Today's News and Commentary

About pharma

Pfizer Recommends Suffixes for Biosimilar Reference Products: Suffixes on biologicals indicate the type of molecule. The most well known is “-mab” which stands for monoclonal antibody. Pfizer is now asking the FDA to add a new class of suffixes for reference compounds for biosimilars. Such a change may give the “original” product a marketing edge the manufacturer can use to exploit. Imagine a direct to consumer campaign that asks patients to “look for ‘xyz’ at the end of your drug name to make sure you are getting an original product.”

Read the article

AbbVie wraps up all Humira-related patent litigation in US after reaching deal with Boehringer Ingelheim over biosimilar: Speaking of biologics, in 2017 Boehringer Ingelheim got FDA approval for a generic version of AbbVie’s blockbuster Humira. However, litigation has prevented its launch. The companies just settled— the biosimilar will not be available until 2023. Remember this story when you read about Congressional action to lower drug prices.

Read the story

About the public’s health

UK turns to Asia for nurses to cover staff shortages: What does Brexit have to do with American healthcare? The UK has heavily depended on other EU countries to supply physicians and nurses to staff its National Health Service. With Brexit’s visa uncertainties, the country is relying more and more on recruiting nurses from Asia- particularly the Philippines and India. The problem is the US also relies on Philippine nurses. Such diversions of potential staff have not been figured into our needs projections. We will need to see what these global issues do to our nursing capabilities.

Read the story (Financial Times requires subscription)

This doctor posted online in favor of immunization. Then vaccine opponents targeted her: This story is about an internist who posted her encouragement for immunization and was blasted on social media with negative personal reviews ( by people who were not her patients). The anti-vexers have now gotten mean. Let’s hope violence is not next.

Read the story

Twitter launches tool to combat vaccine misinformation: On the same theme, Twitter has now provided a pop-up link when someone enters a term like “vaccine.” It directs the searcher to credible sources of information like the Department of Health and Human Services's (HHS) website about vaccines.

Read the story

Why the Government Pays Billions to People Who Claim Injury by Vaccines: The federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was established in 1986 to compensate persons who were harmed from vaccinations. The harm payments were designed to indemnify against manufacturing problems and very rare side effects caused by the vaccines. The story of this program is very interesting and has public health implications.

Read the story

Association of a Beverage Tax on Sugar-Sweetened and Artificially Sweetened Beverages With Changes in Beverage Prices and Sales at Chain Retailers in a Large Urban Setting: Philadelphia imposed an excise tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages in 2017. Over the next year, “volume sales of taxed beverages in Philadelphia decreased by 1.3 billion ounces after tax implementation (51%), but sales in Pennsylvania border zip codes increased by 308.2 million ounces, partially offsetting the decrease in Philadelphia’s volume sales by 24.4%…In contrast to Mexico and Berkeley findings [two other places that imposed such taxes],  there were no statistically significant increases in nontaxed beverage sales, suggesting consumers were not substituting with these drinks in Philadelphia.” This study is additional proof that increased taxes on unhealthy products reduce consumption.

Read the research

Births: Provisional Data for 2018: CDC’s National Center for Vital Statistics just released birth data for 2018. The trend of lower numbers and rates continues (with few exceptions) since 1991. This demographic information has a profound effect on funding for Medicare and Social Security, which are paid by current workers for current beneficiaries. We will need to look for sources other than population growth for relief of these rapidly depleting funds.

Read the report

About healthcare quality

The Leapfrog Group announced results of its 2018 hospital comparisons: This announcement was picked up by many media- even non-healthcare ones. People can look up the quality scores (A to F) of the 2600 surveyed hospitals. Among the findings:
”Patients at “D” and “F” hospitals face a 92% greater risk of avoidable death
Patients at “C” hospitals on average face an 88% greater risk of avoidable death
Patients at “B” hospitals on average face a 35% greater risk of avoidable death…
If all hospitals had an avoidable death rate equivalent to ‘A’ hospitals, 50,000 lives would have been saved…”

Read the report and look for a hospital close to you

The Joint Commission enters next generation of quality measurement, offers accredited hospitals real-time quality metrics: Over the last two years, The Joint Commission has implemented electronic clinical quality measure (eCQM) reporting with a Direct Data Submission Platform (DDSP). The DSSP is now continuously available, i.e., not just for periodic reporting purposes. This connectivity allows “providers to measure and improve performance in near realtime without additional outside vendors.”

Read the announcement