Midweek update

Photo by Manasvita S on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • The Wall Street Journal reports
    • “Negotiators worked Wednesday to reach an agreement on reining in government spending, which has emerged as the central hurdle to a deal to raise the debt ceiling, with a possible government default just a week away.
    • “U.S. stocks extended declines Wednesday, reflecting rising anxieties about the debt ceiling, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average posting a fourth-straight session of losses.
    • “The White House has offered a spending freeze for next year, while GOP negotiators have insisted that any deal must result in lower discretionary spending, calling it a critical step in starting to address the country’s growing debt, which now stands at $31.4 trillion.”

Healthcare Dive, MedPage Today, and Fierce Healthcare discuss a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing on prescription benefit managers held yesterday.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee cleared a bunch of healthcare-related bills for floor consideration today.

STAT News tells us, “Matt Eyles, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, is leaving by this October, the lobbying group said Wednesday.” Good luck, Mr. Eyles.

From the public health front —

  • Helen Branswell, writing in STAT News, points out
    • :An impressive number of vaccines and monoclonal antibody products are racing toward the end of the development pipeline, with two products aimed at protecting children expected to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration by autumn. One, a maternal vaccine developed by Pfizer, received a recommendation last week from FDA’s vaccine advisory committee.
    • “But there are sizable hurdles standing in the way of the implementation of these products, hurdles that could see the promise they offer squandered because of bureaucracy, health systems that don’t interact with one another, and steep price tags.”
  • Ms. Branswell discusses the hurdles with experts on the matter.
  • Forbes reports
    • This week, Achieve Life Sciences announced that its drug, cytisinicline, saw strong results in its latest phase III trial. While the drug has been used for decades in eastern Europe, it’s not yet been approved by the FDA. The drug works by targeting the nicotine receptors in the brain, CEO John Bencich tells Forbes. “It works to reduce the satisfaction you get while smoking, but also helps with the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.” 
    • The study, which followed 792 patients, had patients take the drug for either 6 weeks or 12 weeks. Both patients who received the drug and those who got a placebo also went through a behavioral program about quitting smoking. The company says that over 30% of those who took the drug for 12 weeks stopped smoking completely in the last four weeks of the study, compared to less than 10% in the placebo group. For six weeks of treatment, the drug had a nearly 15% success rate compared to 6% in the placebo group. The company saw similar success in a smaller study it reported in the spring on the success of the drug in helping patients quit vaping. Patients will be monitored for 24 weeks after completing the cessation program, and the company expects to file a new drug application with the FDA in the first half of 2024. 
  • This week’s Econtalk podcast offers an interview between host Russ Roberts and University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan about the macroeconomic angles of public health issues, like the Covid pandemic. Check it out.

From the interoperability front,

  • Fierce Healthcare relates
    • The total number of Epic customers pledging to join the electronic medical record provider in its participation in the Trusted Exchange Framework and the Common Agreement (TEFCA) has jumped to 27
    • After announcing the participation of 20 health systems plus health tech company KeyCare and health information exchange OCHIN on Monday, five more organizations have joined the pledge including Kaiser Permanente.
    • According to Matt Doyle, interoperability software development lead at Epic, the EMR company is optimistic that nearly all of the 2,000 hospitals and 600,000 clinicians that use Epic across the country will participate. 
  • Let’s go.

From the generative AI front,

  • Patient Engagement HIT tells us
    • Can ChatGPT really replace doctors? Probably not, at least for right now, as surveying shows that patient trust in chatbots and generative AI in healthcare is relatively low.
    • The report from The University of Arizona Health Sciences showed that around half of patients don’t fully trust AI-powered medical advice, like the information issued from chatbots like ChatGPT. Instead, patients still trust and prefer their traditional healthcare providers.
    • However, patients may be more receptive to chatbot medical advice if the AI is guided by a doctor’s or human’s touch.