2009 News Of The Day Archive

• Evercare, a subsidiary of UnitedHealthGroup, has been under fire lately for allegedly mismanaging programs for those needing long-term care in Texas. In February 2008 the Texas Health and Human Services Commission fined Evercare $645,890 after complaints that doctors were not accepting Evercare fast enough. In March, the commission fined Evercare $70,725 more for payment and service problems. Recent fines, at almost $400,000, were in reaction to more consumer complaints. Evercare is part of a movement to privatize healthcare management. 2009-01-04.
— AP, The Dallas Morning News

• Several lawsuits involving ObTape, made by Mentor Corp., have been consolidated recently. ObTape is a sling that was implanted in women to treat stress urinary incontinence. ObTape was taken off the market in 2006.The FDA in October issued an alert warning of complications in “surgical mesh devices.” Cases allege negligence, breach of warranty and failures to warn. An early case, Seeno v. Mentor Corp., was a victory for Mentor. 2009-01-06.
— law.com

• As more and more people are turning to the individual market for health insurance, the sales of “junk” insurance policies are on the rise. “Junk” policies often have minimal benefits or don’t have limits on out-of-pocket expenses. 2008-06-22.
— McClatchy newspapers

• About 40% of all births are done by c-section, and about one-third of those are done too early, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Infants taken from the womb too early — before 39 weeks — are more likely to have various problems, especially respiratory distress. 2008-01-08.
— USA Today

• California has settled a $12.6 million lawsuit against Blue Shield of California. The state had accused Blue Shield of dropping, or rescinding, 678 policy-holders after the policy-holders became sick and were using their policies. Blue Shield agreed to reinstate the policies and pay for customers’ expenses. Blue Shield said it was allowed by law to rescind policies when customers fraudulently or mistakenly hid previous medical conditions, but consumer advocates had accused Blue Shield of making its application forms confusing and of not properly screening applicants at the inception of coverage. 2008-01-07.
— L.A. Times

• Another preemption victory: Medtronic recently won in a case involving its recalled Sprint Fidelis defibrillation wires. A Minnesota court dismissed the case with prejudice, saying that FDA approval of the wires immunized Medtronic from suit. The dismissal was consistent with a Supreme Court preemption ruling last year which was in Medtronic’s favor. 2008-01-07.
— L.A. Times

• The judge who dismissed hundreds of the lawsuits brought by aggrieved Sprint Fidelis defibrillator plaintiffs has been asked to disqualify himself. Plaintiff attorneys argue that judge Richard Kyle did not disclose that his son works for a law firm that represents Medtronic, maker of the defibrillators. Kyle and Medtronic say that Kyle’s son does criminal work at the firm and has not done any work for Medtronic. 2009-02-14.
— AP

• The Sprint Fidelis defribrillator leads, made by Medtronic, may be failing at higher rates than previously thought. 2009-02-23.
— www.heartrhythm-journal.com

• An 87-year-old resident of a North Carolina nursing home, who was known as a “wanderer” to the staff, walked off a loading dock at the home and died. State health officials have recommended a $50,000 fine. 2008-01-07.
— The Charlotte Observer

• The U.S.’s largest medical diagnostic laboratory company, Quest Diagnostics, admitted in January that it had made mistakes on several thousand vitamin D tests. The company offered free retests. The faulty tests were believed to have affected very few of the total tests. Critics say the incident shows that more regulation of diagnostic testing is needed because 1) lab testing does not require FDA approval and 2) many tests are not standardized and thus produce varying results. Diagnostic kits sold to labs, doctors’ offices and hospitals are FDA-approved, but tests developed and given by a single lab are not. 2008-01-07.
— The New York Times

• The president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, Kenneth Raske, has called on Congress to enact a modern version of the Hill-Burton Act to help ensure the future financial stability of the U.S.’s hospitals. Raske cites several factors that lead him to believe the nation’s hospitals need a source for low-cost loans: the current fear of bond investors, tight sources of loan capital, Medicare and Medicaid funding cuts, high medical malpractice costs, growing pension fund costs, more uninsured patients, mandatory data collection and quality measurements, and the move to electronic records. Raske did not mention that community hospital profits in 2007 were at record highs. 2008-12-01.
— Modern Healthcare

• Provena Mercy Medical Center near Chicago recently settled a suit concerning 7-year-old Roberto Morales, Jr., who was injured at birth. Morales will receive $6.5 million. The plaintiffs alleged that the attending obstetrician and the labor and delivery nurse did not respond to Morales’ slow heart rate and reduced oxygen flow caused by Pitocin. 2009-01-13.
— chicagobreakingnews.com

• According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general, the FDA is not scrutinizing financial conflicts of interest in doctors who test medicines or devices before they are approved for sale. The IG said the FDA did not have a review of financial data for 31% of applications. 2009-01-12.
— Reuters

• Healthcare spending in the U.S. slowed considerably in 2007. While spending was up 6.1% over 2006, the rate of growth was the lowest in nine years. Reasons: A slowdown in prescription drug spending, lower Medicare administrative costs, a slowing economy and a shifting of payment responsibilities to consumers. 2009-01-05.
— McClatchy newspapers

• Eli Lilly has agreed to pay $1.4 billion to settle allegations that it marketed antipsychotic drug Zyprexa for unauthorized uses. The settlement is considered a record whistleblower victory brought by employees. 2009-01-14.
— The New York Times

• Some popular antipsychotic drugs, known as atypicals, create a doubled risk of heart attack (2.8 per 1,000) compared with older drugs and are no safer than the older drugs for treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Among the drugs studied were Zyprexa and Risperdal. 2009-01-15.
— Bloomberg

• A Chicago-area radiology group, Open Advanced MRI, will pay $1.2 million to settle a case that accused it of giving kickbacks to doctors who referred patients to the group. The group allegedly gave referring doctors’ patients a discount, charged the patients’ insurance carriers a higher rate and then pocketed the difference, with some going to the doctors. About $800,000 of the money will be given to low-income healthcare programs. 2009-01-14.
— The Chicago Tribune

• A Queens, N.Y., man was jailed four days for a suspended driver’s license and was not allowed to take his medications while incarcerated, according to a lawsuit. The family of Glenn Seldon claims that the drug deprivation hastened Seldon’s death, which occurred nine days after he left jail. 2009-01-20.
— New York Daily News

• MRSA infections are on the rise in children, according to a study. While MRSA is well-known as an infector of skin, this study shows its rise in recent years in deep tissue infections in the head and neck. January.
— Archives of Otolaryngology via AP

• Antibacterial drug use is on the rise, which experts believe generates more drug-resistant strains of bacteria. Antibacterial drug treatment days, per 1,000 patients, were 798 in 2002, but grew to 855 in 2006. 2008-11-10.
— Archives of Internal Medicine

• The vast majority of all outpatient antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary, as the complained-of ailments are virus-based. 2009-01-15.
— Bottom Line Personal, pg. 11

• So many medicines are made abroad that some experts believe the U.S. should have laws requiring certain drugs be made on American soil, or at least be stockpiled here. Bioterrorism concerns have been raised. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio has called hearings on this issue. Only about 13% of drugs are made in the U.S., with the percentage growing smaller all the time. 2009-01-19.
— The New York Times

• People with COPD have a higher risk of heart attack or stroke when using inhaled drugs known as anticholinergics. 2009, February, pg. 1.
— Bottom Line Health

• Blood pressure medicines like Atacand and Cozaar (known as ARBs) appear to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. 2009, February, pg. 1.
— Bottom Line Health

• About 20% of all prescriptions are written for off-label drug uses. 2009, February, pg. 3.
— Bottom Line Health

• Believe it or not: By 2025 the U.S. will have a shortage of about 124,000 physicians. The greatest shortages will be in primary care and surgery. 2008-01-01.
— Association of American Medical Colleges via Modern Healthcare

• Kidnapping goes virtual: St. Louis-based Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, disclosed late last year that unknown hackers alleged that Express’s customers’ medical records had been hacked and were being held hostage for money demands. The company was working with the FBI. 2008-11-24.
— Modern Healthcare

• Believe it or not: About half of U.S. citizens did not opt for a flu shot this past winter, and 5% said they would rather have the flu than go to work. 2008-11-17.
— Modern Healthcare

• HIV-positive infants should be treated with powerful drugs as soon as possible — before symptoms appear. Those treated early have a dramatically-elevated chance of survival. 2008-11-20.
— New England Journal of Medicine

• Patients who arrive at ERs with chest pain, unstable angina or other mild heart attack symptoms benefit in the long term if they undergo immediate (within 24 hours) catheterization. Patients in a study who were catheterized quickly had less likelihood of heart attack, stroke or death within six months. 2008-12-06.
— Science News

• Believe it or not: Spider silk is not just tougher than Kevlar and stronger than steel, but its use is being studied for medical purposes: sutures, lattices for growing tissues, nerve cell growth along silk threads and encapsulated medicines. Spider silk has the advantage of not setting off the human immune system. At least 11 genes control spider spinerettes, making spider silk a hard material to replicate. 2008-11-22.
— Science News

• Nontraditional pets can cause a number of illnesses, such as salmonellosis, cryptosporidosis, plague, rabies and E. coli infections. The CDC encourages healthcare workers to consider exotic pets when making diagnoses. 2008, December.
— AJN, pg. 14

• Believe it or not: In what is thought to be the longest migration route of any bird, the bar-tailed godwit flies from Alaska to New Zealand non-stop — an 8-day, 7,300-mile flight without food, water or rest. 2008-11-22.
— Science News

• Giving acetaminophen early in childhood has been associated with a 46% increase in asthma later in a child’s life. Acetaminophen use was also linked about as strongly with eczema and rhinoconjunctivitus. December.
— Nursing2008, pg. 15

• The U.S. healthcare industry loses $68 billion a year to medical tourism (U.S. patients traveling abroad for cheaper care). 2008-05.
— Deloitte Center for Health Solutions

• Oversedation is common when nurses administer IV sedation/analgesia outside the OR setting. About three-fourths of patients in a study reached general anesthesia levels when only moderate levels were ordered. The study involved midazolam and fentanyl. 2009-January.
— Nursing2009, pg. 19

• The FDA is cautioning the medical community about three drugs. Byetta, a diabetes drug, has been associated with hemorrhagic or necrotizing pancreatitis. Vivitrol, an alcoholism drug, has been linked to reactions at injection sites, and Tysabri, an MS and Crohn’s disease drug, has been associated with multifocal leukoencephalopathy. 2008, December.
— AJN, pg. 38

• About 4%, or about 90,000 workers, in the U.S. nursing workforce is of foreign origin. The agencies that recruit foreign nurses are largely unregulated. 2008, December.
— AJN, pg. 25

• Florida will have a shortage of 52,000 RNs by the year 2020. 2008, Oct.-Dec.
— JONA’s Healthcare Law

• The complication rate for breast implants after mastectomies is about 30%, and 20% of patients need follow-up surgery. Wound infections, asymmetry and capsular contractions are common problems. 2009-01-15.
— Bottom Line Personal

• Low doses of aspirin appear to boost the production of bone-forming cells. 2008-01-15.
— PLoS via Bottom Line Personal

• Nursing homes do not have any federally mandated minimum staffing ratios, and more than 100,000 vacancies exist for RNs, LPNs and CNAs. 2008, December.
— AJN, pg. 11

• The Joint Commission has introduced (starting in 2009) new standards for healthcare organizations to create codes of conduct in dealing with unacceptable behaviors such as rude language and hostility. Such behavior is believed to impact patient safety. 2008, Oct.-Dec.
— JONA’s Healthcare Law

• Adverse drug reactions involving serious injuries (21,000) or deaths (4,800) hit record highs in the first quarter of 2008. About 1,500 of the cases were attributed to medication errors. 2009-January.
— Nursing2009, pg. 19

• KV Pharmaceutical, a generic drug maker, has announced that it will recall most of its products and has stopped its manufacturing and shipping operations. Two product recalls in late 2008 were linked to oversized tablets, including painkillers and ADD drugs. The company is the maker of Evamist, a menopause drug. 2009-01-26.
— AP

• More on autism: The latest Italian study finds no link between childhood vaccines and autism. February.
— Pediatrics

• The family of Michelle Cedillo, an autistic child, was dealt a legal blow in a lawsuit against the federal government concerning autism and its alleged link to childhood vaccinations. A court ruled that the family could not show that the vaccines’ viruses or the thimerosal in them were linked to autism. The ruling may affect about 5,000 similar suits. 2009-02-12.
— The New York Times

• Women suffering from heart problems are more likely than men to face delays in treatment at the hands of emergency workers while en route. The reasons for the delays are not clear. January.
— Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes

• A strong causal link between long-term exposure to TCE, an industrial cleaner, and Parkinson’s disease is believed to exist. 2008, February.
— Annals of Neurology

• A new sweetener is on the block: stevia, derived from a shrub. Cargill, the agri-business company, has a stevia-based sweetener in stores, and Merisant, the maker of Equal, soon will. Soft drink companies are awaiting final FDA approval, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest is pushing the FDA to do more testing. 2009-01-05.
— Chicago Tribune

• In February the FDA issued a warning about an over-the-counter dietary supplement called Venom HYPERDRIVE 3.0. It contains the controlled appetite suppressant sibutramine. Sibutramine may cause cardiovascular problems. The product was recalled in December. 2009-01-28.
— USA Today

• A growing number of nonprofit hospitals are being criticized for failing to provide sufficient levels of charity care. Nonprofit hospitals have to justify their tax exempt status by providing certain levels of free care. 2009-01-28.
— Chicago Tribune

• George Smith of Maryland died in early 2007, eight days after receiving prescriptions from a Wal-Mart pharmacy that were intended for someone else. His children sued, citing severe emotional distress. The case settled for an undisclosed amount. 2009-02-02.
— AP

• Believe it or not: About 600 attorneys in Illinois have been disqualified from practicing law for failing to keep up with their continuing education (CLE) requirements. 2009-02-05.
— The National Law Journal

• An appeals court ruling in February will allow 88 Nigerian families to sue Pfizer. The families claim that Pfizer conducted experimental drug treatments on children with meningitis in 1996. The families say Pfizer 1) gave 100 Nigerian children a new antibiotic, Trovan, without consent and without informing anyone of the serious side effects of Trovan, and 2) another 100 children were given Ceftriaxone, an FDA-approved drug, but in deliberately low doses in order to increase the appearance of the effectiveness of Trovan. The court allowed the Nigerians to sue under a 1789 law called the Alien Tort Act. The case is Abdullahi v. Pfizer. 2009-02-02.
— New York Law Journal

• In late January drug maker Pfizer agreed to settle, for $2.3 billion, with the U.S. government over claims that it improperly marketed off-label uses of Bextra and other drugs. 2009-01-27.
— Bloomberg News

• The medical helicopter industry, which is largely unregulated, has a number of critics calling for tougher regulation. In the last year or so, nine crashes resulted in 35 deaths. 2009-02-02.
— The New York Times

• The FTC and the state of California have filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Solvay Pharmaceuticals for allegedly paying three of its competitors to delay manufacture of a generic version of Solvay’s Androgel testosterone drug. The FTC says such “pay-to-delay” or “exclusion payment settlements” deals are growing common and slow down the public’s access to generic drugs. The FTC hopes the case will wind up at the Supreme Court. 2009-02-02.
— The New York Times

• The first of about 8,000 smoking-related cases filed in Florida went to trial in mid-February. The case stems from a class action suit filed in the mid-90s. In that case, the jury awarded $145 billion in punitive damages, but the Florida Supreme Court struck the award and ruled that smokers must prove individually that smoking caused their illnesses. 2009-01-31.
— The Miami Herald

• Two issues arose in a recent case involving a fetus stillborn at five months: May the parents have a birth certificate and does a hospital have an obligation to safeguard the remains of the fetus until the parents can have a proper burial? The court said “yes” to both in Ritchie v. Wahiawa General Hospital, 2009 WL 127770 (Hawaii). 2009, February.
— Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter

• According the FDA, numerous diet supplements contain hidden and possibly dangerous drugs, such as bumetanide. Many supplements have been recalled and most were made in China. 2009-02-09.
— The New York Times

• Two San Francisco-area parents (Morgan Hill, Paul Santiago) have filed a class action suit against Kaiser Permanente, alleging that the insurance company is not paying for autism treatment for the children. Kaiser contends the plaintiffs are blurring the distinction between what are medical need versus what are educational needs. 2009-02-11.
— The San Francisco Chronicle

• A federal appeals court in Arizona recently ruled that plaintiff Larry Rohr’s Type 2 diabetes may be covered as a disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act. 2009-02-14.
— L.A. Times

• A Texas doctor, Meenakshi Prabhakar, was ordered by a Dallas judge to pay former patient David Fitzgerald $7.5 million. Prabhakar allegedly allowed an MRSA infection to spiral out of control. A jury had awarded $17.5 million, but Texas’ caps limited the award. Prabhakar’s attorney said he would appeal, and noted that Prabhakar had used no less than eight antibiotics to treat Fitzgerald. 2009-02-16.
— The Dallas Morning News

• Brice and Robin Wilson of South Carolina were awarded $4.4 million for the death of their daughter, Sierra. The Wilsons claimed in a suit that their birth-injured daughter went into fetal distress that was not recognized by a nurse trainee. Sierra lived for four years. Attorney Ken Suggs represented the Wilsons. 2009-02-17.
— The Rock Hill Herald

• Only 12% of hospitals have even a basic electronic health system, and only 1.7% have a full-featured EHR system. 2008-12-08.
— Modern Healthcare

• The FDA and Brookstone Pharmaceuticals have been alerted to some confusion over Brookstone’s Pediaphen acetaminophen product. The product is in a concentrated form, but has been criticized for being packaged in a way that resembles medicines that are not concentrated. The “pedia” part of the name also could lead to confusion. 2008-12-08.
— Nursing2009, pg. 12

• The two brothers who survived the San Francisco Zoo tiger mauling back in 2007 were treated at a city-run hospital. The city has since filed a medical reimbursement lien against any lawsuit winnings the brothers might receive from their suits against the city. 2009-01-12.
— Modern Healthcare

• Some cancers cells become more aggressive after a cancer treatment. 2009-02-15.
— Bottom Line Personal

• In the last quarter of 2008, when most sectors were losing jobs, healthcare added 93,000. 2009-01-12.
— Modern Healthcare

• iPod headphones (and those of other digital music players) can interfere with the function of pacemakers and defibrillators if the headphones are within an inch or so of the devices. 2009, February.
— Bottom Line Personal

• Almost 40% of adults admitted to hospitals are seriously malnourished. About two-thirds of all patients will have their nutritional states decline during their hospital stay. 2009, January.
— RN, pg. 26

• The FDA has recommended dropping some asthma medicines. 2008-12-15.
— medicalnewstoday.com, article 133012

• The Department of Homeland Security is easing the immigration process for foreign nurses. The U.S. will need 1.2 million new RNs by 2014. 2009, January.
— RN, pg. 17

• Johnson & Johnson’s Scios Inc. unit has been accused in two whistleblower suits of engaging in off-label marketing for its heart drug Natrecor. 2009-02-19.
— Bloomberg

• Well-known Vermont eye surgeon David Chase was found to have acted within the standard of care in a recent lawsuit accusing him of unnecessary surgery. Vermont suspended Chase’s license in 2003 stemming from allegations of unnecessary cataract surgery, but his license was reinstated. Chase survived federal fraud charges in 2005. A state medical practice board determined in 2008 that Chase had engaged in unprofessional conduct, but Chase kept his license with conditions. 2009-02-20.
— Burlington Free Press

• The FDA has warned doctors that Zonegran, used in epilepsy patients, can cause chemical imbalances in the blood, which may lead to serious problem. 2009-02-23.
— AP

• A Riverside County, Calif., jury awarded about $7 million to Patricia Behr after she sued Thomas Redmond for knowingly infecting her with herpes and not disclosing that he was a carrier. Redmond, 77, is the founder of Redmond Products Inc., a hair care company. 2009-02-26.
— AP

• The Justice Department has accused Forest Laboratories of fraud over its antidepressant drugs Celexa and Lexapro (citalopram). The DOJ says the company pushed the drugs’ off-label uses in children while concealing a clinical study that was unfavorable to the drugs. The DOJ also says Forest paid kickbacks to doctors. The DOJ is seeking treble damages and reimbursement of federal costs. 2009-02-28.
— The New York Times

• A government sampling of home health claims in the Houston area found that only 9% of claims were coded properly. Spending by Medicare on home health has soared by 44% since 2002 to $13 billion in 2006. 2009-03-16.
— Modern Healthcare, pg. 4
• Scientists in February announced that they had cracked the genetic code of all viruses that cause the common cold. Result: A cure or vaccine could be in the offing. 2009, February.
— Science
• A hospital and an organ procurement organization have been sued for allegedly hastening the death of 18-year-old Gregory Jacobs so that they could harvest Jacobs’ organs. The suit was filed in federal court in Pittsburgh by Jacobs’ parents, Michael and Teresa Jacobs. The parents claim the organs were taken without consent and while they were at the hospital with their son. The defendants are Hamot Medical Center of Erie, Penn., and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education. 2009-03-05.
— AP
• Nicotine patches can become very hot during MRI scans. The FDA has issued alerts. 2009-03-05.
— The New York Times
• A New Jersey jury gave $11 million to the family of a man who died after having his wisdom teeth pulled. The decedent, Francis Keller, had a genetic condition that caused swelling as a reaction to trauma. The oral surgeon was George Flugrad. 2009-03-09.
— Newsday
• Two groups are pushing for changes in the rules of discovery. A report in early March said the current rules are “antiquated and too broad.” The report came from the American College of Trial Lawyers’ (actl.com) task force and the Denver-based Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (du.edu/legalinstitute). The groups noted that the current discovery rules were written in the 1930s and that e-mail and other computerized data put huge burdens on producing parties — such that many times a defendant will settle simply to avoid discovery expenses. 2009-03-10.
— AP
• On the heels of the Supreme Court’s recent upholding of the failure-to-warn labeling case against Wyeth in Wyeth v. Levine, the high court asked the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider some cases. Two cases involve Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline and the concerns about warnings of suicidal tendencies in patients from the taking of the antidepressants Zoloft and Paxil. Another case involves false advertising claims against AstraZeneca and its ulcer medicine, Nexium. 2009-03-09.
— Bloomberg
• A clinical researcher, Dr. Scott Reuben, may have concocted the favorable results he gave to Celebrex and Lyrica in tests for post-operative pain. Reuben is believed to have never actually done the clinical trials that support 21 journal articles he published since 1996. 2009-03-10.
— The New York Times
• Nashville-based Healthways Inc. has agreed to settle a 15-year-old whistleblower lawsuit for $40 million. The suit was filed by a former employee on behalf of the federal government. The government did not intervene, which means the whistleblower can keep a larger percentage of the winnings. According to the suit, the company’s Diabetes Treatment Center of America illegally paid for referrals from doctors. 2009-03-13.
— The Nashville Tennesseean
• An Ohio woman, Lynette Antrobus, is suing Apple after her son’s iPod Touch allegedly exploded in his pants, causing second-degree burns. The suit seeks $225,000 in damages. 2009-03-14.
— UPI
• Always “Google” your jurors: Attorneys in a construction products (Stoam) case have used a juror’s posts to twitter.com to try to show that the juror was biased against their client. 2009-03-16.
— AP
• Beware the “Googling” juror: “Google mistrials” are becoming more common. Jurors are frequently looking up litigants’ backgrounds, medical terms and doing other research to satisfy their curiosities during trials. Outside sequestration, such activity is hard to control by the courts, or even know about. 2009-03-17.
— The New York Times
• The FDA recently issued an alert about several weight loss dietary supplements that may contain illegal and possibly harmful pharmaceuticals. Many of the products are marketed as “herbal” or “natural.” 2009-03-22.
— www.fda.gov
• Between 1993 and 2006 the number of patients hospitalized with bed sores increased by 80%. The raw number in 2006 was 503,300. 2009, March.
— Nursing2009, pg. 20
• A Robert Wood Johnson Medical School study of ambulance stethoscopes found that about a third carried MRSA bacteria. 2009-03-16.
— The New York Times
• Dr. Joseph Biederman, a prominent child psychiatrist, is in the middle of two controversies: the early use of antipsychotic drugs in children, and conflicts of interest in testing those drugs. Biederman has been a strong advocate of the use of antipsychotics in children, but investigations are questioning his financial motives and objectivity during drug testing. A senate inquiry revealed last year that Biederman made $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug companies from 2000 to 2007 but did not report most of the money to his university. Court documents have revealed that Biederman promised, in advance, successful drug trial outcomes to funding drug companies. State Medicaid programs have filed lawsuits arguing that Biederman’s medication-favorable work increased the popularity of the children’s drugs and thus the payout that states made to purchase the drugs. 2009-03-19.
— The New York Times
• A study in the April issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that nearly all of the psychiatrists who wrote the latest clinical guidelines on depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia have financial ties to drug companies. Medicinal treatments of depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia generate $25 billion in annual revenue. The study thus looks at possible conflicts of interest in the American Psychiatric Association panels that write guidelines. The APA contends its guidelines are set up to exclude such conflicts of interest. 2009-04-02.
— The Boston Globe
• AstraZeneca has been taking heat for an allegedly “buried” study, called Study 15, that showed bad side effects of Seroquel before it was approved by the FDA, and that showed Seroquel was not particularly more effective than older, cheaper drugs. About 9,200 lawsuits have been filed over Seroquel. 2009-03-18.
— The Washington Post
• Conflicting studies are questioning the health benefits of the popular tea called yerba mate. 2009-03-21.
— AOL, L.A. Times
• Several federal and state laws require that Do Not Resuscitate orders be kept in a patient’s chart. However, errors about a patient’s or family’s wishes often surface at the bedside, as the DNR order may not be readily available. 2009-03-22.
— Lexington Herald-Leader
• A growing number of doctors are asking patients to sign “gag orders” that bind patients to not complain about the doctors on the internet if patients are unhappy with services. The contracts are called “agreements or mutual privacy.” 2009-03-16.
— Modern Healthcare, pg. 17
• A 2003 survey found that 38,000 incidents of financial abuse of the elderly had been investigated. Many experts believe the number of actual cases was higher. Healthcare providers are often on the front-line of being confronted with financial elder abuse. 2009, March.
— RN, pg. 44
• Molecular breast imaging, or MBI, is on the rise as a more accurate test for finding breast tumors. 2009-04-01.
— Bottom Line Personal, pg. 9
• Believe it or not: The shrill loud ping of golf balls on titanium clubs may cause hearing loss. 2009-04-01.
— Bottom Line Personal
• Drugs that treat migraines (like Fiorinal and codeine) may actually make the headaches more common over time. 2009-04-01.
— Bottom Line Personal, pg. 11
• Believe it or not: Which state has the highest percentage of people with cell phones only, i.e., with cell phones and no corresponding land lines at home? Oklahoma, at 26.2%. 2009-04-23.
— Modern Healthcare, pg. 52
• Nurses whose first bachelor’s degree was in something other than nursing (second-career nurses) are more likely to be motivated and more likely to stay in their jobs. 2009, March.
— RN, pg. 14
• The nursing shortage, at current rates, will grow to 1 million vacant positions by 2020. 2009-03-23.
— Modern Healthcare, pg. 9
• Colorado is considering raising the damage limits, to adjust for inflation, on its pain and suffering caps for medical malpractice actions. Colorado has had caps since 1988. The $250,000 cap limit was upped to $300,000 in 2003. The state legislature has flirted with creating a new class of damages for “disfigurement and impairment.” 2009-04-06.
— The Denver Post
• Colonoscopy-preparation medicines that contain sodium phosphate (like OsmoPrep and Visicol) are believed to cause kidney damage in rare cases. 2009-04-01.
— Bottom Line Personal, pg. 5
• Nurses who clean up surgical instruments, who are exposed to cleaning products or use powdered latex gloves have significantly higher rates of asthma. 2009-03-23.
— Modern Healthcare, pg. 14
• In a recent study, emergency department personnel were colonized with MRSA at a rate of about 15%. 2009, March.
— Nursing2009, pg. 20
• MRSA is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. 2009-04-13.
— Bottom Line Personal, pg. 11
• Pfizer has resolved almost all of the 35,000 claims against it stemming from its defunct diabetes drug Rezulin. Settlements reached $750 million, 21% less than what Pfizer had expected to pay ($955 million). The majority $500 million was used up in federal court in New York, with $250 being spent through state courts. 2009-03-31.
— Bloomberg
• New York state’s system of using independent medical examiners in workers’ compensation claims has come under fire lately. A newspaper investigation found that doctors frequently feel pressured financially to side with insurance companies and against injured workers. One doctor said, “You have to give them what they want, or you’re in Florida. That’s the game, baby.” 2009-03-31.
— The New York Times
• A jailed woman who gave birth to a premature infant (which was stillborn or died shortly after birth) claimed that guards refused to call for help for her. 2009-04-02.
— Racine (Wis.) Journal Times
• Zoll Medical Corp. has warned that its AED Plus external defibrillators may malfunction and deliver strong shocks. New software is available for the defibrillators, which are often used in places such as airports. 2009-04-02.
— Bloomberg
• A CDC study has found tiny amounts of a rocket fuel chemical in powdered baby formula. The chemical, perchlorate, also has been found in some municipal water supplies and been linked to thyroid problems. 2009-04-03.
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution
• Some doctors believe a treatment (propylthiouracil) for a rare thyroid disease in children (Grave’s disease) might cause liver damage or death. 2009-04-09.
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution
• A California county has agreed to reimburse the U.S. government $6.8 million to resolve allegations that the San Mateo Medical Center submitted false Medicare claims. 2009-03-12.
— UPI
• Believe it or not: Over time, an extra hour of sleep will reduce coronary artery calcification by 33%. 2009, March.
— Nursing2009, pg. 21
• Giving trauma patients high doses of antioxidants (vitamin E, C and selenium) appears to lower infections, pulmonary failure and abdominal-wall compartment syndrome. 2009, March.
— Nursing2009, pg. 17
• Solar power: The sun delivers a steady 120,00o trillion watts of power to Earth, enough energy in one hour, if captured, to power all of humankind’s energy needs for a year. 2009-03-14.
— Science News, pg. 23
• Roughly 30% of older Americans take at least five prescription drugs. Of those taking any prescriptions drugs, 68% combine over-the-counter medications or diet supplements. 2009, February.
— RN, pg. 20
• Antidepressants appear linked to an increase in damaged sperm. 2009-03-01.
— Bottom Line Personal, pg. 16
• Having two or three cups of coffee per day appears to lower deaths related to heart disorders. 2009-03-01.
— Bottom Line Personal, pg. 1
• Your risk of dying in the ICU is 30% greater if you do not have an intensive care specialist. 2009, March.
— Bottom Line Health, pg. 9
• Believe it or not: Kidney donors have the same rates of survival as the general population. Surprisingly, donors — those with one kidney — have a lowered risk of kidney disease. 2009-02-28.
— Science News, pg. 10
• In a hospital study, toilet lids and door push plates made of copper had 90% to 100% fewer bacteria than similar surfaces made of aluminum or plastic. 2009-03-15.
— Bottom Line Personal, pg. 7
• The VA has announced that thousands of veterans may have been exposed to infectious diseases, including HIV, through unsterilized medical equipment. 2009-04-07.
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution
• Drug maker Roche Holding AG says it will pull psoriasis treatment Raptiva from the market because of the drug’s connection to a deadly brain disease, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. 2009-04-09.
— Bloomberg
• A new optical technology has been shown to be effective in early detection of pancreatic cancer through analysis of nearby tissue in the duodenum, according to a study published in the journal Disease Markers. A Northwestern University professor, Vadim Backman, is a developer of the technology. 2009-03-02.
— www.northwestern.edu
• An increasing number of hospital patients are finding themselves on the financial hook for “observation stays.” The stays fall somewhere between emergency department care and inpatient hospital admissions, and Medicare and private insurers do not always pay for the stays. 2009-03-16.
— Chicago Tribune
• A Mayo Clinic study, published in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that about 20% of Parkinson’s patients taking a class of drugs called dopamine agonists (pramipexole and ropinirole) developed destructive behaviors such as compulsive gambling or hypersexuality. Patients taking carbidopa/levodopa, the usual drug for Parkinson’s, did not develop the problems. 2009-04-10.
— HealthDay News
• A growing number of cancer patients are being caught in economic and regimen binds when taking oral cancer drugs. Cancer “pills” are fairly new, but are expected to become 25% of cancer treatments in a few years, up from 10% now. Problems with cancer pills: Providers make less money on pill prescriptions than from in-house infusion treatments, insurance companies often cover less cost when pills are involved and patients have more responsibility to ensure they take correct dosages. Cancer pills also can be quite expensive, which can lead to self-imposed cost-based lapses in care by patients. 2009-04-14.
— The New York Times
• Patients who weigh more than 450 pounds experience delays in diagnosis and treatment because most diagnostic scanning equipment will not accommodate their size. 2009, April.
— RN, pg. 27
• Quest Diagnostics will pay $302 million to settle a whistleblower suit claiming that a subsidiary (Nichols Institute Diagnostic) sold faulty parathyroid diagnostic test kits that gave elevated readings. 2009-04-15.
— Reuters
• Coast Independent Review Board has suspended its oversight of clinical medical trials. Coast is one of the U.S.’s largest overseers of federally-funded medical studies. The company’s oversight abilities have been questioned — it approved two fictitious trials as part of an undercover sting operation. 2009-04-14.
— The New York Times
• Valporate (Depakote), has been linked to lowered I.Q. scores in children whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy. Valporate treats epilepsy, migraines, pain and mental disorders, and has previously been linked to other birth defects. 2009-04-15.
— The New York Times
• Cancer risks remain elevated for several years for post-menopausal women even after they stop taking hormone replacement therapy drugs. 2009-04-04.
— JAMA
• About 600,000 women each year have hysterectomies and about 300,000 of them also have their ovaries removed (bilateral oophorectomy) when the uterus is excised. A new study has found that ovary removal, though obviating any chance of ovarian cancer, doubles the risk of heart disease and stroke for women under 50 and almost doubles risk of death overall before age 50. 2009, May.
— Obstetrics & Gynecology
• Citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court Wyeth v. Levine holding as precedent, a Texas appeals court is allowing a failure-t0-warn (labeling) case concerning the menopause drug Prempro to proceed. Wyeth faces about 5,000 Prempro and Premarin cases. The case is Brockert v. Wyeth. 2009-04-21.
— Bloomberg
• President Obama has announced a plan to create virtual lifetime electronic health records (EHRs) for service men and women. The records would be shared among defense and the VA. Some experts see the program as a harbinger of expansion of EHRs. 2009-04-13.
— Modern Healthcare, pg. 4
• Annual emergency department visits went from about 90 million in 1996 to almost 120 million in 2006. During this same time, the number of available EDs fell. 2009-05-01.
—Modern Healthcare, pg. 12
• The Institute for Healthcare Improvement has created an online school called Open School (www.ihi.org/programs/ihiopenschool) that offers healthcare professionals “soft” courses in topics like communications, patient engagement and dealing with medical errors. About 9,000 people have signed up. 2009-04-13.
— Modern Healthcare, pg. 32
• About 20% of patients who leave a hospital will return within a month, or readmit. Three-fourths of those readmissions are believed to be preventable. Rehospitalizations cost Medicare about $17 billion in 2004. 2009-04-20.
— Modern Healthcare, pg. 9
• Most of the serious problems in blood transfusions are caused by human error. 2009, April.
— Nursing2009, pg. 33
• If hospitals were to go “paperless” it could save 100,000 lives per year. 2009, April.
— Nursing2009, pg. 21
• A federal appeals court recently found a hospital liable to a non-patient, or third party, under EMTALA for discharging a mentally unstable patient (Christopher Howard) who went home and killed his wife with an ax 10 days later. The wife’s estate brought suit. Documentation clearly showed Howard to be unstable. It was recommended that he be sent to a psychiatric ward, but he was discharged instead. The federal court judge went with the plain language of EMTALA (to expand liability beyond the actual patient) instead of following previous court interpretations (and a preamble in the EMATLA statute that was based on those court precedents) that had interpreted the language to mean liability only applied to the admitted patient. The case was Moses v. Provident Hospital. 2009-04-13.
— Modern Healthcare, pg. 14
• The recent federal omnibus package included a $325 million funding increase for the FDA. While most of the money will be used domestically, some will go to ramp up overseas inspections at foreign drug making plants, mostly in India and China. Last April the FDA opened up hiring for 1,300 new employees. Language barriers, a lack of an ID tracking system and heavy reliance on local enforcement of national rules hampers inspections in foreign countries. 2009-03-30.
— Modern Healthcare, pg. 28
• The Institute of Medicine has issued a stinging report that urges doctors and medical schools to sever all ties to pharmaceutical and medical device makers. Drug companies spend more money courting doctors than they spend on research or advertising. Drug makers voluntarily agreed recently to stop giving away small items such as pens and cups. 2009-04-28.
— The New York Times
• Some pain medicines will soon carry stronger warnings. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) will have warnings about liver damage and NSAIDS (Advil, Motrin) will carry warnings about stomach bleeding. 2009-04-29.
— Reuters

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