“January 28, 2002 Intelligence:  Late Breaking Lab News”

It may be a sign of change in how at least one national managed care company is willing to contract for laboratory services. During the last four weeks, UnitedHealthcare signed agreements with Dynacare, Inc. and Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc. (BRLI). Dynacare operates labs in 21 states while BRLI’s core market is Greater New York City. UnitedHealthcare is showing a willingness to expand its lab provider panels.

TRICORE LABS GETS NEW PRESIDENT

Russell W. Duke, Ph.D. is the new President and CEO of TriCore Reference Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is the laboratory joint venture owned by three IDNs and hospitals. For most of the 1990s, Duke was Director of Operations at Sonora Quest Laboratories in Phoenix, Arizona, which he left in 1998. Most recently Duke was President and Laboratory Director of Kronos Science Laboratory in Phoenix.

MALARIA PARASITE’S GENOME MAPPED BY CONSORTIUM

With 30 million letters of DNA code and 6,000 genes, it took five years and $30 million to map the genome of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for malaria. A scientific team that included Britain’s Wellcome Trust, the Institute for Genome Research, and Stanford University are preparing to publish the entire DNA sequence for this parasite. Each year this disease affects 300 million people worldwide and kills 1.5 million. By mapping the parasite’s genome, researchers hope to identify vulnerabilities in the organism that could be attacked by new drugs.

MORE ON: MALARIA

THE DARK REPORT believes this achievement is another sign of how genetic technology is already changing the way different diseases are studied. Since malaria is not a significant problem in the United States, any new diagnostic and therapeutic products developed from the DNA sequence will not have much impact here. But the pattern of targeting a high-impact disease, mapping its DNA, then using this map to trigger research for diagnostic and therapeutic products is already being applied in research labs throughout the United States and the world. Expect to see more announcements about the successful DNA mapping other organisms known to cause disease.

AMERICAN HEALTH SPENDING ON THE RISE

Just-released data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show that overall spending on healthcare increased by 6.9%, to $1.3 trillion during 2000. Hospital costs rose by 5.1%, to $412 billion. This is the first percentage increase exceeding 4% since 1993. Private and public spending on healthcare averaged $4,637 per person in the United States for 2000.

Last minute add

  • Albert L. Nichols, M.D., founder of the famed Nichols Institute died in recent days. He was 67 years old and died in his Aspen, Colorado home. More in the next TDR.

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