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Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

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How women's health care in the U.S. stacks up3c3c03eb-ead2-4257-b1a7-8430ed411081.png

(commonwealth fund)

The Commonwealth Fund just released a new report detailing the state of women's health care in the U.S. compared to care in 10 other high-income counties. Here's a quick look at the findings:

  • Skipping care: In the U.S., 38 percent of women said they skipped needed medical care due to cost, the highest rate of any country in the study. By comparison, just 5 percent of women in the U.K. said they avoided getting care because of cost.

  • Out-of-pocket costs: More than one-quarter of women in the U.S. and Switzerland said they'd spent at least $2,000 out of pocket in a year on medical care for themselves or their families. 
  • Access to specialists: Women in the U.S., Switzerland, and the Netherlands were least likely to report having to wait to see a specialist. In Canada and Norway, 61 percent of women who needed to see a specialist said they had to wait more than four weeks to get an appointment.

Leading senator pushes Pfizer over price hike

A powerful Senate Democrat is pushing Pfizer to explain why it hiked the price of a nerve pain drug. “The cost of Pfizer’s drug, Lyrica, has grown tremendously over the past several years,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote in a letter sent to Pfizer and shared with STAT. A 90-pill bottle of Lyrica costs more than $650 before rebates and discounts. In 2005, it cost $150. More than 850,000 Medicare beneficiaries were prescribed Lyrica in 2016 — which added up to $2.1 billion in Medicare spending, Wyden says. The senator also took issue with the recent announcement Pfizer won another six months of patent protections on Lyrica after the FDA approved it to treat seizures in kids. The drug otherwise would have been eligible for generic competition later this month.

FDA panel says overdose antidote should be prescribed with opioids

An expert panel that advises the FDA says that opioid painkiller labels should be tweaked to include a recommendation that physicians prescribing the drugs also prescribe naloxone — which can reverse opioid overdoses — to some or all of their patients. The 12-11 vote was the result of a two-day meeting aimed at expanding access to naloxone. Some experts thought the label changes would make naloxone more easily accessible, but others who voted against the recommendation raised concerns about its potential impact. Among their worries: co-prescriptions could mean high costs for patients and the health care system, and label changes won't address overdoses due to illicit opioids. 

Inside STAT: IBM Watson's bet on China starts to look shaky

IBM’s Watson health business has been plagued by failures in the U.S. and Europe — but it’s still clinging to a comfortable role in China’s health care system, where several hospitals are using the technology in cancer care. IBM has also formed a key alliance with Baheal Pharmaceutical Group, a Chinese company that works to bring Watson to hospitals. But a STAT examination reveals that IBM and Baheal are now scrambling to respond to many of the same doubts that showed up in the U.S. and Europe. IBM flew two top execs to Beijing to downplay concerns, and Chinese journalists told STAT that Beheal employees offered reporters for China-based news organizations money for positive coverage of Watson. STAT’s Casey Ross and Ike Swetlitz have the story here.

A new look at contraceptive use among women3c3c03eb-ead2-4257-b1a7-8430ed411081.png


More than two-thirds of U.S. women between the ages of 15 and 49 are using some kind of contraception, according to new data released this morning by the CDC. Contraceptive use overall was highest among women ages 30 to 49, roughly 73 percent of whom are using some kind of birth control. But use of long-acting, reversible contraceptives — such as IUDs and implants — was more common among women in their 20s. The most common form of contraception overall: sterilization. Male condoms were the least popular form of contraception. 

Surgeon general issues advisory about teen vaping

The surgeon general has issued a warning about the sharp spike in e-cigarette use among teenagers. Health officials estimate that 3.6 million teenagers in the U.S. are using e-cigarettes, and that rate is quickly climbing. Results from a federal survey released Monday show that the number of high school students using e-cigarettes has doubled since last year. Surgeon General Jerome Adams says that everyone from teachers to federal officials needs to take “aggressive” action to curb e-cig use among minors. Adams also pointed a finger at e-cigarette makers, including Juul, which have been criticized for helping to fuel the popularity of e-cigs among teens.

What to read around the web today

  • A generation of African American heroin users is dying in the opioid epidemic nobody talks about. Washington Post
  • VA still arbitrarily cutting caregivers from program, even as it aims to expand. NPR
  • Nearly 40,000 people died in the U.S. from guns last year. New York Times
  • Novartis unit teams up with medical marijuana producer, marking milestone for pharma. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Wednesday, December 19, 2018


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