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.
Meth’s Resurgence Spotlights Lack of Meds to Combat the Addiction
The rate of overdose deaths involving the stimulant more than tripled from 2011 to 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. But unlike the opioid epidemic—for which medications exist to help combat addiction—medical providers have few such tools to help methamphetamine users survive and recover. A drug such as naloxone, which can reverse an opioid overdose, does not exist for meth. And there are no drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration that can treat a meth addiction. Via Kaiser Health News.
Up to 84,000 Americans Hospitalized with Flu in Past Three Months: CDC
An estimated 69,000 to 84,000 Americans were hospitalized due to the flu in the last three months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. The nation saw one of the worst flu outbreaks in nearly a decade during the 2017–2018 season, with more than 900,000 cases of hospitalizations and over 80,000 deaths, the CDC estimates here. Via Reuters.
J&J Raises U.S. Prices on around Two Dozen Drugs
Johnson & Johnson raised U.S. prices on around two dozen prescription drugs, including the psoriasis treatment Stelara, prostate cancer drug Zytiga, and blood thinner Xarelto, all among its top-selling products. Via Reuters.
Health Insurers Are in for a Stable Ratings Future
The future looks stable for U.S. health insurers, according to a report by analysts at S&P Global. Job growth is bolstering the commercial health insurance market as workers enroll in employer-sponsored coverage. Aging Baby Boomers are commonly opting for Medicare Advantage, the privatized version of Medicare. And states are increasingly shifting their sickest residents to managed Medicaid programs. Via Modern Healthcare.
No Stethoscope for Pain: Scientists Seek Real Way to Measure
Is the pain stabbing or burning? On a scale from 1 to 10, is it a 6 or an 8? Over and over, 17-year-old Sarah Taylor struggled to make doctors understand her sometimes debilitating levels of pain, first from joint-damaging childhood arthritis and then from fibromyalgia. “It’s really hard when people can’t see how much pain you’re in, because they have to take your word on it and sometimes, they don’t quite believe you,” she said. Now scientists are peeking into Sarah’s eyes to track how her pupils react when she’s hurting and when she’s not—part of a quest to develop the first objective way to measure pain. "If we can’t measure pain, we can’t fix it,” said Dr. Julia Finkel, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, who invented the experimental eye-tracking device. At just about every doctor’s visit you’ll get your temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure measured. But there’s no stethoscope for pain. Patients must convey how bad it is using that 10-point scale or emoji-style charts that show faces turning from smiles to frowns. Via Associated Press.
Severe Flu Raises Risk of Birth Problems for Pregnant Women, Babies
Need another reason to get the flu shot if you're pregnant? A study out this week shows that pregnant women with the flu who are hospitalized in an intensive care unit are four times more likely to deliver babies prematurely and four-and-a-half times more likely to have a baby of low birth weight. Researchers compared 490 pregnant women with the flu and 1,451 who did not have the flu. Sixty-four of the women with flu were so ill that they were admitted to a hospital ICU. The results appear in the journal Birth Defects Research. The study also found that babies of the most seriously ill women were eight times more likely to have low Apgar scores, a measure of a baby's health in the minutes after birth. The test assesses the baby's color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and breathing. Via NPR.
Deep Sleep Linked to Early Alzheimer's Signs
Previous studies have found that increased napping was associated with increased amyloid beta (Aβ) accumulation over time, and that decreased non-REM slow waves correlated significantly with Aβ burden in the medial prefrontal cortex. "The hypothesis is that one function of sleep is to clear metabolites out of the brain, and amyloid may be one of those—to the extent that, if you get disrupted sleep, you may get into a vicious cycle where amyloid builds up," said Ron Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study. "The bigger question is a chicken-and-egg one: is it that your sleep is disrupted and the Alzheimer's proteins build up—or are the Alzheimer's proteins being deposited in the brain disrupting sleep and that's where the cycle gets initiated? That still is uncertain," Dr. Petersen told MedPage Today. "Nevertheless, the message is probably the same: disrupted sleep may enhance the buildup of the proteins and enhance the Alzheimer's process itself." Via MedPage Today.
Adding Ultraviolet Light to Disinfection Reduces C Difficile Infection
Adding the use of ultraviolet light to disinfection practices are helpful in reducing Clostridium difficile (C difficile) infections, according to a team of investigators from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. At the team’s clinic in 2014, the infection rate was 9.23 per 10,000 patient days, though some units were as much as 5 times higher, including the hematology and bone marrow transplant wards. Despite the implementation of bleach cleaning, C difficile rates remained high. Via MD Magazine.
Neurofilament Light Protein Appears to Be Useful Marker for Predicting Mild Cognitive Impairment
Neurofilament light (NfL) protein has been the focus of many studies in the past few years as a potential biomarker for early neurodegeneration in a wide range of neurologic conditions. Now a new analysis from the community-based Mayo Clinic Study of Aging adds one more condition to the list—mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The study found that elevated NfL in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was a good predictor of MCI among people who had normal cognition when enrolled and tested. The risk of developing MCI was more than three times higher for those with high levels of NfL compared with those with low levels. Via Neurology Today.
Biggest Jump in Drug Overdoses Was among Middle-Aged Women
The epidemic of drug overdose deaths is worsening at a startling rate among middle-aged women, federal health experts reported. Drug overdose deaths have soared among women over 30 starting in 1999—with the biggest increase among women aged 45 to 64, the team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. Deaths from drug overdoses increased by 260 percent among women aged 30 to 64 between 1999 and 2017. And the rate of drug overdose deaths from opioids increased by an enormous 492 percent among women aged 30 to 64. Via NBC News.