Asthma rates are dropping, but don’t celebrate just yet warns a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of Americans with asthma fell from roughly 8.6% in recent years to 7.4% in 2013. In addition, patients having an asthma attack or episode fell to a 15-year low of 3.8%, down from 4.4% in 2012. Jeannine Schiller, MPH, a lead researcher at the CDC, says that the downturn may just be a statistical anomaly, and wants to see 2014 statistics before pronouncing that asthma is in decline. . . . Yet more doubt has been thrown on the benefits of vitamin supplements. Antioxidants actually reduce the benefits of exercise, according to a study in the Journal of Physiology (http://tinyurl.com/vit-study). The study looks at 54 men and women, who are already in pretty good shape. Most of them are runners or cyclists. One half got a placebo; the other got the vitamins. At the end of an intense 11-week training program, both groups showed improvements but the ones taking placebo had more energy and better health. . . . If perception is reality (placebo, anyone?), then the debate over the worthiness of wellness programs might be moot. Workers who believe that their employers care about their health will give those companies a competitive advantage, according to a survey (http://tinyurl.com/survey-well) of 2,700 employees by the National Business Group on Health, Aon Hewitt, and the Futures Co. Such workers are also happier and less stressed. . . . When it comes to prescribing antibiotics, hospital doctors are all over the place, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://tinyurl.com/prescribe-hos). Physicians in some hospitals prescribe nearly 3 times as many antibiotics than physicians holding similar positions in other hospitals, according to a study of 300 hospitals. Some of the patients had not even been fully tested to see if they need an antibiotic. . . . Patients with type 2 diabetes that includes severe hypoglycemia have more incidence of cancer and higher mortality than those who do not have sever hypoglycemia, according to a study in the journal Diabetes Care. Among the predictors of severe hypoglycemia are older age, low body mass index, and high A1c levels. . . . Seventy-three percent of older patients would prefer getting care that’s coordinated, but only 27% describe the care they get that way, according to a survey by the John A. Hartford Foundation. Patients who get coordinated care like it: 83% say that their health improved.
House Republicans come out with their ACA alternative. A continuous coverage surcharge replaces the individual mandate. But where’s the CBO score?
The biosimilar segment of the pharmaceutical industry is on fire. Some 700 biosimilars are at some stage of development, and more than 660 companies are involved in some way in the biosimilars land rush. Still, only a handful may get on the market in the next few years.
No one knows how much of an effect biosimilars will have on oncology expenditures. Pricing and market share are in a large, opaque “to be determined” cloud. But there’s certainly potential for a major impact that could lower oncology expenditures by millions, if not billions.
The future of biosimilars in this country is nothing if not uncertain. Most immediately, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case that will determine the timing of the 180-day waiting period before a biosimilar can go on the market. But there are larger and longer-term issues at play as well.
While coupons help individual consumers, they are also having a major impact on the insurance industry and anyone responsible for paying health care bills. Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers complain that they foil formularies and other pricing strategies designed to steer consumers to less-expensive drugs.
The hard truth is that telehealth’s future—its size, its contours—will depend a lot on what payers will be willing to pay for. Currently, commercial plans cover only a limited number of services. In addition, research suggests that there may be quality and utilization problems.
Insurers should consider covering new drug-delivery devices that can improve outcomes while lowering disease-specific pharmacy and long-term overall health care costs. Managing these devices in the pharmacy benefit will consolidate volume-based purchasing and capitalize on PBM strategies for improving adherence.
Basaglar is coming on the scene during tumultuous times for insulin products. Manufacturers are under attack for price hikes. There are allegations of backroom rebate deals. And a class-action lawsuit has been brought on behalf of uninsured patients, charging insulin makers with setting artificially high prices.
Evaluating the quality of telemedicine care is about as easy as evaluating the quality of health care, period, and researchers are still ironing out the methodological kinks. That may be one reason research results are all over the place. This article involved reviewing nine such studies, and the findings are a mixed bag.
The results can be tragic. Patients with addictions are unlikely to wait the hours or days it takes health insurers to approve the medications they need. Insurers are changing their practices, but not without some outside pressure.