The Food and Drug Administration gave Boston Scientific Corp.'s Taxus drug-eluting stent the go-ahead for U.S. marketing, creating the first rival in the U.S. to Johnson & Johnson's Cypher stent, which was approved last April (See By the Numbers, p. 9). Boston Scientific set the Taxus list price at $2,950 per stent-$245 less than that of J&J's Cypher stent. Boston Scientific said it is prepared to launch the product in the U.S. immediately and has ample inventory in all sizes. The company boasts that Taxus is the market leader in Europe and other foreign markets, where it has been selling since February 2003. Boston Scientific's goal is to have 70% of the U.S. market within 70 days, said David Lothson, managing director at UBS Investment Research. Lothson said he expects Taxus to become the U.S. market leader based on its design and clinical trial data and projected that U.S. Taxus sales would hit $1.6 billion this year and $2.3 billion in 2005.
Huge Medicaid cuts proposed
The $2.36 trillion fiscal 2005 budget plan passed by the Senate Budget Committee includes an estimated $11 billion-plus in federal Medicaid cuts over five years. Because the committee plan must rely on certain fiscal assumptions, the exact magnitude of the cuts isn't certain. The estimate was provided by the Center on Budget and Budget Priorities, a research organization that is critical of the budget plan submitted by Committee Chairman Don Nickles (R-Okla.). Committee members voted along party lines, approving the plan 12-10. The full Senate is expected to take action this week. During its deliberations, the committee agreed by voice vote on a resolution that Medicare's formula for assessing physician payments must be revised, regardless of recent steps to increase doctors' Medicare payments. The resolution, although not legislatively binding, was "a positive step toward congressional acknowledgement that a payment crisis still exists," the American Medical Association said.
Docs lose in privileges fight
A judge has rejected a request by 17 physicians for a temporary restraining order barring OhioHealth, Columbus, from revoking their privileges over an investment in a competing specialty hospital. The ruling by Common Pleas Judge Patrick McGrath came more than a month after eight-hospital OhioHealth revoked the privileges of physician investors in for-profit New Albany Surgical Hospital, a 42-bed orthopedic facility located in a Columbus suburb (See related stories, p. 10). In a lawsuit filed last week that is not affected by the ruling on the restraining order, the physicians maintain that the hospital cannot revoke privileges based solely on economic factors. Their privileges were stripped effective Jan. 31.
Judge allows Scrushy tapes
A federal judge said taped conversations of ousted HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard Scrushy, made without his knowledge in March 2003, will likely be allowed as evidence in his trial, slated to begin Aug. 23 (See related story, p. 28). In a 17-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael Putnam refused Scrushy's request for a hearing on whether federal prosecutors improperly made the recordings of him discussing company finances. Scrushy's attorneys had filed a motion with U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre to exclude the recordings. Scrushy was indicted in November 2003 on 85 criminal counts in connection with an alleged $2.7 billion accounting fraud at the rehabilitation chain.
Calif. county OKs tax increase
Alameda County, Calif., voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase to prop up three-hospital Alameda County Medical Center, Oakland. The ballot initiative, which passed with 70.9% of the vote, will generate about $90 million annually for 15 years. Three-fourths of the funds will support the cash-strapped public system. The rest will be divided among other county healthcare facilities. Alameda is the third California county in two years to turn to voters to keep its healthcare system afloat (March 1, p. 17). A similar initiative was approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2002; another fell just short of passage in Monterey County late last year.