- Drug Thwarts Bone Loss in Prostate Cancer Patients: Study
- Auditors Getting a Portion of Medicare Payments Recovered
- Illinois Governor: Insurers Should Pay for Autism
- As Gas Prices Rise, U.S. Traffic Deaths Fall
- Famed Heart Surgeon Michael DeBakey Dead at 99
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Drug Thwarts Bone Loss in Prostate Cancer Patients: Study
Amgen's experimental bone-loss drug denosumab increased bone density and prevented fractures among clinical trial participants being treated for prostate cancer, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing company research.
The injected drug was evaluated among 1,400 men who were being treated with prostate cancer therapy that blocks male hormones including testosterone, increasing their risk for weakened bones and fractures. Those who took denosumab fractured vertebrae at less than half the rate of those who took a placebo, the newspaper said.
The drug works by blocking certain immune system defenses, which could increase users' risk of infection. Serious infections were reported among 6 percent of denosumab users, versus 5 percent of those who took a placebo.
An estimated 186,000 U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, the American Cancer Society predicts. And according to the National Cancer Institute, about half of all men with the disease are treated at some point with hormone therapy, the newspaper said.
Auditors Getting a Portion of Medicare Payments Recovered
Private auditing firms have gotten back more than $690 million in overcharges paid by Medicare, and under a new program that's irking health care "providers," the companies that identify the overpayments are getting a portion of the monies they recover, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The program has identified about $1.03 billion in "improper" payments over three years, mostly in New York, California and Florida, the newspaper said. About $992.7 million was in overpayments.
Industry groups representing the providers, mostly hospitals, call the new program an overaggressive "bounty hunter" arrangement. Nonetheless, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) said it is planning to expand the program nationwide, the Journal reported.
Just over $187 million has been paid to the auditors, and some $60 million more was reclaimed by providers who successfully challenged the auditors' findings. That left about $694 million that has been returned to Medicare, the newspaper said.
The CMMS said the auditors don't get paid if their findings are successfully appealed, and they are paid using the same formulas whether they identify Medicare overpayments or underpayments.
Illinois Governor: Insurers Should Pay for Autism
Insurers in Illinois should be required to absorb the skyrocketing costs of diagnosing and treating autism, Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed Sunday.
Under the proposal, insurance companies would be bound to pay up to $36,000 annually and cover an unlimited number of medical visits for autistic children until they turned age 21, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Some states set a higher monetary limit, but the Illinois proposal would amount to the most comprehensive guarantee for autistic children in the United States, Mike McRaith, insurance director of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, told the newspaper.
Some 26,000 state residents have been diagnosed with the mysterious neurologic disorder, he said. Currently, only people with policies from large-group insurers are covered in the state, the Sun-Times said.
Blagojevich made his proposal under his power to rewrite legislation. The proposal would become law if three-fifths of the state House and Senate support it, according to the newspaper.
As Gas Prices Rise, U.S. Traffic Deaths Fall
A new study finds that the steep rise in the price of gas may be translating into fewer deaths on America's roads.
A study co-authored by Michael Morrisey of the University of Alabama and David Grabowski of Harvard Medical School found that for each 10 percent rise in gas prices between 1985 and 2006, there was a 2.3 percent decline in vehicular deaths. Young drivers fared even better: for every 10 percent rise in the price at the pump the decline in traffic deaths among drivers ages 15 to 17 has been 6 percent, and for ages 18 to 21, 3.2 percent.