Today's News and Commentary

About pharma

FDA launches tougher oversight of supplements: Many news outlets are reporting the FDA crackdown on the $40-$50billion per year dietary supplement industry. These items are regulated as food not drugs; however, they are making therapeutic claims and some contain non-listed medicinal ingredients.
Also, consumers must be aware that these supplements can have side effects and interact with prescription medications.

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A Flu Drug Was Called ‘Silver Bullet,’ but Some Doctors Prescribe Caution: Too good to be true? The anti-flu drug Xofluza was approved by the FDA last year for a one pill dosing. It has become the top seller in Japan, replacing Tamiflu. Physicians are now seeing resistant strains emerge. We need to see what happens in this country but can expect the same will happen with wider use.

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Catalyst Pharma sees net price of drug, once free, topping $300,000: Firdapse is used to treat a rare neuromuscular disorder-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS). The drug was provided free to patients by Jacobus Pharmaceuticals under the FDA compassionate use program. Catalyst bought the drug rights in 2012 and now has FDA approval for this indication as an orphan drug (which extends market exclusivity by seven years). The $300,000 annual price tag is an estimate that is net of discounts and rebates.
Next move will be up to Congress.

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About the public’s health

Tobacco use among children is increasing: According to a just-released report by the CDC: “E-cigarette use increased from 11.7% to 20.8% among high school students and from 3.3% to 4.9% among middle school students from 2017 to 2018. No change was found in the use of other tobacco products, including cigarettes, during this time.” This finding reverses the years-long decrease in tobacco use among this age group. Time to get serious about enforcement of age limits and the message that tobacco is not safe in any form.

Read the CDC study

HCCI’s Health Care Cost and Utilization Reports: The Health care Cost Institute has issued its annual report (for 2017) on costs and utilization. It provides some interesting insights by type of service and site of care. Overall, the record spending was due to increases in prices not utilization, which in some cases decreased. The report does not dig into the effect of new technology on the overall cost, which is part of the intensity of care.

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About healthcare IT

Salesforce rolls out new 'social determinant' tool for patients who need other kinds of help, like a ride to the doctor: There is a new entrant into the social determinants analytics space: According to the article: “ is rolling out a new tool as part of its Health Cloud platform to help hospitals and insurers spot environmental and social issues that can affect a person's health, like income or access to transportation, to connect patients with more services.”

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HHS Proposes Making EHRs More Portable: In an addendum to yesterday’s story about the ONC final rule, the regulations will also make it easier for patients to access and transfer their records.

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A Machine Gets High Marks for Diagnosing Sick Children: This interesting article from Scientific American draws on research done at Guangzhou Women and Children’s Medical Center reported in Nature Medicine (subscription required, but abstract is available). It is an interesting case study of the use of artificial intelligence to help physicians in the emergency room.

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Veritas Capital closes acquisition of Athenahealth, says combined company will have 'transformational impact': For those of you following the story, the Athenahealth deal has finally closed.

Read the story for the details and some history of the long journey.

VA teams with Apple to bring Health Records feature to veterans: The original announcement of the project was made in November. Now veterans will be able to access their medical records from VA facilities using the Health app on the iPhone.

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News from HIMSS: This week is the annual HIMSS conference.

Read some of the highlights so far and
Keep up with the conference

Value-based care is complicating provider revenue cycles:
Billing and collection used to be “simple” and require straightforward accounting systems. With the increase in “value-based” payments that can increase or decrease revenue depending on clinical performance, revenue cycle predictions and management are more complex. Information systems must now integrate both financial and clinical data sources. This article is a good thought piece on this topic.

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