Weekend update

Both Houses of Congress are in session on Capitol Hill this coming week. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a business meeting on Wednesday October 25 to consider the President’s nominations of Dr. Jeff T.H. Pon and Michael Rigas to be OPM Director and OPM Deputy Director respectively. Their nomination hearing were held last week. The rapid follow up is not surprising to the FEHBlog.

A Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins Jr. shredded to pieces a CBS 60 minutes / Washington Post investigation which alleged that Congress at the instigation of wholesale drug distributors had accelerated the opioid crisis by repealing authority held by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2016.  The FEHBlog had noticed the Post article but he wasn’t buying what the Post was selling for the reasons that Mr. Jenkins explicated. Here are a few key points:

  • [A]s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed out, prescription opioid deaths remain roughly proportional to prescriptions written. The number of prescriptions, which tripled between 1999 and 2010, has been falling ever since. Today’s surging opioid death rate is due to black-market heroin and fentanyl.
  • A federal survey finds misuse of prescription opioids peaked in 2012 and has returned to 2002 levels. 
  • What we have here is a typical story of bureaucratic angst, promoted by the Post’s lead source, Joseph Rannazzisi, a former DEA official who now works for trial lawyers suing the drug industry.
Rest assured that the FEHBlog strives to avoid sensationalism. 
In other news,
  • Mobihealth News reports that ?As telehealth becomes more prevalent among US healthcare institutions, states are rolling out or modifying their laws to better define regulatory frameworks specifically affecting remote delivery of care. In fact, every state but Connecticut and Massachusetts has made substantive legal changes to how telehealth is delivered in the past year * * *.
  • EHR Health Intelligence reports that “The ability for quality measures to paint an accurate picture of the patient care experience depends on the availability of reliable data, yet the latter remains a persistent challenge for providers participating in value-based care models. Not surprisingly, a lack of health IT interoperability is a major source of frustration.” Amen to that. Let’s not forget that Congress and the Obama Administration distributed $32 billion to healthcare providers in order to create for a U.S. electronic health system that could have been but is not close to fully interactive. 
  • Reuters reports that “The prices of injectable cancer drugs – even older medicines around since the 1990s – are increasing at a rate far higher than inflation, researchers report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The study, led by Dr. Daniel Goldstein of Emory University in Atlanta, looked at 24 injectable cancer drugs approved since 1996 and found the average increase was 25 percent over eight years. After inflation, the average increase was 18 percent.” In this regard the FEHBlog notes that the Wall Street Journal last Saturday featured an interesting interview with the Gilead Sciences CEO, John Milligan.