Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.
In an attempt to avoid nasty side effects from prostate cancer treatment, men are paying for an expensive procedure with still-unknown long-term effects, reported Kaiser Health News. This particular procedure, called high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), is not covered by insurers, including Medicare. Critics are saying it is being oversold, causing some patients to receive treatment they don’t need. Currently, device makers are selling the machines for upwards of $500,000 to physicians across the United States, and offering training courses. The treatment cost can range from $15,000 to $25,000. So far advisory committees to the FDA have turned down applications twice from manufacturers to market HIFU devices as a prostate cancer treatment, stating that there was not enough long-term evidence. HIFU is the latest treatment to prompt concerns over whether there should be limits placed on expensive new technology while more data is being gathered, according to the article.
The FDA is now requiring a black-box warning on the labels of at least 9 hepatitis C direct-activing antiviral drugs. According to The Wall Street Journal, these warnings address the risk of reactivation of hepatitis B among patients who have had the disease, and are taking newer medications for HCV. Some of the direct-acting antiviral drugs include Sovaldi, Harvoni, Viekira Pak, and Zepatier.
More than 2 years after a major scandal that involved patient wait times, a Phoenix, AZ-based Department of Veterans Affairs hospital has continued to commit scheduling errors that led to delays and lack of care, according to the department’s watchdog. During 2015, employees at the Phoenix VA Health Care System improperly delayed or canceled hundreds of specialty-care consults numerous times, simply because they didn’t know the proper scheduling procedures, or failed to contact patients, according to The Wall Street Journal. In a report released Tuesday by the department’s Office of Inspector General, these oversights could have led to the death of at least 1 patient.