Healthcare law will face Supreme Court before 2012 election (Morning Read)

Current medical news from today, including Supreme Court to decide on healthcare reform law, Geron Corp. gives up embryonic stem cell trial, and an electronic tracking system for antibiotics in hospitals.

Current medical news and unique business news for anyone who cares about healthcare.

Supreme Court to take on healthcare individual mandate. The arguments about the individual mandate in the U.S. healthcare reform law will take place right before the 2012 election, which will likely increase public scrutiny of the healthcare law as President Obama faces re-election. But it may also have implications for Mitt Romney, who tried to pass an individual mandate while he was governor of Massachusetts.

Four federal appeals courts have weighed in on the healthcare law: two upheld it, one struck down the insurance mandate, and one came to no decision. But will a Supreme Court decision settle questions about the fairness of the individual mandate? The court also said it would debate whether the expansion of Medicaid is constitutional, an issue that has not split lower courts.

Geron backs out of stem-cell research. Geron Corp., which began the first U.S.-approved trial of embryonic stem cells in the U.S., announced Monday it would end the program because of the high costs and complex regulatory processes associated with the trial. The company will instead focus on its cancer drugs.

Electronic tracking system for antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching an electronic system to track antibiotic use in hospitals in order to combat overuse of antibiotics, which can lead to the formation of drug-resistant superbugs. It’s funding the system in 70 hospitals and testing strategies for improved antibiotic use in eight pilot hospitals.

More malpractice courts in NY. New York is expanding its specialized medical malpractice  courts to cut down on court backlogs and save money. A $3 million grant federal grant will allow more judges to be trained in medical issues, to handle the 4,000 malpractice suits filed each year in the state.

Amgen goes bigtime. Is Amgen officially a member of the Big Pharma club? It announced its first dividends earlier this year, and its CEO Kevin Sharer was used by The Washington Post as an example of a an executive with an especially high salary when the company’s stocks aren’t doing well and workers’ wages are stagnant.