Today's News and Commentary

About pharma

“Inactive” ingredients in oral medications: If you’ve noticed the labels on back of pill bottles that list active and inactive ingredients, most likely you’ve ignored the latter list. This research may make you think twice about doing that: “A majority of medications contain ingredients that could cause adverse reactions, underscoring the need to maximize the tolerability and safety of medications and their inactive ingredients.”

Read the research (Subscription required)

Reducing the burden of tuberculosis treatment-Drug delivery system would allow patients to switch from daily to monthly doses: One reason chronic medications fail is patient compliance. A new device from MIT is a wire on which “beads” of antibiotics are strung and is placed in the stomach. The beads dissolve over a month after which the wire is removed and another “dose” is placed.

Read about this fascinating medication delivery system

Senate Bill Would Address ‘Patent Thicket’ Critics Say Stymies Biosimilars: A bipartisan Senate bill would require pharma companies to disclose all applicable patents that are being used to protect their biologic drugs. The aim is to help generic companies understand sooner what these protections are so they can develop biosimilars sooner.

Read the announcement

Effect of Potential Policy Change to Part D Generic Tiering on Patient Cost Sharing and Part D Plan Costs: Medicare Part D plans are allowed to place generic drugs in a “non-preferred” tier in their formularies. As a result, CMS is considering requiring these plans to place generics in the lowest tier. A study by Avalere calculated that if this tier change occurrs in 2019, it could save Medicare beneficiaries $4.1 billion. This one is a “no brainer;” only question is what is taking CMS so long to make the change (other than lobbyists)?

Read the study

Cutbacks by some doctors halved new opioid prescriptions over 5 years: The campaign to reduce opioid prescriptions is working. “The rate of first-time opioid prescriptions declined 54 percent between 2012 and 2017 in the U.S., largely because many doctors stopped prescribing the painkillers.” Further, for those who are receiving opioids, the prescriptions are have a shorter duration.

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 About the public’s health

U.N. warns of millions of premature deaths by 2050 due to environmental damage: Adding to yesterday’s environmental warning, this 740-page UN report was “compiled over six years by 250 scientists from 70 nations.” It concluded that human activities causing pollution could be devastating from both health and economic standpoints. The harm from air pollution alone (vehicle emissions, industrial waste, as well as burning fuels such as wood, coal and kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting) “was resulting in around 7 million deaths annually…costing around $5 trillion in welfare losses.” Additional costs in life and wealth occur from other sources, like water pollution. And yet, we have climate change/pollution deniers…

Read about the study

About insurance

State-Run Reinsurance Programs Reduce ACA Premiums by 19.9% on Average: Seven states decided to offer their own reinsurance programs for ACA Exchange plans. Yesterday, Avalere released a study that such programs reduced premiums by 6% to 43.4%.

Read about these programs and other benefits

Key Democrat announces investigation into 'junk' healthcare plans backed by Trump: Yesterday, House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., announced an investigation into short term health insurance plans- what they are calling “junk plans.” The concern is that, although the premiums are less costly than ACA Exchange plans the benefits may be much worse and the out of pocket expenses may be much higher in the long run.

Read the announcement