Weekend update / Miscellany

  • The Federal Benefits Open Season begins tomorrow, November 10, and continues through December 8.
  • The American Health Information Community (AHIC) holds its final meeting on November 12. AHIC Successor, Inc., “the public-private partnership created to improve the quality of American healthcare through the adoption of interoperable information technology standards,” will hold its inaugural Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, November 13, 2008. AHIC Successor has posted for public comment a report titled “A Process for Establishing Nationwide Health Information Technology Priorities.” Comments are due by November 11.
  • The prescription benefits manager Express Scripts announced last week that

    it has received a letter from an unknown person or persons trying to extort money from the company by threatening to expose millions of the company’s patients’ records. The letter included personal information of 75 members, including their names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and in some cases, their prescription information. The company said it has notified the affected members. It also immediately notified the FBI, which is investigating the crime. The company also said that it is conducting its own investigation with the help of outside experts in data security and computer forensics. The letter arrived in early October. “We have been conducting a thorough investigation since we received this threat and we are taking it very seriously,” said George Paz, chairman and chief executive officer. “We are cooperating with the FBI and are committed to doing what we can to protect our members’ personal information and to track down the person or persons responsible for this criminal act.”

  • According to the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog, prescription benefit manager Medco’s CEO David Snow predicted last week, following the election, that Congress is likely to enact next year a bill that will create a generic pathway for specialty or biotech drugs. That is good news.
  • Speaking of PBM’s, Drug Benefits News reports that “A new pharmacy benefit pilot program involving Caterpillar Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. cuts “significant waste” out of the pharmaceutical supply chain and scraps the long-maligned average wholesale price (AWP) discount methodology in favor of an Rx cost-plus model, say those involved in the program. Both Caterpillar and Wal-Mart tell DBN that the program is attracting the attention of other large employers, and has the potential to change the rules of the game of the pharmacy benefit industry.”
  • Finally, the New York Times reported last week that Washington University scientists successfully decoded the genome of a woman suffering from leukemia.

    This is the first of many of these whole cancer genomes to be sequenced,” said Richard K. Wilson, director of Washington University’s Genome Sequencing Center and the senior author of the study. “They’ll give us a whole bunch of clues about what’s going on in the DNA when cancer starts to bloom.” Dr. Wilson said he hoped that in 5 to 20 years, DNA sequencing for cancer patients would consist of dropping a spot of blood onto a chip that slides into a desktop computer and getting back a report that suggests which drugs will work best for each person.“That’s personalized genomics, personalized medicine in a box,” he said. “It’s holy grail sort of stuff, but I think it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”