, 34, said the hospital altered medical records, kept evidence from the plaintiff attorneys and violated discovery rules. A second trial was necessary and Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Michael Clark planned to sanction defendant Gwinnett Health System for not following procedural rules and for not turning over hospital policies on showering. Wyckstandt had suffered from post-partum high blood pressure. The hospital maintained that a nurse did visit Wyckstandt, but that the visit occurred during a half-hour missing section on a hall camera video tape. 2008-05-27.
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution

• Among the elderly, falls account for 1.8 million ER admissions per year in the U.S. 2008-05-29.
— CBS News

• Consumer Reports is now ranking hospitals (www.ConsumerReportsHealth. org). Of note, CR prefers hospitals that conduct “conservative,” rather than “aggressive” care, as quantity of care is not necessarily correlated with better care. CR intends to consolidate federal, state and other evaluations. CR is using data from Dartmouth College. 2008-05-30.
— Sacramento Bee

• Increased exposure to lead in children has been linked to a higher likelihood of arrests and violence later in life once the children become adults. 2008-05-28.
— L.A. Times

• A district court lawsuit in Connecticut is seeking class action status against Playtex for making baby bottles that contained BPA. Playtex, and the chemical industry, argue that the BPA levels are too low to cause problems. 2008-05-29.
— L.A. Times

• The c-section rate has been climbing in recent years, from 20.7% in 1996 to 30.3% in 2005. A study has concluded that this increased use of c-sections has led to an increase in premature births and the various health and development disorders that accompany pre-term deliveries. 2008, June.
— Clinics in Perinatology

• Premerus, a diagnostic management company, has launched a web site calledwww.yourmisdiagnosis.com. The site educates consumers about the types of misdiagnoses and allows anecdotal submissions to be made. 2008-June.
— Health Data Management

• A survey ranked 150 medical schools concerning their coziness with pharmaceutical companies and the companies’ gifts of money, training, food, seminars and drug samples. The majority of schools received failing grades over this conflict-of-interest issue. The survey was done by the American Medical Student Association and can be found atwww.amsascorecard.org. 2008-06-03.
— New York Times

• A British study has found that disinfectant wipes commonly used in hospitals may be spreading more super-bug germs than killing them. The Cardiff University study found that healthcare workers often wipe multiple surfaces with one wipe, thus smearing around the germs. The proper procedure is to wipe a surface with only one wipe and discard the wipe. 2008-06-04.
— Reuters

• A San Diego man has sued a nursing home after it allegedly allowing his aged mother to wander from the facility and be hit by a car. The suit claims that Palomar Heights Care Center in Escondido did not “supervise and ensure the safety” of Maria Cobian, the resident. 2008-06-04.
— San Diego Union-Tribune

• A study has found that only 11.5% of nursing home residents, who have been admitted after a bone fracture, are given medicines for osteoporosis. The percentage of residents receiving the drugs has been increasing somewhat over the years, however. 2008-05-26.
— Archives of Internal Medicine

• The FDA is reviewing the rheumatoid arthritis drugs Humira, Enbrel and Remicade. The drugs, given to children with arthritis to treat Crohn’s disease, have been linked to a rise in cancer rates. 2008-06-05.
— Newscom

• Are medical device placements or pharmaceutical mentions on TV shows such as House or Scrubs the same as advertising? Two UCLA professors think so and have asked the FDA to regulate medical-product placements for TV shows. The two note that right after an episode of House mentioned Lupron, Google searches for the drug increased. 2008-06-02.
— Modern Healthcare

• Is global warming for real? A new study from Antarctica analyzed an ice core sample — the longest yet drilled — that is about a mile and a half long and dates back 650,000 years. Data indicate that CO2 levels have fluctuated naturally between 180 ppm and 300 ppm over the centuries. Current atmospheric CO2 is 380 ppm and rising about 2 ppm per year. 2008-06-07.
— Science News

• Fasting for a couple of days may improve the outcome of chemotherapy. In a lab mice study, healthy cells tended to become more resistant to chemicals after a food deficit, while cancer cells did not. 2008-06-07.
— University of Southern California

• The FDA has reversed its long-held stance that mercury in fillings (dental amalgam) is safe. On the FDA web site it now says, “Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses.” The change is part of a settlement with consumer advocates. 2008-06-06.
— Philadelphia Inquirer

• About two people in 1,000 experience anesthesia awareness during a surgery. Being aware enough to feel pain (while still being immobile) is more rare, but affects about 30,000 patients a year. 2008-06-07.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• A study has found that if businesses settle personal injury and defective product lawsuits quickly, they will save money. The savings come through reduced legal fees and lowered non-economic damages. 2008-06-09.
— Columbia Business Law Review

• Kaiser Permanente and Microsoft will soon start a partnership to link Kaiser’s patient information with Microsoft’s Health Vault. Health Vault is a web-based health record service. 2008-06-09.
— The New York Times

• Betty Joos, a well-known nurse consultant, mentor, author and consultant, is retiring. She, with her husband, John, authored Marketing for the Legal Nurse Consultant, which is available onAmazon.com or from sky-lake.com. In her retirement, Betty plans to travel and enjoy her large family. The second edition of the marketing book is nearly completed and expected to be available soon.

• A Wisconsin appeals court recently held that a first-year resident doctor working in a hospital is not a “borrowed employee” from a medical college, and thus Wisconsin’s caps on non-economic damages do not apply to the resident. The Wisconsin statute reads that caps apply only to “employees of health care providers.” Phelps v. Physicians Ins. Co. of Wisconsin, Inc., 744 N.W.2d 880 (Wis. App. 2008).

• A New York man, Brian Persaud, filed a lawsuit against a hospital for giving him a forced rectal exam. He had been admitted with a head injury. He claimed the hospital said the rectal exam would assess for spinal damage. A jury found the hospital not liable. 2008-04-22.
— AP

 • A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against a New York hospital after a patient allegedly was not seen for two days by an attending doctor. The patient died from choking on his own blood. 2007-12-19.
— Andrews Health Law Litigation Reporter 15 No.8

 • Atlanta’s St. Joseph’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Health System have agreed to pay $26 million under the False Claims Act for allegedly overcharging for services and overly-lengthy admissions. 2007-12-21.
— DOJ press release via JONA’s

 • A high-profile med mal case involving Washington Post reporter Duggan Rosenbaum settled recently. The reporter had been left injured on a sidewalk after a robbery. An inspector general’s report said that emergency workers did not recognize the severity of the reporter’s injuries, that the ambulance crew took the reporter to a far-away hospital because one of the drivers had personal business in the area, and that the reporter was left unattended in the hospital for a long time. 2007-12-21.
— The Washington Post

• The death rate caused by legal prescription drugs is about three times that of illicit drugs. About seven million Americans are abusing prescription drugs. Abusers often obtain the drugs via healthcare providers, by “doctor shopping” and from traditional methods like theft. 2008-06-14.
— Florida Medical Examiners Commission, DEA

 • A Broward County, Fla., couple was awarded $35 million in mid-June for birth injuries to their son, Darian Brown, age 8. A suit had accused Broward General Medical Center of a botched delivery. The Browns had been working alternate schedules to care for Darian, who has brain damage. 2008-06-14.
— South Florida Sun-Sentinel

 • The AMA is considering endorsing the concept of “secret shopper” patients to evaluate doctors and the way they interact with patients. The AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs has approved the concept, but many AMA members are resistant to it. 2008-06-16
— Chicago Tribune

 • Golfcart injuries are becoming more common. From 1990 to 2006, 150,000 injuries occurred, mostly from falls. A study notes that carts are speedier than they used to be, and often lack safety equipment. 2008-July.
— American Journal of Preventative Medicine

• A deceased man’s family has sued PetSmart after he (Joe De La Garza, Sr.) allegedly contracted psittacosis, or parrot fever, shortly after buying a cockatiel. 2008-06-18.
— AP

 • A survey has found that mentally ill patients face long waiting times in ERs — often many hours. Lack of accommodations for psychiatric patients is common because many hospitals are dropping mental health units, so beds are scarce. 2008-06-18.
— American College of Emergency Physicians via USA Today

 • In a poll, 40% of infection-control experts said that their hospitals were doing as much as possible to stop Staph infections, while 54% said more could be done. 2008, June.
— Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

 • The Supreme Court may have made it harder for whistleblowers to expose healthcare providers to liability. In a recent case, Allison Engine Co. v. U.S., the Court said that “intent” must be shown, above just “reckless disregard for the truth.” The Allison case was about subcontractors, and healthcare providers may or may not be subcontractors under varied reasoning. 2008-06-16.
— Modern Healthcare

• Healthcare costs now constitute 15% of the U.S. economy, and will be 22% of the U.S. GDP by 2020. At current rates, healthcare costs will be half of all federal spending by 2050. 2008-06-23.
— Modern Healthcare

 • Believe it or not — big rocks: An asteroid at least 3 ft. in diameter hits the Earth about once a week. 2008-06-21.
— Science News

 • Public Citizen has been hounding the FDA to take the painkillers called Darvocet and Darvon (propoxyphene) off the market, and in late June the group filed suit against the FDA. The suit says the drug is too risky and cites the accidental deaths related to the drug of more than 2,000 people since 1981. 2008-06-19.
— The Washington Post

 • A Delaware court awarded $1.6 million to the family of a woman who was improperly given the heart drug Sotalol. The suit claimed that Sandra D. Koch should not have received the drug, and not in the amount given, as she had renal failure and was on dialysis. 2008-06-21.
— delawareonline.com

• Only 17% of doctors involved in ambulatory care use electronic health records. Of this percentage, the majority have EHR systems with limited capability. 2008-06-23.
— Modern Healthcare

 • The CDC has found that brain injuries cause half the deaths in elderly people who fall. While broken bones are a more common concern, the study of 16,000 deaths from 2005 found that head injuries and subsequent vascular damage to the brain are more common than realized. One in three people over age 65 falls each year. 2008-June
— Journal of Safety Research

 • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $72.7 million on tort reform lobbying in 2006. The trial lawyers group, the American Association for Justice, spent $8.3 million. 2008-06-22.
— Center for Responsive Politics

 • A Virginia woman sued her podiatrist for $3 million and won $3.5 million. Donita Franklin claimed Dr. Jennifer Feeny botched a bunion surgery. Feeny said the complications were unavoidable. Franklin’s lawyer said Franklin’s lost wages and medical bills were $2.2 million. Franklin’s award will be reduced to $1.6 million under Virginia’s cap. 2008-06-03.
— roanoke.com

• Children born by c-section, when the c-section was optional, have a doubled risk of dying within the first month. 2008-07-01.
— National Center for Health Statistics via Bottom Line Personal

 • A diet high in sweets lowers a man’s sex drive by lowering the level of a protein that carries testosterone. 2008, June.
— Journal of Clinical Investigation

 • McKesson Corp., the nation’s largest drug distributor, will probably be forced to settle claims of up to $15 billion alleging that it inflated prices on prescription drugs. Plaintiffs claim the scheme cost consumers $5 billion in extra and unwarranted drug charges. 2008-06-24.
— Bloomberg

 • The World Health Organization (WHO) released a set of clinical guidelines in late June in an effort to cut the number of surgical complications. Most of the guidelines recommend simple steps like: 1) having all members of a surgery team identify themselves; 2) double-checking which patient is in the room; 3) checking for allergies to drugs; 4) inserting two IV lines for operations involving heavy blood loss; and 5) counting sponges and needles. 2008-06-25.
— The New York Times

• Debate rages over whether CT scans provide a good cost-value benefit to patients compared with older and cheaper technologies. CT scans cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500 per scan and are considered money makers for providers. They also emit high levels of radiation. 2008-06-29.
— The New York Times

 • The lesbian partner survivor of a deceased woman has sued Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami because she was barred from entering the woman’s hospital room while the woman lay dying from a stroke, even though a valid POA existed. The partner was barred for 18 hours and only saw the decedent for about five minutes just before she died. The suit seeks $75,000 from the public hospital for intentional infliction of emotional distress. 2008-06-26.
— The South Florida Sun-Sentinel

 • Hospitals sometimes recycle tools and devices made for one-time use. While this is legal so long as FDA guidelines are followed, many items designed to be discarded may not tolerate sterilization procedures, and a danger exists that any porous surfaces might harbor some biohazards even after sterilization. 2008-07-15.
— Bottom Line Personal

 • The CMS says about 750 patients were wrongfully denied treatment at ERs last year. This number is quite small when compared with all U.S. ER admissions. Hospitals cite high med mal insurance, low reimbursements (or no pay at all) for indigents, and a shortage of staffing. Neurosurgery and hand surgery are the two hardest-to-staff specialties for ER care. 2008-06-29.
— The South Florida Sun-Sentinel

• Federal prosecutors and members of Congress are calling for more oversight of royalties paid, and gifts made, to doctors by hip and knee implant companies. Critics say such payments skew doctors’ objectivity. Others argue that pioneering surgeons should be paid for their assistance in patenting and designing such devices. In New Jersey last year, Biomet, DePuy Orthopaedics, Smith & Nephew and Zimmer Holdings paid $310 million to settle alleged anti-kickback statute violations. 2008-06-29.
— Philadelphia Inquirer

 • A jury in Queens, N.Y., awarded $12 million to a couple, and $7.6 million to their child, for a botched birth performed in 1998. Eun Sook Maing, the mother, suffered vaginal injuries that left her with massive scar tissue. The child, Daniel Maing, was allegedly mangled by forceps for 23 minutes until he was extracted. He was born oxygen-deprived and then had his breathing tube inserted into his stomach. 2008-07-01.
— AP

 • The Justice Department cannot keep pace with submitted whistleblower cases, and has a backlog of more than 900. An overworked and understaffed team of 75 lawyers reviews about 100 cases per year. Critics say the government is losing a lot of potential recouped money from lagging review of these False Claims Act suits. Fraudulent medical billing cases are often FCA cases. 2008-07-02.
— The Washington Post

 • A woman was left unattended for more than an hour in the psychiatric ward at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. She died. She had been in the waiting room for 24 hours, unseen, before the incident. Security guards and other patients noticed Esmin Green on the floor, but took no action. A surveillance tape that became public stirred up outrage to the otherwise barely-publicized occurrence. Hospital documentation painted a different picture: Green was recorded as having gone to the bathroom, being “up and about” and having a normal blood pressure — all at times when she was on the floor or already dead. 2008-07-01.
— AP

• A Lexington, Ky., gynecologist, Michael Guiler, was found not liable for removing the healthy ovaries of a young woman, Connie Grimes, 38. Grimes had signed a consent form, but claimed she did not realize the health and lifestyle ramifications of having her ovaries removed at a young age. Guiler was sued by six other women, and has been sued for carving “UK” on uteruses before the uteruses were removed. 2008-07-03.
— The Louisville Courier-Journal

 • How much do nurses contribute to healthcare quality and what science supports it? The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative plans to find out. This year, the first wave of INQRI grantees will be collecting data about nursing quality measures and their relevance to patient needs and outcomes. 2008-07-03.
— Modern Healthcare

 • In response to reports of adverse events, and ongoing clinical studies, the FDA is doing safety reviews of Singulair, Spiriva, Ziagen, Videx and Regranex. 2008, July.
— AJN

 • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was recently signed into law. The law proscribes employers and insurance companies in particular from genetic discrimination. 2008, July.
— Health Data Management

• Human breath contains about 3,000 compounds that can be used to diagnose diseases from lung cancer to acid reflux to organ rejection. Breath analysis is expected to grow as a noninvasive diagnostic tool. 2008-07-05.
— Science News

 • A man has sued Pfizer over its Parkinson’s drug Mirapex, claiming that it caused his habit of occasional gambling to become reckless and uncontrollable. Randolph Simens, 55, says he lost $3 million and says Pfizer should have issued better warnings. After stoppage of the drug, Simens says his desire to gamble ended. 2008-07-09.
— Reuters

 • A large percentage of people on high blood pressure medicine do not achieve enough lowering of the pressure, take the wrong medicines or have side effects. 2008, August.
— Bottom Line Health

 • A New Jersey man, James Dell’Ermo (attorney: David Mazie), recently was awarded $2.1 million after laser eye surgery allegedly left him legally blind. The well-known doctor, Joseph Dello Russo (attorney: John Tomaszewski), who advertises on TV and radio, will pay $400,000 and his insurance company will pay $1.7 million. 2008-07-08.
— AP

• A new study says that antidepressants known as SSRIs (such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft) may be associated with an increased chance of bleeding in the upper GI tract, particularly if taken with NSAID (corticosteroid) painkillers. 2008, July.
— Archives of General Psychiatry

 • Brief is better: A federal judge in Washington was not happy that an attorney (Dean Browning Webb) submitted a lawsuit that was 465 pages long. The judge penned a limerick in his order for a rewrite:“Plaintiff has a great deal to say,/But it seems he skipped Rule 8(a)./His Complaint is too long,/Which renders it wrong./Please rewrite and refile today.” 2008-07-07.
— AP

 • A class-action suit has been filed against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation alleging that prisoners in its system are not being given proper treatment for hepatitis. Attorney Shawn Khorrami says 40% of prisoners have hepatitis C and that the disease is being allowed to progress, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Constitution. 2008-07-08.
— L.A. Times

 • Believe it or not: Since 2000 Medicare has paid out $92 million to medical suppliers for items such as wheelchairs and home medical equipment when the prescribing doctors were dead. Scam artists apparently used the IDs of deceased doctors with impunity. Medicare pays out about $400 billion per year in services, with a sizeable percentage believed to be based on fraudulent claims. 2008-07-08.
— The Washington Post

• In July, about 17 infants were overdosed with heparin at Christus Spohn Hospital South in Corpus Christi, Texas. The president of the hospital said a medication error occurred during a mixing process at the hospital pharmacy. The drug error was reminiscent of the overdose affecting actor Dennis Quaid’s infant twins last year. 2008-07-09.
— MedicalNewsToday.com

 • Several lawsuits have been filed against Actavis Totowa, the maker of Digitek (digitalis), a heart drug. The suits claim that patients suffered reactions to the drug after it was accidentally shipped at double-strength. Actavis announced a recall in April. 2008-07-14.
— AP

 • Expert witnesses take note: In July a judge tossed out $27 million in punitive damages after a jury had awarded plaintiff Donna Scroggin $2.75 million in compensatory damages and $27 million in punitive damages against Wyeth and Upjohn. Scroggin had claimed that the two companies did not adequately warn about an increased breast cancer risk associated with Premarin and Prempro. The overturning judge found fault with the punitive damage expert.
— AP

 • A judge approved an $18.2 million settlement for a child stuck in a birth canal for 20 minutes who suffered brain damage. The mother, Jacqueline Lugo, gave birth in 1998. The federal government will be paying the award because the clinic where the injury occurred was a community health center funded by the government. Defense lawyers argued that the government should not be liable, only those involved in the birth. 2008-07-16.
— AP

• Vunies High, sister of former boxing star Joe Louis, died of hypothermia after she wandered away from a Michigan assisted living facility earlier this year. Capital Senior Living Corp. was named in the suit. 2008-07-17.
— The Detroit Free Press

 • Federal officials have fined the Red Cross more than $21 million since 2003 for violations related to blood safety: failures to screen for communicable diseases, lax sterilization procedures and not tossing out deficient blood. 2008-07-17.
— The New York Times

 • Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, often used by hospitals for monitoring purposes, can interfere with critical care equipment, according to a new study. 2008-06-25.
— JAMA

 • A Chicago nursing home, All Faith Pavilion, has been sued for allegedly allowing one roommate to kill another. According to the suit, the home placed Ivory Jackson, 77, in a room with a 50-year-old man who had a history of mental illness. 2008-07-14.
— Chicago Tribune

• Bristol-Myers Squibb has agreed to pay $515 million in a national civil settlement over allegations that it overpriced drugs and made illegal payments to doctors to promote some medicines. 2008-07-20.
— The Boston Globe

 • Ed McMahon, former Johnny Carson sidekick, has filed a lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles alleging a failure-to-diagnose of a neck injury after a fall McMahon suffered in 2007. The suit also alleges substandard care in spine operations. 2008-07-21.
— Reuters

 • In a Motrin lawsuit claiming that the children’s medicine caused blindness in a child, a jury failed to award any damages. The jury felt the plaintiffs had not proven the case, which alleged that the ibuprofen in Motrin had caused the rare Steven-Johnson Syndrome. 2008-07-17.
— Reuters

 • Vytorin and Zetia have come under scrutiny for possibly being linked to increased risks of cancer, though tests have been inconclusive. 2008-07-21.
— CBS News, The New York Times

• Serious and preventable adverse events are often not reported in medical records, according to a recent study.
— Annals of Internal Medicine (July)

 • Those wacky juries? In Rettger v. UPMC Shadyside, a young man died after his brain abscess allegedly was not treated properly. A jury awarded $2.5 million under Pennsylvania’s wrongful death statute for damages, but awarded nothing in survival act damages. An actuary had placed lost wage damages at well over $4 million. The jury statement said that, while the jury felt UPMC was responsible for the death, “it is the unanimous opinion of the jury that no amount of damages will adequately punish UPMC.” A new trial is being sought. 2008-07-22.
— law.com

 • An analysis by The Kansas City Star found that almost 2,000 drivers and front-seat passengers died from 2001 through 2006 in front-impact crashes involving vehicles whose airbags did not deploy. One company, Chrysler, recalibrated airbags in its 2005-model minivans to “turn off” in certain crashes in hopes of avoiding potentially dangerous late deployments. 2008-07-16.
— Newscom

 • A judge has ruled that patients who were potentially exposed to blood-borne diseases at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada can claim emotional distress damages. Often in suits claiming negligent infliction of emotional distress, physical manifestations must be shown. The judge ruled that the angst of potential exposure could lead to physical symptoms. 2008-07-22.
— Las Vegas Review-Journal

• The University of Washington has been sued for its release of a suicidal student. The student had cut his wrists and told hospital staff of his persistent thoughts of jumping from high places. He later jumped from a 16th floor office and died. 2008-07-22.
— The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

 • Colorado recently passed the Michael Skolnik Medical Transparency Act. The act lets consumers know doctors’ histories, such as felony convictions, medical board actions, malpractice judgments, settlements, etc.
— www.dora.state.co.us/medical

 • The disability rate among elderly Americans has been falling by about 1.5% a year since 1984. 2007-12-11.
— National Institute on Aging

 • The cell phone/cancer debate surfaces again. Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, warns that cell phones carry health risks, including a possible risk of cancer. 2008-07-24.
— Chicago Tribune

• Some medical experts believe the Durom cup hip socket, produced by Zimmer Holdings, has a higher than normal failure rate, meaning patients must undergo replacement surgeries. Zimmer has suspended sales of the hip component. 2008-07-24.
— The New York Times

 • In July Massachusetts’ supreme court adopted the medical malpractice concept of “loss of chance” when it upheld a lower court’s award of $1 million to Kimiyoshi Matsuyama, who died after his gastric cancer was treated as acid reflux disease. “Loss of chance” is used to refer to plaintiffs who had a 50% or less chance of survival when they were misdiagnosed or malpracticed and allows the plaintiff to receive damages for the lessened lifespan. 2008-07-24.
— AP

 • The next litigation wave? Researchers have found that some granite countertops give off a larger-than-usual amount of radon gas, according to The New York Times (July 24, 2008). Granite often contains trace amounts of uranium, which emits radon as it decays, though the radon levels vary depending on the type of granite. Hundreds of types of granite exist. Some PI lawyers are trolling on their websites for potential clients who think they may have been injured by granite countertops, though most experts agree that any link between radon in granite and cancer would be hard to prove as the radon levels are rarely very high.Interestingly, researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute have found that exposure to low levels of radon gas might actually lower the risk of developing lung cancer by 60%. 2008-03-26.
— Newscom

 • An appeals court recently ruled unconstitutional Arizona’s law limiting who can testify as an expert witness in trials against doctors. The court said that procedural rules about expert witnesses fall under the purview of the judicial branch, not the legislative. Arizona had passed a law that said a witness testifying against a doctor had to be active, or a teacher, in the defendant’s area of practice and had to have been active in the year preceding the testifying. The court said such rules might speak to the credibility of a witness, but not his or her admissibility. 2008-06-26.
— Business Gazette

• By 2030 almost twice as many people will be over 65 as there are now. A severe shortage of elder care healthcare workers is looming. 2008-08-15.
— Mailman School of Public Health

 • In late July Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia mailed 202,000 letters to the wrong addresses. The letters contained patient names, ID numbers, medical providers and a few Social Security numbers. The bungled mailing may be a HIPAA violation. Most of the letters were Explanation of Benefits (EOB) letters. The state insurance commissioner, John Oxendine, ordered the company, owned by Wellpoint, to offer free credit monitoring to affected customers for one year. 2008-07-29.
— The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 • Medication errors that occur at home have risen considerably over the past two decades. From 1983 to 2004, deaths due to such errors increased from 3,954 to 22,770. Researchers think the rise is due to the increase in medicines consumed at home, as opposed to being consumed in provider settings. 2008-07-28.
— Archives of Internal Medicine

 • The “I’m sorry” laws that have been passed in many states, which allow doctors to admit medical errors with some legal protections, usually do not apply to nurses. 2008, July.
— Nursing2008

• Patients are increasingly distrustful and skeptical of doctors and their diagnoses, according to a Johns Hopkins study, and about 25% of patients believe that their doctors sometimes expose them to unnecessary risks. Direct-to-consumer advertising, bad press of doctors and errors, mental distance between patients and doctors and increased research done by patients are considered some of the reasons for the lowered esteem of physicians. Lower reimbursements for doctors may be a factor, too, as physicians tend to have to see more patients and thus are more rushed. 2008-07-29.
— Medicine via The New York Times

 • The MS drug Tysabri was taken off the market in 2005 after being linked to an increased risk of a brain disease. The drug came back onto the market in 2006 under tighter restrictions, but now two patients on the drug have contracted a brain disease. 2008-08-01.
— The New York Times

• About 30 states are investigating Eli Lilly’s marketing practices for Zyprexa. 2008-07-31.
— Bloomberg

 • Abbott Laboratories will pay between $10 million and $27.5 million to resolve antitrust claims related to HIV drug Norvir’s allegedly-inflated pricing. According to a lawsuit, filed by AIDS patients, Abbott engaged in price gouging to stymie competition and bolster sales it its drug Kaletra. 2008-07-31; 2008-08-03.
— San Jose Mercury News, The Sacramento Bee

• A new latex glove — the Yulex Patient Examination Glove — is made from the guayule bush and not from the traditional sap of the rubber tree, which contains a protein that causes allergic reactions. No long-term studies exist yet for the Yulex glove, but it is believed it will not cause allergic reactions. 2008-July.
— Nursing 2008

 • With the advent of electronic health and pharmacy records comes the advent of insurance companies’ use of the data to determine risks and costs to insure patients. Proponents say the data could reduce costs for insurance companies by accurately assessing who is taking what medicines, thus ferreting out fraud, as it is believed that 10% of applicants do not disclose some serious medical conditions in applications. On the other hand, experts worry that insurance companies may make incorrect assumptions by looking at drug records, because many drugs have multiple uses. Privacy experts believe patients’ privacy is being invaded and that patients will soon lose all control of their medical data. 2008-08-04.
— The Washington Post

 • Female witnesses with “powerless” speech styles are seen as less credible than male witnesses, especially by female jurors. Male and female witnesses with “powerful” speech styles are deemed more credible.
— Linguistic Evidence by William M. O’Barr

 • Hospitalized children fall victim to medication errors (adverse drug events, or ADEs) at a rate of about one in 15. In a study, 22% of errors were categorized as preventable. The vast majority of the ADEs (97%) caused only temporary harm. 2008, July.
— Nursing2008

• A University of Florida study found that about 45% of medical students and residents have profiles on social networking websites, and that many of the profiles portray the students in professionally questionable behavior. 2008-07-28.
— Modern Healthcare

 • Unexpected drug side effects: Ritalin appears to improve mental function in the elderly, thus reducing the chance of falls. Anticholinergic drugs such as Detrol and Ditropan, which are used to treat urinary incontinence, have been associated with an increase in cognitive decline in the elderly. 2008, July.
— Nursing2008

 • A study has found a 200% increase in infections from C. difficile bacteria. These bacteria breed in high gear once competing bacteria are killed by antibiotics. 2008-08-01.
— Maimonides Medical Center via Bottom Line Personal

 • The use of nanosilver as a germ fighter is under scrutiny by scientists, researchers and government agencies. Nanosilver coatings are used in products from electric razors to bed sheets to food containers to computer keyboards, but little data exist to confirm nanosilver’s safety or effectiveness. One infectious disease expert says claims of nanosilver killing MRSA bacteria are unsubstantiated. Nanosilver particles behave differently from regular silver, which is often used in healthcare settings. A study of the use of nanosilver in 2006 in the Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection and Critical Care found that nanosilver can harm the liver, while a 2006 Chinese study found no liver toxicity. However, rat studies have found harmful accumulations of silver in kidneys and livers after ingestion of nanosilver. 2008-08-04.
— The Los Angeles Times

• A study has found that about 30% of working-age adults without insurance (about 11 million people) have a chronic illness that is going untreated. Such illnesses include diabetes or high blood pressure. The study also found that uninsured people may not always be young and healthy as is commonly thought. 2008-08-05.
— Annals of Internal Medicine

 • Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange are twice as likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer as vets who were not exposed. 2008-08-06.
— The Washington Post

 • Road rage and aggressive driving cause about 25,000 traffic accidents per year. 2008-08-08.
— Inside Edition

 • A New York judge in August increased from $5 million to $19.5 million the amount of money a hospital has to pay a man, Daniel C. Oakes, for its failure to diagnose a stroke. According to a news story, the judge said the $5 million “deviates materially from what would be fair compensation.” 2008-08-09.
— The Buffalo News

• Between 1993 and 2004, 3,000 nursing homes (of 16,000 total in the U.S.) converted from nonprofit to for-profit. A study found that patient care quality often is lowered under the for-profit systems. 2008, August.
— AJN, pg. 21

 • An Iowa woman, Karly Rossiter, was awarded $1.5 million against a former lover in August after she became infected with HPV. The defendant, a dentist, was ordered to pay $700,000 for past and future physical and mental pain and suffering, and another $800,000 in punitive damages. 2008-08-11.
— gazetteonline.com

 • A California jury awarded $8.5 million to Holly Stinnett, widow of Stanley Stinnett, after the court concluded that Dr. Tony Tam did not monitor Stanley close enough. Stanley suffered several broken ribs after a motorcycle wreck. He had a gallon of liquid in his stomach and he choked on his own vomit the day he was to be discharged from a hospital. Under California’s medical malpractice caps, the verdict probably will be reduced to $1.6 million. 2008-08-11.
— AP

• Pediatricians are far more likely to disclose a medical error if the error is obvious, says a recent survey. 2008, October.
— Archives of Pediatrics; Adolescent Medicine

• Cheerleading has critics about its safety: The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research reports that, based on emergency room cases, cheerleading accounts for two-thirds of serious injuries among high school female athletes. The National Cheer Safety Foundation contends that cheerleading is a self-governed, $2 billion industry with minimal regulations for participants’ safety. 2008-09-05.
— The Dallas Morning News

• Researchers say that dialysis workers do not regularly follow strict gloving and hand hygiene protocols, leading to an elevated risk of hepatitis C transmission. The researchers recommend Luminol — the illumination chemical often seen on TV detective shows — to assess contamination. 2008, April.
— Journal of Hospital Infection

• Proper hand hygiene only occurs about 40% of the time in healthcare workers, according to the CDC. 2008, August.
— AJN, pg. 41

• It is believed that 1.2 million hospital patients acquire an MRSA infection each year, and another 423,000 patients are colonized, according to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. About 1% of the general population carries MRSA. Staph germs can persistently cling to tabletops, patient charts and curtains. 2008, August.
— AJN, pgs. 29, 31

• Among infants dying unexpectedly, a study found that almost half had a high presence of Staph and E. coli bacteria. The finding led researchers to conclude that elevated bacteria counts my be linked to the sudden infant deaths (SUDI). 2008, May.
— The Lancet

• Believe it or not: About 40% of home foreclosures are triggered by disability. 2008-08-11.
— The Dave Ramsey Show

• The “half life” of medical knowledge is about five years, and about 7% of medical knowledge is changed or outdated each year. This means that roughly 70% of medical knowledge becomes obsolete every 10 years. 2008, August.
— Nursing2008, pg. 6

• Since 1997, cosmetic procedures have increased by 457%. The greatest increase was in nonsurgical procedures such as botox, chemical peels, skin resurfacing and chemical peels. 2008, August.
— AJN, pg. 25

• More than 40% of all expert testimony is medical in nature, according to a 2002 Federal Judicial Center study. 2008-08-11.
— The New York Times

• Believe it or not: A low-carb diet beats both a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet in achieving weight loss. 2008-07-17.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• Jury strategy: Attorneys and jury consultants are more often turning to social internet sites such as Facebook or MySpace to check up on potential jurors. 2008-08-11. The prevalence of powerful prescription medicines in American society has had a trickle-down affect — to juries. According to a news article, more and more attorneys want to know what medicines jurors are taking, as many drugs can affect concentration or have uncomfortable side effects. 2008-08-26.
— law.com

• Medical researchers and scientists finally may be zeroing in on the use of nanomagnets to treat cancer. MagForce Nanotechnologies of Germany has been conducting human trials and Aduro BioTech in California has plans for 2009 trials. Using nanomagnets involves tricking cancer cells into absorbing chemicals that are attached to tiny iron oxide or iron-cobalt particles. Once the magnetic particles are inside the cancer cells, large external magnets excite and heat the metal particles, destroying the cancer cells and leaving healthy ones untouched. 2008-08-16.
— Science News, pg. 5

• About one-third of U.S. adults reported that, in the last two years, they had either been given a duplicate medical test or had been subjected to an unnecessary treatment or plan of care. 2008-08-11.
— Modern Healthcare

• Prisoners: The city of Denver recently agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a suit filed by a prisoner, Timothy Thomason, who claimed he was not allowed to take medications that helped treat his terminal cancer. 2008-08-19. A Texas jury recently awarded $900,000 to a prison inmate after he was denied his blood pressure medicine. Stanley Shepherd suffered a seizure and permanent disability as a result. 2008-08-27.
— The Denver Post; AP

• The FDA has been receiving reports of a link between the diabetes drug Byetta and a dangerous form of pancreatitis. The FDA is considering tougher warnings on the drug. 2008-08-18.
— AP

• The editors at the New England Journal of Medicine recently filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief in the Wyeth v. Levine lawsuit that the Supreme Court is expected to rule on this fall. The editors were joined by 47 state attorneys general and two former FDA commissioners. The editors noted that the FDA often relies on civil litigation to uncover information to help it make decisions about drugs, and the brief suggests that lawsuits are a “vital deterrent” for consumer protection. One editor opined that the FDA cannot guarantee drug safety, partly because the FDA is overwhelmed. 2008-08-15.
— AP

• A New Jersey court has held that a plaintiff can compel the videotaping of his own deposition even if defense counsel objects to it. In LaMarche v. Hackensack University Medical Center, a med mal case, the judge said that banning videotaping would put “unwarranted limitation on discovery and recordation tools.” The judge downplayed defense objections that videotaping created any sort of hardship or burden on the defense. 2008-08-21.
— law.com

• Two articles in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine question the wisdom and effectiveness of giving girls the HPV vaccine. The authors argue that the vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) have not been tested enough, that evidence is insufficient that the vaccines are effective and that killing off some strains of virus could possibly decrease the body’s immunity to other strains. 2008-08-20.
— The New York Times

• A survey by the Commonwealth Fund found that “two-thirds of the working-age population was uninsured, underinsured, reported a medical bill problem or did not get needed healthcare because of cost in 2007.” 2008-08-20.
— The Washington Post

• Could a health insurer ever be a med mal defendant? A Toledo Blade survey found that 99% of doctors believe insurance companies interfere with clinical decisions. About 14% of the doctors said that such interference had seriously injured or harmed a patient. The survey was not scientific. 2008-08-25.
— toledoblade.com

• More than 9,000 healthcare staffers are either physically or verbally abused on the job every day. 2008, August.
— RN, pg. 40

• A New Jersey court recently held that a $100,000 award for pain and suffering was too low and ordered a new trial. In Walsh v. Disciglio a plaintiff’s circulatory problems were not promptly treated and she later had to endure multiple surgeries and amputations. The court said the low award was a miscarriage of justice. 2008-08-25.
— law.com

• The new ovarian cancer test, OvaSure, has had its sales halted by its distributor, LabCorp. Though the FDA allows unproven diagnostic tests to be marketed by a sole developer, the FDA says OvaSure was developed at Yale, not solely by LabCorp. 2008-10-24.
— The New York Times

• Several lawsuits have been filed recently in Missouri alleging that a closed insulation factory has created a “cancer cluster” in the city of Cameron. The suits seek class action status. 2008-08-27.
— kansascity.com

• A Washington jury awarded $14.8 million to a woman after finding that a dentist negligently performed surgery on her that left her jaw fused shut. The plaintiff, Kimberly Kallestad, is permanently disabled, in pain and unable to work. 2008-08-26.
— The Seattle Times

• California hospitals report about 100 serious patient errors a month. More than 1,000 adverse events were reported to California’s Department of Public Health between July 2007 and May 2008. 2008-07-01.
— UPI NewsTrack

• A Chicago area man has been charged with stealing the medical identity of a mentally disabled acquaintance in order to secure a Medicaid-funded bypass surgery for himself. His bail for the medical ID heist was set at $2.5 million. 2008-09-01.
— Modern Healthcare

• The adult obesity rate is 30%. This rate is double that of 1980, when it was 15%. Studies have found that obesity costs $117 billion per year in physical inactivity, and costs private employers $45 billion per year in absenteeism and medical expenses. 2008-09-01.
— Modern Healthcare

• The number of uninsured Americans fell slightly in 2007. In 2006 the number was 47 million. Last year the number fell about 3% to 45.7 million. Many experts charge that the increased number of people with insurance may simply reflect greater rolls of people on public insurance programs. 2008-09-01.
— Modern Healthcare

• A federal judge is allowing a lawsuit (Knipe v. SmithKline Beechum) to proceed that was brought by the family of a teenager who committed suicide after taking Paxil. The judge ruled that FDA rules do not pre-empt the action as the FDA had not made a ruling about the drug and any suicide link at the time of the death. The suit is rooted in a failure-to-warn theory. 2008-09-05.
— The Legal Intelligencer

• California’s attorney general is suing three manufacturers of artificial turf, alleging they knew their artificial grass contained high amounts of lead. The makers are Beaulieu Group, AstroTurf and FieldTurf USA, Inc. The suit affects green plastic playing fields and grasslike indoor-outdoor carpeting. 2008-09-04.
— L.A. Times

• The experimental osteoporosis drug Fablyn has been linked, in a clinical trial, to a death rate higher than that of placebos. 2008-09-04.
— Reuters

• The FDA recently announced that TNF blocker medications have been linked to fungal infections such as histoplasmosis, coccidioidomycosis and blastomycosis. The FDA is pushing for stronger warnings on Remicade made by Johnson & Johnson, Humira made by Abbott Laboratories, Cimzia made by UCB and Enbrel from Amgen and Wyeth. The drugs are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and other ailments. 2008-09-04.
— Reuters

• A Broward County, Fla., jury awarded $35 million recently in a case where an infant was left quadriplegic after oxygen deprivation. In Brown v. North Broward Hosp. Dist., nurses were faulted for seeing ominous fetal strip readings at 10 p.m. yet not notifying a doctor until the next morning. The hospital and doctor were faulted for allowing two hours to pass after the nurses’ notice before starting a c-section. 2008, September.
— Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter

• In Modern Healthcare’s Top 100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare, the top three spots all went to information technology innovators. No. 1 was Steve Case, co-founder of America Online, No. 2 was Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google and in third place was Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. The rankings likely reflect the promise that IT stands to bring to patient safety, choice and control. 2008-08-25.
— Modern Healthcare

• According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, most U.S. hospitals do not do adequate lymph node checking after colon cancer surgery. Adequate is defined as checking 12 nodes. The study found that only about 40% of hospitals are properly checking for metastasis. 2008-09-09.
— Reuters

• A technology called GS1 is being advanced as a patient safety innovation. GS1 allows medical devices to be tracked from manufacture to patient implantation by code numbers similar to the way the auto industry tracks parts or retail merchants track goods in stores. The concept is that medical devices could be quickly recalled or reallocated at a moment’s notice. Critics say the system is duplicative of the Universal Product Number and Health Industry Number System already in place. 2008-08-25.
— Modern Healthcare

• A study by the Associated Press has found that about 46 million Americans have been exposed to trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in municipal drinking water supplies. Many drugs and hormones survive being excreted from the body and flushed into sewer systems. They are then reabsorbed into water supplies. 2008-09-11.
— AP

• A study has found that knee surgeries to treat arthritis pain fair no better than regimens of physical therapy and medications. 2008-09-11.
— The New England Journal of Medicine

• Negligence averted? A nurse, Tanya Hinz, who works at a Wisconsin hospital, noticed that a gel ice pack, used for keeping formula cold, created confusion among new parents who sometimes thought the pack was frozen formula. The nurse alerted her manager and received a “Good Catch” award from the hospital. Hinz’s “catch” made its way to management at Nestlé, who makes the pack, and Nestlé has since removed the packs from the free backpacks it gives to new parents. 2008-08-25.
— Modern Healthcare

• The FDA is urging consumers to avoid infant formula made in China, especially formulas sold at ethnic grocery stores. The formula is not legal for sale in the U.S., though some formula is still sold. The formulas may be tainted by the chemical Melamine. Melamine is nitrogen-rich and is used to trick food tests into believing a food is high is protein. Melamine is the chemical associated with the recent pet food recalls. 2008-09-11.
— AP

• Work with coding? The Department of Health and Human Services announced in mid-August that ICD-9 is out and ICD-10 is in, or will be by 2011. The probably-expensive (to providers) switch is supposed to save the government several billion dollars, assist in catching upcoding billing fraud and allow for more thorough diagnostic codes needed to further the “pay for performance” reimbursement system. ICD-9 contained 17,000 codes, while ICD-10 will contain 155,000. 2008-08-25.
— Modern Healthcare

• Among Americans with health insurance, 49 million have unpaid medical bills. About 25% owe $4,000 or more. Much of the debt comes from deductibles, exhaustion of caps or procedures not covered by the insurance plans. 2008-08-25.
— Modern Healthcare

• Oregon Health and Science University and Oregon’s trial lawyers have mutually agreed to limits on negligence when the government-owned OHSU is sued. The cap on pain and suffering would be gone, and the present liability cap of $200,000 would rise to $1.5 million. The agreement comes after the state’s supreme court had effectively called current compensation caps into question. 2008-09-11.
— The Oregonian

• Where do lawyers look for information? A survey found that most prefer news websites, email newsletters, email discussion lists and personalized web pages. Blogs, RSS feeds and podcasts were low on the list. Also, attorneys are using free legal research services more frequently than paid services. This shift in research services (from paid to free) has changed in the last few years. 2008, September.
— ABA Journal

• Surgeon General Dr. Steven Galson announced a campaign recently to educate the medical community and the public about deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is often misdiagnosed or thought to be simple leg pain. Anywhere from 350,000 to 600,000 Americans have DVT each year, and about 100,000 people die from it. According to a news story, symptoms include swelling, pain in the calf, warm, red or discolored skin on a leg, shortness of breath or pain when breathing deeply. 2008-09-15.
— Chicago Tribune

• The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced in September that companies that make children’s products have until early next year to comply with new rules about lead. 2008-09-15.
— The Washington Post

• More bad news for bisphenol A, the chemical found in many plastics: A study has found that the chemical turns off a hormone that protects people from type 2 diabetes and heart attacks. Risks to children from bisphenol A have made news lately, but this study also finds health risks for adults. 2008-08-15.
— Environmental Health Perspectives

• A study of two Michigan hospitals has found that many ER patients are not properly educated about their illnesses or how to take care of themselves once they go home. The study results may hint at why readmission rates are so high — roughly 18% of patients discharged are readmitted within a month, for instance). 2008, July.
— Annals of Internal Medicine

• Catalytic converters and even back yard barbeques may create nanoparticles to which health-damaging free radicals attach.The nanoparticles are not usually created in combustion itself, but in cooler, combustion-related activities. The offending free radicals would not show up in normal smog checks, and researchers say the particles and their piggy-backing free radicals are more harmful than cigarette smoke. 2008-08-01.
— Environmental Science & Technology

• About 700 farmers die each year in farming accidents, and another 120,000 farmers or farm workers are disabled in farm-related activities.
— National Safety Council

• The U.S. does not have a national registry to track the performance of hip and knee replacement devices. Some countries do. Critics say a database of devices would help keep flawed products off the market.
— Bottom Line Health

• Oklahoma’s supreme court recently ruled that its state wrongful death statute applied to an unborn fetus. The state legislature had amended the wrongful death statute in 2005 to make expressly clear that the unborn were included, but the suit in question (Pino v. U.S.) arose under the previous statute from 2003. 2008, July-September.
— JONA’s

• Should hospital wristbands’ colors be standardized nationwide? New York’s 11 public hospitals are leading the pack to achieve such standardization. While the goal of such a system is to reduce mistakes, especially given that nurses or doctors move between facilities where not all colors mean the same thing, the Joint Commission has reservations about such a system, citing privacy concerns. Critics say the concern is overblown. 2008-09-24.
— The New York Times

• About 64% of nurses say they have been accidentally stuck by a needle while working. 2008, September.
— Nursing2008

• A newspaper article recently reported that some — a minority — of New Jersey and Pennsylvania hospitals vastly underreport preventable mistakes. Reported errors in both states do not have to be made public. In 26 states, hospitals must report mistakes, and by 2009 Massachusetts, California and Minnesota will make the reports public. 2008-09-12.
— The Philadelphia Enquirer

• The driver of a rear-ending car may not always be negligent (negligent per se or presumed negligent). South Dakota’s supreme court recently ruled in Baddou v. Hall, 2008 WL 4260985 (S.D.) that a driver who rear-ends another may not be negligent, and may not have violated a traffic statute, if sufficient evidence of reasonable behavior exists. 2008-09-19.
— AP

• Ford Motor Credit Co. will have to pay a disabled Tennessee employee $75,000. The employee had sued and said that a supervisor disclosed medical information about him that resulted in workplace chatter. 2008-09-20.
— The Nashville Tennessean

• A study found that 97% of nursing home patients take at least one drug, and found that about 17% of residents take more than five. Another study found that numerous drugs can cause Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. 2008-09-20.
— Bottom Line’s Daily Health News

• A recent university study found infectious bacteria or fungi in the amniotic fluid of 25 of 166 pregnant women studied. The rate was double the infection rate of past studies. The study hinted that such microbes may be linked to premature births. 2008-09-27.
— Science News

• Wait times for uninsured patients at public hospital can be lengthy. A Dallas man recently died at Parkland Memorial Hospital after a 19-hour wait. A study of Parkland in 2004 found average wait times of 7.5 hours and, among patients who needed to be admitted, the wait was about 13 hours. About 10% of patients left without being seen. 2008-09-27.
— Forth Worth Star-Telegram

• Drugs to help clear the lungs may be taking a toll on the heart. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that patients taking tiotropium or ipratropium (found in Spiriva, Atrovent and Combivent) had a heightened chance of developing cardiovascular disease or suffering from cardiovascular death than patients not on such drugs. The Annals of Internal Medicine also reported similar findings. 2008-09-23.
— USA Today

• A lawsuit has been filed in Washington state against Extendicare, a Milwaukee-based nursing home company that runs 268 facilities. The suits seeks class action status. The suit’s legal theory is that Extendicare violated consumer-protection laws by advertising “quality standards above government regulations” and then failing to make good on the promises. A spokesman for Extendicare said that a class action would be inappropriate as not all residents would have been equally impacted during the survey period cited in the suit. 2008-08-23.
— Seattle Post-Intelligencer

• A new report from the American College of Nurse-Midwives challenges the old rule-of-thumb that women in labor should not eat or drink anything. Studies show that eating and drinking during labor improve nutrition, comfort and hydration. The exception to eating and drinking is when general anesthesia is used, but most c-sections are done under local anesthesia. 2008, September.
— AJN

• A legal theory that didn’t fly: A pharmaceutical sales rep who was accused of pushing the off-label uses of a narcolepsy drug, Xyrem, was not allowed a defense based on free-speech grounds. The case was U.S. v. Coronia, 06-CR-229. Defendant Coronia was charged with “misbranding” Xyrem under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The judge held that the FDA’s approval process was more important than a restriction on speech, that the statute was no more broad than it had to be and that Coronia’s statements were “illicit conduct” via “commercial speech.” 2008-09-29.
— New York Law Journal via law.com

• The vast majority of nonfamily abductors of infants: 1) tend to snatch babies from hospitals, 2) take infants that are 10 days old or older, 3) almost always are female and 4) rarely use violence or weapons. Such abductors frequently are overweight, compulsive, are adept at deceit and can usually provide good care of the babies after abduction occurs. 2008, September.
— AJN

• The Department of Health and Human Services reported in October that 94% of U.S. nursing homes were cited for health and safety violations in 2007. For-profit homes were more likely to have problems than non-profit ones, and about 17% of homes had problems that harmed residents. Critics say that the HHS surveyors are on-site for long periods of time and look at more than 500 regulations, so the chances of finding an infraction are great and thus unfair. 2008-09-29; 10-06.
— The New York Times; Modern Healthcare

• Recent whistleblower suits: Walgreen Co. recently paid $9.9 million in a settlement over accusations that it overcharged Medicaid programs in Florida, Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts. Drug maker Cephalon will be paying $431 million in fines for promoting off-label uses of three of its drugs: Actiq, Gabitril and Provigil. Whistleblowers will split a reward of $46 million. 2008-09-29.
— The Miami Herald; The Legal Intelligencer

• The Massachusetts AG has filled a lawsuit against three high-volume dental practices that allegedly scammed low-income patients. A news story said patients allegedly were enticed into the dental offices under the lure of free exams and then tricked into having more dental work done in a “bait and switch” scheme. Patients sometimes signed blank documents and later found themselves on the hook for high-interest loans for the dental work. Other patients allegedly had partial dental work done and then had to come up with more money to have the work completed. 2008-09-30.
— The Boston Herald

• Compared with the general population, problem gamblers have much higher rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts. 2008, September.
— American Psychological Association

• According to a news investigation, Johnson & Johnson has spent at least $68.7 million to settle several dozen lawsuits filed by women who used the company’s Ortho Evra birth-control patch. The women had suffered blood clots, heart attacks or strokes. Critics say the patches contain high levels of hormones and that safer alternatives exist. The company says the patch is safe when used as directed by the label. Planned Parenthood says the patch is safe for “eligible women,” according to the article. More than 5 million women have used the patch since 2002, so the percentage of complications may be small. 2008-10-10.
— Bloomberg

• The Post-Tribune, a newspaper in Indiana, tells a compelling story about how Donna Dunham of Lowell died from complications after back surgery at a for-profit, physician-owned hospital. Read it online at http://www.post-trib.com/news/hosp/index.html. 2008-08-17.

• Believe it or not: The act of shopping stimulates the production of dopamine in many people, and leads to something of a shopping “addiction.” Shopping with friends or relatives releases even more dopamine.
— Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment, by Gregory Berns

• A BioMed Central study tested the cleanliness of hospital toilets seats and found that about one-third were not properly cleaned. 2008, September.
— Bottom Line Health

• “Serotonin syndrome” is becoming more prevalent. Antidepressants (SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can be dangerous in overdoses. In 2005, 8,187 patients developed serious symptoms and 103 died. A report found that 85% of doctors are not aware of serotonin syndrome as a diagnosis. 2008, August.
— RN, pg. 27

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