What’s New in Health Care Reform: Dec. 26

What's New in Health Care Reform provides an overview of the past week’s news, updates, and commentary in health care reform and utilization management.


FDA Panel Backs Prescribing Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug along with Painkillers

An advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended prescribing the opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone, along with addictive painkillers. The panel, which concluded a two-day discussion on ways to make the potentially life-saving drug readily available, voted 12-11 in favor of labeling changes for opioids that recommend co-prescribing the overdose antidote. Via Reuters.

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Surgeon General Warns Youth Vaping Is Now an "Epidemic"

Vaping by U.S. teenagers has reached epidemic levels, threatening to hook a new generation of young people on nicotine. That's according to an unusual advisory issued by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams about the the dangers of electronic cigarette use among U.S. teenagers. "I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States," Adams said at a news conference. "Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes." The surgeon general's advisory called on parents and teachers to educate themselves about the variety of e-cigarettes and to talk with children about their dangers. Health professionals should ask about e-cigarettes when screening patients for tobacco use, the advisory said. And local authorities should use strategies, such as bans on indoor vaping and retail restrictions, to discourage vaping by young people. Via NPR.

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3 Who Contracted Legionnaires' Disease in Wisconsin Hospital Die

Three patients who contracted Legionnaires' disease at the University of Wisconsin Hospital (UW Health) have died, CBS Madison affiliate WISC-TV reports. The hospital said in a release Monday that the three had serious, life-limiting health conditions. Ten other patients who contracted the disease have been discharged and are doing well, according to UW Health. The hospital has confirmed a total of 14 cases during the outbreak. UW Health announced late last month that there were multiple cases of Legionnaires', a type of pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria, and linked the outbreak to a change in its hot-water system. Via CBS News.

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International Patients Seeking Cures in the States

Each year, tens of thousands of seriously ill people come to the United States hoping to access our acclaimed care. While we do not have exact figures, an economist from the United States International Trade Commission estimated in a 2015 report that between 100,000 and 200,000 international patients per year make this journey. They come with cancer, heart disease, and a host of other medical conditions. Most are incredibly sick and see us as their last beacon of hope. But these patients are not just showing up. Many of our largest and most elite health care institutions seek them out. This is a multimillion-dollar industry, and it is growing. With millions of uninsured and underinsured patients and uncertainty in the domestic health care markets, hospitals are increasingly reliant on patients from abroad to stabilize their bottom line. Via NY Times.

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Why the U.S. Remains the World’s Most Expensive Market for "Biologic" Drugs

Europeans have found the secret to making some of the world’s costliest medicines much more affordable, as much as 80% cheaper than in the U.S. Governments in Europe have compelled drugmakers to bend on prices and have thrown open the market for so-called biosimilars, which are cheaper copies of biologic drugs made from living organisms. The brand-name products—ranging from Humira for rheumatoid arthritis to Avastin for cancer—are high-priced drugs that account for 40% of U.S. pharmaceutical sales. Via Kaiser Health News.

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Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. Noseworthy Looks Back at His Legacy

The President and CEO of Mayo Clinic, Dr. John Noseworthy is finishing up his last few days as head of the multi-billion dollar organization. “Every day I see the Mayo Clinic, I look and I say, 'I can’t believe I have the privilege of working here.' It just has never worn off in 28 years,” he said. But, after a decade as CEO at one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world, he’s turning in his badge. Via KAAL.

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The Da Vinci Surgical Robot: A Medical Breakthrough with Risks for Patients

NBC News spoke to more than a dozen patients who say they were burned or otherwise injured during surgery with the da Vinci. An NBC News analysis of adverse event reports filed in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration MAUDE database over the past 10 years showed there were more than 20,000 adverse events related to the da Vinci filed with the FDA. Intuitive Surgical, the maker of the da Vinci, filed the great majority of the reports, though some were also filed by hospitals, doctors and patients. To be sure, the da Vinci is used in a large number of surgeries and the adverse events appear to occur in a relatively small portion of the overall surgeries. The number of da Vinci surgeries performed in the U.S. has increased by 52% since 2013, to nearly 700,000 procedures in 2017. More than 2,000 adverse events were categorized as involving injuries, 274 were categorized as deaths, and nearly 17,000 events were classified as device malfunctions—some minor, others more serious, including robotic arms uncontrollably going in the wrong direction and insulation cracking off and dropping inside patients' bodies. Via NBC News.

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Americans Are Scattered and Divided over Which Source They Most Trust for News

Far more Americans get their news from local and network TV than from cable TV, but when asked what political news source they trust most, more name cable channels CNN or Fox News than almost any other source. A Washington Post Fact Checker poll used an open-ended format to ask what source of information viewers trust most for political news, which could include a person, company or organization. Cable news networks overall topped the list of responses, with 22% mentioning CNN (11%), Fox (9%), or MSNBC (2%), compared with a total of 5% who mentioned either ABC News, CBS News, or NBC (together, 5% mention NBC or MSNBC). Partisans split in trust for Fox News and CNN, with Fox volunteered as the most trusted by 22% of Republicans but just 1% of Democrats, while CNN is most trusted by 19% of Democrats but only 3% of Republicans. MSNBC is mentioned by 3% of Democrats as most trustworthy, while no Republican respondents mention the network. Via Washington Post.

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Technology Changes Outlook for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

A founding pioneer of modern day spinal cord research, Dr. Reggie Edgerton, along with researchers from Mayo Clinic and UCLA, unveiled new research in the scientific journal Nature Medicine. Through the application of epidural stimulation in combination with task-specific training, a young man living with chronic complete paraplegia recovered the ability to step over ground while using a front-wheeled walker with trainers providing only sporadic assistance. Additionally, he was able to take bilateral steps on a treadmill. Not only is this discovery unprecedented, it was deemed impossible only a few years ago by many prominent leaders in the field. Via U.S. News & World Report.

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Proton Beam RT in Breast Cancer Provides Benefit, but More Research Required

There are clear advantages to using proton beam radiation instead of standard radiation in certain patients with breast cancer, said Kimberly Corbin, M.D.; however, there is still work to be done before this practice becomes more widespread. As it is more precise, proton therapy would be an optimal approach, said Dr. Corbin, who is a radiation oncologist at Mayo Clinic. Standard radiation can be particularly risky in select patients, she added. Via OncLive.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories.