KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Drug Cost Control Plans Based On Misunderstanding; Valeant In The Headlines Again

A selection of opinions from around the country.

The Wall Street Journal: An Empty Obama-Clinton-Sanders Plan On Drug Costs
President Obama’s latest budget includes proposals—echoed or one-upped on the presidential-campaign trail by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton—that would require pharmaceutical companies to release data on the cost of research and development (R&D) and the extent of discounts offered to insurers for each drug brought to market. Yet the key numbers already are disclosed freely—and we know how to get better value from medicines and improve their affordability to patients. (John C. Lechleiter, 3/21)

The Columbus Dispatch: Experiments Could Lead To Smaller Drug Bills
Federal officials poked a medical hornet’s nest recently with an ambitious attempt to do what many American taxpayers — and patients — demand: tame rising prescription-drug costs in Medicare. Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rolled out a proposal to test new ways of reimbursing doctors who administer drugs in their offices and in hospital outpatient departments. These drugs include cancer medications, antibiotics and certain eye care treatments — about $19 billion a year in Medicare spending. (3/22)

The Washington Post: I Needed To Find Care For My Elderly Aunt. What I Found Was An Eldercare Crisis.
The call came right after lunchtime. “I’ve fallen again.” My great-aunt Emma sounded frustrated and frail. Her arm hurt too much to move, she said, let alone pick up the bag of groceries she’d just bought. It might be broken. Could I come pick her up and drive her to the emergency room? ... Unfortunately, our medical system caters to extremes, taking care of you most quickly if you are critically ill, covering you financially only if you’re destitute. Emma’s X-rays revealed a clean break in her upper arm — they put her in a sling and sent her home with ibuprofen — but what happened after showed me how difficult it is for the elderly and their families to navigate health care in this country. (A.K. Whitney, 3/22)

Bloomberg: Valeant Sold Some Drugs Twice
The crazy news out of Valeant continued this morning with a wild press release announcing, among other things, that Chief Executive Officer J. Michael Pearson is going to leave, but not yet, and that the board asked former Chief Financial Officer Howard Schiller to resign from the board, "but Mr. Schiller has not done so." (Matt Levine, 3/21)

STAT: You Can Complain About TV Drug Ads. They May Have Saved My Life
It’s easy to find fault with ads for prescription drugs, as STAT recently did. Few people get to hear about the good that can come from these ads. For some people — including me — they provide the information and motivation to take life-saving action. (Deborah Clark Dushane, 3/21)

Lexington Herald Leader: Don’t Let Pharmacists Replace Innovative Drugs Designed To Fight Chronic Diseases
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic, painful disease that affects 1.6 million people across the United States. In 2008, I became one of them. I’ll be the first to admit that living with this illness has not been easy. Symptoms include nausea, headaches, intestinal cramps, vomiting, uncontrollable diarrhea, intestinal bleeding, joint pain and insomnia. Each day brings a new set of challenges. (Cheryl Portman, 3/21)

USA Today: Obamacare Attacks Religious Liberty: Little Sisters Mother Provincial
When I first answered God’s call to join the Little Sisters of the Poor and vow myself to Him and to the care of the elderly, I never dreamed of the happiness I would experience in serving, living with and caring for the aging poor until God calls them to Himself. I also never thought one day, I would be walking up the white marble steps of the Supreme Court to attend a legal proceeding in which the high court will decide whether the government can force my order to help offer health care services that violate my Catholic faith and that are already available through existing government exchanges. (Loraine Maguire, 3/22)

USA Today: Raise Cigarette Sales Age And See: Our View
When California lawmakers voted this month to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21, they joined Hawaii and more than 100 localities in seeking a new way to prevent vulnerable teenagers from getting hooked. Almost everyone who smokes started by age 18, research shows. (3/21)

USA Today: 21 For Cigarettes, But 18 For Pot?: Opposing View
Should you have to be 21 to buy beer and cigarettes, but 18 to smoke marijuana? If a measure that passed the California Legislature is signed into law, that’s exactly what will happen. The measure would raise the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21, the same as it is for alcohol. (Mike Gatto, 3/21)

The Hill: Stop The Over-Prescription Of Opioids
Without guidance, we end up with a tragic cycle that just won’t go away: Thousands of men and women go in for routine treatments — treatments that don’t require more than a small dose of pain medication, for just a few days — and they leave with far more or far stronger medicine than they need. They become addicted, or they give the extra pills to a friend or family member who misuses the medication, or they leave them unguarded in a medicine cabinet for a child to take. (Kirsten Gillibrand and Shelly Moore Capito, 3/21)

Los Angeles Times: The Zika Virus Doesn't Respect Borders. It's Time For Immediate U.S. Action
President Obama recently proposed a $1.8 billion emergency funding package to assist federal agencies in managing the Zika outbreak abroad and preventing it from spreading domestically. Stopping or slowing this mosquito-borne disease, which has now been reported in more than 20 Latin American countries and 20 U.S. states, would seem to be a non-partisan priority — if not for humanitarian reasons, then for unadulterated self-interest. Mosquitoes don't respect international borders and when they seek out bloodmeals they don't discriminate on the basis of party affiliation. Nevertheless, the request for Zika funding inexplicably ran into trouble almost immediately. (May Berenbaum, 3/21)

The Columbus Dispatch: Be Prepared To Fight Zika
The Ohio Department of Health will be able ease a lot of minds — and more importantly, better protect the health of others — by being able to test for the Zika virus at its Reynoldsburg lab, greatly cutting the time worried Ohioans must wait for results. Those who feared they had contracted the mosquito-borne virus previously waited an average of 19.5 days as blood specimens were sent to a federal lab. Now, results should be reported within 48 hours. (3/22)

Des Moines Register: E. Coli Secrecy Must End
The CDC says its policy is to identify the providers of contaminated food only when “we perceive there are actions people can take to protect themselves.” In this case, a spokeswoman said, the restaurant chain stopped using the product suspected to be the cause of the illnesses, curtailing the outbreak. There was nothing else consumers could do at that point to avoid illnesses, she said. The Iowa Department of Public Health, which was aware of the outbreak, took a similar stance. Even last week, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the department’s medical director, refused to discuss the business involved in the outbreak with a Register reporter. She said the department’s investigations remain confidential unless the department believes disclosure is necessary to protect the public health. (3/22)

Bloomberg: The Value Of That P-Value
At issue is a statistical test that researchers in a wide range of disciplines, from medicine to economics, use to draw conclusions from data. Let’s say you have a pill that’s supposed to make people rich. You give it to 30 people, and they wind up 1 percent richer than a similar group that took a placebo. Before you can attribute this difference to your magic pill, you need to test your results with a narrow and dangerously subtle question: How likely would you be to get this result if your pill had no effect whatsoever? If this probability, or so-called p-value, is less than a stated threshold -- often set at 5 percent -- the result is deemed "statistically significant." (3/21)

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