Nation briefs 04/01/03

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

HealthSouth fires chief executive over scandal

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- HealthSouth Corp. fired its founder as chairman and chief executive as a third company official pleaded guilty to fraud Monday in a mushrooming accounting scandal.

The company said Richard Scrushy, who built HealthSouth into a leading health care chain and was previously suspended as chief executive officer, also was asked to quit the board.

Attorneys for Scrushy did not return calls seeking comment.

The government filed a civil lawsuit March 19 accusing HealthSouth and Scrushy of overstating earnings by at least $1.4 billion since 1999. HealthSouth allegedly created false financial statements and accounting entries.

Also Monday, Emery Harris, vice president of finance and assistant controller of HealthSouth, pleaded guilty to wire and securities fraud and falsifying company records.

Study: Doctors unwisely overprescribing superdrugs

PHILADELPHIA -- Doctors are being more careful about prescribing antibiotics for common ailments, but when they do, they are turning too often to powerful new superdrugs, a new study says.

The overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics for minor infections poses a serious health threat because it could speed bacterial resistance to valuable and potentially lifesaving drugs, according to a study in today's edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study reviewed the prescribing behavior of physicians from 1991-99.

"The good news is antibiotics are being used less often in situations where they are not needed, such as to treat the common cold and mild bronchitis," said Dr. Michael Steinman of the University of California at San Francisco, lead author of the study. "The troubling news is that when doctors do turn to an antibiotic they are increasingly turning to broad-spectrum agents."

Unusual nerve symptoms may signal West Nile

CHICAGO -- Vision loss, muscle tremors and numbness may be symptoms of the West Nile virus, according to researchers who are warning doctors and patients to be on the lookout as warmer weather and mosquito season approach.

The neurological symptoms seem to mimic those of such ailments as strokes, Parkinson's disease and polio.

Doctors from three Chicago-area hospitals reached that conclusion after pooling information on 28 patients seen from August through October last year. More than half had unusual neurological symptoms.-- From wire reports

The 28 contributed to Illinois' nation-leading West Nile toll last year: 884 reported human cases and 62 West Nile deaths. Nationwide, there were 4,161 cases and 277 deaths as the virus spread toward the West Coast.

Police investigating death of Phoenix womanPHOENIX -- A woman was found dead in an area where the bodies of four others have been discovered, and police are investigating whether the deaths are related.

The women, all in their 30s, were dumped in the central part of the city, police said. The first and second bodies were separated by a few blocks; the other three were found within 50 feet of each other.

Three of the women were prostitutes and one was a transient, police said.

The first body turned up eight months ago; the fifth was discovered Saturday by a resident.

Four had drugs in their systems, and all were naked except the latest victim, who was fully clothed, police said. She has not been identified.

-- From wire reports

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