Yes, The Drug Companies Do Not Always Act In The Best Interest Of The Consumer

On Wednesday Reuters reported that Michael Babich, former chief executive of Insys Therapeutics Inc (INSY.O), pleaded guilty on Wednesday to participating in a nationwide scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe an addictive opioid medication and has agreed to become a government witness.

The article reports:

Prosecutors allege that from 2012 to 2015, Kapoor, Babich and others conspired to pay doctors bribes in exchange for prescribing Subsys, an under-the-tongue fentanyl spray for managing severe pain in cancer patients.

Fentanyl is an opioid 100 times stronger than morphine.

Prosecutors said Insys paid doctors kickbacks in the form of fees to participate in speaker programs ostensibly meant to educate medical professionals about Subsys that were actually sham events.

Prior to working at Insys, Babich had worked at Kapoor’s venture capital firm.

Insys in August said it had agreed to pay at least $150 million as part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. The company has said it has taken steps to ensure it operates legally going forward.

On November 29, 2018, The New York Times reported:

A class of synthetic drugs has replaced heroin in many major American drug markets, ushering in a more deadly phase of the opioid epidemic.

New numbers Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2017, a record. Overdose deaths are higher than deaths from H.I.V., car crashes or gun violence at their peaks. The data also show that the increased deaths correspond strongly with the use of synthetic opioids known as fentanyls.

Since 2013, the number of overdose deaths associated with fentanyls and similar drugs has grown to more than 28,000, from 3,000. Deaths involving fentanyls increased more than 45 percent in 2017 alone.

The article includes a number of graphs showing the increase in drug overdoses in recent years and the role that fentanyl  has played in that increase.

This is only one aspect of the opioid epidemic, but at least some action has been taken on this aspect.

 

One Weapon In Fighting The Opioid Epidemic

Investor’s Business Daily posted an article today about an agreement reached between Aetna Insurance and Abbot Laboratories.

The article reports:

Aetna (AET) agreed Tuesday to cover a chronic pain device from Abbott Laboratories (ABT) that acts as an alternative to potentially addictive opioids.

The decision extends coverage of Abbott’s dorsal root ganglion neurostimulation pain therapy to an estimated 22 million Americans living with chronic pain. By stimulating the dorsal root ganglion, a structure along the spinal column, Abbott’s device can mask pain.

“While Medicare already covers our DRG system, it’s encouraging to see payers like Aetna review the clinical data and outcomes, then choose to provide access to DRG stimulation for their members,” Keith Boettiger, vice president of Abbott’s neuromodulation business, said in a written statement.

…Neuropathic pain conditions are some of the most prevalent and under-treated forms of chronic pain in America, Abbott says.

These patients often try various medication, opioids or surgery to no end. Amid the opioid epidemic, the Food and Drug Administration is pushing for medical devices to help combat the crisis. An estimated 116 people died every day in the U.S. in 2016 due to opioid-related overdoses.

Many of the people in America who are addicted to opioids began that addiction after being prescribed the drugs for pain. When the prescription ran out and they could not refill it, they turned to street drugs, which were cheaper and available. Unfortunately, there are no controls on street drugs, and they are sometimes laced with fentanyl. The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2016, lab-made fentanyl helped kill over half of the people who died of opioid overdoses.

Finding a way to combat chronic pain without opioids is one step in dealing with the opioid epidemic in America. Kudos to Aetna in taking a step in that direction by covering the DRG system.

Not Really A Surprise

The American Spectator posted an article today that tells us everything we already knew about ObamaCare. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just released a report about uninsured Americans.

The article reports:

Anyone with the intestinal fortitude to subject themselves to the legacy media will have seen countless “news” stories about the devastation wrought by President Trump’s “sabotage” of Obamacare. A typical headline appeared a couple of weeks ago in the Washington Post: “Americans are starting to suffer from Trump’s health-care sabotage.” This work of fiction claimed that the number of working-ageAmericans without health insurance had risen to 15.5 percent, a 3 point increase since 2016. But a report just released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), says the real number is 12.8 percent — exactly what it was in 2015.

…NBC recently reported that the total number of uninsured Americans rose by a preposterous 3.2 million in 2017. According to the CDC, however, “There was no significant change from the 2016 uninsured rate.” The percentage is, like the working age statistic, precisely what it was in 2015. NBC, parroting the Post, based its uninsured propaganda on an unreliable source.

There are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating ObamaCare. The first is that is was never about health insurance–it was about giving government control of a major sector of the American economy and a major sector of people’s lives. We have seeen how well socialized medicine works in Britain when a child isn’t even given a chance to leave the country to receive alternative medical care that could possibly save his life. ObamaCare was a planned failure that would lead to socialized medicine in America during the presidency of Hillary Clinton. We have dodged that bullet (at least temporarily).

The major change that occurred to ObamaCare this year was the end of government subsidies to insurance companies and changing rules for insurance pools to make it easier for people to get health insurance in various groups. The real answer to health insurance is the free market–let companies compete without being over-regulated and let people know how much they are actually paying for healthcare services. It would also help to end ObamaCare completely. In order to end ObamaCare completely, the Republicans would have to learn how to get their message out over the din of the mainstream media. They would also have to develop a spine.

The article concludes:

A multi-year study dubbed the “Oregon Health Experiment,” whose results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May of 2014, has demonstrated that health outcomes for Medicaid patients are no better than those enjoyed by the uninsured. Scott Gottlieb, the current Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, summarized various Medicaid studies in the Wall Street Journal and also concluded that being covered by Medicaid is demonstrably worse for your health than having no coverage at all.

The CDC report doesn’t weigh in on this issue, of course. It just attempts to show us where the uninsured rate was and where it is now. But that is damning enough. It not only shows that the projections originally touted for Obamacare were wildly off the mark — it was supposed to have brought the non-elderly uninsured rate down to 7.6 percent by 2016 — it demonstrates that the Democrats and their media co-conspirators have been lying about what the real uninsured numbers are as well as President Trump’s role in their mythical increase. Not that this is new. The Democrats and the media have been lying about Obamacare from day one.

As more Americans realize that the media has been lying to them from the beginning, we may have a chance to get rid of ObamaCare. Until then, we are stuck with it.

Medical Expenses Of The Elderly

Friday’s Wall Street Journal (I am not linking to the article because it is subscribers only) contained an article entitled, “Commonly Used Medicines Send Seniors to Hospitals.”  The article reports on a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that an estimated 99,628 hospitalizations every year of people 65 years and older are linked to adverse drug events such as allergies and unintentional overdoses. It further reports that nearly half of those hospitalized were age 80 or older. The drugs responsible were not high-risk medications–they were commonly used diabetes pills and blood thinners.

Maybe we need to rethink the way we handle medical care for seniors. Is there a way to make the commonly used drugs safer, for example bottles that somehow remind the person to take their medicine and let them know if they have already taken their dose for the day? I have no idea if that is possible or already in existence, but certainly drug safety might be one way to seriously cut medical expenses for everyone.

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