Discoveries/Innovations: Window to the Brain

University of California, Riverside researchers discovered an exciting new concept that could provide a clinical means to look at and assess the brain. They developed a novel transparent skull implant made of a uniquely processed yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ), the material used in hip implants and dental crowns. The YSZ implant will give physicians a permanent window into the brain for targeting laser-based treatments without repeated craniectomies—removing a portion of the skull to access the brain. Researchers hope this discovery helps physicians to understand the brain, and develop new treatment options for patients with life-threatening brain disorders or diseases.

DC Wire: Infringing the Right to Free Speech

Adheris, Inc., an inVentiv Health Company that helps patients stay on therapy, recently filed a lawsuit against Kathleen Sebelius and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to stop enforcement of a regulation that would impose restrictions on treatment communications to patients. The suit charges the HHS with attempting to restrain speech protected by the First Amendment. Adheris works with pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies that manufacture drugs for chronic diseases on mail campaigns to remind patients to take their medications as prescribed, educate them about disease conditions and side effects, provide information on how to take their drugs and spell out the consequences of non-adherence. However, the HHS’ Office of Civil Rights enacted a rule that would undermine refill communication programs and impinge on the right to free speech meant to significantly impact the lives of many Americans, including those suffering from chronic disease.

Company Corner: Calico’s Fight Against Aging

The global tech giant, Google, recently launched its new medical company Calico, or California Life Company, that will focus on aging and aging-related conditions. Calico will research subjects with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease. Arthur D. Levinson, Chairman and former CEO of Genentech and Chairman of Apple, will be Chief Executive Officer and a founding investor of Calico. Amid speculation as to whether Calico can “solve death,” or “cure aging,” or whether they will take a “Big Data” approach to speed healthcare discoveries, Google has not announced what approach it will take to aging and aging-related diseases. Some scientists agree that to make a difference in health, the focus needs to be on the aging process.

Healthcare Personnel: Nurses Promoting Patient Adherence

As the Affordable Care Act begins to take effect for the millions of Americans without insurance, the demand for physicians—already in short supply—is being filled in part by nurses and physician assistants.

Manhattan Research surveyed 909 nurses and physician assistants and discovered that:

  • Almost 9 out of 10 nurses provide patients with the resources to help better understand adherence to treatment. Three out of 10 nurses suggest digital tools for patients, including websites or phone applications.
  • Nearly 50% of nurses say the time spent educating patients increased in the past two years.
  • Three out of 5 nurses say patient outcomes are the greatest priority in their practice.

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Doctor Docs: Annual Epocrates Survey Results

Patient-centered care is the main focus for medical students as they determine how to make a difference in the lives of future patients, according to the eighth annual Future Physicians of America survey conducted by Epocrates, Inc. The survey also reveals that med students have a mixed understanding and knowledge of key healthcare issues. Over 1,000 med students from all 50 states were surveyed. Some findings include:

  • Patient-centered care—the involvement of patients and their families in decision making—is highly embraced. Seventy-two percent say they would practice it.
  • Forty-six percent say the Affordable Care Act would result in more preventative care and expanded patient coverage. However, 52% feel they will have less time with their patients.
  • Only 28% have an understanding and knowledge about Accountable Care Organizations and Meaningful Use.
  • Fifty-four percent report using a tablet, smartphone, and/or computer routinely in a professional and academic capacity, up from 23% last year.
  • Only 17% plan on going into either solo or partnership practice. Thirty-seven percent expressed dissatisfaction with practice-management and ownership training.

FDA Update

BI Granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation

The FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy designation to Boehringer Ingelheim for an investigational inhibitor (volasertib) of polo-like kinase (Plk). The inhibitor is being evaluated for the treatment of previously untreated acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive cancer, in patients aged 65 or older. It is not yet FDA approved.

New Approvals

Clinolipid is approved by the FDA for intravenous feeding in adult patients as a source for calories and fatty acids for patients unable to drink or eat. The product is a lipid emulsion containing a mixture of refined olive oil and refined soybean oil, and is intended for adults. It is marketed by Baxter Healthcare.

The FDA approved Surfaxin (lucinactant) for updates applied to its specifications. Surfaxin Intratracheal Suspension was approved as a preventative for premature infants at high risk for Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS).  It is the first synthetic surfactant containing peptide to be approved.

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