Thursday Miscellany

Photo by Josh Mills on Unsplash

From the Washington, DC,

  • The Wall Street Journal reports,
    • Republican speaker nominee Rep. Jim Jordan was weighing whether to embark on a third-floor vote after a plan to temporarily put caretaker speaker Rep. Patrick McHenry in charge of the House ran into sharp objections from conservatives.
    • “I am still running for speaker, and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race,” Jordan said initially after leaving a heated closed-door meeting of House Republicans. The Ohio conservative said the plan to elect a temporary speaker didn’t have the support of the conference.
    • In the evening, Jordan met in a House office with detractors. As some trickled out, there was no sign he had managed to change their minds, and Jordan wouldn’t say after the meeting whether he still intended to hold another floor vote. 
  • The New York Times adds, “Mr. Jordan said he would push for another vote to become speaker, scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m., even though he was bleeding support and calls were increasing for him to step aside.”
  • The Society for Human Resource Management informs us,
    • “The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases that will impact the power of federal agencies to implement regulations on employers.
    • “On Oct. 13, the court decided to hear Relentless v. Department of Commerce, in which the owners of three fishing companies in Rhode Island and Massachusetts sued to challenge the federal government’s authority to require them to partially pay for federal monitors on their boats. The justices willconsider that case in tandem with a similar case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, which involves the same requirement for fishing companies in New Jersey.
    • “In both cases, the justices will decide whether to overturn the long-standing Chevron precedent, which holds that when Congress wrote a statute without a clear meaning, courts should defer to the federal agency applying the law, unless its directives were unreasonable. Federal departments and agencies that enforce employment laws could be impacted.”
  • In yesterday’s post, the FEHBlog called attention to AHIP’s public comments on the proposed rule, making changes to the current mental health parity rules. AHIP asked the regulators to try again. Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) echoed AHIP in its comments, arguing that additional clarity around the changes is necessary. The organization said it could lead patients to care that is not recommended, worsening outcomes.
    • “We share the administration’s goal of expanding access to affordable mental health support, but we’re concerned it could become harder—not easier—for patients to get the care they need,” said David Merritt, BCBSA’s senior vice president of policy and advocacy, in a statement.
    • “This rule could push us in the wrong direction by forcing health plans to remove important protections that ensure patients are receiving safe, medically necessary, effective care,” Merritt added. “We’ll continue to work with our partners, the administration and Congress to improve both access and quality for Americans.”
    • “The Alliance for Community Health Plans said the updates create “an entirely new regulatory schema” that would actually impede insurers looking to address mental health parity.
    • “The ERISA Industry Committee, or ERIC, said many of the proposals “reflect an overreach of agency authority under the statute” and that they would be burdensome for employer-sponsored health plans. The changes, ERIC said, could drive up costs for families and force significant changes to benefit designs.
    • “Unfortunately, the proposed regulations are so unworkable, it is unclear how compliance could ever be achieved while continuing to offer these important benefits,” said James Gelfand, CEO of ERIC, in a statement. “The Departments’ proposals are written in a way that sets plans up to fail.”
  • The FEHBlog agrees.
  • Reuters tells us,
    • “The U.S. health regulator [the Food and Drug Administration] has approved Hyloris Pharmaceuticals’ drug for post-operative pain, the Belgium-based company said on Wednesday, adding that it expects to launch the non-opioid treatment in the United States by early next year.
    • “The injectable drug, branded as Maxigesic IV, was approved as a post-operative drug in hospitals or when patients cannot take medicine orally.
    • “Maxigesic IV, a combination of paracetamol with ibuprofen solution for infusion, helps reduce pain and inflammation without the risk of opioid addiction that resulted in more than half a million deaths in the U.S. during 1999 to 2020.”

From the public health front,

  • HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality posted for public comment an Effective Health Programs abstract on caring for Long Covid. The comment period ends on November 17, 2023.
  • Healio points out,
    • “Data show CMS’ Million Hearts CVD Risk Reduction Model, which provided payments for CVD risk assessment and reduction, reduced incidence of first-time MIs and strokes over 5 years without significant changes in Medicare spending.
    • “The results support clinical guidelines for CVD preventive care,” G. Greg Peterson, PhD, MPA, a principal researcher with Mathmatica, told Healio. “Current guidelines in the U.S., similar to those in other countries, recommend that health care practitioners calculate CVD risk scores and use the scores to engage patients in discussions about CVD prevention. Although previous studies of CVD risk scoring interventions have shown improvement in CVD risk factor control, this is the first study of a CVD risk score-focused intervention to demonstrate declines in CVD events.”
  • Health Day lets us know,
    • “Fluctuating blood pressure can be a harbinger for both dementia and heart disease, a new study finds.
    • “Ups and downs within 24 hours or even over several days or weeks were linked with impaired thinking, researchers from Australia reported.
    • “Higher variations in systolic blood pressure, the top number, were linked with stiffening of the arteries, which is associated with heart disease.
    • “Clinical treatments focus on hypertension while ignoring the variability of blood pressure,” said lead author Daria Gutteridge, a PhD candidate at the University of South Australia’s Cognitive Aging and Impairment Neuroscience Laboratory.”
  • The National Institutes of Health announced,
    • “A research team funded by the National Institutes of Health has developed a smartphone app that can track and analyze a person’s ability to move from one place to another, known as locomotion and other types of movements. Human motion analysis is used to evaluate patients with movement difficulties, to help clinicians plan surgery, and to assess the results of treatment procedures. The research team believes that using the app costs about 1% of conventional motion analysis techniques and works 25 times faster. The study appears in PLOS Computational Biology.
    • “Researchers tested their app, called OpenCap, with 100 participants. Using two or more smartphones, the app recorded sufficient quality videos to allow for web-based, artificial intelligence analysis of muscle activations, joint loads and joint movements. Data collection took 10 hours for the 100 participants, and computation of results took 31 hours. Traditionally, locomotion analysis requires fixed lab space and more than $150,000 worth of equipment, including eight or more specialized cameras to capture three-dimensional images. The captured data also takes several days to analyze by a trained expert.
    • “While current technology is too expensive for routine clinical use, according to the investigators, the app could potentially be used to help screen for disease risk, inform rehabilitation decisions, and track improvements in motion following treatment.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • The Wall Street Journal reports,
    • CVS Health is pulling some of the most common decongestants from its shelves and will no longer sell them, after advisers to U.S. health regulators recently determined that an ingredient doesn’t work.
    • The products contain [as the only active ingredient] oral phenylephrine, an almost-century-old ingredient in versions of decongestants and over-the-counter pills, syrups and liquids to clear up congested noses.
    • An advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration last month declared that the ingredient was ineffective when taken orally. The FDA had said in its own analysis that the oral phenylephrine formulations are safe but ineffective at standard or even higher doses.
    • The FDA hasn’t made a decision yet nor asked manufacturers or retailers to remove products from store shelves. CVS is removing phenylephrine products voluntarily.
  • Beckers Hospital Review informs us,
    • “In a bankruptcy court filing Oct. 18, Rite Aid said it will close 154 stores in more than 10 states to save on rent costs, according to The New York Times. Details on the round of store closures came just days after the retail pharmacy chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. “In a bankruptcy court filing Oct. 18, Rite Aid said it will close 154 stores in more than 10 states to save on rent costs, according to The New York Times. Details on the round of store closures came just days after the retail pharmacy chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. 
    • “Rite Aid has more than 2,000 stores in 17 states. Of the 154 planned closures, about 40 are Pennsylvania locations. Many stores in California and New York will also close, and additional store closings may be forthcoming as Rite Aid looks to shed about $4 billion in debt
    • “The Philadelphia-based company previously said it secured $3.45 billion from lenders to fund operations through the bankruptcy restructuring, with McKesson Corp. as the largest creditor. Alongside the bankruptcy filing, Rite Aid announced Jeffrey Stein as its new CEO and chief restructuring officer.”