Today’s Headlines: ER Growth, BRCA Gene Test Costs, and Your Brain on Olive Oil

Emergency Rooms’ Role in US Healthcare Growing: According to a RAND study released Monday, emergency departments (EDs) “account for about half of the nation’s hospital admissions and accounted for virtually all of the rise in admissions between 2003 and 2009.” RAND researchers found that while EDs “are widely considered expensive places for diagnostic care, physicians are increasingly relying on them to determine whether a patient needs to be hospitalized.” The findings “raise important questions about how … [EDs] contribute to high health care costs in the United States and what their role will be in the future as the nation undergoes fundamental changes in health care delivery.” (New York Times)

Olive Oil and Nuts in Your Diet Helps to Guard Brain: According to a study published online May 13 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, “adding a little olive oil or a handful of nuts to your diet each day may help keep your mind clear.” The study included “522 adults who were at high risk of vascular events.” Those who consumed the Mediterranean diet with olive oil ended up performing better on the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) compared to those who did not follow the diet. (MedPage Today)

Oncologist Discusses Outrageous Cost of BRCA Gene Test: After Angelina Jolie’s revelation that she has the BRCA gene mutation, which puts her at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, David B. Agus, a medical oncologist and a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California, discussed why the cost of the test for the gene was so high. He writes, “Unlike routine tests for diabetes or high cholesterol … the BRCA gene evaluation — performed by only one company in the United States, Myriad Genetics — is phenomenally expensive, with a ‘list price’ close to $4,000 when a related genomic-rearrangement test is included in the analysis, which oncologists typically recommend.” Patients and insurers are “paying this lofty price in large part because Myriad owns broad patents on these two BRCA genes, which it acquired in 1997 and 1998, respectively — and refuses to license the test to any other American company.” (New York Times)