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Doctor who linked vaccines, autism acted unethically, British medical council rules

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the investigator whose research sparked fears of a link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, was rebuked on ethical grounds in a British medical regulator's report released in late January. The General Medical Council said Dr. Wakefield acted "with callous disregard for the distress and pain" that children would experience after being subjected to blood draws, lumbar punctures and other tests that were clinically unnecessary and not approved by his hospital's ethics committee. The council, which registers and regulates physicians in the United Kingdom, said Dr. Wakefield misled an ethics committee at London's Royal Free Hospital about his work. The council released its findings Jan. 28 ( The council found that two of Dr. Wakefield's research colleagues also broke ethics rules. The council will next move to consider disciplinary action, which could include barring the docto ...

National health spending may nearly double by 2019

A shrinking economy combined with greater public health spending in 2009 produced a 1.1 percentage point increase in national health spending as a share of gross domestic product -- the largest single-year jump since records began in 1960. National health spending as a share of gross domestic product reached 17.3% in 2009. This was largely because of a spike in Medicaid spending and relatively low growth in private spending, according to "Health Spending Projections Through 2019: The Recession's Impact Continues," published in Health Affairs on Feb. 4. National health spending increased by 5.7% in 2009 to reach $2.5 trillion, up from a 4.4% increase in 2008, according to the report's preliminary estimates, produced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary. Spending on physicians and clinical services increased by 6.3% in 2009 to $527.6 billion, 1.3 percentage points faster than in 2008. This increase also was driven largely by higher Medicaid spend ...

Teen pregnancy rate up for 1st time in more than 10 years

The nation's pregnancy rate for teens ages 15 to 19 increased in 2006, after more than a decade-long decline, according to a January report by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that conducts research on reproductive health. The report found that after falling 41% between 1990 and 2005, the pregnancy rate among this age group climbed 3% to 71.5 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 2006. The teen abortion rate also increased for the first time in more than a decade, inching up 1% from 2005 to 2006. "It's a serious concern. Whether this is going to be a blip or a trend, we still don't know," said Janet Realini, MD, MPH, president of Healthy Futures, a San Antonio, Texas, nonprofit that works to prevent teen and unwanted pregnancies in the city. "It means we have to redouble our efforts and use what works." Physicians, Dr. Realini said, can play an important role by educating adolescent patients and their parents about preventing pregnancy and helping them access contraception. She ...