Today's News and Commentary

About the public’s health

HyperFoods: Machine intelligent mapping of cancer-beating molecules in foods: Which foods are more likely to help prevent cancers? The authors used a network-based machine learning method to find answers. The bottom line? “… plant-based foods such as tea, carrot, celery, orange, grape, coriander, cabbage and dill contain the largest number of molecules with high anti-cancer likeness through exerting influence on molecular networks in a similar fashion to existing therapeutics.” However, among the authors other cautions is the warning that “concentrations of bioactive molecules are not taken into account and it is unclear they would be present in sufficient enough concentration to exert their beneficial biological activity.”

US life expectancy has been declining. Here’s why: “A baby born in the U.S. in 2017 is expected to live to be 78.6 years old, which is down from 78.7 from the year before.” The CDC targeted three causes for this decline: rise in drug overdoses; increase in liver disease; and rise in the suicide rate.

About pharma

Novartis to sell epinephrine shot in U.S. pharmacies amid EpiPen shortage: Novartis will make its generic pre-filled epinephrine shots immediately available in local pharmacies across the United States. This announcement comes because of a shortage of Mylan’s EpiPen due to manufacturing problems. It is nice to see the market working.

Tax-Funded Drug Research Should Spell Cheaper Drugs: Advocates(Free trial available): How should we handle drug (and other) discoveries that are made using federal research funds? Should the government have an equity share in the product? Should the prices be lower? Right now there is no financial recognition. This article addresses the questions above.

Germany Joins U.S.-EU Inspection Partnership: This article is a reminder that the FDA does not have the resources to examine all foreign plants for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and is increasingly relying on other countries to police their own facilities.

Congress Seeks GAO Review of Foreign Drug Inspection Program: This article addresses the same issue as the one above.

Score! 'Good Pharma' ranking finds uptick in new drug data sharing and clinical trial transparency: Now some good news. According to findings from the Good Pharma Scorecard biennial ranking, Big Pharma is sharing more data than ever before. 95% of patient trials are “now providing public results within six months of FDA approval. If the time period is extended to 12 months, that improves to 100% for the new drugs reviewed after approval in 2015.”

About health insurance

U.S. appeals court signals sympathy to bid to strike down Obamacare: Lots of speculation on the outcome of the ACA appeals hearing yesterday. Two of the three judges were Republican appointees (which should not make a difference, but does). Observers said their questions indicated they might rule against the appellants, who are mostly attorneys general from Blue states. A decision will not be forthcoming for weeks and is likely to reach the Supreme Court regardless of outcome. This article is a nice summary of the history leading up to this trial. Here is another good source of information from the Washington Post.

Buyer beware: When religion, politics, health care and money collide:Some people are buying into what they think are insurance plans but are really faith-based medical cost sharing schemes. This article is a good example of what can (and does) go wrong when coverage is required.

Anesthesiologist indicted for alleged role in $7M telemedicine fraud case: Find an innovative healthcare technology and someone will use it to defraud payers. In this case, starting in January 2015 the anesthesiologist in the headline “and other medical providers purported to practice telemedicine pursuant to agreements with unnamed companies in exchange for kickbacks paid for each purported telemedicine encounter, according to the indictment.” The alleged fraudulent payments totaled $7 million.

Covered California says consumers will see lowest-ever premium hike for individual policies: “Covered California announced Tuesday morning that it expects an average premium increase of 0.8 percent for 2020 in the state’s individual marketplace, the lowest such rate change since the health insurance exchange started business in 2013. 
Peter V. Lee, the executive director of Covered California, attributed the low rate change to bills passed by the California Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom over the past six months. 
The legislation includes a so-called individual mandate that will impose a state tax penalty on any California resident who does not maintain health insurance coverage and offers state subsidies that will help an estimated 922,000 residents pay for insurance.”

About healthcare quality

HHS Quality Summit (QS) Fact Sheet: HHS announced that it will convene a summit of “key industry stakeholders and government leaders to discuss how current quality programs administered by HHS can be further evaluated, adapted, and streamlined to deliver better outcomes for American patients.” The announcement is a bit vague but appears to be geared to streamlining all the disparate quality criteria.