In two years, the Guardian’s data blog has published more than 600 data sets. I know this because, thanks to their nifty summary post, I just browsed the full list. In addition to more than a few UK analogues to the sort of stuff we see from AHRQ and NCHS, such as UK life expectancy, birth rates and aging populations and public spending, they’ve also got the sort of global health stuff that any journalist or blogger could pull out and use in a post tomorrow. I’ve collected some of my favorites and tried to strike a good balance between unique stuff and broad-spectrum, widely available global health data.
The most and least surprising thing about the NHS atlas? That, despite vastly different health care systems, it yields much the same results as the American version. I’ll let Weaver explain:
Before you blame … inconsistencies on America’s money-driven health system, take a look at Britain’s effort to anglicize the Dartmouth work: Doctors in some areas such as the college town of Oxford do one type of hip replacement at rates up to 16 times greater than in places like London, according to a November atlas by the National Health Service.
The British atlas is surprising because “doctors are not by and large paid on a fee for service basis in the NHS,” Angela Coulter, director of global initiatives for the Dartmouth Atlas-associated Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, said at a Salzburg Global Seminar session this week. “It illustrates the fact… that doctors tend to favor the treatments they’re trained to provide,” even when money isn’t a factor. Most British doctors get salaries rather than payments for each procedure like their American colleagues.
Pharmalot blogger Ed Silverman reports that, had they not been exposed by BMJ, the UK pharmaceutical company Norgine probably would have gotten away with quietly organizing doctors and patient groups to submit a letter to The Times protesting a government plan to require substituting generic drugs for brand-name ones where applicable. Norgine’s name appeared nowhere on the letter, which was written by a PR firm they’d hired. Furthermore, several patient groups which signed the letter also received funding from pharmaceutical companies.
In the end though, Silverman writes, Norgine came away from the incident pretty well, considering the outcry over their stunt.
Norgine may have had the last laugh, however. Apart from being lambasted publicly for being a secretive and manipulative company, the drugmaker issued a celebratory press release earlier this month trumpeting the decision by the government to scrap the proposed automatic generic substitution plan.
The group blames haphazard enforcement and monitoring for the lapses.
Action against Medical Accidents warned that despite repeated warnings that the alerts were not being complied with, there was no central policy or guidance on which organisation should be monitoring compliance and what action should be taken.
Smith focused on two particularly serious issues, the inappropriate administration of oxygen and injectable medicines. The report groups instances of noncompliance by hospital and by alert.
UK journalist Simon Singh has gained ground in his ongoing defense against a libel suit leveled by British chiropractors, with the reversal of a ruling that had said his words were (potentially libelous) fact instead of (protected) commentary. The words in question included the assertion that the British Chiropractic Association “happily promotes bogus treatments.”
BBC News science correspondent Pallab Ghosh says that, had Justice Eady’s ruling stood, it would have made it difficult for any scientist or science journalist to question claims made by companies or organisations without opening themselves up to a libel action that would be hard to win.
The BBC reported that Singh praised the ruling and said the legal wind finally seemed to be at his back, but that he bemoaned the fact that it had cost £200,000 to get to that point.
“The Court of Appeal’s made a very wise decision, but it just shouldn’t be so horrendously expensive for a journalist or an academic journal or a scientist to defend what they mean.
“That’s why people back off from saying what they really mean.”
Following in the footsteps of several other device manufacturers and medical interests, GE Healthcare is using UK libel laws, which some describe as “draconian,” to attempt to muzzle a Danish physician who helped discover links between the GE drug Omniscan and the debilitating and sometimes fatal disease nephrogenic systemic fibrosis.
ProPublica’s Jeff Gerth, who has been all over the Omniscan story for a while now, reports in The Sunday Times (and on ProPublica) on the lawsuit and the science, economics and politics behind it. The prominent Danish researcher, who noticed the link after a number of his patients came down with NSF, delivered a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation in Oxford in 2006 in which he referred to Omniscan as a potential “medical hurricane.” To date, GE has spent more than $600,000 fighting the claims with a libel suit.