“July 7, 2003 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Employers should brace for another round of higher health insurance costs. The early sign of more double-digit premium increases comes from California. Directors of CALPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) voted to raise member HMO premiums by an average of between 16.7% and 18.4% for 2004. This comes on top of last year’s average premium increase to members of 25%. CALPERS also raised co-payments for emergency room visits and non-formula prescription drugs for 2004.

Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc. of Elmwood Park, New Jersey earned 37th place on Fortune Small Business Magazine’s “America’s 100 Fastest Growing Small Public Companies” list. Ranking criteria includes the most recent three years of growth in revenue, earnings, and stock performance. Companies must trade on a major exchange and have under $200 million in annual revenue.

EVIDENCE BUILDING THAT CELIAC DISEASE IS MORE COMMON

Medical researchers are compiling evidence that indicates Celiac disease may actually be much more common than previously thought. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by eating wheat, barley, and similar foods. The disease, if untreated, can lead to cancer, infertility, and osteoporosis. “The prevalence of the disease and the burden of illness related to this condition, particularly if it is not treated, are so high as to potentially support a policy of screening the general population,” declared Alessio Fasano, M.D., Director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. New findings indicate that one in 150 people in the United States may have the disease. Because it is inherited, Celiac disease would be more prevalent than other genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and Type I diabetes.

ADD TO: Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is diagnosed by a blood test which detects specific gluten antibodies. The antibodies not only attack the gluten protein, but also attack the intestine, producing a host of gastrointestinal problems. The advances in knowledge about Celiac disease, along with the estimate that more than 1 million Americans have this hereditary condition, now make it worthwhile for laboratories to offer specialized testing services. Laboratories may want to support local physicians by offering a clinical information package about this disease, along with an appropriate menu of tests for detecting the disease and monitoring the condition of affected patients.

DIANON ALUMNI FINDING NEW “HOMES”

There’s been lots of departures among the executive team at DIANON Systems, following its acquisition by Laboratory Corporation of America this past January. The most recent departure was by Martin Stephanelli, DIANON’s Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development. Stephanelli is now the COO of AmeriPath, Inc., based in Riviera Beach, Florida.

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