Health Buzz: FDA Approves Pill to Help Prevent HIV

Best Hospitals 2012-13: How they were ranked. Plus, which cities have the best hospitals?

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FDA Approves Truvada as HIV-Prevention Pill

The federal government has approved the first pill aimed at preventing HIV infections in healthy people, a turning point in the 30-year battle against the virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration greenlit Gilead Sciences' Truvada, which is already used to treat HIV-positive patients. Truvada is intended for adults who are at high risk of contracting HIV, such as sexually active gay men and the partners of HIV-infected individuals. "I think it's very good news," Chris Collins, vice president for the nonprofit amfAR,the Foundation for AIDS Research, told The Washington Post. "We need more prevention options to effectively tackle AIDS in the U.S. and globally." Truvada is expected to cost at least $13,900 a year for treatment in the United States; it's unclear whether insurers will cover any of that price.

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  • Best Hospitals 2012-13: How They Were Ranked

    Here's your situation: You are about to be hospitalized and your condition, or the procedure you need, is especially challenging. Should you simply trust the hospital that your doctor recommends? The Best Hospitals rankings give you a tool that might help you find a better one. 

    Now in its 23rd year, Best Hospitals' central mission remains unchanged: to help those who need an unusual degree of skilled inpatient care decide where to get it, especially when there's time to make a choice. Other ratings and rankings typically examine how well hospitals perform fairly routine procedures, such as hernia repair and uncomplicated heart bypass surgery, and how successfully they manage relatively unthreatening conditions such as mild heart failure. That's fine for most hospital patients—in any given year, hardly anyone who visits a hospital spends a single night there. (There are about 20 outpatient visits for every hospital admission.) But for patients whose surgery or other care poses a technical challenge, or whose age, physical condition, or infirmities multiply the risk, good may not be good enough. 

    To be nationally ranked, a hospital must excel across a range of tough cases within a given specialty. For example, a hospital nationally ranked in cardiology and heart surgery—one of 16 specialties in which U.S. News evaluates medical centers—can be expected to have doctors with the talent and experience to replace a faulty heart valve in a patient well into his or her 90s. Most hospitals would decline to perform major surgery on such elderly patients, as they should if they aren't up to speed on the special techniques and precautions involved and don't see many such patients. A hospital ranked in gastroenterology can offer the most appropriate care to a patient whose severe inflammatory bowel disease flares up. At hospitals ranked in neurology and neurosurgery, surgeons face more spinal tumors in a couple of weeks than most community hospitals see in a year. [Read more: Best Hospitals 2012-13: How They Were Ranked

    • How We Selected Best Regional Hospitals
    • Best Hospitals Methodology PDF
    • Which Cities Have the Best Hospitals?

      Baltimore has been dethroned. For 21 years in a row, U.S. News has ranked Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital as the No. 1 hospital in America. But not this year. In the latest Best Hospitals rankings, Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital came out on top, ranking No. 1 on the U.S. News Honor Roll for the first time ever. Another Boston medical center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, also made this year's Honor Roll, which consists of the 17 hospitals that rank among the best in the country in at least six specialties. 

      Only the Big Apple, with three Honor Roll hospitals, has more great medical care options than Boston. In fact, the New York metro area, which includes parts of neighboring New Jersey, is home to 56 hospitals that earned a U.S. News ranking of some kind this year. Baltimore's and Boston's rosters of 20 ranked hospitals each pale by comparison. To be ranked in its metro area or state, a hospital had to be recognized as high-performing in at least one of the 16 specialties U.S. News evaluates. The New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell claimed the highest rank in both New York City and New York state, as well as the No. 7 spot on the Honor Roll. [Read more: Which Cities Have the Best Hospitals?