Intentional Contamination Suspected in Heparin-Related Deaths
Federal officials say they think the tainted batches of the blood thinner heparin may have been intentionally contaminated, according to the New York Times. Eighty-one people died, and many more had allergic reactions to the medication. In written testimony, Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's drug center, told a House of Representatives subcommittee that the agency's "working hypothesis" is that the poisoning was deliberate, though this hasn't been verified, the Times reports. Oversulfated chondroitin sulfate, a derivative of a popular supplement used to relieve arthritis that can resemble the active ingredient in heparin, was found in the contaminated supplies of the blood thinner.
Family members of those affected by the contamination testified before the House committee yesterday. Last week, researchers confirmed the identity of the problematic ingredient in the tainted batch of medication. The FDA was also told by members of Congress to improve its process for investigating foreign facilities.
Medical Records Breach at UCLA Raises Concerns About Data Theft
A former employee of the UCLA Medical Center was indicted on charges of improperly accessing the medical records of high-profile patients and then selling those records to a media outlet, according to the Associated Press. At least 61 breaches of privacy occurred at University of California-Los Angeles's hospitals, involving such celebrities as Britney Spears and Maria Shriver. Several employees were fired or face disciplinary action in connection with the breaches.
Lawanda Jackson, 49, faces a charge of one count of illegally obtaining individually identifiable health information for commercial advantage, the AP reports. The indictment, which had been under seal since April 9, was made public yesterday. Prosecutors accuse Jackson of being paid at least $4,600 by a media outlet for providing medical information.
In Sickness and for Health Insurance, Marriage Has Benefits
At a time when the typical family health plan costs upwards of $12,000 a year, sharing a group health insurance policy number is more than a token way to say, "I love you." According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 7 percent of respondents said they or someone they lived with decided to get married in the last year in order either to have access to health insurance benefits or to give their new spouse access, Michelle Andrews reports.
The poll also reported other ways in which healthcare is emerging as an influential economic factor in many people's lives. Twenty-eight percent of middle-income families earning between $30,000 and $75,000 reported having a serious problem affording healthcare because of recent changes in the economy. Nearly a quarter said that within the past year, they or someone they lived with had either taken a new job or stayed with their current one because of better health benefits.
Cervical Cancer Screening Often Falls Short, Study Finds
Cervical cancer screening is effective but more needs to be done, Swedish researchers say. Women who don't get Pap smear screenings within recommended intervals are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer, according to the research, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The study shows that not getting regular screenings is an important risk factor for cervical cancer and that abnormal Pap smear results—if not followed up by a biopsy—are also an important risk factor.
You can learn more about cervical cancer risk factors and treatment on the Cervical Cancer Channel. And U.S. News's On Women blog explains abnormal Pap results.
—January W. Payne