Today's News and Commentary

About the public’s health

Conventional and genetic evidence on alcohol and vascular disease aetiology: a prospective study of 500 000 men and women in China: The beneficial and deleterious effects of alcohol consumption have been debated for many years. This large study, published yesterday in The Lancet , concludes that: “Genetic epidemiology shows that the apparently protective effects of moderate alcohol intake against stroke are largely non-causal. Alcohol consumption uniformly increases blood pressure and stroke risk, and appears in this one study to have little net effect on the risk of myocardial infarction.”

Read the research

Association of Racial Disparities With Access to Kidney Transplant After the Implementation of the New Kidney Allocation System: In order to assure fairness, allocation systems for organ transplants have undergone many changes over the years. This article documents that the recent kidney allocation system had reduced racial disparities among transplant recipients but differences still exist. Further modification of this method still needs to be done.

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Global life expectancy up 5.5 years since 2000; income and access to care play key roles: WHO: Some good news! Global health initiatives (aided by economic improvements) are making a positive difference in life expectancies.

Read the story

Dubstep artist Skrillex could protect against mosquito bites: Serious science but fun music. “According to a recent scientific study, the way to avoid mosquito bites is to listen to electronic music - specifically dubstep, specifically by US artist Skrillex.”

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How to Minimize Exposures to Hormone Disrupters: The food we buy that is packaged in plastics and other materials can pick up carcinogenic toxins and can also modify hormone activity. This article offers some simple measures to avoid harmful products.

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About pharma

FDA’s Gottlieb heads back to AEI to tackle drug prices: Today is Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s last day as FDA Commissioner. He will be returning to the American Enterprise Institute where he says he will continue to fight for drug price reform.

Read the Washington Post interview (Appears to be open access)

CVS expands same-day prescription delivery nationwide: CVS is shortening the time from its previous minimum of 1-2 days. The next innovation will be delivery of your medication before you actually need it.

Read the announcement

FDA Clears Avanos Medical’s Drug Infusion Pump: Many patients get their first doses of opioids after an operation when they control the amount of their intravenous medication via a bedside pump. This newly approved device does not use opioids but instead uses “a catheter to continuously release numbing medicine near a patient’s surgical incision.”

Read the announcement

Lundbeck, Alexion and Jazz to pay nearly $123 million to settle US kickback allegations: This story highlights ongoing legal action for what the government euphemistically calls “misconduct.” Pharma companies set up foundations that help fund patients’ out of pocket expenses for costly pharmaceuticals. This process allows those companies to charge payers (including the federal government) much higher prices than they would if individuals had to pay large copays or deductibles. The federal government is now cracking down on such practices.

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AbbVie's massive Humira discounts are stifling Netherlands biosimilars: report: How can pharma companies fight introduction of less costly biosimilars? It appears that sufficiently lowering the branded drug’s price is a successful strategy- at least in the Netherland’s market. This strategy can also jjhave major implications in other markets and for other drugs.

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FDA's Assessment of Currently Marketed ARB drug products: In the ongoing story about carcinogenic contaminants in angiotensin receptor blockers, the FDA has supplied a list of safe medications in this class. Some are combination products.

Check the list

About healthcare quality

Study Identifies Potential Fix for Hospital Star Rating Program: Hospitals have often complained about the validity of the CMS-generated star ratings that characterize their quality of care. This research finds reason for this challenge and suggests an alternative method, including redistribution of weights for the measures.

Read the research announcement

About healthcare information systems

MedPAC to Recommend National Coding Guidelines for Emergency Departments: Citing large discrepancies in coding emergency department billing under the Outpatient Prospective Pay System, MedPAC is recommending national coding standards. This standardization could cut into the profits of EDs that routinely “upcode.”

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‘Alexa, find me a doctor’: Amazon Alexa adds new medical skills: Alexa is now HIPAA compliant, allowing the voice recognition software to provide help with health-related issues. For examples, you can ask Alexa to retrieve your blood sugars or find a doctor for a certain type of problem.

Read the story for more details