KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Patent Laws And High Drug Prices; Medicare’s Move To Step Up Diabetes Prevention

A selection of opinions from around the country.

The Baltimore Sun: Faster Approval Of Generic Drugs Could Cut High Prescription Costs
High prescription drug prices make most Americans' blood boil, with the same drugs costing up to six times more here than in Western Europe, where drug prices are regulated. However, one cause of high prices has received scant attention: the delays in bringing generic drugs to the market. This problem, costing consumers billions of dollars each year, should be a top priority for Dr. Robert M. Califf, who was just confirmed by the Senate as the new Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (Andrew L. Yarrow, 3/23)

Bloomberg: Patent Law Holds Back Science
One of the biggest stories in science right now is the fight over the Crispr patents. Crispr is a gene editing technique that promises to allow previously unthinkable feats of bio-engineering. It was discovered in stages, like most scientific breakthroughs, by multiple teams working at various universities and research institutes around the world. The final, key advancements were made more-or-less simultaneously by two teams of researchers -- one based in California and led by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, the other based at the Broad Institute in Massachusetts and headed by Feng Zhang. (Noah Smith, 3/23)

news@JAMA: Expanding Medicare Access To The Diabetes Prevention Program
Current efforts to enhance rewarding value rather than volume of health care focus principally on transitioning fee-for-service Medicare payments into alternative payment models, such as accountable care organizations or bundled payment arrangements. But to promote rewarding value, we also need to focus on long-term prevention that can improve outcomes over the long run. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS), recently announced a model test for population-based reductions in projected 10-year cardiovascular risk. But many other opportunities for prevention-focused innovative payment models remain. One important opportunity is addressing chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes. (Sameed Ahmed M. Khatana, Ann L. Albright and Darshak M. Sanghavi, 3/23)

The Dallas Morning News: Be Wary Of Minimum Wage, Medicare Price Controls
Senate Democrats recently ramped up their efforts to force businesses to pay managerial employees overtime. The reform is only the latest attempt by Democrats to tamper with — and ultimately ruin — our economy through wage and price controls. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, for instance, support a dramatic hike in the federal minimum wage, as well as Medicare overhauls that amount to government price controls on drugs. All of these proposals mistakenly assume that the federal government knows better than businesses and consumers what goods and labor are worth. (Michelle Ray, 3/23)

U.S. News & World Report: Make It A Mandate
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidelines for doctors on responsibly prescribing painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin bring important additional attention to the opioid crisis gripping our nation. The CDC's reason for issuing these guidelines is clear – almost 29,000 people fatally overdosed on prescription opiates or heroin in 2014 – and addiction continues to be a growing problem in communities across the United States. (Chuck Ingoglia and Becky Vaughn, 3/23)

The New York Times: U.S. Should Follow Canada’s Lead On Heroin Treatment
The crisis that led officials in Ithaca, N.Y., to consider opening a supervised-injection center for heroin users, part of what the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called a national epidemic of overdose deaths, is sadly familiar to us here. Overdose deaths and H.I.V. infection among injection drug users were so high nearly 20 years ago that Vancouver declared a public health emergency. With open drug use and needles discarded in the streets of downtown Vancouver, we responded in 2003 by opening North America’s first supervised-injection center for heroin and other injection drugs. (Patricia Daly, 3/23)

The Wall Street Journal: The One Doctor’s Appointment All Seniors Should Have–But Rarely Do
You think of yourself as proactive and prepared. You’ve thought through a smart retirement plan. Your car maintenance is up to date. Even your dog’s shots are up to date. But have you had your Medicare annual wellness visit? Probably not. According to Medicare, fewer than 20% of those who qualify for this free benefit take advantage of it. If you care about your health and long-term well-being, it’s a benefit you can’t afford to pass up. (Molly Mettler, 3/23)

Forbes: Long-Run Demographic Effects Of The Zika Virus
While public health officials in the western hemisphere are trying to figure out how to stop the mosquito-borne Zika virus, few seem to have noticed that, even if eliminated in a year or two, the Zika virus could have profound long-term demographic effects in affected countries. (Robert Book, 3/23)

Miami Herald: New Laws Confront Unsolved Rapes, HIV
It’s a case of bad news and lousy publicity adding up to good, remedial legislation. On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law one bill that creates a needle-exchange program to battle and, it is hoped, slow the spread of HIV through intravenous drug use. The governor also put his signature on legislation that requires state crime labs to test rape kits within 120 days of receiving them. These two bills alone speak highly of lawmakers’ bipartisan effort to tackle head-on two unsustainable scourges. And we commend Gov. Scott for following through, acknowledging the challenges that the laws will now confront. (3/23)

Detroit Free Press: Time To Govern, Move Forward To Fix Flint
The abundant deficiencies of Gov. Rick Snyder's administration are laid bare in a scathing report issued Wednesday by the task force the governor himself appointed to postmortem the Flint water crisis. The appointment of this task force was the governor's response, in the days after he finally acknowledged that the water in Flint was not safe to drink, to critics demanding accountability from an administration that for too long seemed unmoved by the events unfolding in Flint. (3/23)

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