Today's News and Commentary

About pharma

Sanofi grabs nonprescription rights to Roche's Tamiflu, aiming for Rx-to-OTC switch: The title explains the article’s contents. Sanofi seeks to get FDA approval to make the influenza drug Tamiflu available over the counter.

Senators announce bipartisan proposal to lower drug prices: There is bipartisan support in the Senate Finance Committee for a proposal to keep drug prices down “by forcing pharmaceutical companies to pay rebates to Medicare if they raise prices of drugs more than the rate of inflation. Those rebates would be equal to the difference between the price increases and the inflation rate.The proposal also includes a cap on out-of-pocket costs for drugs covered under Medicare’s Part D, which is for self-administered prescription drugs, as well as changes to the program’s Part B, which covers physician-administered drugs….The senators said the proposal would save taxpayers $100 billion from the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Beneficiaries would save $27 billion in out-of-pocket costs.” The proposal has White House support but still has a long way to go before becoming law.

Drugmakers shell out record amount lobbying Congress(Financial Times subscription required): The industry lobbying group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent a record $16.1 million in lobbying in the first half of 2019. The article cites the above proposed legislation as one reason for the stepped up activity.

More biosimilar drugs are coming to market. Yesterday the FDA approved the second biosimilar for Rituxan. Also approved was a biosimilar for Humira.

Implanted drug could someday prevent HIV infection: A number of news outlets reported on a matchstick-sized implant that could offer continuous protection against HIV infection for at least a year. While apparently effective, running randomized controlled trials could prove to be ethically difficult.

Effect of Access to Prescribed PCSK9 Inhibitors on Cardiovascular Outcomes: What happens when insurers deny coverage for very expensive medication? In the case of these costly cholesterol-lowing agents: “Individuals in the rejected and abandoned cohorts had significantly increased risk of cardiovascular events compared with those in the paid cohort. Rejection, abandonment, and disparities related to PCSK9i prescriptions are related to higher cardiovascular outcome rates.” Perhaps the payers need to change criteria for coverage.

Latest generic drug deal puts hospital-owned Civica Rx ahead of schedule: This article is an update on Civica, a generic pharma company formed last year by hospitals who wanted to lower their pharma costs and relieve some of their drug shortages. “More than 30 health systems are Civica members, representing 900 U.S. hospitals and 30% of U.S. licensed beds.”

About the public’s health

Trump proposal would push 3 million Americans off food stamps: The title tells it all. Obviously there are healthcare implications to this action.

Worldwide recall launched for textured breast implants linked to rare cancer: This morning Allergan announced a breast implant recall.

About healthcare IT

IBM Watson Health's new manager talks about returning to basics, doubling down: There are a number of uses for artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare settings (see below). IBM’s Watson has realized it cannot be all things to all stakeholders. Instead, it has decided to focus on clinical care. In the past year it gave up the healthcare management sector and is not enrolling new pharma clients.

Hand hygiene compliance surveillance with time series anomaly detection: Use of Artificial Intelligence-aided time series methods provided “more interpretable views of anomalous data compared to traditional statistical process control charts.” As well, individual patterns could be detected for more focused interventions.

Deep Learning to Assess Long-term Mortality From Chest Radiographs: Using AI in this study, “the deep learning CXR-risk score stratified the risk of long-term mortality based on a single chest radiograph. Individuals at high risk of mortality may benefit from prevention, screening, and lifestyle interventions.”

AmeriHealth Caritas' Inclusion of Community Health-Based Services Reduces Emergency Room Utilization: “An analysis of data compiled by AmeriHealth Caritas' clinical and health care analytics teams indicates that high-risk Medicaid members who receive community-based services, with an emphasis on screening for and addressing the social determinants of health, experience a reduction in hospitalization rates.” The program resulted in decreases of : 26.3% in inpatient admissions; 27.2% in inpatient days; 9.7 % in emergency department visits; 22% in potentially preventable admissions; and 12% in potentially preventable emergency department visits.

Wellness culture's obsession with Fitbits, 23andMe and data isn't necessarily making us healthier: Is more data always better when one desires to improve health? Not always, as this article explains.

Cost of a Data Breach Report 2019: (Registration is free for the full report) This annual report comes from IBM Security. The average cost of all data breaches is $3.9 million; but healthcare breaches are the most expensive at an average of $6.45 million. All breaches cost an average of $150 per record; healthcare breaches average $429.

DataSpii: The catastrophic data leak via browser extensions: On a related note, this report explains the data leaks that can occur from using browser extensions.