Daily Rounds: Hip Study Risked Elderly; Anemia Drugs Oversold; Toilet Power; Calorie Counts Lighten Menus

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Harvard study placed elderly subjects at risk (The Boston Globe) - "More than 1,300 nursing home residents who participated in a Harvard-led study on preventing hip fractures, including 268 in Massachusetts, will soon be receiving letters detailing serious risks that federal regulators say they were exposed to by the researchers. That action, ordered by the federal Office for Human Research Protections, concludes a yearlong investigation into researchers at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Washington University School of Medicine who conducted the study testing how well padded hip protectors cushion residents’ falls. The regulators said the scientists — led by Dr. Douglas P. Kiel, a Harvard Medical School gerontologist — discovered that the one-sided protectors they were studying ­increased elders’ risk of falling, exposing them to hip fractures, yet the scientists failed to inform patients, the safety boards that monitored the study, and the federal agency that funded the research."

Anemia drugs made billions, but at what cost? (The Washington Post) - "For years, a trio of anemia drugs known as Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp ranked among the best-selling prescription drugs in the United States, generating more than $8 billion a year for two companies, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson. Even compared with other pharmaceutical successes, they were superstars. For several years, Epogen ranked as the single costliest medicine under Medicare: U.S. taxpayers put up as much as $3 billion a year for the drugs. The trouble, as a growing body of research has shown, is that for about two decades, the benefits of the drug — including “life satisfaction and happiness” according to the FDA-approved label — were wildly overstated, and potentially lethal side effects, such as cancer and strokes, were overlooked."

It takes a toilet: The next-gen commode that powers a town (The Atlantic) - "As the children's book teaches us, everyone poops. That crude reality, if properly contained and converted, may also prove to be a renewable resource. This is the idea behind the Humanure Power Project, an effort led by Jain, an environmental engineer turned grad student, and a group of three other Tulane University students, who are combining existing technologies to tackle both the sanitation and power crises. Applying a $30,000 award recently won in Dell's Social Innovation Challenge, Humanure will build community blocks of toilets that convert human waste into energy, charging 12-volt batteries for household use."

Restaurant meals a bit healthier after menu law (Reuters) - "Chain restaurants in the Seattle area seem to have made small changes for the better since a 2009 law forced them to put nutrition information on their menus, a new study finds. Eighteen months after the law went into effect in King County, Washington, calorie counts were a bit lower, the study found. "Sit down" chain restaurants did better than fast-food joints: their entrees were an average of 73 calories lighter, versus a small, 19-calorie reduction at fast-food places."

This program aired on July 20, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.