To Treat or Not to Treat? The Debate on Incidental Medical Findings

In an article dated August 29, 2016, doctors and researchers debate whether they should disclose to patients minor abnormalities that are incidentally found during an imaging procedure (such as an MRI or CT scan). On the one hand, researchers say that doctors are going “overboard” on disclosing low-risk findings that lead to overtreatment and unnecessary worry by the patient.   However, on the other hand, a decision not to follow up on an incidental finding can have serious consequences. For one patient, kidney cancer was incidentally found and led to early treatment that arguably saved his life. Although the professionals disagree on whether to treat or not to treat, most agree that guidelines are needed to help doctors make the difficult decision.

Excerpt from article:

Often there is “little benefit” to patients knowing about minor, low-risk findings, and it can have significant financial, psychological and clinical consequences, they say.  Failure to follow up incidental findings can come back to haunt some patients, other experts say. . .

To read full article: When a Medical Test Leads to Another, and Another

Hospitals Changing Marketing Tactics to Bring in Male Patients

It is common to find medical institutions that offer medical services geared specifically for women.  However, the industry has been silent concerning the specific medical needs facing men… until recently.

 Within the last couple of years, medical institutions devoted to men have been popping up all around the country. The new clinics are aware of the lengths to which men will go in order to avoid the doctor and have tailored their marketing and treatments accordingly.  The clinics market themselves as “luxury spas” and use slogans like: “It’s the gentlemen’s club your wife would approve of.”   The treatments range from those focused on vanity, such as hair removal, to more serious matters such as prostate exams.

 Supporters of male-focused clinics think that by giving men a comfortable place to receive not-so-serious treatments, the clinics will lead to men more often receiving care for serious conditions such as prostate cancer.  Those opposed feel that clinics like these may over-treat and result in more damage than benefit to men’s health.

 

Read more here.

Medicare Part D in Good Health per CMS

The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, stated in a letter to Congress that Medicare Part D is working well, and a proposed rule change, which would have “substantially reduced patient choice,” is unnecessary. The Senate Finance Committee stated that, at present, the cost of the program is 45% below the projections of the Congressional Budget Office. In addition, Part D enjoys a 90% satisfaction rate by its beneficiaries. Under the Affordable Care Act the cost of Medicare Part D premiums has remained low, but the quality of care has improved. However, Ms. Tavenner wrote also that opportunities exist to improve the program, and CMS will continue to review Part D policies periodically.

Read more here.

Approximately 50% of Americans Believe Health Conspiracy Theories

JAMA Internal Medicine published a research letter by authors J. Eric Oliver, PhD and Thomas Wood, MA, which indicates that almost half of the nation believes in at least one health conspiracy. For example, thirty-seven percent of Americans believe that the Food and Drug Administration is concealing natural cures for cancer in response to industry pressure from pharmaceutical companies. The authors conducted an online survey of 1,351 adults; the survey posited four health conspiracy theories. Forty-nine percent of those polled indicated that they believe at least one of the proposed theories, and eighteen percent believe in at least three. According to Oliver, the takeaway from the survey “is that people who embrace these conspiracies are very suspicious of traditional evidence-based medicine.

Read more here.

Health Care Debate in Florida Veers Off the Beaten Path

Florida is one of the twenty-four states that declined to expand their Medicaid programs.  As a result, approximately 760,000 Florida residents who would qualify for Medicaid under an expanded Medicaid program do not qualify so qualify. In addition, these residents do not qualify for federal subsidies to help them purchase health insurance. Recently, some Florida legislators honed in on an obscure provision in the Affordable Care Act, which allows low-income documented immigrants to qualify for federal subsidies in order to buy health insurance. The legislators intend to publicize this information in an effort to get the Medicaid expansion approved during the next legislative session. Republican state Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah stated that the issue is one of “fairness,” and not immigration.

Read more here.

NY Bill Would Require Labeling on Genetically Engineered Food

New York State Assembly Member, Linda Rosenthal, is the sponsor of a bill that would require genetically modified food, otherwise known as “GMO’s,” to be labeled as such. Even though the bill has bipartisan support now, this is the second time it has been proposed; the bill was voted down in June of 2013.[1] States such as Connecticut and Maine have enacted GMO labeling laws. However, neither of the states’ laws on GMO labeling will go into effect until other states in the Northeast region of the U.S. enact similar legislation.[2] Recently, a relatively similar bill was voted down in New Hampshire, but in New Hampshire the effect of the law would not have been contingent upon the actions of surrounding states.[3]

Study Debunks Claim that HPV Vaccine Increases Sexual Activity

Even though HPV is the root cause of approximately 70 percent of all cervical cancers, and 50 percent of all cancers of the throat, esophagus and mouth, only “about a third of teenage girls got all three recommended doses of the vaccine” in 2012. The advent of the HPV vaccine stirred controversy, with social conservatives claiming that more girls would engage in sexual activity if they received the vaccine. However, now some maintain that the “scaremongering” tactics by social conservatives could “literally be killing” teen girls. In support of this point, advocates of the vaccine point to a new study that debunks the claim that receiving the HPV vaccine will influence a teen girl’s decision to have sex.

Read more here.

Preventable Diseases on the Rise

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) created an interactive world map that shows the resurgence of preventable diseases over the course of 5 years. From 2008 to 2013, the CFR plotted cases of whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps and rubella that occurred globally. The map shows that whooping cough has resurged in the United States, and that measles is on the rise in Europe. A false study from 1998 is presumed responsible for the rise of these preventable diseases in countries that have access to vaccines; the discredited study suggested a causal link between the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella and autism.

Read more here.

Berg and Icahn Medical School to Use Biological Data to Impact Health Care Policies

Pharmaceutical company, Berg, has partnered with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (Icahn), in order to implement a “data driven, biological research approach” to medicine, which they claim could change the face of health care. Berg and Icahn will use Berg’s Interrogative Biology platform to analyze biological data from human beings. The Interrogative Biology platform combines a patient’s biological data with his clinical and demographic data in order to create a biomarker library. A biomarker is a quantifiable substance in an organism that predicts disease or infection.

The biomarker library is intended to allow the partners to detect disease patterns in a given population. The identification of disease patterns would help doctors, insurance companies and government agencies identify the most efficacious diagnostics and treatments for patients.

Read more here and here.

Synthetic Biology May Not Increase Global Access to Affordable Anti-Malarial Drugs

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) to treat malaria. Artemisinin is extracted from a plant. However, in April, 2013, a consortium led by the international, nonprofit organization for global health, NGO Path, announced that it had used synthetic biology to produce “semi-synthetic artemisinin.” The consortium claimed that the breakthrough would help increase global access to affordable anti-malarial drugs.

However, Sanofi, pharmaceutical firm and member of the consortium, will charge a price comparable to that of the original agricultural product. In addition, Sanofi intends to produce enough semi-synthetic artemisinin to meet only 1/3 of the world’s demand for anti-malarial drugs. Sanofi received $50 million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for research and development of the product, and does not have to pay royalties on the patents—which are held by other members of the consortium.

Read more here.