New oral drug for MS shows promise
A new oral medication to treat patients in the early stages of multiple sclerosis has shown considerable promise in two clinical trials, researchers announced Wednesday. The medication, being developed by Biogen Idec, is on track to become just the third oral drug available to MS patients, and potentially the safest and most effective, experts said. The second oral drug, called Aubagio, was approved just last week. MS was virtually untreatable only two decades ago, but today nine "disease modifying" drugs are available for early-stage patients; a half-dozen more are in the late stages of development. Most patients in the early stage of the disease, a form called relapsing-remitting MS, take drugs intravenously. The two new studies, published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the drug BG-12 reduced relapse rates in patients with relapsing MS by about 50 percent. The drug also significantly reduced the frequency of new brain lesions, and slowed the progression of disease compared with a placebo.
Cost of Medicare Advantage to rise
Monthly premiums for popular Medicare Advantage insurance plans are rising slightly — by $1.47 next year — to an average of $32.59. The privately run plans often can provide the same services as traditional Medicare for a lower out-of-pocket cost, but seniors have to accept some restrictions on choice. About 12 million Medicare recipients are in private plans.
11 hospitals top agency's list
Eleven hospitals in Tampa Bay were named top performers Wednesday by the Joint Commission, their accrediting agency. The ratings recognize high performance on measures linked to positive patient outcomes, ranging from timely delivery of life-saving therapy in heart attack cases to dispensing aspirin at discharge. The following hospitals were recognized for 2011: Brandon Regional, Brooksville & Spring Hill Regional, Morton Plant, Pasco Regional, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, Largo Medical, Mease Countryside, Northside, St. Petersburg General, South Bay and St. Joseph's. Go to www.jointcommission.org for more information.
Experts discuss end-of-life care
End-of-life care for people of all ages is the topic of a public forum Friday. Among the speakers are Janice M. Van Dyck, author of Finding Frances; Dr. James Orlowski, a pediatrician who chairs the ethics committee at Florida Hospital; Dr. Howard Tuch of Tampa General Hospital; and Jay Wolfson, the USF health policy expert who served as guardian ad litem for Terri Schiavo. The conference is 1 to 4 p.m. Friday at Stetson College of Law, 1700 N Tampa Street, Tampa. Tickets are $60 at www.emersonforum.tix.com.
Wire, staff reports