Promising Heart Valve Procedure Isn’t Without Skeptics

An alternative to open-heart surgery, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a less-invasive heart-valve procedure for the treatment of severe aortic valve stenosis.   The procedure, which involves threading a catheter through patients’ arteries to implant new aortic valves, has received high praise as a “technological leap” in treatment.

TAVR has been used as an alternative for patients where open-heart surgery is too risky. Despite the early success of the procedure, TAVR has higher rates of some serious complications, including blood vessel damage and stroke than traditional treatments.

Despite its initial praise, some doctors worry that the early excitement regarding TAVR can lead physicians to rely on the procedure even when it is not the best option.  Currently the FDA requires that before patients can undergo the TAVR procedure, they must show that they “are not the right candidate” for traditional surgery. However, recent data show that more than half of Medicare patients who received catheter valves did not meet the FDA threshold for the procedure.

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Many Professional Investors are Flocking to Health-Care Stocks

The Affordable Care Act coupled with the aging baby boomer population has caused some professional investors to begin looking into Health-Care stocks.  They believe industries related to medical devices and pharmaceuticals will see large upticks in their stock because the Affordable Care Act has brought more customers into the market.  However, some investors are weary about focusing too much attention on the Affordable Care Act when there is a growing global market. Others fear that the Affordable Care Act may actually cut into the medical industry’s profits making health-care stocks a bad pick altogether.

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Federal Government Overpays for Penis Pumps

The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services and Medicare compiled a report recently, which shows that Medicare pays “more than twice as much” for vacuum erection systems (VES) than either internet consumers or the Department for Veteran Affairs. According to the Mayo Clinic, VES is one of a few viable treatments for erectile dysfunction. However, at present legislators struggle to reach agreement on a $1 trillion spending bill, and government waste is a pressing concern. The report indicates that if Medicare had lowered its payments to match the cost paid by non-Medicare consumers it could have saved “an average of about 14.4 million for each of the last 6 years.”

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Contaminated Equipment Potentially Exposed Patients to Fatal Brain Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a fatal disorder that affects the central nervous system, and occurs in one out of one million people worldwide every year. CJD is commonly known as “mad-cow disease.” (Mad-cow disease is actually a variant form of CJD, associated with eating tainted beef.) In May of 2013, a patient who may have had CJD underwent brain surgery at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire (NH). This patient is believed to have had the spontaneous form of CJD, which may occur without eating contaminated beef.

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SAIC Seeks to Curb Corruption in China’s Pharmaceutical Industry

China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) is increasing its investigatory efforts into the Chinese pharmaceutical industry and medical services sector. The SAIC is focusing on the price of medicine, and whether companies are in violation of anti-trust legislation. The SAIC will severely punish those engaged in acts of bribery in the bidding process for pharmaceuticals and medical services because bribery inflates prices artificially and hurts consumers.

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PPACA’s Limit on Consumers’ Expenses Delayed Until 2015

The PPACA incorporates mechanisms intended to protect consumers from insurance company abuses. One such mechanism limits patients’ out-of-pocket (OOP) spending for major medical coverage. However, as posted on the Department of Labor’s website, the cap on OOP expenses for consumers will not go into effect until 2015. Some claim that the delay is meant to help businesses and consumers adapt to the PPACA, while others claim that the Administration is catering to employers and businesses at the expense of consumers.

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EU Responds to Breast Implant Scandal of 2011

In 2011 the world’s third biggest supplier of breast implants, Poly Implant Prostheses in France, allegedly used industrial silicon in its implants.  The substance was never intended for medical use. The implants were prone to rupture, and ruptures caused dangerous, toxic leakages of the silicon. In Europe, 100,000 women were affected, as well as an additional 400,000 women globally.

In order to avoid continuing risks to women from silicon implants, the EU is struggling to update existing legislation on medical devices. Some suggest that a centralized pre-marketing authorization for high risk devices is the answer. Others claim that Europe has a history of providing “timely access” to technology because of the decentralized system, and that a centralized system will undermine patient access to much needed technology and stifle innovation. Read more here.