November 19, 2013 |
He might have become a doctor like his father, but a grad school (Harvard) summer job researching health policy changed all that. Now as the head of the Kaiser Family Foundation, Drew Altman deals not with lab numbers for a few patients but with healthcare data for millions. For years he headed up state and federal programs on welfare reform, homelessness and Medicaid. Since 1991, he's shaped the Menlo Park-based foundation as "a trusted source of information in a healthcare world dominated by vested interests.
November 19, 2013 |
Ensign Group Inc., a Mission Viejo company that operates nursing homes in several states, has agreed to pay $48 million to resolve allegations that it billed Medicare for unnecessary procedures performed on its patients. Two former Ensign Group therapists had accused the company in whistle-blower lawsuits of performing the unnecessary rehabilitation therapy at six skilled-nursing facilities in California. Although the lawsuits were filed in 2006, the government contended that the fraud lasted from 1999 to 2011.
November 18, 2013 |
California officials said three of the state's largest health insurers illegally denied speech and occupational therapy to patients, and regulators fined one of the companies, Health Net Inc., $300,000 for repeated violations. The state Department of Managed Health Care said Monday that it ordered Health Net, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California to stop denying medically necessary therapy in cases of developmental disabilities, autism and other medical conditions. The state said the three insurers will be required to reimburse patients who paid out of pocket for these improperly denied treatments.
November 18, 2013 |
Some of the nation's most influential cardiologists are challenging new recommendations that would greatly expand the number of Americans taking a statin medication to reduce their chances of a heart attack or stroke. The guidelines issued last week by the American Heart Assn. and the American College of Cardiology were accompanied by a "risk calculator" that was supposed to identify patients whose odds of suffering either a stroke or a heart attack over the next 10 years were judged to be at least 7.5%.
November 15, 2013 |
The weight loss that follows a successful bariatric surgery makes most patients feel younger. But a new study suggests that following bariatric surgery, some patients show signs of being biologically younger, as well. At Stanford University, researchers looked for evidence of change in bariatric surgery patients by measuring their telomeres -- regions of repeating DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome that grow a little shorter with age and chronic illness. Telomeres are considered a biomarker of the aging process.
November 13, 2013 |
Less than five months after a pair of biotech companies submitted a candidate cancer drug to the Food & Drug Administration, the FDA has approved the drug ibrutinib as a "breakthrough therapy" for a rare and deadly form of the cancer, mantle cell lymphoma. The new medication, to be marketed under the commercial name Imbruvica, becomes a new option for patients who are diagnosed with this malignancy of the immune system's B-cells and who have received at least one prior therapy. The medication is the first product developed by Sunnyvale, Calif., biotech firm Pharmacyclics, where its promise as a treatment for B-cell malignancies such as lymphoma became evident in 2009.
November 12, 2013 |
The number of Americans taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs is set to double under new guidelines unveiled Tuesday by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Assn. The goal of prescribing statins to as many as 70 million people is to reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes in the United States, not merely to get patient's LDL cholesterol - the “bad” kind that's most closely linked to disease risk - into an ideal range, experts said. The new game plan for statins represents a stark shift from approaches embraced by cardiologists and primary care physicians for most of the past decade.
November 12, 2013 |
Dramatically escalating the fight against heart attacks and strokes, the nation's cardiologists have rewritten the guidebook on how Americans should be treated with statins and unveiled a plan that could double the number of patients taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs to about 70 million. The new approach, presented Tuesday by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Assn., represents a stark shift from the way doctors have prescribed the popular drugs for most of the last decade.
November 9, 2013
Most of the mail that crosses my desk deals with politics, policy and other largely impersonal subjects. Occasionally, readers will tell their own deeply personal stories as a way to inform a discussion. Several did just that in response to Steve Lopez's column Wednesday about the prosecution of a Philadelphia nurse accused of helping her ill 93-year-old father end his life. We heard from doctors, but most poignant were the letters from spouses of terminally ill patients who were confronted with grave end-of-life decisions.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 8, 2013 |
Deborah Cohan, nervous about undergoing double mastectomy, did what few would be willing to do: get down to Beyonce for a flash mob dance party with her surgical team. A video of the dance party at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco -- Cohan dancing near a gurney, her surgical team suited up and gyrating around her to Beyonce's "Get Me Bodied" -- went viral on the Internet. Cohan, recovering after being released on Wednesday, has been lauded for turning a difficult ordeal into an inspiration for others around the world.