Longer Looks: The Medical Tab Of Congressional Gridlock; Why Go To Work With The Flu?
Each week, KHN finds interesting reads from around the Web.
The Wall Street Journal's The Experts:
The Expensive Medical Cost Of Congressional Gridlock For Older Americans
Sometimes congressional gridlock is good news. It means that Congress can’t change laws in a way that harm the public. However, we now have a case where gridlock could result in very significant harm to a large number of retirees. The federal government each year adjusts the Part B premium paid by Medicare recipients. This increase often mirrors the cost of living (COLA) increase granted Social Security beneficiaries. However, in years such as 2016 when there will be no COLA increase under Social Security, Medicare Part B premiums increase only for certain people covered by Medicare, such as higher-income individuals and families. And this increase is a very big one (in the neighborhood of 50%). This will happen unless Congress intervenes. OK, what does that mean in dollars and cents? (Martin Frost, 10/21)
Why Do So Many Workers With The Flu Still Come In?
Going to work sick isn’t preferable for workers or their colleagues. Human-resources experts say it’s a problem, as it limits individuals’ productivity and risks getting others sick too. One study pegged the cost of “presenteeism” at about $150 billion, and researchers have found that staying home usually leads to less work-time lost in the end. Why does this persist, even for those who aren’t worried about getting their coworkers sick? According to a new report by the food-industry consultancy Alchemy (and survey conducted online by the Center for Research and Public Policy), 51 percent of food workers go to work “always” or “frequently” when they’re sick. That can’t be good for food safety, let alone for the basic health of the workers themselves. (Bourree Lam , 10/20)
Stop The Madness
This strategy, which [Autralian researcher Patrick] McGorry and others dubbed “early intervention,” was cutting-edge in the world of mental health. And yet it actually operates on the same logic that doctors have used for decades to reduce the incidence of serious physical illnesses. ... McGorry eventually developed a specific analogy between schizophrenia and cancer. Physicians think of cancer as having distinct stages—from stage 1, when early detection can make a huge difference in survival rates, to stage 4, by which point the cancer has spread and the focus usually shifts to managing the patient’s inevitable decline. In McGorry’s conception, schizophrenia goes through a “prodrome” stage when symptoms gradually emerge, a “first episode” phase that covers, on average, the two years before the first break and finally a “chronic” phase .... By reaching people in the first or second stages, McGorry argued, psychiatrists could prevent the disease from reaching its most destructive form. (Jonathan Cohn, 10/15)
Real Clear Health:
FDA May Hold The Key To Holding Down Drug Costs
The latest furor began with the disclosure that Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired a 62 year old drug, Daraprim (pyrimethamine), used to treat the parasitic infection toxoplasmosis, and immediately increased the price 5000 percent. Toxoplasmosis can cause severe disabilities and even death in pregnant women, their newborns and people with compromised immune systems --such as HIV patients and patients receiving chemotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs. Turing was emulating Valeant Pharmaceuticals, whose business model consists of purchasing companies and older drugs and jacking up prices. In a free market, Turing can charge whatever it wants to maximize profits. If the price is too high, physicians will use alternative treatments. If profits are high, other manufacturers will come into the market to make the drug whose patent protection has expired or will develop new, patent protected, drugs to compete with Daraprim. But this description is too simplistic. (Joel Zingerg, 10/15)
U.S. News & World Report:
Drug Used In ‘Death With Dignity' Is The Same Used In Executions
The issue is taking on a renewed relevance, with the usage of medically assisted suicide and capital punishment seemingly headed in opposite directions. California recently became the fifth state to allow medically assisted death – behind Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana – while 19 states have abolished the death penalty and two Supreme Court justices have suggested it is time to end the practice. Still, while the use of capital punishment in the U.S. has declined, it remains in practice with 24 executions so far this year. (Kimberly Leonard, 10/16)
The Prescription Painkiller And Heroin Epidemic, Explained
America's latest drug epidemic began with the best intentions from doctors and a profit-driven campaign from pharmaceutical companies. Back in the 1990s, doctors agreed — and many still do — that America has a serious pain problem: Tens of millions of Americans experienced debilitating pain, and it was left untreated. So they looked for a solution — and, fueled by a misleading marketing push from pharmaceutical companies, landed on opioid-based painkillers, widely known by brand names such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. The drugs proliferated. (German Lopez, 10/21)
The Daily Beast:
DEA Secretly OKs Killer Quantities Of Oxy And Morphine
The Drug Enforcement Administration—tasked with fighting the war on drugs—has for the past two decades approved ever-greater quantities of controlled substances like oxycodone for manufacture and sale in the U.S. by pharmaceutical companies. In 1993, the DEA allowed pharmaceutical companies to manufacture 3,520 kilograms of oxycodone. In 2015, the DEA authorized production of 137,500 kilograms of oxycodone. That’s a 39-fold increase in 22 years, the equivalent of turning two Buicks into four Boeing 737s. Either Americans are in 39 times more pain than we were 20 years ago, or something else is wrong. (John Temple, 10/21)
The New York Times:
It turns out that American mothers breast-feed just as much, and often for much longer, than women in many other Western countries. Seventy-nine percent of American mothers initiate breast-feeding, and 49 percent are still breast-feeding at six months. ... In 2011 we met or exceeded most of the 2010 Healthy People Goals set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet the moral fervor surrounding breast-feeding continues unabated, with a steady stream of advocacy and education campaigns, hospital initiatives, social pressure and workplace and insurance regulations designed to push breast-feeding numbers still higher. A lot of what passes for breast-feeding advocacy, though, actually promotes breast pumping, not breast-feeding. (Courtney Jung, 10/16)
The FDA Ordered 23andMe To Stop Offering Users Unapproved Health Tests. Now It’s Back.
The genetic testing company 23andMe announced today that it's relaunching its direct-to-consumer health testing kits after shutting them down two years ago when the Food and Drug Administration charged the company with failing to provide evidence that their tests were "analytically or clinically validated." Like other California-based startups (such as Theranos), 23andMe had charged ahead with promises to disrupt health care. The 23andMe co-founder, Anne Wojcicki, said the company was poised to become the "world's trusted source of personal genetic information" and "empowering" users with information about their genetic makeup. (Julia Belluz, 10/21)
The Washington Post:
Five Myths On Dieting And Weight Loss
Obesity has been on the rise worldwide for decades, putting people at risk for developing diabetes, heart disease and several forms of cancer. Today, two thirds of adults and one third of children in the United States are overweight. As the numbers on the scale get bigger, so does the diet and weight-loss industry, which is now worth tens of billions of dollars. What doesn’t seem to be increasing, though, is people’s understanding of obesity and how to lose weight. Here are a few of the myths clouding the facts. (Kevin B. Hall, 10/15)
The Washington Post:
The First ‘Female Viagra’ Is Here. Who Wants It?
In the clinical trials, flibanserin worked for about half of the women who took it. On average, women on the drug reported having one more sexually satisfying event per month than women taking a sugar pill. ... Critics call hypoactive sexual desire disorder a creation of the drug industry and contend that low libido is really mismatched sex drives, that monogamy is boring, or that sex is just bad — one survey of U.S. heterosexual couples found 75 percent of the men always climaxed during sex, compared with 29 percent of the women, one of the largest “orgasm gender gaps” in the world. (Brigid Schulte, 10/16)