Jessica Cherian, PharmD, RPh

Will the FDA go back on a decision it made years ago? I am referring to a story that has a lot of buzz: whether or not the FDA will take recommendations from its advisory committee and change the restrictions on Avandia (rosiglitazone). Avandia was approved in 1999 and shortly became the top-selling type 2 diabetes medication in the world. In 2010, data from a number of trials convinced the FDA to severely restrict the medication through implementation of a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), while Europe banned it entirely.

Paul E. Terry, PhD

Though the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Labor issued final regulations concerning “Incentives for Nondiscriminatory Wellness Programs in Group Health Plans,”1 employers and health plans must still navigate unresolved inconsistencies between the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


The latest ACA rules indicate that if a plan uses a “health-contingent” incentive scheme, that is employees are to meet certain standards related to a health factor (e.g., losing weight or controlling blood pressure) in order to receive a reward in the form of reduced premiums or deductibles, the plan must satisfy several requirements including offering a “reasonable alternative standard” for those who believe that the standard is not accommodating their unique circumstances.  


The EEOC has remained silent on whether they deem wellness programs to be voluntary, a key concern of an agency committed to ensuring that all employees enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment such as is guaranteed under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Krishna R. Patel, PharmD, RPh

Research from the New England Healthcare Institute has the world rethinking what the next great advance in health care will look like. While many of us are only now beginning to hear the noise about medication nonadherence, health care leaders are already hot on the trail to finding effective ways to reduce nonadherence.

Steven R. Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP

At a recent Grand Rounds, a leading clinician medical ethicists told of a meeting with members of the family of a critically ill 6 week old boy who had been in a neonatal intensive care unit since birth. At the meeting were the mother and father, both sets of grandparents, an and aunt and uncle, three members of the hospital ethics committee and physicians and nurses who were caring for the seriously ill child. The one question that our speaker posed to the parents and any other family members that chose to offer a response:

Steven R. Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP

Alice found a Wonderland.

What we found last week, when the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released cost information for the 100 most common diagnoses and procedures in over 3,000  hospitals, is beyond Alice’s imagination. Some of the cost differences for the identical billing diagnoses qualify for “you cannot make this stuff up.”

Two examples:

Steven R. Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP

We know Watson, the supercomputer, for its vast fund of knowledge and thinking prowess when machine bested man, defeating the all-time Jeopardy champ for games won, Ken Jennings (74), and Brad Rutter, Jeopardy’s highest money winner ($3,470,102), and winning against Jennings in a head-to-head Tournament of Champions. Now, Watson is flexing her considerable problem-solving muscle in medicine, and, more specifically, in clinical decision support. Indeed, the British edition of the online magazine Wired reports that “IBM’s Watson is better at diagnosing cancer than human doctors.” 

In September 2011, IBM and Wellpoint announced an agreement to create the first commercial applications of the IBM Watson technology to improve patient care. Watson has been a diligent medical student for the past two years, with a voracious  — perhaps insatiable  — appetite for both structured and unstructured data, including human language.

Robert Royce

Those seeking some clarity regarding the future of health care policy in the UK will be forgiven for being baffled by recent events. First up was an abortive attempt by the government to introduce a requirement for National Health Service commissioners (known as clinical commissioning groups – see my article on “Health Care Reform in England” in the August, 2012 issue of Managed Care to undertake formal market testing of services.

Steven R. Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP

Earlier today, I was speaking with a physician colleague about his commitment to continue to improve person-centered care in his primary care practice and to enhance patient experience. We talked about the potential value of greeters in the practice, of a patient council to offer feedback and recommendations, and, with training, increasing the scope of service of medical assistants to allow nurses, advanced practice nurses, and physicians to spend more time with more complex care.

Steven R. Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP

In April of last year, I wrote about the first release of recommendations from the American Board on Internal Medicine Foundation in conjunction with nine medical societies as part of a campaign: Choosing Wisely. The campaign aims to draw attention to and call into question commonly ordered tests like chest x-rays before surgery, frequently performed procedures like colonoscopies, and frequently prescribed treatments like antibiotics for upper respiratory infections.

Neil Minkoff, MD

Amgen is making a huge bet on biosimilars and helping to define the market.

The company announced that it is targeting 6 biotech blockbusters and will start selling them as  biosimilars in 2017. The initial targets: Avastin, Herceptin, Rituxan, Erbitux, Humira and Remicade. That’s over $40 billion in product. Even a small savings, like 15% to 20%, would result in a huge change in premiums.

It is still unclear what hurdles will need to be cleared from the FDA and/or other regulatory bodies, but a few other things have become very clear:

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Managed Care’s Top Ten Articles of 2016

There’s a lot more going on in health care than mergers (Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna) creating huge players. Hundreds of insurers operate in 50 different states. Self-insured employers, ACA public exchanges, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid managed care plans crowd an increasingly complex market.

Major health care players are determined to make health information exchanges (HIEs) work. The push toward value-based payment alone almost guarantees that HIEs will be tweaked, poked, prodded, and overhauled until they deliver on their promise. The goal: straight talk from and among tech systems.

They bring a different mindset. They’re willing to work in teams and focus on the sort of evidence-based medicine that can guide health care’s transformation into a system based on value. One question: How well will this new generation of data-driven MDs deal with patients?

The surge of new MS treatments have been for the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. There’s hope for sufferers of a different form of MS. By homing in on CD20-positive B cells, ocrelizumab is able to knock them out and other aberrant B cells circulating in the bloodstream.

A flood of tests have insurers ramping up prior authorization and utilization review. Information overload is a problem. As doctors struggle to keep up, health plans need to get ahead of the development of the technology in order to successfully manage genetic testing appropriately.

Having the data is one thing. Knowing how to use it is another. Applying its computational power to the data, a company called RowdMap puts providers into high-, medium-, and low-value buckets compared with peers in their markets, using specific benchmarks to show why outliers differ from the norm.
Competition among manufacturers, industry consolidation, and capitalization on me-too drugs are cranking up generic and branded drug prices. This increase has compelled PBMs, health plan sponsors, and retail pharmacies to find novel ways to turn a profit, often at the expense of the consumer.
The development of recombinant DNA and other technologies has added a new dimension to care. These medications have revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and many of the other 80 or so autoimmune diseases. But they can be budget busters and have a tricky side effect profile.

Shelley Slade
Vogel, Slade & Goldstein

Hub programs have emerged as a profitable new line of business in the sales and distribution side of the pharmaceutical industry that has got more than its fair share of wheeling and dealing. But they spell trouble if they spark collusion, threaten patients, or waste federal dollars.

More companies are self-insuring—and it’s not just large employers that are striking out on their own. The percentage of employers who fully self-insure increased by 44% in 1999 to 63% in 2015. Self-insurance may give employers more control over benefit packages, and stop-loss protects them against uncapped liability.