Doctors, Patients Fail

To Discuss Drug Costs

Many chronically ill patients never tell their doctor or nurse they have had to cut back on prescription drugs because they are too expensive, and many physicians never ask if the drugs are affordable, a study said yesterday.

"This study suggests that most patients who fail to alert clinicians about their medication cost problems are not asked about their ability to pay for their medication, and many perceive that clinicians are unwilling or unable to help them with this problem," said the report by John D. Piette and colleagues at the University of Michigan.

The study was based on a survey of 600 chronically ill adults with an average age of 62.

The report in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine found that two in three patients did not tell their doctor or nurse that they intended to cut back on their medication because they could not afford it. Of those who did not disclose their intentions, 66 percent said they had not been asked about their ability to pay.

Thirty percent said they had been told about programs to help pay drug costs, and 28 percent were told to substitute less expensive drugs.

Lens Implant Approved To Fix Nearsightedness

There is a new option for people with extreme nearsightedness, whose world loses its crisp edge just a few inches from their noses, after the Food and Drug Administration approved the first implantable lens for the condition yesterday.

A surgeon slips the lens through a small incision and implants it in front of the natural lens. The tiny hard plastic lens works behind the scenes to help the eye create in-focus images.

An estimated 53 percent of Americans use contact lenses or eyeglasses to correct their vision.

The lens implant is designed to provide an alternative to glasses, contact lenses or Lasik surgery for people who have trouble seeing distant objects. Already in use in Europe, the lens is manufactured by Ophtec USA Inc., of Boca Raton, Fla. It will be distributed by American Medical Optics under the Verisyse brand name.

The lens implant, which will cost $3,000 to $4,000 per eye, currently is targeted at patients who, for various reasons, cannot undergo Lasik, which costs an average of $1,785 per eye.

The lens implant typically is not covered by health insurance.

Image Could Be Planet Outside Solar System

The image of a blurry red ball near a failed star just might be the first picture ever snapped of a planet outside our solar system, an astronomer who helped find the object said yesterday.

If it is a planet, it is probably a gas giant like Jupiter, said Benjamin M. Zuckerman of the University of California at Los Angeles, part of an international team of scientists that located the object.

Close by cosmic standards, the object known as a Giant Planet Candidate Companion is about 230 light-years away from Earth.

Scientists have detected more than 100 "exoplanets" but have never directly observed them. Until now, they have confirmed these planets' existence by a characteristic wobble they cause in the stars they orbit.

The brown dwarf is known as 2M1207 and is located in the TW Hydrae Association, in the direction of the constellation Hydra (the Water Snake) in the southern sky.

-- From News Services