Health System Review – December 5th, 2012

Heart Gadgets Test Privacy Law Limits
Flu Season’s Early Start Signals It Could Be Severe
USA Today, WSJ – December 4, 2012
This year’s flu season is starting earlier and hitting harder than it has in almost a decade, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. “This is at least a month earlier than we would generally see the beginning of the uptick in cases,” said CDC director Thomas Frieden. The flu strains circulating in the United States this year, especially the N3N2 strain, tend to cause more severe disease as well. The good news is that this year’s flu vaccine is a 90% match for the circulating strains.

Study Raises Questions on Coating of Aspirin
Circulation, NYT, WSJ – December 4, 2012
While aspirin may prevent heart attacks and strokes, a commonly used coating to protect the stomach may obscure the benefits, leading doctors to prescribe more expensive prescription drugs, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Circulation. The conclusion about coated aspirin was only one finding in the study, whose main goal was to test the hotly disputed idea that aspirin does not help prevent heart attacks or stroke in some people.

U.S. on Alert for Canadian Drugs
WSJ – December 4, 2012
The White House has alerted police and border agents to prepare for a possible influx of addictive pain drugs from Canada, where cheaper, generic versions of OxyContin will soon become available.

Most Internists Don’t Plan to Stay in Primary Care
Reuters – December 4, 2012
Less than a quarter of new doctors finishing an internal medicine training program planned to become a primary care physician instead of a specialist, stated a new study published by Amitabh Chandra from Harvard University. Chandra said some young doctors may graduate medical school hoping to be a primary care physician, but realize during residency that it’s much more lucrative to go into a specialty such as cardiology or ophthalmology. Others might plan to be a specialist all along, but find it easier to get into an internal medicine residency program than a competitive specialty one. Thus, training more internal medicine residents might not be the answer to doctor shortages. Another strategy, according to Chandra, is to find ways to get current primary care doctors into specific areas of the country that are underserved – and to pay those doctors more to work slightly longer hours and see extra patients.

Heart Gadgets Test Privacy-Law Limits
WSJ – November 28, 2012
The U.S. has strict privacy laws guaranteeing people access to traditional medical records. But implants and other new technologies—including smartphone apps and over-the-counter monitors—are testing the very definition of medical records.