Medicare Payment Reduction Helps Eliminate Unnecessary Therapy

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published an online study which suggests that cuts in payments for Medicare has reduced the amount of treatments done for patients with low-risk prostate cancer.

In contrast, the frequency of use of the same therapy for metastatic prostate cancer was not reduced, according to the new study.

Researchers concluded that the lower Medicare payments probably helped to reduce the amount of over-treatment for low-risk cancer, while not affecting the amount the higher-risk cancer was treated. The amount both types of prostate cancer was treated with androgen suppression therapy more than tripled in the period between 1991 and 1999, even though there was no evidence that this treatment improves the survival rate of persons with the low-risk illness.

In 2004 and 2005 the reimbursement schedule for doctors using androgen suppression therapy was reduced by 64%. The use of the therapy for patients with low-risk prostate cancer fell by 40%. No significant reduction in the use of the therapy for metastatic prostate cancer was observed during those years.

The conclusion by the researchers of the study was that the decline in use of androgen therapy “likely represents a real effect of reimbursement change and not physician awareness of clinical evidence.”

Gene Therapy Helps Children in German Study

Wiskott-Aldrich-syndromeResearchers in Germany were able to use gene therapy to correct a rare blood disorder which affects children to devastating results.

Scientists ‘fixed’ a malfunctioning gene which is the cause of Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, a rarely seen but highly serious childhood illness that causes prolonged bleeding from even the mildest of cuts. This disease also leaves children extremely vulnerable to dangerous infections and some cancers.

“The study shows proof-of-principle that gene therapy with stem cells in a genetic disorder like this has strong potential,” added Paul Sanberg, a stem cell specialist who is director of the University of South Florida Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa.

Healthy Holiday Eating

TurkeyIt’s already that time of year: time to start planning how to stay in control of your eating during the holiday period. For those determined to maintain a healthy diet despite the overabundance of heavy foods that become available, there are ways to eat properly without depriving yourself of seasonal celebrations.

Instead of depriving yourself, just change the way you approach the ever-present temptations:
Here’s the way to do it:

First, use a smaller plate – and then don’t go back for seconds. You can fill up your plate and so feel that you’ve tasted all the goodies at the holiday dinner, without going overboard.

Modify family recipes: Tradition doesn’t mean that you can’t eat healthfully. Even if your grandmother used chicken fat and gravy, you can substitute applesauce for oil, cottage cheese for sour cream, and other low-fat ingredients, and still cook a delicious menu.

Eat before you go: Instead of starving yourself all day because you’re going to a party in the evening, eat healthy protein-based meals throughout the day so that you won’t be starving and ready to eat everything in sight at the evening event.

Keep Active: No matter how busy the holiday season gets, keep exercising – walk up the stairs in the mall and carry those gifts home from the store by foot if you can!

Forgive Yourself: Do your best. But remember, the holiday season is filled with temptation, so if you don’t keep all your resolutions all the time, that’s okay too.

The WHO Launches New Meningitis Vaccine Campaign

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched its new project this week- one that will provide over 300 million Africans with a new meningitis vaccine.

Meningitis killed 4,000 of 78,000 diseased people in Africa last year. The new vaccine was produced in India, and ensures immunity against group A meningococcus, a bacteria responsible for up to 85% of meningitis cases in the region. This vaccine is also more affordable than the previous one.

The WHO’s campaign was initiated in Burkina Faso, where 12-16 million are to be vaccinated over the course of ten days. The movement will cover 25 sub-Saharan countries in total which are part of the “meningitis belt,” which stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia.

Lap-Band Might Not be for Everyone

The FDA is considering expanding the use of the surgically implanted Lap-Band device to people with BMI ratings as low as 30 if they also have a related health problem. Without a health problem the person’s BMI would have to be at least 35. At the moment a BMI rating of even 39.3 is not enough to allow implantation to take place.

Experts emphasize that the insertion of Lap-Band is not magic, and for the procedure to be useful it must be accompanied by changes in highly ingrained eating behaviors. The cost of the procedure might also prevent many potential recipients of the treatment from obtaining the implant.

Over 30% of all Americans are considered to be obese. Approximately 15 million of them are eligible for gastric banding surgery according to the present criteria. Today’s criteria are having a BMI of 40 or more, or a BMI of 35 with an accompanying related health condition.

If the standards were lowered to include patients with 35 BMI or 30 with a health condition, the number of eligible patients would rise to about 27 million Americans, according to health data supplied by the federal government.