Nysha Recent News

Public Health and Policy

Building a NASA for prescription drugs?

Indianapolis, IN — In what she titles “a bold solution to America's soaring drug prices,” academic Fran Quiglef Indiana University’s Health and Human Rights Clinic opines that astronomical drug prices can be drastically reined in by simply not granting drugmakers decades-long—and exorbitantly lucrative—exclusive patents.

 

Instead, Prof. Quigley argues in a May 10 New Republic editorial, federal authorities should simply put up bids for private-sector contracts for drugs that meet specific medical needs, akin to how the government puts up bids for private-sector contracts for military aircraft or NASA spacecraft that meet specific technical needs.

 

The approach will drastically cut the costs of prescription medications, which one in five Americans skip because they can’t afford them, according to Quigley.  “A NASA for drug research is worth considering,” she writes.

 

Affordable Care Act’s menu labeling rules go live

Washington, D.C. — At many of your local eateries, there’s a new item on the menu as of this May 7: the calorie labeling requirement that is part of the Affordable Care Act’s numerous rules.

 

These rules, among the final parts of the 2010 law to be implemented, require restaurants to list calories on all menus and menu boards.  They will also have to provide on-site additional nutritional information, such as fat and sodium levels.

 

But the law only applies to chain restaurants that have 20 or more locations.  Your favorite neighborhood pizza shop won’t be affected. 

 

Still, at the end of the day, knowing how many calories are in that steaming slice is probably good for your health—even if pizza isn’t.

 

New Ebola outbreak in Congo

New York, NY — On May 8, the Associated Press reported that two cases of Ebola virus infection were confirmed in a rural section of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the African nation where the illness first emerged. 

 

Workers from the World Health Organization (WHO) went to the region over that weekend, the AP reported.  This is the country’s ninth outbreak since Ebola was first noticed in 1976, the AP report noted.  The last was a year ago, with eight people infected and four fatalities.

 

The WHO issued a statement promising a “strong response” to the new outbreak, and said it was releasing $1 million to cover a multifaceted response over the next three months.

 

And on May 11, the WHO announced that efforts were underway to deploy some 4,300 doses of Merck’s experimental V920 Ebola vaccine from Geneva to the western Congo.

 

Healthy habits lengthen life: study

Boston, MA — An analysis of existing public-health data finds that Americans who adhere to five healthy-lifestyle factors live an average of ten years longer than those who don’t.

 

The factors, looked at in a study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, are: healthy eating; not smoking; at least 3.5 hours of physical activity a week; moderate alcohol drinking; and normal body weight.

 

At age 50, women who didn’t adopt any of the five healthy habits were estimated to live to an average of 79 and men until 75.5.  In contrast, women who adopted all five healthy lifestyle habits live to an estimated average of 93.1 years and men, 87.6.

 

The study was published April 30 in Circulation.

 

Uncle Sam launches rural health strategy

Washington, D.C. — If you’re on Medicaid or Medicare and live in the big city (or even in the burbs), it’s fairly easy to see a doctor or specialist—even a good one.  But what if you live out in the boondocks?

 

To address that disparity, the federal Centers for Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMS) launched its first Rural Health Strategy this past May 8.

 

Among the problems the strategy intends to tackle are a fragmented healthcare delivery system, stretched and diminishing rural health workforce, unaffordability of insurance, and lack of access to specialty services and providers.

 

Among the Rural Health Strategy’s five objectives are supporting rural hospitals and advancing telehealth and telemedicine.

 

Approximately 60 million people, or nearly one in five members of the population, live in rural areas, according to CMS—including millions of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

 

Government releases long-touted drug pricing plan

Washington, D.C. — A long-awaited plan to reduce the prices Americans pay for prescription drugs was officially released this past May 11.

 

The “American Patients First” blueprint, whose release was delayed twice, was touted by senior officials as “the most comprehensive plan to tackle prescription drug affordability.”

 

But the 50-point plan largely consists of proposals already included in the February 2018 federal budget request, or hinted at in other regulations. 

 

Its primary offerings include reducing the role that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), play in the healthcare system; PBMs are the middlemen between massive retailers like CVS and big drugmakers like Novartis who negotiate drug prices. 

 

The plan is also looking into the possibility of listing prices of brand-name drugs in advertising. 

 

However, the plan was widely graded poorly by industry experts and analysts as lacking sufficient substance to make an immediate real difference at the checkout counter.

 

And noticeably absent from the plan was a proposal with considerable universal support: having Medicare directly negotiate lower drug prices with drug companies.