- Pilot Project Tests Cell Phones in TB Fight
- Care of Female Veterans Lags at Some VA Hospitals: Report
- Psoriasis Drug Could Raise Risk of Cancer: FDA
- EPA's Proposed Lead Standards May Not Be Enough: Experts
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Pilot Project Tests Cell Phones in TB Fight
The cell phone is joining the arsenal of technology used to keep folks healthy.
A student-led group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge has developed a way to use cell phones to let tuberculosis patients report their adherence to the drug regimen they must take. If the tests show patients are following doctor's orders to take all their medication, they get rewarded with free cell phone minutes, the Associated Press reports.
Under the MIT pilot plan, patients test their urine using a strip that reveals a numeric code if it detects TB medicines, which are usually taken for six months. They then text-message the code to their health care provider and get credit toward incentives such as free minutes.
The in-home tests also eliminate the need for health care workers to make several patient-monitoring visits a week, a routine that is often impractical in remote places, said Jose Gomez-Marquez, one of the project's leaders.
Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of a World Health Organization program to fight TB, called the MIT idea "creative." But he told the AP personal visits must continue because systems that depend on patient self-reporting have often failed in the developing world.
In 2006, the most recent year statistics are available, 9.2 million people worldwide were diagnosed with tuberculosis, and 1.7 million died, according to AP. The WHO estimates that up to 10 percent of TB deaths are patients who stop taking medication properly.
Care of Female Veterans Lags at Some VA Hospitals: Report
U.S. female veterans aren't receiving the same quality of care as men at about one-third of Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, according to a VA review obtained by the Associated Press.
While the VA has created women's clinics at many hospitals, more clinicians need to be trained in women's care, and there's a need for more equipment focused on women's health, the document states.
The review, mandated by Congress, seems to support criticism by advocates and some members of Congress that the health care system needs to do more to help female veterans, the AP reported.
Any discrepancies in care are unacceptable and the agency is aggressively tackling the issue, said Dr. William E. Duncan, associate deputy undersecretary for health for quality and safety at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"We're striving to understand the reason for these health disparities and to eliminate differences in veterans' health care based on personal characteristics," Duncan told the AP.
Currently, women account for about five percent of the VA's population. But that percentage is expected to nearly double in the next two years as more female veterans return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the wire service said.
Psoriasis Drug Could Raise Risk of Cancer: FDA
While the Johnson & Johnson drug ustekinumab may be effective in treating moderate-to-severe psoriasis, it also may raise users' risk of cancer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Friday.
On its Web site, the agency said it probably needed to evaluate additional safety data before deciding whether the skin-disease drug increased the likelihood of cancer, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"The is a question whether a larger number of subjects, followed for longer periods might better inform the long-term safety of use of ustekinumab," the agency said.
An FDA advisory committee of experts on Tuesday is scheduled to decide whether to recommend whether to approve the drug, the newspaper said. The full agency isn't bound to follow the recommendations of its expert panels, but generally does.