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Why do radioisotopes matter for medicine? MedCity Morning Read, Feb. 17, 2010

Radioisotopes that are used in nuclear medicine are in short supply, and that could be bad news for hospitals, physicians and businesses that do a lot of imaging. Radioisotopes are used to measure blood flows in the heart and to help diagnose bone and breast cancers.

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Highlights of the important and the interesting from the world of health care:

In search of radioisotopes: Radioisotopes that are used in nuclear medicine are in short supply, and that could be bad news for hospitals, physicians and businesses that do a lot of imaging. Radioisotopes are used to measure blood flows in the heart and to help diagnose bone and breast cancers. The problem began last year when a Canadian reactor that was the biggest North American producer of the isotopes went down. Making matters worse, a Dutch reactor that’s picked up some of its slack will shut down soon for maintenance, MedPage Today reports.  Many health providers have coped by sharing and or reducing the use of radioisotopes, but that only goes so far. The emergence of a Polish reactor as a possible alternative has raised hopes somewhat.

A top nuclear medicine doctor at Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center says it’s a matter of “when, not if” a “crisis” is upon us. The University of Chicago Medical Center’s director of nuclear medicine paints a starker picture:

“There will be situations when the nuclear medicine test is really the only thing of benefit for the patients and we simply can’t provide it,” he says. It could be “a scary situation.”

Nine tips for raising venture funding: Entrepreneur Dharmesh Shah has raised $33 million in three rounds of venture funding for his marketing software startup. Courtesy of VentureBeat’s Entrepreneur corner, Shah lists nine key lessons he’s learned about the fund-raising process. His advice includes: find a good lawyer, avoid “valuation infatuation,” and raise more than you need. Most important, however, might be mastering proper use of the phrase, “That’s not market.”

Doctor-patient disconnect on mammograms: It was all-too predictable, but now the Annals of Internal Medicine says it’s happening–a disconnect between doctors and patients about mammography screenings. A quick review: Last year the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force revised its routine-mammography guidelines. Now, the agency recommends women begin getting routine scans at the age of 50, not 40. The agency also recommends getting scans every two years as opposed to annually. The move set off a firestorm of controversy, and politicians took advantage of the public’s frayed health-care nerves  to cast themselves as defenders of women’s rights–in opposition to science.

Now The Annals of Internal Medicine, which originally published the new guidelines, has jumped back into the fire with an informal survey on its website. The survey revealed that most doctors said they’d stop offering routine mammograms to women in their 40s, while patients said just the opposite, that they’d be reluctant to stop getting mammograms while in their 40s. Unfortunately, this single example doesn’t bring optimism on America’s ability to reduce its out-of-control health spending.  Even with scientific research showing us a way to cut costs, we resist, primarily out of fear, confusion and the unshakable belief that more care is better care.