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Morning Report

The Morning Report provides a quick look at today’s medical news, research and features.  









CVS: Patients Filling Scripts Were Also Buying Cigs
Patients using medicine to treat high blood pressure, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were likely to buy cigarettes while filling prescriptions at pharmacies, according to a study supported by CVS.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital analyzed purchases made with a CVS loyalty card by over 350,000 customers.  They identified  individuals who filled a prescription between 2011 – 2012 for an antihypertensive, asthma or COPD, or oral contraceptive medication. Then the researchers further narrowed the field to individuals who made a co-purchase of cigarettes along with their medication.

“We found that 1 in 20 patients who were taking medications in three classes purchased cigarettes at the pharmacy,” said the researchers led by Alexis A. Krumme, MS, in the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In related news, CVS has announced plans to encourage other pharmacies to get rid of cigarette sales.  Their plan, according to the Wall Street Journal, is to require customers who use a Caremark benefit plan at other pharmacies to make an extra co-payment, in some cases up to $15, if that pharmacy sells cigarettes.  (More at Physicians News)

Paralyzed Man Walks Again After Nose Cells Repair Spinal Cord
A 40-year-old paralyzed man from Bulgaria can now walk again with the aid of a frame after breakthrough surgery transplanted cells from his nose into his spinal cord, which had been severed in a knife attack. The procedure effectively provided a “bridge” over the injury site so nerve cells – encouraged by the special nose cells – could regrow across the scar tissue.

Darek Fidyka was left paralyzed from the chest down after suffering stab wounds to his back in 2010. After 19 months of treatment at a Polish hospital, his doctors say he has recovered some voluntary movement and some sensation in his legs.

The breakthrough represents decades of pioneering work for Geoffrey Raisman, a professor in the Institute of Neurology at University College London in the UK. In 1969, he discovered that damaged nerve cells can form new connections, and in 1985, he identified that a type of nose cell – called an olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC) – allows nerve fibers to regenerate into the brain.

When the spinal cord is damaged, scar tissue forms at the injured site and stops nerve fibers from regrowing. Prof. Raisman had the idea the nerve fibers might regrow if they had a bridge across the scar.  (Full story at Medical News Today)

New Doc Website Rates Experience, Quality
The first comprehensive physician rating and comparison database launched Monday in time for open enrollment on federal and state health exchanges, as well as for many employer-provided plans.

The new version of the website Healthgrades.com uses about 500 million claims from federal and private sources and patient reviews to rate and rank doctors based on their experience, complication rates at the hospitals where they practice and patient satisfaction. The new way to find the best doctor comes at a time when many health insurance plans offer fewer choices of doctors and hospitals. Users can sort and compare physicians based on where they live and their insurance plans.

A study out Tuesday by Healthgrades on hospital quality underscores the importance of researching both doctors and the hospitals they’re affiliated with. The study found that 17 hospitals rated in the Denver area for total knee replacement had complication rates that varied widely, ranging from 5.5% to 24%.

Healthgrades’ new ratings are “game changing,” in part because they allow consumers to easily search physicians by how much experience they have in a particular area or procedure. ”It’s all about finding the right doctor for the right procedure,” says Healthgrades CEO Roger Holstein. “Frequency is really important to look at … 20% of the doctors see 80% of the patients.” (USAToday)


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