Weekly Dose of Health News

In this summary, you’ll find information on new studies about the HPV vaccine and multivitamin usage, how hospitals are trying to improve patient satisfaction, patient access problems due to the crackdown on prescription drug abuse,  and more!

Please let us know us what you think and if there is a particular topic you would like to see covered.


The Wall Street Journal  profiles efforts by a number of hospitals to improve patient satisfaction. A recent change in Medicare reimbursement policy means that hospitals will be rewarded for high scores on a patient satisfaction survey.  The survey, developed by the government, asks patients 27 questions about their experiences in the hospital.  These results allow Medicare officials to score hospitals and determine reimbursement under the new pay for performance measure (Adamy, 10/14).

Health Studies

The New York Times reports on findings from a new study in the journal of Pediatrics that examined the impact of HPV vaccine on teenage sexual behavior.  After public health officials recommended that young women be routinely vaccinated against HPV in 2006, there was some concern among parents that vaccinating their children would encourage risky sexual behavior.  A study of 1,400 girls found no evidence that those who were vaccinated went on to engage in more sexual activity than girls were not vaccinated (O’Connor, 10/15).

A study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association  found that cholesterol levels in adults have fallen significantly. Researchers examined a sample of tens of thousands of Americans over the last two decades and recorded a decline of 10 points in average total cholesterol — to 196 mg/dL from 206 mg/dL.  Public health advocates cheered these results as this decline showed that the nation reached the 2010 goal of getting the average total cholesterol level in adults below 200 milligrams per deciliter. Researchers speculated the decline may be due to the use of cholesterol lowering drugs and efforts to reduce trans fats in the American diet.

New research proves that taking your daily multivitamin may help reduce the risks of getting cancer. The New York Times writes about the findings in a recent clinical trial of nearly 15,000 male physicians. The researchers found that doctors who took a daily multivitamin for more than a decade experienced 8 percent fewer cancers than the subjects taking placebos (Rabin, 10/17).

Access to Medications

The New York Times  profiles the impact of efforts by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to crack down on prescription drug abuse by targeting drug distributors. In response to the DEA’s new scrutiny, distributors are working to limit their liability by monitoring their distribution pipelines and stopping supplies to some pharmacies. This has resulted in patient access problems at local pharmacies that specialize in assisting patients suffering with chronic pain (Meier, 10/17).


New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a settlement with Walgreens this week over false advertising. Under the terms of the settlement more than 1,600 New York State Empire Plan members will receive $30 from Walgreens for false advertising. According to Schneiderman, the pharmacy chain misled customers by saying that the Empire Plan’s flu shot coverage extended to shots received at Walgreens drugstores. However, the terms of Empire’s policy limit payment for coverage to shots given in a physician’s office.

Physicians are undertaking new efforts to help patients suffering from artery blockages that obstruct blood flow to the legs. The Wall Street Journal writes about the new approaches to improve treatment for the nearly 12 million Americans suffering from peripheral artery disease, or PAD. Recent studies have found that both medical devices and interventions like supervised exercise may alleviate symptoms and improve patient prognosis (Winslow, 10/15).

NPR profiles home health aides and the role they play in the delivery of healthcare in the United States. There are over 2.5 million home health aides in the country, but there are increasing concerns that more health home aides will be needed to meet the demands of aging baby boomers. While efforts are underway to recruit more people to the field, the long hours and low pay make it difficult to retain workers (Ludden, 10/16).

Two major Catholic health systems announced  plans to merge this week. The boards of Trinity Health and Catholic Health East plan to join forces in 2013.  The consolidated Catholic health system would include 82 hospitals and 89 continuing care facilities, home health and hospice programs. The two health systems employ more than 87,000 employees, including 4,100 doctors across 21 states.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis remains a significant problem in the developing world according to data in a new report from the World Health Organization released this week.  Although the number of people becoming ill with tuberculosis has been falling since the peak of the disease in the 1990s, about 8.7 million and 1.4 million still died of tuberculosis in 2011. Significantly, only about 19% of those infected with some form of drug resistance tuberculosis are being diagnosed. The WHO cited a lack of funding and technology for appropriate diagnostic testing in countries where drug resistance is flourishing.

-Jaime Venditti, 10/19/12