Today's News and Commentary

About pharma


Drugmaker Lilly to Launch a Half-Price, Generic Version of Its Top-Selling Insulin: While Congress presses pharma companies to lower costs, and specifically allow importation of generic insulin, Lilly announced this morning that it would launch the generic Insulin Lispro at half the price of the Humalog branded version. This article is one of many published in the past few hours on this topic. Expect widespread print coverage tomorrow.

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Marketplace Pulse: Cost-Sharing for Drugs Rises Sharply at Higher Tiers: One way insurance companies have been able to maintain profitability is by increasingly shifting costs to patients (and providers). This study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation documents this shift for pharmaceuticals. Among the study’s findings: “The median co-insurance is 40 percent, not insignificant when the average monthly cost of a specialty drug can exceed $5,000. In the small group market, less than one-third of silver plans have this design, and the median co-insurance is somewhat lower at 30 percent.” The article has some helpful graphics to demonstrate the market conditions.

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Drug Companies and Doctors Battle Over the Future of Fecal Transplants: A side effect of antibiotic use can be diarrhea due to overgrowth of the bacterium C. Difficile in the intestine. Traditional treatments have been use of additional, different antibiotics. In the past few years, researchers found that delivery of normal fecal bacteria to the colon works as well as the antibiotics and has the advantage of repopulating the flora. Now that the latter therapy has proved itself, the FDA is facing the question of how to regulate it. Is it a drug, a device, or something else?

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The Side Effects of Million-Dollar Drugs: The article focuses on Luxturna, a gene therapy for a form of blindness affecting about 2000 people in the US. The article also summarizes the gene therapy efforts for other conditions and the extraordinary costs of this type of therapy.

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Read a recent industry-sponsored summary about this topic

About the public’s health

Sugary drink tax tied to drop in soda consumption: Despite efforts at behavioral therapy and education programs, the best way to discourage unhealthy consumption is to tax the offending product. This method has worked very well with respect to tobacco. Lately, despite vigorous industry opposition, it has proven effective in lowering consumption of sugary drinks. Last year’s imposition and repeal of such a tax in Cook County, IL is evidence of the political difficulties of such a measure.

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About devices

FDA Seeks to Build Risk-Benefit Database for Robotically-Assisted Surgical Devices: On the heels of last week’s announcement that robotic surgeries are not always better than their traditional counterparts, the FDA has made this announcement.

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Mammalian Near-Infrared Image Vision through Injectable and Self-Powered Retinal Nanoantennae: This article is fascinating- it explains research using nanoparticles injected into mouse eyes that bind to receptors and enable the animals to see the infrared spectrum. If the concept proves valid in humans, it can help colorblindness. Imagine other implications as well.

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About healthcare IT

Moody's: Hospitals among industries with highest risk of exposure to cyberthreats: The bond-rating firm, Moody’s, is concerned about any financial liability companies and sectors may have that will affect credit status. This recent report cites hospitals as having among the highest threats to cybersecurity. One reason for this vulnerability is the need for interoperability.

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About insurance

U.S. seeks to cut dialysis costs with more home care versus clinics: Medicare’s End Stage Renal Dialysis Program costs about $114 billion annually. Many patients have their treatments in dialysis centers when care can be provided with equal effectiveness and lower cost at home. CMS is now interested in increasing earlier treatments, home care options and access to transplantation in order to lower overall costs.

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Reducing Individual Market Premiums to Expand Access to Coverage and Care: In its March 2019 Issue Brief, the BCBS Association describes the high cost of individual policies on the ACA exchanges. Three solutions are explained to address this problem:
1. Revise federal assistance to help more people afford coverage
2. Enact policies to lower costs and remove financial barriers to accessing care
3. Improve outreach to encourage people to obtain and maintain insurance
If these measure seem familiar…remember when cereal assistance helped with out of pocket expenses and “navigators” helped people understand and signup for plans?

Read the Issue Brief

About healthcare quality

Medicare Trims Payments To 800 Hospitals, Citing Patient Safety Incidents: “Eight hundred hospitals will be paid less by Medicare this year because of high rates of infections and patient injuries, federal records show.
The number is the highest since the federal government five years ago launched the Hospital Acquired Conditions (HAC) Reduction Program, created by the Affordable Care Act. Under the program, 1,756 hospitals have been penalized at least once… This year, 110 hospitals are being punished for the fifth straight time.”

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Check if “your” hospital is on this list

About hospitals and health systems

Updated Physician Practice Acquisition Study: National and Regional Changes in Physician Employment 2012-2018: The trend for hospital-employed physicians has grown rapidly, but in the past year seems to have leveled off. This is a very interesting study of you want to “look at the numbers.”

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