Archive for October 24th, 2008

IOM Honors John Wennberg

October 24th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: Institute of Medicine

Last week, the Institute of Medicine presented its 2008 Gustav O. Lienhard Award to John E. Wennberg for his contributions to evidence-based medicine, outcomes research and informed patient choice.

John Wennberg

John Wennberg

Dr. Wennberg is the Peggy Y. Thomson Chair for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences and Founder and Director Emeritus of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

Wennberg became a household name in the 1980s when he and colleague Alan Gitlesohn began documenting marked variations in procedure rates from region to region, state to state and even physician to physician in the same locale. Wennberg was able to show that his findings were driven by physician preferences which were in turn based on their own anecdotal experiences rather than evidence from scientific trials. This research helped drive us toward evidence-based medicine and served as an impetus for legislation that created the Agency for Health Care Quality and Research.

Wennberg also founded, along with Al Mulley, the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, a non-profit organization that provides objective scientific information to patients so they can participate more effectively in their own care.

Wennberg is the 23rd recipient of the Lienhard Award, which includes a medal and a $25,000 prize. The Award program is funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Lienhard was chairman of the Foundation’s board for sixteen years beginning in 1971.


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Bollywood Targets Call Centers

October 24th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Source: Washington Post

India’s $64 billion outsourcing industry has given rise to a host of new sub-cultures and lifestyles that have proven to be a rich source of subject matter for authors and moviemakers alike.

“Hello,” for example, is a recent Bollywood release about the bizarrely comic lives of 6 call center employees whose world gets turned upside down during a night’s work. The movie is based on the 2005 best-selling novel, One Night @ the Call Center by Chetan Bhagat. Both have clearly hit a nerve, and the Washington Post reports that “Hello” opened to laughs and cheers across India.

Indian call centers employ more than 2 million people, most of them well-educated, upwardly mobile young adults. “Hello” would have us believe their lives truly are a world apart. Workers sleep during the day and work all night. They adopt rust-belt sounding names and southern drawls, and track American holidays, football scores and hurricane forecasts as closely as events in their own country. All-night food delivery services spring up to meet their needs, while bars and movie theaters open at 7am to capture workers coming off the job.

We can only imagine the eye-rolling tales these call center reps must accumulate as they help exasperated American callers with jammed computers, insurance gobbledygook and so forth.



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Tough Sledding for Merck

October 24th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: Wall Street Journal, WSJ Health Blog

After reporting a 28% decrease in Q3 net income, pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. announced it will cut 7,200 jobs over the next 3 years. This amounts to 12% of its workforce and it comes on top of 10,400 job cuts the company has made during the last 3 years.

Merck said workforce reductions will coincide with the shuttering of research facilities in Seattle, Italy and Japan. Executive positions will be reduced by 25%. 40% of the reductions will involve US-based employees.

CEO Richard Clark indicated the moves were part of the company’s plans to reengineer its R & D, manufacturing and sales processes. “New business models have to be put in place for our industry to survive,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

Merck’s Q3 sales dropped 2% to $5.9 billion. The company attributed the fall to decreased revenue from three key drugs: Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine, Vytorin, a cholesterol-lowering drug whose effectiveness has been questioned, and Fosamax a bone mineralization drug that faces generic competition in the US. Merck also cited the economic downturn as a cause of its troubles. The Great Economic Crisis of 2008 has triggered a nearly unprecedented drop in US health care consumption.

Merck did report sales growth for its diabetes drugs, Januvia and Janumet. Sales of the former increased 250% to $379 million. Sales of the latter increased 500% to $101 million.


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