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Practice Transformation

The percentage of Americans who take any prescription drug has dropped slightly, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers say the slight drop—from 48.3% to 45.8%–may represent a “decline in the use of inappropriate or ineffective therapies.” Prescription drug use varies by gender and age; while boys are more likely to take prescriptions than girls when they’re under age 12, adult women are more likely to take them than men. (HealthDay; CDC Data Brief)
At least for now, JPMorgan Chase’s $500 million acquisition of health care payment tech company InstaMed isn’t connected to Haven, its collaboration with Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway. But it is a major investment in the $3 trillion health care sector. InstaMed allows consumers, providers and payers to transact health care payments digitally in a secure network. (Healthcare IT Today; Healthcare Finance)

Evidence & Innovation

Despite a Congressional task force established in 2016 to investigate it, we still know next to nothing about how standard drugs affect pregnant women. That’s largely because researchers rarely test medications on them for fear of harm. But we do know that pregnancy affects how slowly the body digests food (and therefore metabolizes medications), so it follows that drugs aren’t delivering their impact at the same rate as they do in other patients. Other changes in pregnancy to kidney function, blood pressure and hormones could also affect how drugs are metabolized and their effectiveness. A new video explores these issues and why it makes prescribing medications to pregnant women “a high-stakes guessing game.” (STAT
When researchers started looking at genetic differences in pediatric cancer tumors rather than simply categorizing them by tumor type, they were better able to match patients with targeted therapies to treat them. Some 24% of the tumor samples were matched to investigational therapies for these hard-to-treat cancers—some of which had not responded to conventional therapies. “Our results show that precision medicine for pediatric tumors can now be a reality,” one researcher said. (Healio; Physicians Weekly

Policy Solutions

“We need to make sure that access to a curative drug doesn’t become a yardstick by which poverty is eventually measured,” says former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who notes that the drug debate around gene therapy is more about access than high cost. Medicaid budgets are fixed and can’t absorb the up-front cost of many therapies for every member. But often these are life-changing therapies that, if delayed, may not be as effective. He advocates that payers take a close look at innovative payment strategies like Louisiana’s long-term “Netflix” model that commits to purchase hepatitis C medication over five years. (CNBC)
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services advised Medicare Part D plans that they must integrate information about prescription drug prices in electronic prescribing tools or in the electronic health records that clinicians access. Plans must also include information about drug price increases and lower-cost drugs in documents that go to patients. The idea, CMS says, is to integrate cost of drugs in the conversation patients have with doctors when medications are prescribed, but they are squarely named at cost, not other aspects of whether a drug is right for the patient. (Healthcare Finance
June 19, 2019, 1-2 p.m. EST | Comprehensive medication management is a team sport, with the potential to improve patient care and access while optimizing the skills of all clinicians on the team. The Veterans Health Administration has systematically integrated clinical pharmacy specialists into the care team to accomplish CMM for a range of chronic conditions. Join us for this free webinar featuring Anthony P. Morreale, Pharm.D., MBA, BCPS, FASHP, associate chief consultant for clinical pharmacy and policy for the Department of Veterans Affairs Pharmacy Benefits Management, and Julie Groppi, Pharm.D., FASHP, who will explore the practice model and outcomes of CMM integration, as well as the tools that support the team. (Register now)

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