Health News Headlines

blog-headlinesHere are the headlines in health from this week…

New blood pressure advice could mean less treatment — or none at all — for millions over the age of 60.  With two-thirds of Americans over 60 experiencing high blood pressure, new treatment guidelines released on Wednesday might mean fewer medications, lower doses or even none at all for millions of people.

Congress introduces new tele health legislation.  Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Bill Johnson (R-OH), members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over health care and technology issues, introduced bipartisan legislation to create a federal definition of telehealth. The Telehealth Modernization Act of 2013 would provide principles that states can look to for guidance when developing new policies that govern telehealth.”With technology rapidly changing and reaching every aspect of our daily lives we must ensure the regulatory environment keeps pace,” said Congresswoman Matsui.”

The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, covering the period 1975-2010, showed death rates for lung cancer, which accounts for more than one in four cancer deaths, dropping at a faster pace than in previous years. The recent larger drop in lung cancer deaths is likely the result of decreased cigarette smoking prevalence over many years, and is now being reflected in mortality trends.

Sandoz wades into Humira biosimilars. Novartis’s generics arm, Sandoz, is taking on AbbVie’s multi-indication medication Humira. The company announced Wednesday that it had kicked off a Phase III trial of an adalimumab biosimilar. It said the trial’s goal is to “demonstrate efficacy, similarity and immunogenicity of the Sandoz product versus Humira” in moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis patients.

Continuing Medical Education Deserves More Scrutiny: Study.  At a time when increasing scrutiny is applied to funding for continuing medical education, a new study notes that relatively little is known about medical communications companies – the for-profit businesses that exist to provide physicians with up-to-date clinical and scientific information. And the study authors suggest that there is good reason to take a closer at these so-called MCCs.


Why? For one thing, 14 drug and device makers provided MCCs with more funds than any other type of entity, including academic medical centers, professional associations and research organizations – MCCs received 26 percent of all funding, or nearly $171 million. And for-profit MCCs received 77 percent of industry grants to all MCCs. The top recipient was Medscape/WebMD, which received more than $20 million, or 12 percent of all such grants.

Bristol-Myers Squibb sells off diabetes business. Bristol-Myers Squibb is selling its diabetes business to AstraZeneca for up to $4.3 billion as part of an effort to focus more on specialty drugs, the company said Thursday.

80 Percent of Cancer Docs Have Faced Drug Shortages: Survey. Four out of five doctors who treat cancer were unable to prescribe their medication of choice at least once during a six-month period because of a drug shortage, according to a new survey. The survey also found that more than 75 percent of oncologists were forced to make a major change in patient treatment. These changes included altering the regimen of chemotherapy drugs initially prescribed and substituting one of the drugs in a particular chemotherapy regimen. Such changes might not be well studied, and it might not be clear if the substitutions will work as well or be as safe as what the doctor wanted to prescribe, experts say.


Gilead’s $1,000 Pill Could Eradicate Hepatitis C, But Ethical And Financial Challenges Loom.  Gilead Sciences’ GILD -0.29% two-drug combo pill against hepatitis C is so effective, Wall Street analysts say, that it’s possible that public health officials could begin thinking about eradicating the liver-damaging virus, which may afflict 3.2 million Americans and is spread mostly through sharing needles and needle stick injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. In some of them, like the musician Lou Reed, it leads to liver failure and death. Gilead’s pill could become one of the best-selling medicines in history. But Gilead’s super-effective drugs have already drawing controversy, because of their expense and because some doctors and patients think that the company had sharp elbows that have prevented another effective combination from reaching the market.


 In U.S. healthcare experiment, patients pay more for ‘bad’ medicine. One of the central features of a value-based system is a financial “stick.” If patients insist on medical procedures that science shows to be ineffective or unnecessary, they’ll have to pay for all or most of the cost.  The additional cost when patients choose procedures that research shows are unlikely to help their condition is a key element of San Luis Valley’s two-year experiment in value-based insurance, the premise of which is that a mix of financial carrots and sticks can steer patients toward medical services that will help them and away from ineffective or unnecessary ones.

2013 Cost to bring drug to market: $1.3 billion.  Pharmafile reports that the cost to bring a brand drug to market is now over $1 billion. The cost of bringing a brand from discovery to market has increased 18% over the four years from $1.1 billion in 2010, to $1.3 billion in 2013.This type of figure – around $1 billion – is often quoted by the pharma industry and is supported by the ABPI (which in fact says it costs £1.15 billion – pounds not dollars) to do the necessary R&D, with The Office of Health Economics putting the cost per new medicine higher still, at £1.2 billion.


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