Daily Rounds: Iffy Stem Cell Treatments; Avastin Fight; For-Profit Hospices; Medical Duct Tape

Doctors offer unapproved stem cell therapies - "Colon has not completed a full season since 2005 and sat out 2010 to rest his aging and injured right arm. But this season, his fastball is back. His ERA, 3.10, was among the tops in the league. On May 30, six days after his 39th birthday, he pitched his first shutout in five years, hurling his final pitch at 95 mph. What lit the fuse on his fastball? An infusion of stem cells, says Joseph Purita, founder of the Institute of Regenerative and Molecular Orthopedics in Boca Raton, Fla., who gave Colon the controversial treatment in the Dominican Republic before baseball season began. Purita isn't the only doctor offering patients stem cells. Doctors in the U.S. and abroad are now providing untested and unapproved stem cell therapies for ailments ranging from heart disease to emphysema to cerebral palsy. And they swear by them." (

Breast Cancer Patients Plead for Avastin Approval - "With desperate breast cancer patients imploring the Food and Drug Administration to change its mind, the agency’s staff calmly argued Tuesday that the drug Avastin should lose its approval as a treatment for that disease. The pleas and presentations came on the first day of a two-day hearing at which Genentech, the manufacturer of Avastin, is getting a chance to try to persuade the F.D.A. to reverse its decision made in December to revoke the drug’s approval for advanced breast cancer." (

For-Profit Hospices Keep Patients Longer, Push Costs Up : Shots - Health Blog : NPR "After a decade in which most new hospices were started by corporations, half of Medicare-certified hospices are now for-profits. Meanwhile, Medicare's hospice costs have increased from $2.9 billion in 2000 to $12 billion in 2009, making it one of the fastest growing segments of the government health care program for the elderly. The increase isn't only because more people are using hospice. It's also because patients are staying in hospice longer before dying. And those long-stay patients are more likely to be cared for by for-profit companies than non-profits, studies show." (

Duct tape: Fighting contagious disease with safe zones - "Duct tape – is there no end to its usefulness? Apparently not. Now we learn that using duct tape in hospitals could be a tool in the fight against infectious disease. Call it a handyman’s quarantine. An infection-prevention team at Trinity Medical Center in the Quad Cities along the Illinois and Iowa border, wanted to create safe zones in which healthcare workers could talk to patients with infectious diseases. So they used 3-foot squares of red duct tape to indicate where precisely that zone was located." (Los Angeles Times)

Administration Halts Survey of Making Doctor Visits - "WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Tuesday that it had shelved plans for a survey in which “mystery shoppers” posing as patients would call doctors’ offices to see how difficult it was to get appointments. “We have determined that now is not the time to move forward with this research project,” the Department of Health and Human Services said late Tuesday. The decision, after criticism from doctors and politicians, represents an abrupt turnabout. "(

Highmark Moves to Acquire Hospital System - "Pittsburgh insurer Highmark Inc. struck a deal to acquire the second-largest hospital chain in its region, an ambitious, controversial step that would further blur the lines between those who pay for medical care and those who provide it. Under the tentative plan, nonprofit Highmark will pump as much as $475 million into the five-hospital West Penn Allegheny Health System, which has been operating in the red for the past five years." (Wall Street Journal)

This program aired on June 29, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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