Eye catching

There were three articles in the Wall Street Journal today that caught the FEHBlog’s eye.

  1. CMS released data on 2013 Medicare Parts A and B payments to hospitals, doctors, and other providers today.  The Journal which brought a successful lawsuit to force the annual release of this data observes that 

The top 1% of billers of the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled in 2013 reaped 17.5% of all payments that year. That same cluster of doctors and other individual providers received 16.6% of the program’s payments in 2012, figures show.

      2.   The Journal also reported on shortages of oncology and painkilling drugs in the U.S.

Interviews with company executives, hospital pharmacists and regulators point to several causes of the shortages. Companies have failed to build enough production capacity, haven’t maintained equipment, and failed to ward off contamination in aging plants. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration crackdown on shoddy quality unintentionally worsened the shortages because some companies responded by shutting down plants or scaling back production during renovations.

Many of the scarce drugs are older, injectable treatments that can be complex and costly to manufacture, but which command relatively low prices because they aren’t protected by patent. Hospitals and doctors’ offices are the main buyers of the drugs. Companies can’t easily increase prices because insurers reimburse many generic hospital-administered drugs under a payment system that is more frugal than for other medicines.

             Perhaps insurers can re-evaluate this payment system.

3.   At the annual  meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, Leonard Saltz,  MD,  chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center spoke truth to power (big pharma finances this conference) by criticizing the high price of oncology drugs according to this Journal report.  “Cancer-drug prices are not related to the value of the drug,” Dr. Saltz said. “Prices are based on what has come before and what the seller believes the market will bear.”  This cock-eyed pricing philosophy which drug manufacturers apply across the board is bankrupting the country.