Today's News and Commentary

About pharma

Neuraminidase inhibition contributes to influenza A virus neutralization by anti-hemagglutinin stem antibodies: Don’t let the title put you off. Here’s what it’s about:
Influenza has two sites that help it invade normal cells: neuraminidase and hemagglutinin. Those proteins come in different forms are the” H and N” in designations for the annual strain of influenza, e.g., H1N1. Vaccines target the annually prevalent strain but it is always a guess. This research (in mice) showed that if antibodies are produced against a stable part of hemagglutinin and it is paired with a neuraminidase blocker (like Tamiflu), the virus’ invasive activity can be markedly curbed. Right now the antivirals shorten symptoms by a day. This treatment would be a real breakthrough.

Read the research(The article has a nice graphic that explains the science)

Celgene inks $1B deal for a preclinical epigenetic blood cancer drug from Canada: Sometimes methyl groups attach to a cell’s DNA and either turns on or off genes that may cause cancers to grow. Instead of attacking the DNA directly, this article highlights targeting at this “epigenetic” focus that is causing disease.

Read the announcement

Trump Targets Drug Middlemen With `Devastating' Rebate Plan: One way the Trump administration has proposed to deal with rising drug costs is by giving volume purchasing rebates back to patients instead of payers or their pharmaceutical benefit managers (PBMs). These latter entities claim costs of healthcare will go up if this change occurs. But what if, instead of rebates, the original prices are lower or the purchaser of the drugs demands value-based payment arrangements? Those actions would be game changers.

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About the public’s health

Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics— 2019 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association: This annual report has extensive data about cardiovascular (CV) disease, so a quick summary is not possible. Data and recommendations range from blood pressure control to adequate nutrition and sleep. Overall, 48% of Americans have some type of CV disease- 9% if you exclude high blood pressure. Some good news is that smoking rates continue to decline and people are somewhat more active. The bad news includes the high rate of obesity and higher 30 day and 1 year mortality rates for Medicare patients who were discharged under the new guidelines that look at 30 day readmission rates. “ The estimated direct costs of CVD and stroke increased from $103.5 billion in 1996 to 1997 to $213.8 billion in 2014 to 2015.”

Read the report

Trends in Pediatric Hospitalizations and Readmissions: 2010–2016: Again, good news and bad news. To summarize the conclusions of this research: “Pediatric admissions declined from 2010 to 2016 as 30-day readmission rates increased. The increase in readmission rates was associated with greater numbers of admissions for children with chronic conditions. Hospitals serving pediatric patients need to account for the rising complexity of pediatric admissions and develop strategies for reducing readmissions in this high-risk population.”

Read the research (Subscription required but you can read the abstract)

About health IT

Best of KLAS 2019 highlights Epic and Impact Advisors: Each year, KLAS issues its “best of” lists for IT companies. I am not promoting any of them but want to point out the diversity of systems that work best in certain settings and for specific purposes. What do you do if you have a large health system with different types of units? To assure interoperability, you need to go with an IT product that may only be '“good” in many areas rather than excellent overall.

Read the report

About health insurance

The Marketing of Short-Term Health Plans: Along with many other concerns (such as coverage), short term health plans have been found to mislead the public about their products. According to this study: “Consumers shopping online for health insurance will often find websites and brokers selling short-term plans as a replacement for ACA-compliant coverage. These websites and brokers often fail to provide consumers with the detailed plan information necessary to inform their purchase.” Unfortunately there are no protections against this kind of behavior.

Read the study