Study suggests medical errors now third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Analyzing medical death rate data over an eight-year period, Johns Hopkins
patient safety experts have calculated that more than 250,000 deaths per
year are due to medical error in the U.S. Their figure, published May 3 in
The BMJ, surpasses the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Preventionâs (CDCâs) third leading cause of death â respiratory disease,
which kills close to 150,000 people per year.
The Johns Hopkins team says the CDCâs way of collecting national health
statistics fails to classify medical errors separately on the death
certificate. The researchers are advocating for updated criteria for
classifying deaths on death certificates.
âIncidence rates for deaths directly attributable to medical care gone awry
havenât been recognized in any standardized method for collecting national
statistics,â says Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H., professor of surgery at the
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an authority on health
reform. âThe medical coding system was designed to maximize billing for
physician services, not to collect national health statistics, as it is
currently being used.â
In 1949, Makary says, the U.S. adopted an international form that used
International Classification of Diseases (ICD) billing codes to tally causes
The researchers say that since that time, national mortality statistics have
been tabulated using billing codes, which donât have a built-in way to
recognize incidence rates of mortality due to medical care gone wrong.
According to the CDC, in 2013, 611,105 people died of heart disease, 584,881
died of cancer and 149,205 died of chronic respiratory disease â the top
three causes of death in the U.S. The newly calculated figure for medical
errors puts this cause of death behind cancer but ahead of respiratory
âTop-ranked causes of death as reported by the CDC inform our countryâs
research funding and public health priorities,â says Makary. âRight now,
cancer and heart disease get a ton of attention, but since medical errors
donât appear on the list, the problem doesnât get the funding and attention
The researchers caution that most of medical errors arenât due to inherently
bad doctors, and that reporting these errors shouldnât be addressed by
punishment or legal action. Rather, they say, most errors represent systemic
problems, including poorly coordinated care, fragmented insurance networks,
the absence or underuse of safety nets, and other protocols, in addition to
unwarranted variation in physician practice patterns that lack
âUnwarranted variation is endemic in healthcare. Developing consensus
protocols that streamline the delivery of medicine and reduce variability
can improve quality and lower costs in healthcare. More research on
preventing medical errors from occurring is needed to address the problem,â
Visit Johns Hopkins for the study.
Valeantâs CEO was key force on pricing
In early 2015, when Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.âs top brass
met to set prices on a soon-to-be-acquired cardiac drug, some executives
suggested slow, staggered price increases. Chief Executive Michael Pearson
To reach Valeantâs internal profit targets, Pearson lobbied for a single,
sharp increase. Hospitals could still make a profit at the higher price, he
argued, which meant patients would still have access to the drug. The team
deferred. The day it completed its February 2015 purchase of the drug,
called Nitropress, Valeant tripled the cost.
The exchange, recounted in a document reviewed by The Wall Street Journal,
shows in greater detail than was previously known how Valeant and its
now-outgoing CEO Pearson pursued quick, aggressive price increases on
acquired drugs in recent yearsâa strategy that sparked widespread backlash
and landed Pearson in front of a Senate investigative panel last week.
spokeswoman for Valeant, Laurie Little, said, âWe heard very clearly the
concerns raised by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and the board is
working to map out a new path for the company going forward. That will
include consideration both of how best to set drug prices and of the
appropriate role of patient assistance programs in helping to ensure that
patients can obtain the drugs that doctors prescribe for them.â
At last weekâs Senate committee hearing Pearson said Valeant was âtoo
aggressiveâ with drug price increases. Dozens of documents collected during
the Senate investigation provide a deeper look at how Valeant arrived at
sharp price hikes on some of the drugs it sells. The documents underscore
the challenges Valeant faces now that it has promised to roll back some
prices and rely less on acquisitions for which price increases are a major
While Valeant did have a research program, Pearson said that most of
Valeantâs R&D products are reformulations of existing drugs, such as a new
delivery method for a glaucoma medicine, according to the Senate documents.
The Senate analysis referred to wholesale acquisition costs that hospitals
and other purchasers pay for drugs.
Visit the Wall Street Journal for the article.
Scientists pioneer 'game-changing' new antibiotic which could hold key to
tackling drug resistant bacteria
Scientists at the University of Lincoln, UK, have successfully produced two
synthetic derivatives of Teixobactin - the world's first known antibiotic
capable of destroying 'drug resistant' bacteria. Last year, the discovery of
the antibiotic Teixobactin by researchers in the U.S was hailed as a
'game-changer' in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.
Teixobactin, which kills a range of pathogens without detectable resistance,
was isolated from microorganisms (which do not grow under laboratory
conditions) found in soil - the natural source of nearly all antibiotics
developed since the 1940s.
However in order for it to be developed as a potential drug treatment,
several versions of the antibiotic must be produced via chemical synthesis
in order to overcome the hurdles of drug development. Researchers in
laboratories around the world have been working towards this objective since
last year's breakthrough.
Now Dr. Ishwar Singh from the University of Lincoln and his colleagues have
become the first group of scientists to synthetically produce two
derivatives of Teixobactin.
The bacteria against which Teixobactin is effective have, thus far, not
shown any detectable resistance and given its mechanisms of attack,
scientists are also confident that this is unlikely to occur in the future.
It has been predicted that by 2050 an additional 10 million people will
succumb to drug resistant infections each year. The development of new
antibiotics which can be used as a last resort when other drugs are
ineffective is therefore a crucial area of study for healthcare researchers
around the world. This new study by Dr. Singh and his team represents an
important step towards this end goal.
The processes they used produced a yield of 22% for one of the derivatives
of Teixobactin, making Dr. Singh's methods highly efficient.
Dr. Singh and his colleagues will now carry out further tests to more
clearly understand the chemical properties of Teixobactin and to simplify
the molecule so that other derivatives can be produced. He hopes to create a
library of Teixobactin derivatives which could prove vital for the future
development of the antibiotic.
Dr. Singh added: "The process of bringing an antibiotic to clinic is an
extremely lengthy one and can often take around 10-15 years. There is much
more extensive research and testing to be carried out before we can even
consider Teixobactin as a viable medical treatment. This is a very rare
occurrence - the last new class of antibiotics was discovered nearly 30
years ago - and a far-off possibility, however we are certainly making great
strides in our work against drug resistant bacteria."
Visit Science Daily for the study.
marked by Hall of Fame for Healthcare Supply Chain Leadership as Future
Bellwether League Inc., the Hall of Fame for Healthcare Supply Chain
Leadership, recognized six professionals for their stellar contributions to
supply chain operations during the first decade of their respective careers.
This new recognition honors individuals near the beginning of their
healthcare supply chain careers who are demonstrating the innovative
leadership qualities of an industry bellwether in making a difference for
their organizations and the industry through a variety of projects. The 2016
Future Famers have spent fewer than 10 years in the healthcare supply chain
industry but already are carving a pathway for career success decades down
Bellwether League Inc. continues its mission to focus on identifying and
honoring industry bellwethers who have spent the bulk of their careers
delivering supply chain excellence. We see the Future Famers complementing
and potentially pointing the way to Bellwether status but not overshadowing
the significance of achieving Bellwether status. In short, Future Famers
status represents a snapshot that hopefully foreshadows continued
success; Bellwether status reflects on and represents an entire career that
should serve as an example for all to emulate.
The Future Famers Class of 2016 includes the following individuals who have
made significant strides in the healthcare supply chain industry so early in
Henderson, Materials Manager, Outpatient Surgery Center of Jonesboro (AR)
Lulla, Associate Vice President, Operations, Rush University Medical Center,
Catherine âKateâ Polczyinski, Director, Procurement, Geisinger Health
System, Danville, PA
Proctor, Regional Vice President, Owens & Minor Inc., Nashville
Sangha, Associate Administrator, Supply Chain, Zuckerberg San Francisco
General Hospital and Trauma Center, and Associate Administrator, Business
Operations, San Francisco Health Network
Walerius, Chief Supply Chain Officer, University of Washington Medicine,
âAs the Chairman of the Nominating Committee, I believe I can speak for our
team when I say; we have a very strong group of Future Famers for 2016,â
said Jamie Kowalski, Bellwether League Inc. Co-Founder and Board Member.
âThese supply chain professionals come from a variety of roles and
organizations, and have made their contributions to healthcare supply chain
management in many different ways. Our profession should keep watch on these
leaders as they progress through their careers.â
John Gaida, Chairman, Bellwether League Inc. Board of Directors, welcomed
the newest Future Famer class. âWhile we have spent the last almost nine
years selecting and honoring Bellwethers who are at or near the sunset of
their successful careers, we take great pride in recognizing these
individuals at the early stages of their pursuit of healthcare supply chain
excellence,â he said.
âTheir accomplishments are varied, but they represent what is best to come
of our future,â Gaida continued. âJust like Bellwethers, each brings a
different set of accomplishments for not only themselves, but their
employers and our organization as well. We are proud to honor them and wish
them all the best as they strive to build upon these accomplishments and
The newest Future Famers will be recognized during the 9th Annual Bellwether
Induction Dinner, Monday, October 3, at the Hyatt Regency OâHare, in
Rosemont, IL, near Chicago.
Visit Bellwether League for more information.
Researchers look to repurpose approved drugs to treat Zika virus
The need for drugs to prevent and treat Zika infections grows with every new
patient diagnosed. The virus causes devastating birth defects and is
strongly linked to a type of paralysis called Guillain-Barre syndrome.
There are currently no approved drugs against Zika; developing a new
medication for any disease can take 10 to 20 years.
"The sense of urgency is enormous," said Mauro Martins Teixeira, who heads
the immunopharmacology laboratory at the Federal University of Minas Gerais
in Brazil. "In an emergency, everyone wants quick answers."
That's why many researchers are taking a closer look at older drugs, testing
them to see if they might block infection with the virus or prevent it from
harm the brain and nervous system, said Teixeira, who spoke Monday at a Zika
conference at Atlanta's Emory University.
Virtually every researcher who works with antiviral drugs is testing them
against Zika, Teixeira said.
The ideal drug would not just treat Zika, but also prevent it, much like the
antimalarial drugs that travelers take before visiting tropical
countries, said Raymond Schinazi, director of Emory's biochemical
pharmacology lab. An anti-Zika drug would also have to be safe enough for
pregnant women or women of reproductive age.
Schinazi has tested a 40-year-old drug that is safe during pregnancy. The
drug has lost its patent, so it could be purchased relatively cheaply, said
Schinazi, who has not released the name of the drug.
Teixeira is taking a different approach. Instead of preventing infection,
he's looking to protect the brain from Zika's toxic effects. He has tested
the Alzheimer's drug memantine, finding that it protects cells in lab dishes
Visit USA Today for the report.
Johnson & Johnson just lost another huge talc-powder case
Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a U.S. jury on Monday to pay $55 million to
a woman who said that using the companyâs talc-powder products for feminine
hygiene caused her to develop ovarian cancer.
The verdict, which J&J plans to appeal, was the second straight trial loss
for the company, which is facing about 1,200 lawsuits accusing it of not
adequately warning consumers about its talc-based productsâ cancer risks.
Following a three-week trial in Missouri state court, jurors deliberated for
about a day before returning a verdict for Gloria Ristesund. She was awarded
$5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.
J&J spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said the verdict contradicted 30 years of
research supporting the safety of cosmetic talc. The company intends to
appeal and will keep defending its productsâ safety, she said.
The verdict followed a $72 million jury award from the same court in
February to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer after years
of using talc powder for feminine hygiene.
That verdict, which J&J is appealing, sparked renewed interest in
talc-powder lawsuits among plaintiffsâ lawyers, as well as consumers
familiar with J&Jâs powder products.
Plaintiffs in talc litigation, which is concentrated in Missouri and New
Jersey state courts, have accused J&J of failing for years to warn that talc
was linked to an increased risk for ovarian cancer. J&J has said it acted
properly in developing and marketing the products.
Visit Fortune for the story.
Playground concussions are on the rise
Playground concussions are on the rise, according to a new government study,
and monkey bars and swings are most often involved. Most injuries studied
were mild, but all concussions are potentially serious and the researchers
say the trend raises public health and safety concerns.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study examined
national 2001-2013 data on playground injuries to kids aged 14 and younger
who received emergency-room treatment. Of almost 215,000 kids on average
treated yearly, almost 10 percent â about 21,000 annually â had traumatic
brain injuries including concussions. Only nonfatal injuries were included.
Here are some key findings, published in Pediatrics:
In 2005, 23 out of 100,000 kids had traumatic brain injuries, a rate that
jumped to 48 out of 100,000 in 2013. The rate declined in the previous years
but increased steadily after that. By 2013, the annual total was almost
30,000 kids treated for these brain injuries.
The rise may mean parents are becoming increasingly aware of the potential
seriousness of concussions and the need for treatment. Itâs also possible
more kids are using playground equipment, the researchers said.
Only 3 percent of kids with concussions were hospitalized or transferred
elsewhere for additional treatment; 95 percent were sent home after ER
treatment. Half of the head injuries were in kids ages 5 to 9 and injuries
were more common in boys. Symptoms werenât listed but signs of concussions
after a blow to the head can include headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea
Dr. Jeneita Bell, a CDC brain injury specialist who co-authored the study,
said the results highlight ââthat sports is not the only important cause of
concussions and other traumatic brain injuries for children.ââ (Associated
Visit Boston Globe for the story.
warns about new impulse-control problems: Aripiprazole (Abilify, Abilify
FDA is warning that compulsive or uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat,
shop, and have sex have been reported with the use of the antipsychotic drug
aripiprazole (Abilify, Abilify Maintena, Aristada, and generics). These
uncontrollable urges were reported to have stopped when the medicine was
discontinued or the dose was reduced. These impulse-control problems are
rare, but they may result in harm to the patient and others if not
Although pathological gambling is listed as a reported side effect in the
current aripiprazole drug labels, this description does not entirely reflect
the nature of the impulse-control risk FDA identified. In addition, FDA has
become aware of other compulsive behaviors associated with aripiprazole,
such as compulsive eating, shopping, and sexual actions. These compulsive
behaviors can affect anyone who is taking the medicine. As a result, FDA is
adding new warnings about all of these compulsive behaviors to the drug
labels and the patient Medication Guides for all aripiprazole products.
Aripiprazole is used to treat certain mental disorders, including
schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Touretteâs disorder, and irritability
associated with autistic disorder. It may also be used in combination with
antidepressants to treat depression. Aripiprazole can decrease
hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms such as disorganized
thinking. It can stabilize mood, improve depression, and decrease the tics
of Touretteâs disorder.
Healthcare professionals should make patients and caregivers aware of the
risk of these uncontrollable urges when prescribing aripiprazole, and
specifically ask patients about any new or increasing urges while they are
being treated with aripiprazole.
Visit the FDA for the safety watch.