Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. will announce this afternoon a partnership with leading Boston-area hospitals, medical schools, and universities -- in a novel attempt to address a major hurdle in medicine: the years-long gap between basic science advances and the testing of drugs in patients.
Under the unusual arrangement, the company will invest $100 million over five years and establish a research space in the heart of the Longwood Medical Area where Pfizer scientists will work in close proximity and team up with academic scientists. The new Center for Therapeutic Innovation, which will create about 50 new jobs, is part of a global Pfizer initiative to foster new kinds of collaboration with academia to accelerate drug development, a program that will be headquartered in Boston.FULL ENTRY
A look at the morning's top health industry news.
Pyramid out. Plate in: Daily Dose blogger Deborah Kotz wrote about the new plate icon that has replaced the food pyramid. The design is meant to make it easier for us to decide what to put on our own plates. The Wall Street Journal posted a video here of First Lady Michelle Obama helping the US Department of Agriculture to unveil the new tool. Also check out the early coverage from the New York Times, which included this quote from Dr. Walter C. Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health: “It’s going to be hard not to do better than the current pyramid, which basically conveys no useful information.”FULL ENTRY
A new report from Governor Deval Patrick's administration documenting what hospitals are paid for common procedures reveals some eye-opening differences in price. Also noteworthy is that even routine procedures, like removal of the appendix and gallbladder, are concentrated in the highest-priced hospitals, pushing up health care costs even more.
Some interesting variations:
The five largest insurers paid Children's Hospital Boston more than $2 million in 2009 for 166 appendectomies -- an average $11,889 each. They paid Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge an average of $7,601 for each of 102 operations.FULL ENTRY
Each year, the premier children's hospitals in Boston and Philadelphia duke it out for top rankings in the US News lineup. This year's list, released this morning, puts Children's Hospital Boston in first place in six of 10 categories, including cancer and cardiac care. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia took first in three categories, including diabetes care and neonatology.
When it comes to who provides the highest level of overall care, the powerhouses are neck and neck. US News lists the hospitals as tied for first on its honor roll. That lists look at how far above average the hospitals are in each specialty.
"We're honored by this recognition from US News, but it really is in our patients’ and families’ eyes where we want to be number one,” Dr. James Mandell, chief executive officer of Children's Hospital Boston, said in a press release. “We see this as a challenge to innovate and push care forward, so we can offer the very best care and service to our families.”
The rankings are based on hospital reputations determined by physician surveys and by more quantitative measures, including nurse-to-patient ratios, infection rates, certifications and patient outcomes. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a partner of Children's Hospital Boston, shares the first place ranking for pediatric cancer care.
When Children's Hospital Boston reorganized some inpatient care units, the distance that medical residents traveled through hallways and stairwells as they made their way from patient to patient was cut from about four miles each day to two.
Trouble with the pedometers kept Dr. Mary Beth Gordon from including that anecdote in a study published last week in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. But the results she could document were significant: Less travel time led to more face time between doctors and nurses.
Children's organized two resident care teams so that the patients they saw were located close together within the hospital, instead of spread throughout based on which specialists they saw. The goal, Gordon said, was to create the kind of teamwork among the doctors and nurses who served those patients each day that is often seen in intensive care units, where close communication is paramount.FULL ENTRY
A look at the morning's top health industry news.
Payment on call: Hospitals have been having a harder time getting doctors to put in on-call hours in recent years and more are offering extra payment for on-call hours as a result, the American Medical News reports. The number of physicians who were paid for their on-call time grew from 59% in 2009 to 65% last year.FULL ENTRY
As they sat waiting for doctors at Children's Hospital Boston to replace their daughter's mechanical heart with a donated one, Mike and Cheryl Toole of Hopkinton wondered about the family that had lost a child to make the procedure possible.
Their daughter, Avery, then 5, was born with an underdeveloped heart. Doctors had operated on her at five days old. But that surgery and eight more did not correct the problem. In March 2009, Avery went into cardiac arrest. Doctors put her on the experimental heart-assist device and added her to the list of people waiting for a transplant. On Aug. 6, the Tooles, who are featured this week in a TV news series, learned there was a match.
Organ donations like this one typically are anonymous. But as Avery was undergoing what would be an 18-hour operation, the Tooles searched the Internet for stories of people who could have been a donor. They came upon a photo of 8-year-old Dalton Lawyer, a boy from College Station, Texas, who was struck and killed while riding his bike during a visit to Ohio.FULL ENTRY
Through research ranging from brute force genome sequencing to the painstaking study of thousands of zebrafish tumors, local scientists announced today new insights into blood and skin cancers that could lead to clinical trials with existing drugs.
In three papers published in the journal Nature, separate teams of researchers used different genetic approaches that highlight the strategies scientists are using to reveal the biological underpinnings of cancer.
One team, led by researchers at the Broad Institute in Cambridge and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, reported they had sequenced the full genomes of tumors removed from 38 patients with multiple myeloma, a rare and incurable form of cancer. The research provides the deepest and most comprehensive look at a cancer yet, according to Dr. Bert Vogelstein, a professor of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins University, who was not involved in the research.
The study highlighted several new genes involved in the disease, for example, genes that are involved in blood clotting or the way genetic material is translated into proteins. Researchers also found that a small subset -- an estimated 4 percent of patients --
carry a mutation in a gene called BRAF. Already, treatments that target the BRAF gene have been clinically tested in melanoma patients, so the finding suggests an immediate trial that could be done in a subset of multiple myeloma patients using a drug already in late-stage development.
"There had been some speculation that maybe we've discovered all the cancer-causing genes and there's nothing left," said Dr. Todd Golub, a core faculty member at the Broad and senior author of
the new research. "The ability to look broadly in this way is showing us that we haven't discovered everything."
A former Children's Hospital Boston pediatrician and best-selling author is facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly abusing and improperly treating children who were patients, a Boston attorney said today.
The suit, filed by attorney Carmen Durso, alleges that Dr. Melvine D. Levine committed medical malpractice and sexual abuse and the hospital was negligent in failing to properly supervise him in more than 40 cases over 20 years. According to the lawsuit, those plaintiffs have alleged that Levine performed genital examinations on them that were not medically indicated.
The suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, also said it sought to represent the entire group of children examined by Levine during the period 1966 through 1985, estimating that he treated approximately 5,000 boys during that period.
The suit also alleges that the hospital "knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that defendant Levine was not a fit person to be placed in charge of the treatment of minor male pediatric patients, or to be allowed to provide unsupervised care."FULL ENTRY
Budget cuts proposed today by the Obama administration would strike heavily in Boston's health care community, threatening the training of young pediatricians and imperiling a program that tackles asthma in older homes.
Children's Hospital Boston stands to lose $21 million that is used to prepare the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists as part of a federal program that supplements training dollars at freestanding children's hospitals. The $318 million Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Payment Program is eliminated in the proposed budget.
"We are already so short-handed that, clearly, this would be a real disaster for the youth of the country," said Dr. James Mandell, chief executive officer of Children's Hospital Boston. The United States has a shortage of specialists in fields such as pediatric oncology, and it can be challenging to lure medical school graduates into general pediatrics because salaries are typically lower than what other physicians earn.FULL ENTRY
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
Elizabeth Comeau, Senior Health Producer