Monday, May 5, 2014

Biowatch--the unworkable system for detecting bioweapons in the air--finally cancelled after wasting over $1 billion

From David Willman at the LA Times:
WASHINGTON — Amid concerns about its effectiveness and multibillion-dollar cost, the Department of Homeland Security has canceled plans to install an automated technology that was meant to speed the 24-hour operations of BioWatch, the national system for detecting a biological attack.
The cancellation of the "Generation 3" acquisition was made Thursday at the direction of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, according to a memorandum circulated by Michael V. Walter, the BioWatch program manager.
Homeland Security officials earlier had told companies interested in supplying the technology that it would spend $3.1 billion for it during the first five years of operation...
Last June, Willman noted that the theory behind Biowatch had been rejected.
"After 10 years of operation, we still don't know if the current BioWatch technology can detect an aerosolized bioterrorism agent in a real-world environment," Murphy said.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A woman giving birth in America now is more likely to die than a woman giving birth in China/WaPo

What is the tag line?  Don't be poor in America.  Healthcare is simply too expensive for a sizable number of Americans to afford, so they go without.  And this is the result.  True, there are more high-risk pregnancies in the US than there used to be, but that is equally true for other developed countries.

The maternal mortality rate is 3 times higher in the US as in the UK. This cannot be acceptable. 

From the WaPo:

Maternal deaths related to childbirth in the United States are nearly at the highest rate in a quarter century, and a woman giving birth in America is now more likely to die than a woman giving birth in China, according to a new study.
The United States is one of just eight countries to see a rise in maternal mortality over the past decade, said researchers for the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in a study published in The Lancet, a weekly medical journal. The others are Afghanistan, Greece, and several countries in Africa and Central America.
The researchers estimated that 18.5 mothers died for every 100,000 births in the U.S. in 2013, a total of almost 800 deaths. That is more than double the maternal mortality rate in Saudi Arabia and Canada, and more than triple the rate in the United Kingdom...  The United States now ranks 60 for maternal deaths on a list of 180 countries...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Looking to sales growth, Merck rolls out vaccine adherence plan using electronic medical record

The Electronic Medical Record has a new application: to sell more vaccines. The following article comes verbatim from FierceVaccines, while a link to Forbes tells the same story, although its slant emphasizes improvements in health outcomes, rather than Merck profits.

Merck has partnered with a cloud-based electronics medical record company to gain information on patients who may not have received every possible vaccine, and to push that information to their doctors.  PracticeFusion offers a free electronic medical record to doctors--its business model provides patient and physician data to pharmaceutical companies and other 'partners' to generate their revenues. The Brave New World of medicine is already here.

Merck's shingles vaccine Zostavax
"Vaccine sales can only grow as much as patient adherence to immunization recommendations allows, but Merck ($MRK) is rolling out a new initiative that could give its vaccines unit a boost.
Partnering with Practice Fusion, Merck will use the electronic health records provider's platform to alert doctors and patients about upcoming or missed vaccines based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended list of vaccinations for adults. Merck markets several big sellers among the agency's suggested jabs, including Zostavax for shingles and Gardasil for HPV.
This is one of Big Pharma's first forays into patient compliance through electronic medical records. Traditionally, it's been the role of healthcare payers to intervene on isuues like overdue vaccinations.
But Merck will take any boost in sales it can get in light of lackluster sales from its pharma unit in 2013, which sank 8% to $44 billion from 2012. For Merck, its vaccines unit seems like a logical place to focus on growth. In 2013, sales of Gardasil swelled 12% to reach $1.8 billion, up from $1.6 billion in 2012. Zostavax sales grew even more, with revenues expanding by 16% to $758 million last year.
The pharma giant's new plan will involve 112,000 of Practice Fusion's medical professionals, who will have access to a real-time dashboard that allows them to track the percentage of their adult patients that have received vaccines bases on CDC guidelines. During patient office visits, the electronic health record program will alert providers if a vaccine is recommended for patients.
The partnership with Practice Fusion builds on another recent effort rolled out by Merck to supply physicians with vaccination reminder cards to give to patients.

While Merck has benefited from an increase in young women receiving an HPV vaccine like Gardasil, as well as an uptick in people getting the shingles shot, the CDC reported in February that there has been little improvement in vaccination rates, and those rates even fell in some demographics."

Here's the Press Release.