Some truths around prescription drugs and health

KEY TAKEAWAY: The Internet has become a petri dish for bad/fake news.  Here are some facts about prescription drugs and health that everyone should be aware of.

Of the more than 200 drugs cleared by the FDA between 2001 and 2010, nearly one-third exhibited safety risks that were only identified after their approval, according to a new study published in JAMA.  This is clearly evident in physicians reluctance to prescribe new drugs.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been approving new drugs at a faster pace. The total number of new medicine approvals up to 20 so far this year compared to the 22 new treatments cleared for the market in all of 2016.

Researchers in California say dozens of mHealth apps for cancer survivors aren’t doing what they should do, primarily because digital health developers are skipping important steps to rush their apps onto the market.  A 2016 analysis of dozens of mHealth apps by researchers from CPIC and Stanford University found that few “implemented empowerment elements, underwent rigorous design approaches or included assessment of use in the cancer survivor population.” The analysis was featured in the March 24 issue of the Journal for Cancer Survivorship.

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology giants are finding it more difficult to charge high prices for a range of medications, their latest quarterly results show.  The reason: The big companies that pay for drugs are getting bigger. A series of tie-ups among insurers and pharmacy benefit managers has left drugmakers negotiating with a handful of powerful players. List prices for medications are still rising, but drugmakers are forced to give large rebates to insurers and pharmacy benefit companies that bestow spots on their coveted formularies — the rosters of drugs covered by payers.

In today’s hiring market, a generous benefits package is essential for attracting and retaining top talent. According to Glassdoor’s 2015 Employment Confidence Survey, about 60% of people report that benefits and perks are a major factor in considering whether to accept a job offer. The survey also found that 80% of employees would choose additional benefits over a pay raise.

The U.S. spent nearly $88 billion treating cancer in 2014, with patients paying nearly $4 billion out-of-pocket, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Spending on cancer, a disease that most afflicts the aging, is predicted to soar as people live longer.  Although scientists have made important strides in recent years, and many early-stage cancers can now be cured, most of those with advanced cancer eventually die of their disease.

Over the past seven years, generic drugs increased their share of total prescriptions filled from 66 percent to 82 percent, while brand drugs’ share of total prescriptions declined from 34 percent to 18 percent.

Chronic diseases and conditions—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis—are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems. As of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—had one or more chronic health conditions.  One of four adults had two or more chronic health conditions.

  • In 2011, more than half (52%) of adults aged 18 years or older did not meet recommendations for aerobic exercise or physical activity. In addition, 76% did not meet recommendations for muscle-strengthening physical activity.

Studies have consistently shown that 20 percent to 30 percent of medication prescriptions are never filled, and that approximately 50 percent of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed,” according to a review in Annals of Internal Medicine.  This lack of adherence, the Annals authors wrote, is estimated to cause approximately 125,000 deaths and at least 10 percent of hospitalizations, and to cost the American health care system between $100 billion and $289 billion a year.

Only nine percent of U.S. consumers believe pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies put patients over pro fits, while only 16 percent believe health insurance companies do, according to a Harris Poll study released today. Meanwhile, 36 percent of U.S. adults believe health care providers (such as doctors and nurses) put patients over profits, compared to hospitals (23%).

A Harvard Medical School study that reviewed 23 sites, such as WebMD, the Mayo Clinic and DocResponse found that one third listed the correct diagnosis as the first option for patients. Half the sites had the right diagnosis among their top three results, and 58 percent listed it in their top 20 suggestions.

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