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The Industry: Worth a look By John Irvine

Today contributor John Irvine reprises his role at FierceHealthcare with a guided tour of some of last week’s top healthcare stories. Go have a read and I’ll be back tomorrow  with more.

The FBI’s Upgrade that wasn’t

Five years ago the FBI announced it
would spend $170 million upgrading the paper filing system it had used to track cases and suspects since J.
Edgar Hoover’s day. The result was the Virtual
Case File
(VCF) a snazzy system developed by SAIC that looked as though it
was going to solve everybody’s problems. There was only one thing: the Virtual
Case File produced an error rate that was one of the worst experts had ever
seen. A year later the project was
dead. The Washington Post takes a look back at a debacle that may have helped
set the stage for the intelligence failures leading up to September 11 and
assesses SAIC’s responsibility for the project’s failure.

Annals of Generic Medicine

It is beginning to look as though
the Plavix debacle could cost Bristol–Myers
Squibb
CEO Peter Dolan his job, the Wall Street Journal reports. The company’s board pointedly chose not to
“reiterate previous statements of support” for Dolan last week. By allowing the
right to produce the blockbuster to
slip into the nefarious hands of another unscrupulous generic drug maker in a
lawless and faraway country (Canada), Dolan has cost his company dearly, the doubters say. How dearly? Dearly indeed. According to some
estimates, the loss of Plavix could BMS cost $3.8 billion, more than a third of
its revenues.

Fast times at the Cleveland Clinic

The Cleveland Clinic is “severing” its relationship with the
cardiologist who has led its technology transfer and commercialization division
since October 2005. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on Friday that an
internal review found that Dr Jay Yadav failed to disclose his continuing
involvement with Angioguard, a stent
company he sold to Johnson & Johnson before joining the hospital system. The Clinic has faced heat over its conflict of interest policies since a
Wall Street Journal story last year focusing on its relationships with outside
investors. According to the Plain
Dealer, Yadav continued to receive 1 % of Angioguard’s annual revenues even
after joining the healthcare system, as the inventor of Angioguard’s key
product.

Great moments in Cardiology

The Plain Dealer story on Yadav
includes mention of a classic snippet
of healthcare history most people don’t know about, describing how the owner of Fuddruckers, known for its giant
burgers and massive artery clogging portions of various fried delacies, helped finance research on the
first commercially successful stent in the 1980s. Critics argue that isn’t a coincidence that a maker of a popular
product known for its artery clogging ways helped fund a medical device used by
cardiologists to prop them open again. Hamburgers? Stents? By god, there really are conspiracies everywhere you
look.

Java for Java
In the past, it has often taken
weeks for reports of new cases of bird flu to make it to Jakarta from outlying
provinces. With Indonesia one of the most likely places for an influenza
pandemic to gain strength, that’s simply not good enough say critics. The Wall Street Journal reports that In October Indonesian authorities will test
a reporting system developed by D.C. based Voxiva that allows health
workers to send reports of suspected
H5N1 infections to Jakarta with their cell phones using text messaging. Those using Java enabled phones will be able
to input information directly into a database. Instead of relying on incident reports tallied by officials in Jakarta
on a monthly basis, supervisors will be able to call up a real time map showing
outbreaks. Very cool. And probably not a bad idea, either. 

Eye on Elyria

Unless you’re from certain parts of
northwestern central Ohio, you probably haven’t heard of the small town of Elyria, which sits a little bit to the
left of Cleveland on the map. Officials at the Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services apparently hadn’t either: at least until recently when
somebody pointed out that the rate for angioplasties in Elyria is about three
times the national average. A little
swift detective work by the New York Times traces the odd little statistical
anomaly to its source: the dedicated cardiologists at the North Ohio Heart
Center. Another example of doctors
guiding patients towards more lucrative procedures or simply an outlier? Critics
argue the former. Nay, say the cardiologists, we’re simply being aggressive.
Could we have another Redding Medical
Center
on our hands? wonder the fine folks at the NYT.

O Canada, Part II

Even Ronald Reagan, a reluctant
supporter of the AIDS cause, managed to make it. Critics are demanding to know why Canadian prime minister Stephen
Harper
, a critic of both needle exchange programs and gay rights, refused to show up for last week’s AIDS
Summit in Toronto, citing – of all things – a previous commitment to visit the
arctic circle. Instead of announcing his government’s new AIDS policy to
assembled scientists and activists in Toronto, Harper chose to be off
inspecting igloos.  Activists say Harper wants to dodge tough questions on his
decision not to extend
funding for a legal safe injection site in Vancouver that researchers say has
helped cut the incidence of new infections.

Sorry we can’t hire you, your genetic profile says you’re likely to be a heavy Myspace
user

A new Wall Street Journal/Harris
Poll
finds strong support for allowing health care providers, law enforcement
and personal use of genetic information gathered from DNA tests. Most of those
surveyed were a little less enthusiastic about allowing insurers or employers
access to the data. Only 14% say they approve of allowing insurers or employers
to have access to information about their genetic profiles. Oh, and ninety
three percent of Americans think the science of genetics is a “good thing.” One
percent find the concept “evil.”

We report you decide. You report we decide. Or something …

On Friday New York Governor George Pataki signed a bill that
extends a $10,000 tax credit
to New Yorkers who sign up to beome live organ
donors. Supporters say a similar
national law could help end the shortage of available organs. Is this a silly and ethically repugnant
solution to a pressing problem, like Arizona’s plan to encourage voter participation by making voters eligible for a $ 1 million
dollar prize or a clever market-based way to bribe the masses? We report. You
decide.

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