Today's News and Commentary

About the public’s health

Modeling Cardiovascular Risks of E-Cigarettes With Human-Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell–Derived Endothelial Cells: This research article concludes that using e-cigarettes causes damage to the lining of arteries, which can lead to such complications as a heart attack and stroke.

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Atlas of group A streptococcal vaccine candidates compiled using large-scale comparative genomics: Group A strep (GAS) is well-known to parents for causing such illnesses as “strep throat” and skin infections (impetigo). With all the vaccines available why isn’t there one for GAS? The reason is the large genetic variations of this microbe: the researchers found “more than 290 clinically associated genomic phylogroups across 22 countries, highlighting challenges in designing vaccines of global utility.” But they developed techniques to narrow down candidates for vaccines. Maybe strep throat will be rare sometime in the future- if parents get their children immunized.

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The drug
About healthcare quality

Deadly errors, infections: When hospital ratings don't align what should patients believe?: This article from USA Today points out what healthcare quality specialists have long known- ratings not only don’t often agree, but they can vary significantly. Who to believe? There is no right answer.

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About pharma

WHO agrees watered-down resolution on transparency in drug costs: Bowing to industry pressure, today the WHO said it would recommend clearer information about drug pricing instead of insisting on publication of development costs that companies use to justify those prices.

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Novartis to charge $2.1 million for Zolgensma following its US approval as first gene therapy for paediatric SMA patients: This story has been the #1 health report for the past several days. The drug is the most expensive single treatment- others cost less but must be given on a regular basis for life. Given its cost, Novartis is considering creative payment methods- like financing a car?

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B.C. becomes first province to force change to 'biosimilar' drugs: The province will require publicly funded patients to switch to biosimilar drugs by this November to continue their coverage. This measure is the most far reaching I have seen to control costs in this sector.

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About health insurance

Network Matching: An Attractive Solution To Surprise Billing: While there is nothing new in this article, it is a nice summary of the topic of surprise billing and potential solutions. I found the relative charges for different non-contracted specialties particularly interesting. At the top were anesthesiologists and ER physicians.

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About healthcare IT

IT applications and healthcare: Here are two related articles on this topic. The first is a nice overview of some of the ways smartphones are being used as medical devices. The other article is a review from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) about the growth in the public’s use of healthcare IT, such as remote medical record access.

About health insurance

Reduced Pricing of Diagnostic Health Tests Could Save Consumers More Than $18 Billion a Year: This United HealthGroup study looked at some common diagnostic tests, including imaging, and found that if all tests priced above the 40th percentile could be lowered to that level, consumers would save $18 Billion per year.

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