PHARMACY

In stimulus effort, pharmacy owner puts own money to work for recovery

BY Jim Frederick

BREWTON, Ala. If only the federal stimulus plan works this well.

A local pharmacy owner in a small Alabama community has launched his own economic stimulus package, and stores in the region already are seeing a modest uptick in sales, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Danny Cottrell, owner-operator of The Medical Center Pharmacy, decided that the government’s plan to stimulate the flat-lined economy made sense. So Cottrell, whose operation includes drug stores in both Brewton and nearby Atmore, Ala., decided to fund a stimulus plan of his own – out of his own pocket.

Cottrell called his employees together for a meeting late last month, reportedly generating new fears among some employees already worried about the economy, store closings and layoffs. But instead of handing out pink slips, Cottrell passed out envelopes stuffed with hundreds of dollars in cash – all in $2 bills, AP reported, so that he and other local business owners could track how the money was spent.

Each full-time employee got $700; part-timers got $300. Cottrell’s only stipulation: that his employees give 15 percent of the bonus to charity and spend the rest in local stores – downtown stores if possible – to boost the local economy.

Total cost to Cottrell: $16,000, according to AP. Some employees at the meeting reportedly wept when receiving the money.

“It’s not a huge amount of money,” Cottrell modestly told AP. “It would have a more noticeable impact if someone with more resources came up with a huge amount of money, but the times are tough.”

No word yet on whether some of the titans of Wall Street are planning similar examples of personal altruism to boost the economy. But it’s worth noting that $16,000 is the same amount reportedly spent by one well-heeled former CEO for a shower curtain.

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Antibiotic-resistant staph infections on the rise in children, health officials say

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK Staph infections have been around for a long time, and often have been associated with hospitals or other healthcare settings. But according to health officials, staph infections have, in the past several years, emerged in the community as one of the most common causes of infections, and appear to be on the rise in children.

Known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, “staph” infections are resistant to more commonly prescribed antibiotics, according to officials. Doctors often have to turn to a stronger antibiotic, but many only do so as a last resort for fear that they too will become ineffective over time.

A recent CNN article reported that doctors are claiming to see more cases of antibiotic-resistant staph infections in children. The article also cited a study that was published recently in the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery that found a 16% increase in pediatric MRSA infections in the head and neck during a recent six-year period.

“Certain factors have been associated with making it easier for MRSA to be transmitted. These factors include crowding; frequent skin-to-skin contact; compromised skin, such as cuts and abrasions; contaminated items or surfaces; and lack of cleanliness,” explained Jeff Hageman, an epidemiologist with CDC’s division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, during a 2007 podcast presented by CDC. “Some settings where these factors are common include schools, dormitories, military barracks, households, correctional facilities and day care centers. Now, while MRSA infections are commonly reported from these settings, it’s important to emphasize that MRSA is a prevalent cause of skin infections in the general community and can occur essentially anywhere.”

According to the latest CDC data available, nearly 95,000 people developed a serious MRSA infection (i.e., invasive) in 2005. Nearly 19,000 people died during a hospital stay related to these serious MRSA infections.

While the CDC did not break out how many children have been infected, it stated that serious MRSA disease is still predominantly related to exposures to healthcare delivery. About 85% of all invasive MRSA infections were associated with healthcare, and of those, about two-thirds occurred outside of the hospital, while about one third occurred during hospitalization, the agency stated.

The CDC also noted that, although the rates of disease varied between geographically diverse sites participating in surveillance, overall rates of disease were consistently highest among older persons (those 65 and older), African-Americans and males.

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Biotech co. Oncolin to reduce interest in subsidiary

BY Alaric DeArment

HOUSTON A biotech company in Houston that specializes in cancer treatments plans to dump most of its interest in a subsidiary.

Oncolin Therapeutics announced Thursday that it had negotiated with the founding scientist and consultants of Intertech Bio to drop 75% of its interest in the subsidiary, as long as Intertech Bio accepts certain liabilities and future obligations. Oncolin will retain an interest of about 25% in Intertech Bio, but will not be responsible for future expenses.

Intertech Bio will become a private company, while Oncolin will reserve the right to participate in future investments for it.

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