“November 10, 2003 Intelligence:  Late Breaking Lab News”

Has the disappearance of much despised closed panel HMOs eased the financial woes of physicians? Apparently not, according to a recent study. Medical groups are losing money. Nationwide, the average loss-per-physician by medical groups was
$3,977. In the 2003 survey, 25,784 physicians responded, a 26% increase from 2002. The study was conducted jointly by the American Group Medical Association and the National Healthcare Consulting Group of RSM McGladrey Inc. This study demonstrates why physicians are motivated to use cost-effective laboratories, particularly in states that permit physician mark-ups on lab testing services.

GROWTH AT VENTANA

Ventana Medical Systems, Inc. saw revenues climb 18% for third quarter, to $32 million. Reagent revenues grew 25%. These strong growth rates reflect the increase in anatomic pathology procedures, which fuel a demand for both instrument systems and reagents used in the histology laboratory.

OSTEOPOROSIS GENE DISCOVERED, MAY LEAD TO LAB TEST

Here’s a discovery which could lead to a genetic screening test for osteoporosis.
DeCode Genetics announced last week that it had discovered a new genetic risk factor for osteoporosis. Based on a study of 1,000 Iceland residents with osteoporosis, DeCode Genetics determined that individuals with bad versions of the BMP-2 gene were three times more likely to develop the bone-thinning disease. The disease findings have already been confirmed in a large group of Danish patients who have osteoporosis. Incidence of the bad version of this gene may be found in as much as 10% of the population. It seems the bad version limits production of the BMP-2 protein, which stimulates bone growth. This limits a person’s peak bone mass, setting up osteoporosis later in life.

ADD TO: BMP-2 Gene

DeCode Genetics is working to have a predictive genetic test for osteoporosis available for use by reference laboratories as early as next year. DeCode Genetics has collaborative agreements with Roche Holdings. If a useful genetic test is developed, it has the potential, if the cost is low enough, to be used for widespread screening of the population considered most at risk for osteoporosis. Kari Stefansson, M.D., CEO of DeCode Genetics, says such a test would allow younger people to be tested. If they had potential for the disease, it would allow them time to alter diet and lifestyle to prevent or minimize the disease.

TRANSITIONS

• In Wayne, Pennsylvania, the Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA) is looking for a new executive director following the departure of Robert Neri. Neri, an experience laboratory administrator, had been CLMA’s Executive Vice President in recent years. He is expected to return to a position in a clinical laboratory.

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