Thursday Miscellany

Photo by Josh Mills on Unsplash

From Washington, DC

  • The Wall Street Journal reports,
    • “House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) embraced border security as a possible way to break a congressional impasse over funding the government, saying it could be a key ingredient in any last-ditch push to avert a partial shutdown this weekend.  * * *
    • Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, McCarthy said concerns among both Democrats and Republicans about the pace of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican border could provide enough common ground for them to work out a short-term deal to keep the government open past Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends.
    • He said he had spoken with some Democratic senators about border enforcement as recently as Thursday morning.“They want something on the border. They’re working on it,” he said of Democrat senators. “And so I think there’s an opportunity here. We know we have to keep the government funded. We know we have a concern about the border—both sides.” Asked directly by a reporter if he expects a shutdown, McCarthy said: “No, I’m saying we work through this and get it done.”
  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • Following a Senate Finance Committee markup hearing in July, where members voted 26-1 in favor of the Modernizing and Ensuring PBM Accountability (MEPA) Act, Senators Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, formally introduced the bill on Thursday.
    • Designed to curb the power of pharmacy benefit managers, the bill would prohibit PBM compensation in Medicare from being tied to the price, increase audit and enforcement measures and aid independent community pharmacies that have struggled because of PBM practices, according to a news release.
  • AHIP announced that yesterday
    • Following reports of some patients having difficulties accessing new COVID-19 boosters without cost sharing, Alliance of Community Health Plans, Association for Community Affiliated Plans, AHIP, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association came together in a letter to Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services, to reiterate their commitment to providing access, swiftly addressing any challenges, and continuing to partner with HHS and others across the health care system.”
    • Good to hear.
  • STAT News offers six approaches to resolving the drug shortages confronting our country.
  • STAT News also informs us
    • “A panel of independent advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted overwhelmingly against a polarizing potential treatment for ALS on Wednesday, concluding that the medicine’s messy supporting data did not meet the standard for approval.
    • “After a day-long meeting that included impassioned testimony from ALS patients, the agency’s expert advisers voted 17-1 with one abstention that the case for NurOwn, a treatment from BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, was based too heavily on convoluted clinical trial results and compelling but unreliable anecdotal evidence.”
  • Per Beckers Hospital Review,
    • “The label for Novo Nordisk’s weight loss drug Ozempic now acknowledges some users’ reports of ileus or intestinal blockage. 
    • “In its update, however, the FDA said it’s difficult to confirm a causal relationship between the side effect and the drug. 
    • “Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure,” the label says. 
    • “Wegovy and Mounjaro, also GLP-1 agonist medications, already acknowledge reports of ileus on their labels. Novo Nordisk is the maker of both Ozempic and Wegovy, which both use an injection of semaglutide.” 
  • The Affordable Care Act regulators released ACA FAQ 61, which updates interested parties on transparency in coverage and RxDc reporting issues.
  • The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announcedissuing an interim final rule today to extend the eligibility date for noncompetitive appointment of military spouses married to a member of the armed forces on active duty through December 31, 2028, as called for by enactment of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (P.L. 117-263).” 

From the public health front,

  • STAT News tells us
    • “[A 36-year-old woman living in San Francisco was told her kidneys would heal. But they didn’t; dialysis became a regular routine. She moved to UCSF Medical Center, seeking better care and a place that would allow her parents to visit. There, she met Chi-yuan Hsu, UCSF’s chief of nephrology, who was looking to study patients who might be successfully weaned from dialysis. He believed many patients with acute kidney injury like Lawson stayed on dialysis for longer than they needed.
    • “The results of a new study by Hsu, published Thursday in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, validate his suspicions. The study of nearly 8,000 patients, nearly 2,000 with acute kidney injury, found 40% of patients with acute kidney injury recovered their kidney function. But of these patients, just 18% were weaned from dialysis through having fewer sessions, and 9% by having shorter sessions.
    • “More than 70% of these patients ended up eventually stopping dialysis without any weaning — “cold turkey” as Hsu puts it — suggesting they could have been having fewer, or shorter treatments earlier. This is important, he said, because dialysis not only impacts quality of life, as it did for Lawson, it can also lead to infection and heart damage, and possibly — this is still under debate — to additional kidney injury that could inhibit recovery and lead to a need for permanent dialysis.”
  • Health Leaders Media explains how to address the relationship between patient safety and health equity.
  • Employee Benefit News points out the need for mental health benefits to cover suicide prevention.

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Forbes reports that CVS, Walgreens And Rite Aid are closing nearly 1,500 stores across the U.S.
    • “All three drug chains have different reasons for closing stores, but the downsizing prescription is the same. Chain drugstores cost a lot to operate, and they don’t have sufficient differentiation to attract customers feeling the economic pinch.”
  • STAT News says,
    • Ophthalmologists who accepted payments from drug companies were less likely to prescribe a cheaper medicine to treat an eye disease that causes blindness in older people, rather than a pair of more expensive alternatives, according to a new study. This led Medicare to spend an additional $643 million during a recent six-year period.
    • Specifically, physicians who received money prescribed Avastin, an older cancer medicine, 28% of the time for combating age-related macular degeneration. And they prescribed two costlier treatments, which have approved specifically to treat the eye disease, 72% of the time. Physicians who did not accept payments prescribed Avastin 46% of the time, nearly twice as often as those who accepted payments.
    • “As a result, Medicare shelled out an estimated $642.8 million from 2013 to 2019, presumably due to the company payments, according to the study, which was published in JAMA Health Forum. The researchers examined Medicare Part B data that encompassed nearly 21,600 ophthalmologists who accepted money from Roche and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which sell the pricier eye treatments.”
  • Per Healthcare Dive,
    • “Satisfaction with telehealth is significantly higher among younger patients, according to a study by consumer data company JD Power. 
    • “Members of Generation Y, who were born between 1977 and 1994, and Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2004, report a satisfaction score of 714 out of 1,000. But Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and and 1964, and people born earlier had a significantly lower score of 671.
    • “The satisfaction gap between older and younger generations is widest when it comes to digital channels and appointment scheduling, which could mean older users are struggling to use telehealth providers’ digital interfaces, the study argues.” 
  • Beckers Hospital Review lets us know
    • “Medicare Advantage provides health coverage to more than half of the nation’s seniors, but a growing number of hospitals and health systems nationwide are pushing back and dropping the private plans altogether.
    • “Among the most commonly cited reasons are excessive prior authorization denial rates and slow payments from insurers. Some systems have noted that most MA carriers have faced allegations of billing fraud from the federal government and are being probed by lawmakers over their high denial rates.
    • “It’s become a game of delay, deny and not pay,” Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO of San Diego-based Scripps Health, told Becker’s. “Providers are going to have to get out of full-risk capitation because it just doesn’t work — we’re the bottom of the food chain, and the food chain is not being fed.” 
    • “In late September, Scripps began notifying patients that it is terminating Medicare Advantage contracts for its integrated medical groups, a move that will affect more than 30,000 seniors in the region. The medical groups, Scripps Clinic and Scripps Coastal, employ more than 1,000 physicians, including advanced practitioners.”
  • and
    •  interviews an Aetna executive about successful value based care.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports about employer groups that are successfully advocating for lower hospital prices in their states. The flagbearer is Gloria Sachdev, who is chief executive officer of the Employers’ Forum of Indiana. Good luck.