Weekend Update

It has been a fun weekend of NFL playoff football. 

Congress is in session this week. Here’s a link to report on Congress’s work last week.

OPM has been encouraging FEHB plans to cover obesity treatment drugs. Kaiser Health New reports that the FDA approved a new obesity treatment drug last month – the fourth since 2012 — and it describes the lay of the land in terms of health insurance coverage for this drugs generally. The effectiveness jury remains out.

Susan Pisano, a spokesperson for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, says the variability of insurer coverage of anti-obesity drugs “relates to issues of evidence of effectiveness and evidence of safety.”
In 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a non-partisan group of medical experts who make recommendations about preventive care, declined to recommend prescription drugs for weight loss, noting a lack of long-term safety data, among other things. But its analysis was based on the older drugs orlistat, which is sold over the counter as Alli or in prescription form as Xenical, and metformin, a diabetes drug that has not been approved for weight loss but is sometimes prescribed for that by doctors.
The task force did recommend obesity screening for all adults and children over age 6, however, and recommended patients be referred to intensive diet and behavioral modification interventions.

As a result of this task force recommendation, FEHB and other health plans last year began covering obesity screening in-network without enrollee cost sharing.

Believe it or not the Washington Post offers to send subscribers an email with good news. One of the good news entries today is a story about a new class of antibiotic developed from Maine dirt.

Teixobactin works by targeting the building blocks of the bacterial cell wall. Most antibiotics target proteins inside the cell to disrupt it, but Teixobactin binds to two different lipids that are necessary in cell wall production. So even if one developed resistance, the other could still be targeted. In traditional tests to coax bacteria into mutating resistance to a drug, the researchers just kept being able to kill the bacteria.

The new drug is not likely to be prescribed to patients for four more years but it is hopeful development.

Health Data Management reported on a surgical risk calculator that can be used to chill out anxious patients.  Here is a link to the calculator which is designed for use by doctors.