Health Highlights: Feb. 29, 201202/29/12
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Reconsider Decision Not to Publish Bird Flu Research, Experts
U.S. health officials have asked government biosecurity advisers
to reconsider their recommendation that details of research
involving the spread of so-called H5N1 bird flu be withheld from
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health on
Wednesday said new information has come to light, and that flu
experts at the World Health Organization have also concluded that
the work should be published, the
Associated Press reported.
Research conducted in Wisconsin and the Netherlands recently
triggered alarm when it appeared that scientists had devised a form
of bird flu that spread more easily from mammal to mammal. U.S.
officials, fearing a deadly flu of pandemic proportions, urged that
details of the experiments be withheld from the public so they
couldn't be used by bioterrorists.
But at a meeting of researchers Wednesday, Dr. Ron Fouchier, a
virology professor at the Netherlands' Erasmus University, and one
of the original team members, said the strain didn't spread easily
after all and that people with exposure to regular flu seemed
protected from serious infection.
Publishing the research would benefit the scientific community
and further research into bird flu mutations, vaccines and
treatment, Fouchier said.
Feds Uncover Record-Breaking Medicare Scam
A Texas doctor allegedly recruited homeless people as fake
patients in a wide-ranging, $375 million Medicare home health-care
scam, the largest ever uncovered, investigators say.
Dr. Jacques Roy, 54, was arrested Wednesday and charged with
falsifying hundreds of Medicare claims and taking millions of
dollars for unneeded or undelivered services. He could be sent to
prison for life,
ABC News reported.
"According to the indictment, Dr. Roy and his co-conspirators, for years, ran a well-oiled fraudulent enterprise in the Dallas area, making millions by recruiting thousands of patients for unnecessary services, and billing Medicare for those services," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.
The indictment alleges that Roy certified more Medicare
beneficiaries for home health services and claimed more patients
than any other U.S. doctor in the years 2006 to 2011,
To obtain reimbursement from Medicare, doctors must certify that
the medical services were needed and performed. Roy's operation,
Medistat Group and Associates, allegedly certified false claims
involving nearly 500 home health care companies in Texas. The
companies were reimbursed for the bogus or unnecessary services and
provided Roy with a portion of the "refund." All told, they billed
Medicare for more than $350 million and Medicaid for more than $24
million, the news report said.
Counterfeit Avastin Lacks Any Real Drug
Counterfeit vials of Avastin, a commonly used cancer drug, are
probably not harmful, but do not contain the active ingredient in
the real drug, according to Roche, the Swiss drug maker.
Regulators in Europe said traces of salt, starch and acetone, a
solvent found in paint thinner, were found in an analysis of the
fake drug's contents, the
Associated Press reported. Roche said in a statement that
"the counterfeit product is not safe or effective and should not be
Dr. Miguel Fernandez of the South Texas Poison Center in San
Antonio said a low dose probably would not be toxic. "They're not
great to have in your system, but depending on the concentration
your body can probably handle them pretty well," Fernandez
The counterfeit Avastin was imported from Europe and apparently
distributed by a U.S. wholesaler to doctors in the United States.
Of 41 vials shipped, 36 are still unaccounted for, the
Doctors infuse Avastin to treat colon, lung, kidney and brain
cancer. According to the news agency, worldwide reports of drug
counterfeiting have increased over the past 10 years.
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