Today's News and Commentary

About technology

3D Printing of Personalized Thick and Perfusable Cardiac Patches and Hearts: This article may be the top story of the month. Israeli scientists have created a small heart by using 3D printing. While only the size of a rabbit heart, it has all the structure of the human organ, including blood vessels.

Read the research article

In African Villages, These Phones Become Ultrasound Scanners: A hand-held ultrasound scanner called the Butterfly iQ can be used to diagnose conditions ranging from broken bones to pneumonia. While it is ideally suited to rural areas without access to imaging, one day it will be an in-office diagnostic capability in first world countries.

Read the story (NY Times but appears to be open access)

About the public’s health

Report: U.S. economic burden of chronic diseases tops $3.8 trillion—and expected to double:
”The U.S. economic burden of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer has reached about $3.8 trillion in direct and indirect costs—or nearly one-fifth of GDP, according to a new report from Fitch Solutions, which is a unit of Fitch Group.”

Read the article (Open access)

Cost-Effectiveness of the US Food and Drug Administration Added Sugar Labeling Policy for Improving Diet and Health:This research claims that adding sugar contents to labels could prevent hundreds of thousand of cases of such conditions as heart disease, diabetes, etc. Resultant savings would be in the many millions of dollars. The problem is: “no interventional studies on added sugar labels were identified;” meaning these savings would require people to actually read the labels and act on the information. A leap of faith?

Read the just-published article

Americans Are Delaying Health Care Until Tax Refunds Arrive: We know many people who spend down their flexible health accounts at year-end to avoid losing the money. This finding is the exact opposite. People wait for their tax refunds to get healthcare.

Read the story

Disparities in Inpatient Intensity of End-of-Life Care for Complex Chronic Conditions: We are usually concerned about underutilization of services for poor and non-white populations as a measure of health disparities. This study showed the opposite- non-white and poor children received much more care at end of life than did the other groups. The conclusion was: “Sociodemographic disparities in the intensity of end-of-life care… raise concerns about whether all children are receiving high-quality and goal concordant end-of-life care.”

Read the abstract (Subscription required for the full article)

About pharma

Amgen sets $21,900 annual price for new Evenity bone drug: The previously reported bone-restoring medication now has a price.

Read the annnouncement

U.S. Supreme Court rejects Allergan bid to use tribe to shield drug patents: Allergen tried to shield its Restasis drug from competitors by transferring the patent to New York’s Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.
The theory was that the tribe is a sovereign nation that was sheltered from FDA actions. The high court said, in effect, nice try but no.

Read the announcement 

US Nationwide Disclosure of Industry Payments and Public Trust in Physicians: Concerns about pharma companies influencing physicians through cash and even small give-aways (like pens and mugs) led to enactment of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (PPSA) at the start of the ACA in 2010. Even legal and ethical gifts (like paying physicians to answer surveys) must be reported. This research found that: “Nationwide public disclosure of industry payments may be associated with decreased trust in physicians and in the medical profession. More judicious presentation of payments information may counteract unintended negative trust and spillover consequences of public disclosure.”

Read the research

About healthcare IT

Assessment of Inpatient Time Allocation Among First-Year Internal Medicine Residents Using Time-Motion Observations: Previous studies have shown that practicing physicians often spend more time on the computer than with patients (even in the exam room). This recent study revealed the same is happening to physicians in training, Seems like we work for computers rather than the opposite.

Read the research

About healthcare insurance

How affordability of health care varies by income among people with employer coverage: This study showed that poorer people spend a higher percentage of their income on healthcare costs- no surprise. However, it points out that employer-sponsored insurance is more expensive for them than insurance from the exchanges because with the former there are no premium subsidies..

Read the research

About healthcare quality and safety

Ensuring Safety and Quality in America’s Nursing Homes: Yesterday CMS Administrator Verma announced a program to enhance quality and safety in nursing homes, reviewing such issues as overmedication and abuse.

Read the announcement