This blog is on hiatus as the editor pursues other projects.
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This blog is on hiatus as the editor pursues other projects.
Thank you for your support!
Towns distribute drug discount cards
New Haven Register: Cards that give discounts on prescriptions are being distributed by towns as part of a Connecticut Conference for Municipalities program. The free card is offered to the uninsured or underinsured — anyone who pays full price for prescriptions.
Lawmakers cook up teen tanning ban
Hartford Courant: The legislature’s Public Health Committee is working out final details on a bill that would prohibit anyone under 18 from using tanning beds, with or without a parent’s permission. The proposal so far would fine salon workers up to $100 for admitting anyone under 18 to tanning facilities.
Meriden Record-Journal: MidState Medical Center and Holiday Cinema Stadium in Wallingford are planning a combo film showing and bone marrow drive. A free screening of “More to Live For” on April 11 at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Cinema will also serve as a rally to promote bone marrow donation; filmgoers will be offered a chance to register and get a cheek swab.
Robotic surgery sales tactics under scrutiny
New York Times (pay wall): Aggressive marketing has resulted in lower standards for the use of robotic surgery systems at some hospitals, and some surgeons are operating with minimal training, according to records uncovered as a part of a recent lawsuit. Sales representatives have urged hospitals to ease up on credentialing requirements to increase robotic volume, documents indicate.
Grandfather’s age linked to autism risk
Boston Globe (pay wall): Men who father children after 50 have nearly twice the risk of having a grandchild with autism than fathers in their 20s, new research has found. The Swedish study suggests the genetic risk for autism may build over multiple generations.
Chain’s funding under scrutiny
Connecticut Mirror: The FBI is investigating a $15 million pool of bond money set aside by the state legislature last year for Community Health Center Inc., a clinic chain operated by a supporter of then-House Speaker Christopher Donovan. The chain got half of the state funds for community health organizations in the 2012 session.
Life sciences hub aims to hire 300
Hartford Courant: Jackson Laboratory CEO Edison Liu told lawmakers last week that the firm has hired 32 people at its Farmington campus at UConn and aims to have 120 on board by 2014. He asked lawmakers to help the effort by streamlining state taxes and regulations.
State tracking down uninsured
Kaiser Health News: Access Health CT has compiled a list of 1,300 people needing health coverage and plans to gather more names at street fairs and businesses in advance of the opening the state’s exchange on Oct. 1. Connecticut is ahead of other states in its efforts due to its early start and ability to pinpoint populations of the uninsured in its cities.
Meth abuse spreading east
Connecticut Post: The State Police have seized 14 pounds of crystal methamphetamine since July, and law enforcement says the drug is an increasing problem in the Northeast. Connecticut users find the drug in sex clubs, online bulletin boards and through social networks, police say; the DEA busted 42 New England meth labs last year.
Reuters: More than 45,000 reports of emergency defibrillator failure have come in to the FDA over the last seven years and the agency is proposing new rules to improve reliability. Device makers would have to provide clinical safety and reliability data under the new rules.
Assisted suicide bill gets public hearing
CT News Junkie: The state legislature’s Public Health Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a proposed assisted suicide bill that allows the terminally ill to get lethal prescriptions. This is the first year the bill has received a public hearing, which drew both supporters and opponents.
Connecticut Post: ER visits for accidental ingestion of medicines by kids 4 and younger are up 30 percent over the past decade, according to a new report. Poisonings requiring hospitalization are up 53 percent, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.
Lawrence + Memorial cuts under fire
New London Day: Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s recent layoffs and cuts in work hours were not financially justified in light of a recent merger bid, the hospital’s unions say. Financial data unveiled in the a proposal to buy Westerly Hospital show strong finances, according to the unions.
New York warns of lethal meningitis strain
New York Times (pay wall): A newly identified strain of bacterial meningitis kills victims in hours, often before they can call a doctor, New York City health officials say. The variant so far has been found only in men, many of whom contracted it after anonymous sexual encounters.
Gene therapy used to eradicate leukemia
Wall Street Journal (pay wall): Five patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia that had relapsed after standard therapy achieved complete remission after their T-cells were genetically altered to fight the disease. Remission was rapid, occurring within of 59 days of treatment in all patients.
Specialist to assess town’s mental health needs
Newtown Bee: A physician with expertise in post-9/11 trauma will be conducting a mental health needs assessment in Newtown, the town has announced. Jill Barron, M.D., will also help coordinate services in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Arsenic and uranium found in wells
Connecticut Post: Recent hits for arsenic and uranium in well water across the state have prompted the Department of Public Health to call for more widespread testing. Arsenic is known to cause cancer, and the non-radioactive uranium found in Connecticut’s well water has been linked to kidney toxicity.
Purer form of party drug found in raid
New Haven Independent: A bust last week in New Haven turned up quantities of Molly, an ultra-pure form of the party drug Ecstasy that is gaining in popularity. The powdered drug produces a more intense high and has been drawing more suburban customers to urban dealers.
Slate: A man’s muddled text messages were recently used to diagnose an acute ischemic stroke — despite his normal speech and lack of any other stroke symptoms. The man could not type normally or recognize mistakes, a brand-new syndrome dubbed dystextia.
New scrutiny for hospital ratings
Kaiser Health News: For-profit ratings groups like Leapfrog and Healthgrades often single out hospitals for distinction despite poor quality measures, an analysis has found. One California hospital got good grades from multiple raters even as public health officials fined it $425,000 for repeatedly endangering patients.
State gets ‘F’ for hiding health costs
Kaiser Health News: Connecticut is one of 29 states to get an ‘F’ grade for health price transparency, with state laws that allow hospitals and providers to keep costs hidden from patients. A group of healthcare purchasers compiled the report; Stamford Hospital made national headlines recently with a $21,000 bill for three hours of tests and brief exam.
Connecticut Post: St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport has hired a former airline pilot to manage its Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement program. Safety procedures from the airline industry are serving as a model for complicated medical procedures at hospitals statewide.
Biotech firm develops new testing process
Hartford Business Journal: A Wallingford biotech startup has developed new technology for immunoassay biochemical tests that could cut processing time to as little as 10 minutes. The firm, CyVek, has created a credit-card sized chip that automates the testing process and speeds diagnosis.
Tainted drugs delivered to hospital
Hartford Courant: A Connecticut hospital has reported receiving drugs that looked cloudy and contaminated from a New Jersey compounding pharmacy. Med Prep Consulting has temporarily halted all pharmacy operations and voluntarily recalled bags of magnesium sulfate intravenous solution.
Compounders under scrutiny
Wall Street Journal (pay wall): The FDA has found alleged regulatory violations at at least 15 compounding pharmacies nationwide and plans on inspecting about 30 more by the end of this month. States have also gotten more aggressive since tainted drugs prepared by a Massachusetts pharmacy last year killed 50 people; The Iowa Board of Pharmacy is currently inspecting more than 80 firms that do business in the state.
Physicians push for violence research
Danbury News Times: A group of 100 Newtown-area doctors have formed United Physicians of Newtown to advocate for more research into mental health, guns and the nation’s culture of violence. So far the group has called for expanding access to mental health care and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips.
Connecticut Post: Cases of flu have risen for the second week, with 5.9 percent of ER visits in the state attributed to influenza in the week ending March 9. Total flu cases so far this year total more than six times last year’s tally and 32 influenza-associated deaths have been reported.
Yale paper slams ‘study drugs’
Hartford Courant: Prescribing drugs like Adderall and Ritalin for healthy children to improve studying can lead to over-medication and dependency and poses a host of ethical concerns, Yale researchers have concluded. Doctors should resist pressures to diagnose ADHD in kids seeking an academic boost, the researchers state.
Fatal rabies case traced to kidney transplant
Washington Post: The state of Maryland’s first fatal rabies case in 40 years has been traced to a kidney transplant from an infected donor. The diagnosis was delayed because 15 months elapsed between transplant surgery and the patient’s death; the onset of rabies is usually much sooner.
Diabetes meds linked to pancreatic disease
Wall Street Journal (pay wall): Type 2 diabetes medications Byetta, Bydureon, Januvia and related drugs have been linked to precancerous changes in the pancreas, according to federal regulators. The drugs’ makers say evidence of pancreatic or thyroid cancer or inflammation is inconclusive.
UConn reports patient data breach
Hartford Business Journal: The UConn Health Center has revealed that a former employee inappropriately accessed approximately 1,400 patient records, but the hospital found no evidence that the data had been used improperly. Patients are being notified individually and will be offered credit monitoring and identity theft services.
Ansonia nursing home to close
Valley Independent Sentinel: Hilltop Health Center, an Ansonia skilled nursing facility with 90 beds and 100 employees, is slated to close as its owner goes through bankruptcy proceedings. Owner Spectrum Healthcare asked a judge this week for permission to shut down the home for financial reasons.
Patients reject cost-cutting role
National Public Radio: New research has found most people don’t want to know the cost of healthcare and don’t want their doctors to consider financial factors when ordering treatment. The journal Health Affairs found that focus group members did not feel personal responsibility for lowering health costs and seemed to choose more expensive care out of spite for insurance companies.
Reuters: The FDA has strengthened its warning that the commonly prescribed antibiotic Zithromax can cause potentially fatal heart arrhythmias. Patients with existing heart problems and other risk factors should use caution with both macrolide and fluoroquinolone antibiotics, according to the FDA.
Regulators seek to unwind hospital deal
Wall Street Journal (pay wall): The FTC and a state attorney general have challenged the acquisition of a physician group by an Idaho hospital system, citing reduced competition and higher costs. Antitrust regulators are increasing their scrutiny of hospital mergers and acquisitions as the consolidation trend accelerates nationwide, experts say.
Wallingford area reacts to overdose spike
Meriden Record-Journal (pay wall): Four overdose-related deaths in two months are raising alarms in Wallingford. Young adults were involved in most of the incidents, and parents and advocates have formed the Coalition for a Better Wallingford to help raise awareness of the problem.
Rocky Hill asks for state help on inmate nursing home
CT Mirror: Rocky Hill residents have asked state lawmakers for legislation requiring local approval for projects like the inmate nursing home slated to open soon in their town. The town and neighbors have sued stop the plan, but judges have given the state a green light so far to open the 95-bed facility in a residential area.
Kidney donor gets $40,000 hospital bill
Connecticut Post: A donor who took part in the first four-way kidney swap performed in Connecticut has been inundated with calls from Yale-New Haven Hospital collections over a $40,000 bill for the procedure. The donor was told the procedure, meant to benefit his father, would not cost him a cent; his father died two months after the transplant.
Updated: A judge has struck down New York City’s ban on sugary drinks, slated to go into effect tomorrow. New York Times (pay wall): Restaurants and other businesses are rolling out new menus and stocking smaller-sized cups as New York City prepares for Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on large sugary drinks, set to go into effect Tuesday. Some major chains like Starbucks are holding off in anticipation of court challenges to the ban.
Hospital surcharges sparks backlash
Boston Globe: Patients are increasingly challenging facility fees and other hospital surcharges on doctor bills, and some are refusing to pay or switching providers. Massachusetts health regulators and the state attorney general are reviewing the fees after receiving complaints from consumers.
Traumatized first responders get financial aid
Newtown Bee: State legislators have approved a fund to help with trauma care for first responders to the Newtown massacre. Eligible fire and police employees can get funding for leave due to traumatic stress and related medical expenses not covered by insurance.
Dementia simulation aimed at health workers
Connecticut Post: Jewish Family Services of Stamford has begun a program to help health workers understand the toll of dementia and aging on patients. Health aides are outfitted with goggles, shoe pads and thick gloves to simulate conditions like arthritis and limited vision, along with headphones playing a mix of muted voices and sudden loud sounds.
Reuters: A brain-stimulating implant has been shown to help patients with severe anorexia who had not responded to other treatment. After nine months, half of patients in a small U.K. study who received deep brain stimulation implants had begun to gain weight and reported better moods.
Facebook ‘Likes’ track hospital quality
The Atlantic:”Likes” on hospital Facebook pages correlate with patient satisfaction and mortality rates, new research has found. A survey by the American Journal of Medical Quality linked Facebook response to quality measures at 40 hospitals in the New York City area.
Connecticut Post: Lawmakers in Hartford are considering three bills designed to highlight controversial chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA). One bill would require canned goods to have BPA labeling, one would ban use of certain fire retardants, and a third would require makers of children’s products to disclose the chemicals used in manufacture.
Mental health measures move forward
CT Mirror: The legislative committee formed to craft responses to Sandy Hook has approved four proposals targeting the state’s mental health system and will soon start crafting a formal bill. The plans include promoting mental health “first aid” training for school staff, better care coordination for those with serious mental illness and community treatment teams to support outpatient care.
Case tests state surrogacy laws
CNN: A surrogate mother left Connecticut for Michigan after demands from her clients that she abort a fetus with abnormalities spotted on ultrasound. The baby’s parents have sued for custody of the child, born with extensive medical problems.
CDC sounds alarm on superbugs
National Public Radio: Resistant bacteria are spreading in the nation’s healthcare system and their level of resistance is increasing, the CDC announced yesterday. Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae like Klebisella have been reported in 18 percent of long-term care hospitals and 4 percent of all hospitals.
Effort launched on child trauma
New Haven Independent: Social service agencies and schools in New Haven have teamed up to expand mental health outreach. The New Haven Trauma Coalition plans to raise $6.5 million to test and treat all children in public schools for trauma that could be motivating negative behavior.
Obese people stigmatized in media
Yale Daily News: Obese people are portrayed negatively 65 percent of the time in the media and obese children were depicted in an unflattering manner 77 percent of the time, according to research by Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. The center is offering the media alternative positive images.
Omega-3s benefit newborns
New York Times (pay wall): Mothers who took daily DHA omega-3 supplements as part of a clinical trial had larger babies and had fewer preterm births. The positive effects were so striking the researchers recommended that pregnant women ask their doctors about DHA.
Angry doctors put on notice
Kaiser Health News: A persistent number of physicians who exhibit disruptive or angry behavior on the job have fueled the growth of a cottage industry of therapists who provide anger management counseling. Hospitals are less tolerant of the behavior in the wake of surveys showing a significant toll on patient care and clinician morale.