The FDA Fails to Stop Deceptive Dementia Drug Advertising

Kenneth Lin

Posted 3/27/12 on The American Family Physician Community Blog

In the March 15, 2011 issue of American Family Physician, Drs. Mark Graber, Robert Dachs, and Andrea Darby-Stewart analyzed an industry-funded trial that compared the effects of two daily doses of the Alzheimer’s disease drug donepezil (Aricept): a new 23 mg version and the existing 10 mg version that would soon lose its patent protection. Despite the trial authors’ finding that the higher dose of donepezil slightly improved cognitive outcomes, AFP Journal Club commentators determined that this difference was clinically unimportant, and was greatly outweighed by the higher frequency of adverse effects in patients using the higher dose:

First, the authors did four comparisons. Three were negative and only one was positive. And the one that was positive was only two points different on a 100-point scale. So, although this is statistically significant, it is clinically meaningless. There is no discernible benefit for the patient or caregivers. … Also, the drop-out rate in this study was an astounding 30 percent in the higher-dose group and 18 percent in the lower-dose group.
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The GOP Budget, Fiscal Responsibility and Part D

Joe Paduda

Posted 4/06/12 on Managed Care Matters

Rep. Paul Ryan (R WI) and the House Republicans are touting their budget as fiscally responsible and prudent. What Mr Ryan conveniently forgets, or more likely avoids, is this:

Eight short years ago he – and his GOP buddies – passed the single largest entitlement program since Medicare – the Medicare Part D drug benefit – with no dedicated financing, no offsets and no revenue-generators – the entire future cost –which is now around sixteen trillion dollars [see page 148] – simply added to the federal budget deficit.

According to Bruce Bartlett writing in the Fiscal Times, “By 2030, Part D alone will cost taxpayers 1 percent of GDP.”

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“Doctors call for end to five cancer tests, treatments”

Tom Emerick

Posted 4/6/12 on Cracking Health Costs

So reads the headline in a Reuters story on April 4, 2011.

Let’s linger on the notion that they are exposing procedures that are “harmful” yet “routinely prescribed.” Giving harmful care to cancer patients is not rare, but “routine”. The words immoral, unethical, unscrupulous, and venal come to mind.A private task force was led by Dr. Lowell Schnipper, a cancer physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The task force was organized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  The goal was to “…to identify procedures that do not help patients live longer or better or that may even be harmful, yet are routinely prescribed.” [Italics mine.]

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Sustainable Health Spending Under the Ryan Path for Federal Non-Health Spending

Charles Roehrig

Posted 4/5/12 on the Altarum Institute’s Health Policy Forum

Background

If you have followed Parts I and II of this series, you will be aware of the key role played by federal non-health spending in my calculation of the sustainable growth rate in national health expenditures. Given the expanded coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act, I argued that the sustainable rate of growth in health spending is largely determined by what the nation chooses to allocate to federal health spending in future years. And this allocation is simply the difference between what the nation is willing to provide in total tax revenues and the amount of those revenues being set aside for non-health federal spending.

For example, suppose the nation wishes to keep tax revenues at 18 percent of GDP and set aside 13.5 percent of GDP for non-health spending (under a balanced primary budget). (1) Then the amount available for federal health spending would be 4.5 percent of GDP.  Using 2035 as the target year for bringing federal health spending in line with this target, I calculated that the corresponding growth rate in national health expenditures would be 2.6 percent annually, starting in 2012. This is 2.2 percent below the expected GDP growth rate over this period, and lowers the health spending share of GDP to 10.8 percent by 2035—a stark contrast to the 2011 health spending growth rate (4.5 percent) and share of GDP (18.1 percent).

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What Makes a Person Expensive in Healthcare? Not What Most People Think.

Posted 4/4/12 on the HCMS Blog

A question from the audience last month: “We spend the most in healthcare on a small portion of really sick people. You don’t expect them to shop for care during an emergency do you?”

I was giving a presentation about the important role that cost-conscious consumers can and should play in healthcare. The person asking the question, as everyone could tell, disagreed with the idea. While I doubt anything changed her mind, her loaded question illustrates some common misconceptions in healthcare: 1) high costs are driven by catastrophic medical events; and 2) treatments for these severe conditions leave little room for discretion and often require quick medical  decisions.

Continue reading “What Makes a Person Expensive in Healthcare? Not What Most People Think.”

Four Perfect Questions

Elaine Waples

In the fall of 2010, Atul Gawande, surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, delivered a touching speech at the October New Yorker Festival.  My husband attended with a friend and, because he said it so profoundly impacted the audience, I watched it myself on video the next day. It was indeed amazing. Dr. Gawande, author and national health care presence, spoke unabashedly about his lack of skill in conducting end-of-life conversations with his patients.

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