Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Medically inappropriate treatment" - how do we decide?

There's a good piece in the NY Times today about dialysis, when and how it should be withheld, and who should decide: "Choosing a 'God Squad,' When the Mind Has Faded" by Barron Lerner, MD. Here's how it starts:Would you want your tax dollars to pay for dialysis for a patient with irreversible brain damage? In 1972, when Congress agreed to use Medicare money to finance dialysis for patients with

Friday, August 25, 2006

AHLA's Health Lawyers Weekly (Aug. 25)

Here's the table of contents from today's Health Lawyers Weekly, reprinted here with the kind permission of the AHLA:Top Stories Bush Signs Executive Order Requiring Federal Agencies To Increase Price And Quality TransparencyPresident George W. Bush signed August 22 an executive order directing federal agencies that administer or sponsor a healthcare program to increase price and quality

OTC sales of Plan B approved for adults

After years of hassling over whether to approve over-the-counter sales of the Plan B contraceptives, the FDA has finally relented and announced yesterday that the "morning after" pill would become available for purchase by adults by the end of the year. (NY Times; Wall Street Journal; Washington Post; AP/MyWay) Compared to the original application three years ago, which sought approval for

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Why is 16% of GDP too much to spend on health care?

That will be one of my questions tomorrow in the first class in Health Law. I remember, back during the debate over the Clintons' plan, the tongue-in-cheek report that, at the then-current rate of health-care inflation, in 50 years 100% of our GDP would be health care ("every man, woman, and child would be in hospital beds administering IVs to one another"). Now, quite sensible people (e.g.,

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New technique for deriving embryonic stem cells that doesn't destroy the embryo

You would think that a technique that allows lab techs to grow embryonic stem cell lines without destroying the embryo would be the ultimate answer to the principal objection to embryonic stem cell research. But you would be wrong.An on-line letter (1st paragraph only) at the journal Nature (requires subscription) describes the technique, as do articles posted this afternoon to the web sites of

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Internet prescribing legislation introduced in U.S. Senate

From the Federation of State Medical Boards:New legislation designed to regulate the sale of prescription drugs and controlled substances over the Internet was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Aug. 10. The “Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2006” (SB 3834)would:Prohibit the distribution of controlled substances and prescription drugs via the Internet without a valid prescription issued

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Latest from AHLA's Health Lawyers Weekly (18 Aug 2006)

Herewith, the table of contents of this week's American Health Lawyers' Health Lawyers Weekly (a free member benefit of AHLA):Top StoriesCMS Issues Final Quality Standards For DMEPOS SuppliersThe Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released August 14 its final quality standards for suppliers of durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, supplies, (DMEPOS) and other items and

Friday, August 18, 2006

It's a good time to be in cardiology

Two items from the print press, courtesy of Modern Healthcare's "Daily Dose":In Philadelphia, heart-transplant centers abound (Philadelphia Inquirer)After a massive heart attack last year, doctors told David Kaminstein that he needed a transplant. He had the choice of five hospitals in the Philadelphia area that could do the complicated operation. That's a lot of choices -- some say too many.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Medical liability insurers profiting handsomely in wake of Texas tort reform

Three years after tort reform hit the books in Texas, the state's medical liability insurers have lowered premiums somewhat and added enormously to their bottom line, according to a story in the August 11 issue of the Austin Business Journal. The largest of them all -- Texas Medical Liability Trust -- has shown the greatest gains:The state's largest medical malpractice insurer -- Texas Medical

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More on emergency room practices

This from the East Bay Business Times in California . . . . Sutter Delta Medical Center, among others in the region, has cut waiting times in its ER from 4-6 hours to 1-2 hours. They've done it by being imaginative in their triaging of patients, getting noncritical patients to doctors faster than before, for instance. The hospital's director of emergency services says, "People are still using the

ER sends nonemergency patients packing

This might be a case of "dog bites man," but the Jacksonville Business Journal reports that area HCA hospitals have adopted the practice of screening emergency room patients (as required by EMTALA) and showing nonemergency patients the door (as permitted by EMTALA) with a brochure listing area clinics in their hands. Is this news, exactly? In my limited urban ER experience, you can sit in the

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Kaiser fined for mismanagement of its kidney-transplant program

Considering how neurotic the organ-transplant industry is to maintain a squeaky-clean image, it's remarkable that Kaiser Permanente's been hit with a massive fine from California's Department of Managed Health Care [press release] for mismanaging its kidney-transplant program. Even more significant, for my money, is the lesson here.How many times has a health care provider tried to minimize the

Costly Drugs Force Life-Death Decisions

From the AP, a good story about the costly, high-tech armamentorium of drugs and devices that offer the promise of extending life-spans once deemed to be "terminal," but at a price that's so high, some patients simply opt out:More patients are confronting this wrenching decision, as the latest generation of pricier cancer drugs and heart implants stretches out the final months of advanced disease

More on non-heart-beating organ donors

"NHBD" is slowly being replaced by "DCD" ("donation after cardiac death"), but whatever name it goes by, these organ-donor protocols continue to get (deservedly) close scrutiny, most recently in the New Scientist. The move away from brain death and toward cardiopulmonary death is, contrary to the implications of this article, not evidence of a "new" standard for determining when death occurs, but

Latest from AHLA's Health Lawyers Weekly (11 Aug 2006)

With the permission of the American Health Lawyers Association, here's this week's Table of Contents for its Health Lawyers Weekly (free member benefit):Top StoriesCMS Projects 5.1% Reduction In Medicare Physician Payment Rates For 2007: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is projecting a negative 5.1% update in the Medicare physician fee schedule for 2007 under the Sustainable

Lawsuit Seeking to Discipline Georgia Physicians for Participation in Executions Dismissed

From the Federation of State Medical Boards:A lawsuit seeking to require the Georgia Composite State Board of Medical Examiners to punish physicians who participate in executions was dismissed last week by a Fulton County Superior Court judge. Lawyers for seven physicians, including three physicians in Georgia, had sought to have the medical board uphold American Medical Association guidelines

Should prisoners be enrolled in riskier drug studies?

The New York Times has an interesting article on this question, spurred by a recent report of the Institute of Medicine that recommends altering the "minimal risk" standard that now applies to prisoners as long as the greater risks are accompanied by the potential of some benefit to the prisoners themselves. The IOM's press release on the report and recommendations is here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

AHLA Health Lawyers Weekly (04 Aug 2006)

With the permission of the AHLA, here's the TOC for last week's HLW [members only] (which came in while I was on vacation); this week's TOC should be available tomorrow.Top Stories CMS Issues Final IPPS Rule That Phases-In Move To Cost-Based System The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued August 1 themuch-anticipated inpatient prospective payment system (IPPS) final rule

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

FDA, Barr Pharmaceuticals, reach accord over Plan B contraceptive sales

In Wednesday's paper, the NY Times reports that the FDA and the manufacturer of the Plan B contraceptive have reached an agreement that may lead to OTC sales (at least to customers 18 years of age and up; under-18's will still need a prescription) within weeks. The story doesn't refer to an earlier report that the FDA offered the deal to Barr last week, on the eve of hearings on the nomination of

Thursday, August 3, 2006

NH's medical board agrees: doc has 1st Amendment right to be a jerk

As reported here earlier, a local NH court ruled that Terry Bennett's rude and crude comments to his patients were protected by the First Amendment and couldn't be the basis of a disciplinary case against the doctor. Apparently the New Hampshire State Board of Medicine agrees. As reported by Modern Healthcare today, the Boardwill not appeal a court decision that blocked a disciplinary case over