New Nasal Vaccine Effective on Flu

A flu vaccine that is sprayed up the nose instead of injected with a needle has proved effective in protecting people in a large study, researchers reported.

The research, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the vaccine's effectiveness in healthy, working adults, who are not normally urged to get flu shots. In the study, 4,561 adults were given either the nasal vaccine FluMist or a placebo. Those who got the vaccine lost 18 percent to 28 percent fewer workdays to illness with fever, got 23 percent to 27 percent fewer fevers and made 25 percent to 41 percent fewer health care visits than placebo recipients. Other research has shown the vaccine is effective in children.

FluMist, which is made by Aviron Inc., still needs Food and Drug Administration approval.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome's Prevalence

One out of every five people who suffer from wrist pain turn out to have carpal tunnel syndrome, a potentially debilitating condition that can require surgery, Swedish researchers said.

The study found that 354 out of 2,466 Swedish study subjects -- or 14 percent -- complained of wrist pain. Of those with pain, 66 were diagnosed with the syndrome, meaning that 19 percent of those with wrist pain suffered from the condition. The study, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, also showed that women were four times more likely to have the problem than men, and overweight individuals were more than twice as likely to suffer from it.

Profits and Prevention in HMO Care

Not-for-profit HMOs are more likely than for-profit ones to make sure patients get early prenatal care, timely shots and other preventive tests, a study found.

The study, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that for-profit HMOs' moneymaking mission compromises patient care.

The findings were disputed by HMOs -- both for-profit and not-for-profit -- as well as the HMO accrediting organization that compiled the data used in the study.

Using patient care data from 1996, the researchers analyzed 329 HMOs according to how well they performed in 14 areas, such as prenatal care, infant immunization and breast cancer screening. In every category, the not-for-profits had higher rates.

Not-for-profit HMOs screened an average of 75.1 percent of women for breast cancer, compared with 69.4 percent for plans that seek profits. As a result, the study estimated that nearly 6,000 additional breast cancer deaths would occur in the United States if all women between ages of 50 and 69 were enrolled in for-profit rather than not-for-profit plans.

About 48 percent of diabetics in not-for-profit HMOs were given an annual eye exam, compared with 35 percent of diabetics in for-profit plans. Eye exams are crucial to measuring how well diabetics are managing their disease.