Monday, November 16, 2009
The drug industry stands to gain about 30 million new customers with drug insurance from the legislation pending in Congress so it isn’t surprising that the industry is promising to support Washington’s health care overhaul. This support comes in the form of an agreement to cut $8 billion a year off the nation’s drug costs in the 10 years after the legislation goes into effect. However, according to the New York Times, it appears that what one hand gives, the other takes away as the drug industry is raising its prices at the fastest rate in years.
In the last year, the industry has raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9 percent, according to industry analysts. That will add more than $10 billion to the nation’s drug bill, which is on track to exceed $300 billion this year. By at least one analysis, it is the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992.
But this year’s price increases would effectively cancel out the savings from at least the first year of the Senate Finance agreement. And some critics say the surge in drug prices could change the dynamics of the entire 10-year deal.
“It makes it much easier for the drug companies to pony up the $80 billion because they’ll be making more money,” said Steven D. Findlay, senior health care analyst with the advocacy group Consumers Union.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Public Health Insurance Plan: Should Some Uninsured Americans Be Able To Enroll In A Newly Created, Publicly Administered Health Plan As The Nation Works To Expand Health Insurance Coverage?
A new Policy Brief published by Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provides an excellent analysis of the proposed government-run public health insurance plan under the landmark health reform legislation passed by the House of Representatives. The Policy Brief lays out the details of the plan, including who could enroll, who could receive subsidies to buy coverage and the anticipated impact on health insurance premiums. In addition, the pros and cons of the House proposal, such as why public plan supporters think it is necessary and why critics believe the idea will backfire, are discussed.
Supporters say that a public plan would offer more affordable coverage, could stimulate competition and could lead the way in improving the entire health insurance market.
Those opposed question the public plan’s ultimate financial stability and are concerned that despite legislative language to the contrary, taxpayers may some day have to bail it out.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
A study of more than 120 ethnically and socioeconomically diverse US elementary school children shows that children develop an awareness about racial stereotypes early and that those biases can be damaging. Specifically, the study illustrates that when children become aware of bias about their own racial or ethnic group, it can affect how they respond to everyday situations, ranging from interacting with others to taking tests.
According to ScienceDaily, the study, by researchers at Rush University and Yale University, surveyed 120 elementary school children from an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse area of the United States.
Children were asked questions to determine their ability to understand another person's stereotypical beliefs as well as their own comprehension of broadly held stereotypes. They were also asked about their own experiences with discrimination. In addition, the children's parents completed questionnaires asking about their parenting.
Between ages 5 and 11, the researchers found, children become aware that many people believe stereotypes, including stereotypes about academic ability (for example, how intelligent certain racial and ethnic groups are). When children become aware of these types of bias about their own racial or ethnic group, it can affect how they respond to everyday situations, ranging from interacting with others to taking tests. For example, African American and Latino youths who were aware of broadly held stereotypes about their groups performed poorly on a standardized test, confirming the negative stereotype in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"These results have important implications for social policy," according to Clark McKown, assistant professor of pediatrics and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center, who led the study. "Specifically, they suggest the need for educational policies and comprehensive programs to reduce stereotypes and their consequences early in children's school careers."
McKown et al. Developmental Antecedents and Social and Academic Consequences of Stereotype-Consciousness in Middle Childhood. 80 Child Development 1643 (2009)
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
In an experimental new system, a microchip planted in your pills will send a text message to your computer or your phone reminding you to take your medication if you forget. According to WSJ Health Blog, Novartis is testing the new system in its blood pressure medication.
The technology has significantly improved adherence in a very small group of patients taking the company’s blood pressure medicine Diovan, a Novartis exec tells the Financial Times.
Getting patients to consistently take drugs for chronic conditions like high blood pressure can be a problem. The drugs sometimes cause side effects, and failing to take them can raise long-term risks for strokes and heart attacks without causing any immediate symptoms.
Novartis is partnering on the project with a small company called Proteus Biomedical, one of several companies mentioned in this August WSJ story that looked at the push to use wireless technology to try and keep people healthier — an effort that has also drawn big players like Qualcomm and Intel, the piece noted.
This new system raises a number of questions, including who will keep track of this information. Just individuals? Their physicians? Will volunatry participation become mandated by Medicare and Medicaid to keep overall costs lower? Will insurance companies claim access to the information by virtue of their payor status and then deny benefits for conditions that allegedly arise out of failure to follow a doctor's orders? If so, what will happen to the choice to follow or ignore a doctor's prescribed medication plan when the side effects are not worth the benefits?
Sunday, November 1, 2009
In a change in US DOJ policy on medical marijuana use, a new set of formal federal guidelines were announced for U.S. Attorneys in the 14 states that authorize medical marijuana use. These states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are those that lack a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. This statutory bar ignores over whelming scientific evidence that Cannabis can provide significant medical benefits. This scientific evidence has been the impetus for states to pass laws allowing medical marijuana use that directly conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act. As reported by the AP, the new policy sidesteps some of this state-federal conflict by advising that prosecutors
should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.