Managed Care e-News
Mar. 13, 2012

Venture capitalists change their healthcare investments
Hospitals once souped up surgical suites with robots or high-tech radiation machines for cancer treatment. Cost wasn't an issue: They just got passed along to insurance companies, who passed them on to employers and patients. But after the Great Recession hit and the 2010 health law passed, the financiers behind the medical arms race started to rethink their investment calculus.More

Moody's: Hospital mergers may reduce risk
Bloomberg News
A wave of hospital mergers reduces financial risks for many institutions and may boost credit ratings in the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market, Moody's Investors Service said. Reimbursement pressures and rising costs coupled with the prospect of "healthcare reform and an unsustainable payment system" have driven not-for-profit hospitals to look for partnerships, Moody's said. More

Insurer-hospital ACO touts early success
Kaiser Health News
Chicago-based Advocate Health Care agreed in late 2010 to form an accountable care organization, a network in which the organizations would cooperate to boost quality and restrain cost increases, sharing in any savings. With six months of operating data, Advocate and partner Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois claim spending reductions that are greater than those for patients outside the network. More

AMA: Medicare plan to stop drug abuse could hurt patients
American Medical News
The American Medical Association is calling on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to abandon a proposed plan that would greatly expand the use of drug utilization management to combat prescription medication abuse. CMS proposed the plan based in large part on a Government Accountability Office report that found doctor shopping by Medicare patients seeking frequently abused prescription drugs.More

HIV prevention pill debated as FDA ruling nears
An advocacy group concerned about costs and possible health problems related to a drug being considered to help stop the spread of HIV infection to healthy people has asked U.S. regulators to delay or deny its approval. Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration on the grounds studies have shown the pill, Truvada, is only partially effective in preventing transmission. More

FDA considers making more drugs over-the-counter
The Boston Globe
The Food and Drug Administration has a long wish list of changes it is considering for approving new drugs and making more prescription medications available over-the-counter. The FDA's commissioner said the agency "is at the beginning of a process to determine how we can be more innovative" to improve access to certain drugs while at the same time curtailing the overuse of others.More

Setback reported in research into cancer treatment
The Associated Press via USA Today
Scientists are reporting what could be very bad news for efforts to customize cancer treatment based on each person's genes. They have discovered big differences from place to place in the same tumor as to which genes are active or mutated. They also found differences in the genetics of the main tumor and places where the cancer has spread.More

Study: Many physicians misled by cancer statistics
American Medical News
Most doctors are confused about which statistics provide reliable evidence that cancer screening tests work, says an Annals of Internal Medicine study. In a survey of 412 primary care physicians, physicians were three times more likely to recommend a screening test supported by five-year survival statistics, even though statistics are an unreliable measure of whether screening benefits patients.More

How mom's weight before pregnancy can affect a baby's brain
A mother's health during pregnancy has measurable effects on her baby's well-being, but a new study shows that her fitness before pregnancy matters, too. Researchers say cognitive deficits found in premature babies can be traced to a number of mom-related factors, and one of them is a woman's pre-pregnancy weight.More

Officials: Maryland family's flu tragedy was unusual
USA Today
A tragedy that played out in Maryland, where three members of one family died of influenza-related complications, is unusual, public health officials say. Four members of the Blake family, in the town of Lusby, Md., had a serious lung infection that was a complication of seasonal flu.More

Genome study finds gorilla DNA aping our own
The Associated Press via The Boston Globe
With new research, scientists now have complete genetic blueprints of the living great apes — humans, chimps, gorillas and orangutans — to compare and gain fresh understanding of how humans evolved and developed key traits such as higher brain function and the ability to walk upright.More

New type of DNA discovered?
The Scientist
A newly identified form of DNA — small circles of non-repetitive sequences — may be widespread in somatic cells of mice and humans. These extrachromosomal bits of DNA, dubbed microDNA, may be the byproducts of microdeletions in chromosomes, meaning that cells all over the body may have their own constellation of missing pieces of DNA.More

Surgery helps epilepsy patients stay seizure-free
Voice of America
A new study highlights the value of treating epilepsy patients with brain surgery if they don't improve with anti-epilepsy drugs. Patients who had surgery soon after the drugs proved ineffective usually stopped having seizures. The study involved patients who had a form of epilepsy that commonly resists drug treatment. More

Surgeon General's report takes aim at youth smoking
The Washington Post
Smoking during teenage years stunts lung growth and accelerates the decline in their function that inevitably comes with age. The habit damages blood vessels in ways that can later lead to a heart attack, stroke and aortic rupture. Those are among the conclusions of a report by the Surgeon General on tobacco use by young people. More