A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Biosite (San Diego) reported commercialization of its Triage Stroke Panel, a rapid immunoassay used to aid in the assessment and diagnosis of stroke, in the European Union, with registration pending in other international markets.

The test uses a small sample of blood to simultaneously measure four biomarkers: brain natriuretic peptide, D-dimer, MMP-9 and S100 beta. It is the first commercialized test to incorporate the company's MultiMarker Index feature, which analyzes information from multiple biomarkers and presents a single composite index result.

"With the European launch of the Triage Stroke Panel, Biosite takes an important step forward in providing the European medical community with a diagnostic tool to help physicians identify patients who should be on the stroke care pathway," said Kim Blickenstaff, Biosite chairman and CEO. "The incidence of stroke is on the rise and the lack of readily available diagnostic tools is evident."

Blickenstaff added that the test is designed to add "important objective information to the physician's assessment of a patient presenting with symptoms of stroke."

Biosite is a company commercializing proteomics discoveries for the advancement of medical diagnosis. Its Triage rapid diagnostic tests are used in about half of U.S. hospitals and in more than 50 international markets.

The Triage Stroke Panel is not yet approved for sale in the U.S.

UK unveils plan to cut imaging waits

The UK Department of Health said last week that, beginning in November, thousands of patients facing long waits for diagnostic imaging procedures such as MRI and computed tomography (CT) scans in their local hospital will be offered the choice of going to another hospital to have their scan done more quickly.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the "choice of scans" program will ensure that National Health Service (NHS) patients get faster access to scans; spare capacity in the NHS will be better used; and independent providers will be able to offer services more widely to patients across the NHS.

Under the program, about 80,000 patients who have been referred by their general practitioner or consultant for a non-urgent scan but who face a long wait for their initial procedure will be contacted and offered the choice of earlier treatment at an alternative hospital. NHS trusts, NHS foundation trusts and independent healthcare providers working for the NHS will be eligible to provide diagnostic scans for these patients.

Initially, those waiting longer than 20 weeks for MRI and CT scans will be offered the choice of a scan at another hospital, which Hewitt said will mean a maximum wait of 26 weeks for patients in that phase. By April of next year, the program will be extended to patients waiting longer than 16 weeks for the overwhelming majority of imaging scans, including MRI, CT, ultrasound or DEXA (bone density) scans, with the maximum wait falling to 20 weeks.

Hewitt said the new program "builds on the 1 billion procurement in diagnostics over five years. Over the same period, we estimate the NHS is planning to spend a further 1.4 billion on diagnostics."

Noting that the Department of Health "already [has] made it clear that by 2008 nobody will wait longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to their treatment in hospital," she said speedier access to diagnostic tests "is an essential part of achieving that."

Hewitt said that while the NHS builds that capacity, "I want to make sure that no patient has to wait longer than necessary for their scan if there is somewhere else in the NHS or independent sector that can provide it more quickly. This scheme will complement our investment in diagnostics."

Noting that the most serious cases, such as where a GP suspects cancer, "already are fast-tracked for diagnostic tests," she added that "those patients waiting for less-urgent scans should still get them as soon as the NHS can provide. No NHS patient should wait unnecessarily if there is another hospital able to scan them sooner."

Acknowleding that many patients are caught in a "bottleneck" of waiting for a scan or other diagnostic service before they are referred for an operation, Hewitt said the newly announced program "will help to tackle this hidden waiting list.' It is an important step on the way toward our goal of a total maximum wait of 18 weeks from surgery [physician's office] door to hospital treatment by 2008 – which includes time for any diagnostic tests that are needed."

U.S. firm part of Predictive Risk Project

Health Dialog Services (Boston) said that, as part of a joint proposal with the King's Fund, a UK-based non-profit research organization, and New York University (NYU), it has been chosen to participate in the National Health Service (NHS) Predictive Risk Project in England, designed to address the rising healthcare costs associated with chronic conditions.

The NHS formulated the Predictive Risk Project to help identify patients at highest risk of future emergency admission, in order to ensure that case management services are targeted most effectively, and individuals receive an appropriate healthcare intervention at the right time. The risk prediction system will be used by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), the NHS physician organizations that are responsible for managing primary care in a given geographical area.

In collaboration with NYU, Health Dialog Services will develop predictive modeling algorithms that will be used to identify patients at high risk of emergency hospital admission. The project is planned to be completed by next January.

After conducting a request for proposals, the NHS selected the Kings Fund/NYU/Health Dialog submission. Once the predictive modeling algorithms are complete, they will be available for distribution throughout all of the NHS in England.

Health Dialog is a provider of care management services, including disease management, helping physician groups, health plans and self-insured employers improve healthcare quality while reducing costs.

"[Our] entry into the UK market reflects the broad acceptance of care management as an effective strategy, and as a solution that can be applied across various healthcare systems," said George Bennett, chairman and CEO of Health Dialog. "I am confident that together with the King's Fund and New York University, we will help the NHS make an impact on the cost and quality issues associated with chronic healthcare."

Four distributors signed by DiaSys

DiaSys (Waterbury, Connecticut), a maker of diagnostics test kit and lab equipment, said it has entered into four new agreements to distribute the company's product lines in Brazil, Portugal, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic.

In Brazil, the products will be distributed through Genese (Sao Paulo). In Portugal, COOPLAB will distribute the company's product lines. In New Zealand, Diagnostic Bioserve Ltd. will distribute the product lines, including a veterinary fecal concentrator device currently in prototype testing. Bionuclear will serve as distributor in the Dominican Republic.

"We are entering important world markets for DiaSys products. The company is executing our marketing plan in Latin America, [while] New Zealand will complement our partnership with Laboratory Diagnostics in Australia and will play an important role with our upcoming veterinary product. In Portugal, we continue to add to our established presence in Western Europe," said Gregory Witchel, DiaSys CEO.

DiaSys manufactures medical laboratory equipment, consumables and infectious disease test kits for healthcare and veterinary laboratories worldwide.

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