Medical Progress Today
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Volume 3, Number 41
December 15, 2006


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News

Mother's Tale: As their Babies Tested New Drug, A Friendship Grew
Wall Street Journal, 12-12-06

Editor's Notes:

This is a moving story about two children, from very different families, suffering from Pompe disease—a rare and fatal genetic disorder. Their parents meet after they enroll their children in a small clinical trial testing an experimental treatment. It is a story of hope and tragedy, but also of learning how to confront death with dignity and grace. Read the whole thing.
Continue reading . . .

Novartis Test Drug Shows Promise in Blood Cancer; Tasigna Aids People Who Don't Respond to Gleevec Therapy
Wall Street Journal, 12-12-06

Editor's Notes:

Gleevec, made by Novartis, is a breakthrough cancer treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia. But researchers from Novartis and other companies have improved on the drug's original design and created new medicines to treat the small cohort of patients whose disease is Gleevec–resistant. So far, Novartis' new drug Tasigna is living up to expectations:
Continue reading . . .

Detecting Alzheimer's Early: Scientists Make Progress Toward Test for the Disease
Wall Street Journal, 12-12-06

Editor's Notes:

The Alzheimer's Association says that "detecting biomarkers specific to a disease can aid in the identification, diagnosis and treatment of affected individuals." The hope is that if researchers can find a biomarker (for instance, a protein in the blood) for Alzheimer's, then we can start treating patients earlier, when it may do more good, and could perhaps even accelerate the search for a cure.
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The Rush to Biomarker Tests
Wall Street Journal, 12-12-06

Editor's Notes:

While the previous Journal article focused on the quest for Alzheimer's biomarkers, this one expresses some concerns about the "rush" to discover (and market) biomarkers for a wide variety of ailments, from cancer to kidney stones.
Continue reading . . .

Medicare Links Doctors’ Pay to Practices
The New York Times, 12-12-06

Editor's Notes:

Shortly before it adjourned, Congress passed legislation forestalling a cut in Medicare physicians' fees. The legislation also included a provision offering a small payment bonus to doctors who report quality data to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services—a tactic known as "pay for performance."
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Democratic plan would require HHS secretary to negotiate drug costs
San Francisco Examiner, 12-11-06

Editor's Notes:

Democrats are floating several proposals for introducing direct government price negotiations into the Medicare drug benefit. The Examiner reports, however, that none of these alternatives envision the federal government competing directly with private insurers.
Continue reading . . .

FDA Proposes Rules Overhaul to Expand Availability of Experimental Drugs
FDA News, 12-11-06

Editor's Notes:

This week the FDA proposed new regulations that clarify when patients with life–threatening illnesses can access experimental medicines outside of the confines of traditional clinical trials or "compassionate use" programs. This move may be in response to a flurry of criticism and litigation over the last several years.
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GOP Lawmakers Add Provision to Passing Tax Package
Washington Post, 12-11-06

Editor's Notes:

In an 11th hour surprise, Congress passed legislation expanding tax–deductible contributions to health savings accounts. This change will help consumers build a larger HSA "nest egg" to cope with future medical expenses.
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Stent Sales Likely to Fall After Meeting
The Boston Globe, 12-11-06

Editor's Notes:

FDA hearings on drug–eluting stents concluded this week without major label revisions for the devices, although experts expected their use to be curtailed somewhat.
Continue reading . . .

High costs send patients overseas for care
Charlotte Observer, 12-10-06

The late economist Albert O. Hirschman wrote a very famous book entitled "Exit, Voice, and Loyalty," explaining how voters and consumers express their unhappiness with bad products and policies. In short, they can put up with it, complain, or leave (exit). More and more Americans are responding to high health care prices in the U.S. by choosing to "exit" and seek health care abroad.

Patients from the Carolinas used to travel to Duke University, Johns Hopkins or the Mayo Clinic for medical care. Today some venture even farther—to far—flung places such as Costa Rica, Thailand, India and Singapore.
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Commentary

Anti–depressants and labels
Eye on FDA, 12-14-06

Eye on FDA, an FDA related blog, published a very thoughtful post on recent FDA advisory committee hearings that explored strengthened suicide warning labels for antidepressant drugs.
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Fighting Drug Fakes
The New York Times, 12-12-06

This New York Times editorial describes the growing global health risks posed by counterfeit drugs:
Continue reading . . .

Bad Medicine
New York Sun, 12-12-06

The Sun also advises the next Congress to consider its options carefully before instituting price negotiations for the Medicare drug benefit:
Continue reading . . .

Pharmaceutical R& D
Washington Times, 12-8-06

The Washington Times suggests that Democratic efforts to inflict price controls on the Medicare prescription drug benefit bodes ill for the development of safer and more effective medicines.
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Research

Evaluating Effects of Tax Preferences on Health Care Spending and Federal Revenues
John F. Cogan, R. Glenn Hubbard, Daniel P. Kessler, NBER, 12-12-06

These authors explore the likely consequences of allowing individuals to deduct health expenses from their federal income tax. Although they admit that this is a "second best policy" they argue that it is a definite improvement on the status quo.
Continue reading . . .


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In this week's issue:

NEWS

Mother's Tale: As their Babies Tested New Drug, A Friendship Grew
Novartis Test Drug Shows Promise in Blood Cancer; Tasigna Aids People Who Don't Respond to Gleevec Therapy
Detecting Alzheimer's Early: Scientists Make Progress Toward Test for the Disease
The Rush to Biomarker Tests
Medicare Links Doctors’ Pay to Practices
Democratic plan would require HHS secretary to negotiate drug costs
FDA Proposes Rules Overhaul to Expand Availability of Experimental Drugs
GOP Lawmakers Add Provision to Passing Tax Package
Stent Sales Likely to Fall After Meeting
High costs send patients overseas for care

COMMENTARY

Anti–depressants and labels
Fighting Drug Fakes
Bad Medicine
Pharmaceutical R& D

RESEARCH

Evaluating Effects of Tax Preferences on Health Care Spending and Federal Revenues
Center for Medical Progress 
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