Tuesday’s Tidbits

Photo by Michele Orallo on Unsplash

From Washington, DC, comes an outcome that the FEHBlog didn’t expect.

  • The Washington Post reports,
    • “Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), after being removed as House speaker Tuesday, told fellow Republican lawmakers that he won’t seek the position again. The vote to remove him was the first such action in congressional history. McCarthy’s ouster was sought by hard-right members of his own party. McCarthy was removed by a 216-210 vote, with eight Republicans joining all Democrats in favor of the removal. The move puts the House in uncharted territory as it searches for a leader.
    • “Following McCarthy’s ouster, Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) was designated as speaker pro tempore. He presided over the chamber briefly before calling a recess to allow Republicans and Democrats to meet privately.
    • “The House will take no further votes this week. Republicans are expected to hold a speaker candidate forum Tuesday, according to sources familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
  • The Wall Street Journal informs us
    • “Americans will soon be able to choose a third option in the updated Covid-19 booster-shot campaign.
    • “The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the use of Novavax‘s Covid-19 shot in people age 12 and older. The shot has been updated to target a strain of the coronavirus that was circulating earlier this year, which health authorities say could help protect people through the fall and winter.
    • “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation last month that most people receive updated booster shots applies to all updated boosters cleared by the FDA, now including Novavax’s, a CDC spokesman said. 
    • The recommendation clears the way for the vaccine to become available in pharmacies and other vaccination sites.
    • “Novavax said it priced the updated vaccine at $130 a dose, but most people are expected to be able to get it with no out-of-pocket cost.
    • “The company said it has millions of doses that will start to become available in the coming days. The shots will be offered at more than 13,000 sites around the U.S., including retail pharmacies and physician offices.”

From the public health front,

  • On Saturday, the FEHBlog made an appointment with a local chain pharmacy to get the new Covid booster. Later that day, he received a message from the pharmacy canceling the appointment because the booster was no longer available. Medscape points out that the FEHBlog’s experience was not unusual. The following posts put the FEHBlog’s problem in perspective though. There is good news if you can get to the end of this section.
  • The Washington Post has bad news about American life expectancy.
    • “Sickness and death are scarring entire communities in much of the country. The geographical footprint of early death is vast: In a quarter of the nation’s counties, mostly in the South and Midwest, working-age people are dying at a higher rate than 40 years ago, The Post found. The trail of death is so prevalent that a person could go from Virginia to Louisiana, and then up to Kansas, by traveling entirely within counties where death rates are higher than they were when Jimmy Carter was president.”
    • The FEHBlog thinks you don’t need a moonshot to address this problem. Connect people with primary care physicians early in their adult lives.
  • AHRQ’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey lets us know,
    • “In 2020, about 1 of every 12 adults aged 18 and older received any heart disease treatment. The percentage of adults who received any heart disease treatment was highest among those aged 65 and older, higher among non-Hispanic Whites than among other racial/ethnic groups, and also higher among those in poor/low-income families than those in middle- or high-income families.
    • “Annual healthcare expenditures for the treatment of heart disease for adults in the civilian noninstitutionalized population totaled $114.9 billion in 2020 (a mean of $5,540 per adult treated for heart disease).
    • “Inpatient hospital care accounted for the largest proportion of annual medical spending for heart disease.
    • “Medicare and private health insurance combined paid about four-fifths of the medical spending for heart disease.”
  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “About 8 in 10 women say they are delaying care until their symptoms worsen or affect their daily lives, and 43% have recently missed a day or more of work due to health issues.”About 8 in 10 women say they are delaying care until their symptoms worsen or affect their daily lives, and 43% have recently missed a day or more of work due to health issues.
    • “These health trends are bad for women and also for their employers.
    • “Primary care provider Parsley Health commissioned a survey of 1,200 full-time employed, insured women ages 18 to 60 to uncover their top health concerns and care challenges. The biggest takeaway? For many women, their healthcare needs have been left behind by a system that has largely ignored the broad, intersecting and complex health needs women experience across their lifetimes, Robin Berzin, M.D., founder and CEO of Parsley Health, said during an exclusive interview to review the survey results.”
  • The National Institutes of Health Directors notes,
    • “Chronic pain is an often-debilitating health condition and serious public health concern, affecting more than 50 million Americans. The opioid and overdose crisis, which stems from inadequate pain treatment, continues to have a devastating impact on families and communities across the country. To combat both challenges, we urgently need new ways to treat acute and chronic pain effectively without the many downsides of opioids.
    • “While there are already multiple classes of non-opioid pain medications and other approaches to manage pain, unfortunately none have proved as effective as opioids when it comes to pain relief. So, I’m encouraged to see that an NIH-funded team now has preclinical evidence of a promising alternative target for pain-relieving medicines in the brain.
    • “Rather than activating opioid receptors, the new approach targets receptors for a nerve messenger known as acetylcholine in a portion of the brain involved in pain control. Based on findings from animal models, it appears that treatments targeting acetylcholine could offer pain relief even in people who have reduced responsiveness to opioids. Their findings suggest that the treatment approach has the potential to remain effective in combatting pain long-term and with limited risk for withdrawal symptoms or addiction. * * *
    • “Finding treatments to modify acetylcholine levels or target acetylcholine receptors may therefore offer a means to treat pain and prevent it from becoming chronic. Encouragingly, drugs acting on these receptors already have been tested for use in people for treating other health conditions. It will now be important to learn whether these existing therapeutics or others like them may act as highly effective, non-addictive painkillers, with important implications for alleviating chronic pain.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • BioPharma Dive reports,
    • “Eli Lilly is making a bet on radiopharmaceutical drugs for cancer, announcing Tuesday a deal to buy Point Biopharma and its pipeline of experimental therapies for approximately $1.4 billion.
    • “Per acquisition terms, Lilly will pay $12.50 per Point share, a premium of about 87% to what the biotechnology company’s stock closed at Monday. The companies expect their deal to close “near the end” of this year.
    • “Based in Lilly’s home base of Indianapolis, Point specializes in radiopharmaceuticals, which pair a radioisotope with a targeting compound that delivers radiation directly into tumor cells. Recent improvements in manufacturing and supplying the complex treatments have boosted investment in the field, drawing interest from large pharma companies like Lilly as well as new drug startups.”
  • Healthcare Dive informs us,
    • “Growing expenses outpaced operating revenue at Trinity Health during its 2023 fiscal year ended June 30. The hospital system reported operating revenue of $21.6 billion on total expenses of $21.9 billion.
    • “Acquisitions for the Livonia, Michigan-based healthcare system added both $1.6 billion in revenue and $1.7 billion in operational expenses, according to the results released on Friday. The revenue gains were partially offset by the divestiture of St. Francis Medical Center in December 2022.
    • “Labor expenses continue to plague the hospital operator, which called contract rates “unprecedented” last year. Labor costs rose approximately 7.7% this year to $12 billion compared with $11.1 billion in the year prior. Contract labor accounted for $933 million compared with $626 million in 2022.”