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US Responses to Coronavirus Outbreak Expose Many Flaws in Our Medical System

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

The  coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every country in every continent however, after months of the novel advent of novel COVID-19 cases, it has become apparent that the varied clinical responses in this epidemic (and outcomes) have laid bare some of the strong and weak aspects in, both our worldwide capabilities to respond to infectious outbreaks in a global coordinated response and in individual countries’ response to their localized epidemics.

 

Some nations, like Israel, have initiated a coordinated government-private-health system wide action plan and have shown success in limiting both new cases and COVID-19 related deaths.  After the initial Wuhan China outbreak, China closed borders and the government initiated health related procedures including the building of new hospitals. As of writing today, Wuhan has experienced no new cases of COVID-19 for two straight days.

 

However, the response in the US has been perplexing and has highlighted some glaring problems that have been augmented in this crisis, in the view of this writer.    In my view, which has been formulated after social discussion with members in the field ,these issues can be centered on three major areas of deficiencies in the United States that have hindered a rapid and successful response to this current crisis and potential future crises of this nature.

 

 

  1. The mistrust or misunderstanding of science in the United States
  2. Lack of communication and connection between patients and those involved in the healthcare industry
  3. Socio-geographical inequalities within the US healthcare system

 

1. The mistrust or misunderstanding of science in the United States

 

For the past decade, anyone involved in science, whether directly as active bench scientists, regulatory scientists, scientists involved in science and health policy, or environmental scientists can attest to the constant pressure to not only defend their profession but also to defend the entire scientific process and community from an onslaught of misinformation, mistrust and anxiety toward the field of science.  This can be seen in many of the editorials in scientific publications including the journal Science and Scientific American (as shown below)

 

Stepping Away from Microscopes, Thousands Protest War on Science

Boston rally coincides with annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference and is a precursor to the March for Science in Washington, D.C.

byLauren McCauley, staff writer

Responding to the troubling suppression of science under the Trump administration, thousands of scientists, allies, and frontline communities are holding a rally in Boston’s Copley Square on Sunday.

#standupforscience Tweets

 

“Science serves the common good,” reads the call to action. “It protects the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children, the foundation of our economy and jobs, and the future we all want to live in and preserve for coming generations.”

It continues: 

But it’s under attack—both science itself, and the unalienable rights that scientists help uphold and protect. 

From the muzzling of scientists and government agencies, to the immigration ban, the deletion of scientific data, and the de-funding of public science, the erosion of our institutions of science is a dangerous direction for our country. Real people and communities bear the brunt of these actions.

The rally was planned to coincide with the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference, which draws thousands of science professionals, and is a precursor to the March for Science in Washington, D.C. and in cities around the world on April 22.

 

Source: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/02/19/stepping-away-microscopes-thousands-protest-war-science

https://images.app.goo.gl/UXizCsX4g5wZjVtz9

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/85438fbe-278d-11e7-928e-3624539060e8

 

 

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) also had marches for public awareness of science and meaningful science policy at their annual conference in Washington, D.C. in 2017 (see here for free recordings of some talks including Joe Biden’s announcement of the Cancer Moonshot program) and also sponsored events such as the Rally for Medical Research.  This patient advocacy effort is led by the cancer clinicians and scientific researchers to rally public support for cancer research for the benefit of those affected by the disease.

Source: https://leadingdiscoveries.aacr.org/cancer-patients-front-and-center/

 

 

     However, some feel that scientists are being too sensitive and that science policy and science-based decision making may not be under that much of a threat in this country. Yet even as some people think that there is no actual war on science and on scientists they realize that the public is not engaged in science and may not be sympathetic to the scientific process or trust scientists’ opinions. 

 

   

From Scientific American: Is There Really a War on Science? People who oppose vaccines, GMOs and climate change evidence may be more anxious than antagonistic

 

Certainly, opponents of genetically modified crops, vaccinations that are required for children and climate science have become louder and more organized in recent times. But opponents typically live in separate camps and protest single issues, not science as a whole, said science historian and philosopher Roberta Millstein of the University of California, Davis. She spoke at a standing-room only panel session at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C. All the speakers advocated for a scientifically informed citizenry and public policy, and most discouraged broadly applied battle-themed rhetoric.

 

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-really-a-war-on-science/

 

      In general, it appears to be a major misunderstanding by the public of the scientific process, and principles of scientific discovery, which may be the fault of miscommunication by scientists or agendas which have the goals of subverting or misdirecting public policy decisions from scientific discourse and investigation.

 

This can lead to an information vacuum, which, in this age of rapid social media communication,

can quickly perpetuate misinformation.

 

This perpetuation of misinformation was very evident in a Twitter feed discussion with Dr. Eric Topol, M.D. (cardiologist and Founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational  Institute) on the US President’s tweet on the use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine based on President Trump referencing a single study in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.  The Twitter thread became a sort of “scientific journal club” with input from international scientists discussing and critiquing the results in the paper.  

 

Please note that when we scientists CRITIQUE a paper it does not mean CRITICIZE it.  A critique is merely an in depth analysis of the results and conclusions with an open discussion on the paper.  This is part of the normal peer review process.

 

Below is the original Tweet by Dr. Eric Topol as well as the ensuing tweet thread

 

https://twitter.com/EricTopol/status/1241442247133900801?s=20

 

Within the tweet thread it was discussed some of the limitations or study design flaws of the referenced paper leading the scientists in this impromptu discussion that the study could not reasonably conclude that hydroxychloroquine was not a reliable therapeutic for this coronavirus strain.

 

The lesson: The public has to realize CRITIQUE does not mean CRITICISM.

 

Scientific discourse has to occur to allow for the proper critique of results.  When this is allowed science becomes better, more robust, and we protect ourselves from maybe heading down an incorrect path, which may have major impacts on a clinical outcome, in this case.

 

 

2.  Lack of communication and connection between patients and those involved in the healthcare industry

 

In normal times, it is imperative for the patient-physician relationship to be intact in order for the physician to be able to communicate proper information to their patient during and after therapy/care.  In these critical times, this relationship and good communication skills becomes even more important.

 

Recently, I have had multiple communications, either through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets with cancer patients, cancer advocacy groups, and cancer survivorship forums concerning their risks of getting infected with the coronavirus and how they should handle various aspects of their therapy, whether they were currently undergoing therapy or just about to start chemotherapy.  This made me realize that there were a huge subset of patients who were not receiving all the information and support they needed; namely patients who are immunocompromised.

 

These are patients represent

  1. cancer patient undergoing/or about to start chemotherapy
  2. Patients taking immunosuppressive drugs: organ transplant recipients, patients with autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis patients
  3. Patients with immunodeficiency disorders

 

These concerns prompted me to write a posting curating the guidance from National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers to cancer patients concerning their risk to COVID19 (which can be found here).

 

Surprisingly, there were only 14 of the 51 US NCI Cancer Centers which had posted guidance (either there own or from organizations like NCI or the National Cancer Coalition Network (NCCN).  Most of the guidance to patients had stemmed from a paper written by Dr. Markham of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle Washington, the first major US city which was impacted by COVID19.

 

Also I was surprised at the reactions to this posting, with patients and oncologists enthusiastic to discuss concerns around the coronavirus problem.  This led to having additional contact with patients and oncologists who, as I was surprised, are not having these conversations with each other or are totally confused on courses of action during this pandemic.  There was a true need for each party, both patients/caregivers and physicians/oncologists to be able to communicate with each other and disseminate good information.

 

Last night there was a Tweet conversation on Twitter #OTChat sponsored by @OncologyTimes.  A few tweets are included below

https://twitter.com/OncologyTimes/status/1242611841613864960?s=20

https://twitter.com/OncologyTimes/status/1242616756658753538?s=20

https://twitter.com/OncologyTimes/status/1242615906846547978?s=20

 

The Lesson:  Rapid Communication of Vital Information in times of stress is crucial in maintaining a good patient/physician relationship and preventing Misinformation.

 

3.  Socio-geographical Inequalities in the US Healthcare System

It has become very clear that the US healthcare system is fractioned and multiple inequalities (based on race, sex, geography, socio-economic status, age) exist across the whole healthcare system.  These inequalities are exacerbated in times of stress, especially when access to care is limited.

 

An example:

 

On May 12, 2015, an Amtrak Northeast Regional train from Washington, D.C. bound for New York City derailed and wrecked on the Northeast Corridor in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Of 238 passengers and 5 crew on board, 8 were killed and over 200 injured, 11 critically. The train was traveling at 102 mph (164 km/h) in a 50 mph (80 km/h) zone of curved tracks when it derailed.[3]

Some of the passengers had to be extricated from the wrecked cars. Many of the passengers and local residents helped first responders during the rescue operation. Five local hospitals treated the injured. The derailment disrupted train service for several days. 

(Source Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Philadelphia_train_derailment)

What was not reported was the difficulties that first responders, namely paramedics had in finding an emergency room capable of taking on the massive load of patients.  In the years prior to this accident, several hospitals, due to monetary reasons, had to close their emergency rooms or reduce them in size. In addition only two in Philadelphia were capable of accepting gun shot victims (Temple University Hospital was the closest to the derailment but one of the emergency rooms which would accept gun shot victims. This was important as Temple University ER, being in North Philadelphia, is usually very busy on any given night.  The stress to the local health system revealed how one disaster could easily overburden many hospitals.

 

Over the past decade many hospitals, especially rural hospitals, have been shuttered or consolidated into bigger health systems.  The graphic below shows this

From Bloomberg: US Hospital Closings Leave Patients with Nowhere to go

 

 

https://images.app.goo.gl/JdZ6UtaG3Ra3EA3J8

 

Note the huge swath of hospital closures in the midwest, especially in rural areas.  This has become an ongoing problem as the health care system deals with rising costs.

 

Lesson:  Epidemic Stresses an already stressed out US healthcare system

 

Please see our Coronavirus Portal at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

 

for more up-to-date scientific, clinical information as well as persona stories, videos, interviews and economic impact analyses

and @pharma_BI

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eProceedings for BIO 2019 International Convention, June 3-6, 2019 Philadelphia Convention Center; Philadelphia PA, Real Time Coverage by Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

 

CONFERENCE OVERVIEW

Real Time Coverage of BIO 2019 International Convention, June 3-6, 2019 Philadelphia Convention Center; Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/05/31/real-time-coverage-of-bio-international-convention-june-3-6-2019-philadelphia-convention-center-philadelphia-pa/

 

LECTURES & PANELS

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: Realizing Precision Medicine One Patient at a Time, 6/5/2019, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/05/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-machine-learning-and-artificial-intelligence-realizing-precision-medicine-one-patient-at-a-time/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Genome Editing and Regulatory Harmonization: Progress and Challenges, 6/5/2019. Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/05/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-genome-editing-and-regulatory-harmonization-progress-and-challenges/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Precision Medicine Beyond Oncology June 5, 2019, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J Williams PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/05/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-precision-medicine-beyond-oncology-june-5-philadelphia-pa/

 

Real Time @BIOConvention #BIO2019:#Bitcoin Your Data! From Trusted Pharma Silos to Trustless Community-Owned Blockchain-Based Precision Medicine Data Trials, 6/5/2019, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/05/real-time-bioconvention-bio2019bitcoin-your-data-from-trusted-pharma-silos-to-trustless-community-owned-blockchain-based-precision-medicine-data-trials/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Keynote Address Jamie Dimon CEO @jpmorgan June 5, 2019, Philadelphia, PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/05/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-keynote-address-jamie-dimon-ceo-jpmorgan-june-5-philadelphia/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Chat with @FDA Commissioner, & Challenges in Biotech & Gene Therapy June 4, 2019, Philadelphia, PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/04/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-chat-with-fda-commissioner-challenges-in-biotech-gene-therapy-june-4-philadelphia/

 

Falling in Love with Science: Championing Science for Everyone, Everywhere June 4 2019, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/04/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-falling-in-love-with-science-championing-science-for-everyone-everywhere/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: June 4 Morning Sessions; Global Biotech Investment & Public-Private Partnerships, 6/4/2019, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J Williams PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/04/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-june-4-morning-sessions-global-biotech-investment-public-private-partnerships/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Understanding the Voices of Patients: Unique Perspectives on Healthcare; June 4, 2019, 11:00 AM, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/04/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-understanding-the-voices-of-patients-unique-perspectives-on-healthcare-june-4/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Keynote: Siddhartha Mukherjee, Oncologist and Pulitzer Author; June 4 2019, 9AM, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD. @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/04/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-keynote-siddhartha-mukherjee-oncologist-and-pulitzer-author-june-4-9am-philadelphia-pa/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019:  Issues of Risk and Reproduceability in Translational and Academic Collaboration; 2:30-4:00 June 3, 2019, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/03/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-issues-of-risk-and-reproduceability-in-translational-and-academic-collaboration-230-400-june-3-philadelphia-pareal-time-coverage-bioconvention-bi/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: What’s Next: The Landscape of Innovation in 2019 and Beyond. 3-4 PM June 3, 2019, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/03/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-whats-next-the-landscape-of-innovation-in-2019-and-beyond-3-4-pm-june-3-philadelphia-pa/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: After Trump’s Drug Pricing Blueprint: What Happens Next? A View from Washington; June 3, 2019 1:00 PM, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/03/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-after-trumps-drug-pricing-blueprint-what-happens-next-a-view-from-washington-june-3-2019-100-pm-philadelphia-pa/

 

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: International Cancer Clusters Showcase June 3, 2019, Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams PhD @StephenJWillia2

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/03/real-time-coverage-bioconvention-bio2019-international-cancer-clusters-showcase-june-3-philadelphia-pa/

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Verily kicked off Project Baseline in April 2017, with a health study geared to gather health data from 10,000 people over four years – Partnership with Big Pharma on Clinical Trials announced on 5/21/2019

 

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

UPDATED on 5/22/2019

On Tuesday morning, Verily, Alphabet’s unit focused on life sciences, announced that it had formed alliances with Novartis, Sanofi, Otsuka, and Pfizer to work on clinical trials. What are those drug giants getting out of the deal? STAT sat down with Scarlet Shore, who leads Verily’s project Baseline, to learn about the company’s vision for the clinical trial of the future. The conversation took place at CNBC’s “Healthy Returns” conference, where the partnerships were unveiled.

SOURCE

https://www.statnews.com/2019/05/21/four-of-the-worlds-largest-drug-companies-are-teaming-with-verily-here-is-what-they-get/?utm_source=STAT+Newsletters&utm_campaign=1630aad75d-Readout_COPY_03&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8cab1d7961-1630aad75d-150237109

Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer, Sanofi join Verily’s Project Baseline

“Evidence generation through research is the backbone of improving health outcomes. We need to be inclusive and encourage diversity in research to truly understand health and disease, and to provide meaningful insights about new medicines, medical devices and digital health solutions,” said Jessica Mega, M.D., Verily’s chief medical and scientific officer, in the statement. “Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer and Sanofi have been early adopters of advanced technology and digital tools to improve clinical research operations, and together we’re taking another step towards making research accessible and generating evidence to inform better treatments and care.”
Jessica Mega, M.D., Verily’s chief medical and scientific officer, in the statement. “Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer and Sanofi have been early adopters of advanced technology and digital tools to improve clinical research operations, and together we’re taking another step towards making research accessible and generating evidence to inform better treatments and care.”

 

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Morbid Obesity linked to socioeconomic status was in a Twin Pairs Research on effects of genes and environment in 560 common conditions – Disease and Health by ZIP code (Environment) and genetic code (Human Genome)

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

  • Senior study author Chirag Patel, assistant professor of biomedical informatics in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS.
  • Co-investigators were Braden Tierney and Arjun Manrai of Harvard Medical School, and
  • Jian Yang and Peter Visscher of the University of Queensland, Australia.

Data sets for the study were provided by Aetna insurance company. Aetna had no funding role in the study. The research was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (grants 1078037 and 1113400), National Science Foundation (grant 1636870), and Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation.

 

Detailed study results available here: http://apps.chiragjpgroup.org/catch/

Conclusions 

Nearly 40 percent of the diseases in the study (225 of 560) had a genetic component, while 25 percent (138) were driven at least in part by factors stemming from sharing the same household, social influences, and the like. Cognitive disorders demonstrated the greatest degree of heritability — four out of five diseases showed a genetic component — while connective tissue diseases had the lowest degree of genetic influence. Of all disease categories, eye disorders carried the highest degree of environmental influence, with 27 of 42 diseases showing such effect. They were followed by respiratory diseases, with 34 out of 48 conditions showing an effect from sharing a household. The disease category with lowest environmental influence was reproductive illnesses, with three of 18 conditions showing such effect, and cognitive conditions, with two out of five showing an influence.

Overall, socioeconomic status, climate conditions, and air quality in each twin pair’s ZIP code had a far weaker effect on disease than genes and shared environment — a composite measure of external, nongenetic influences including family and lifestyle, household, and neighborhood.

In total, 145 of 560 diseases were modestly influenced by socio-economic status derived by ZIP code. Thirty-six diseases were influenced at least in part by air quality, and 117 were affected by changes in temperature. The condition with the strongest potential link to socioeconomic status was morbid obesity. While obesity undoubtedly has a genetic component, the researchers said, the findings raise an important question about the influence of environment on genetic predispositions.

“This finding opens up a whole slew of questions, including whether and how a change in socioeconomic status and lifestyle might compare against genetic predisposition to obesity,” Patel said.

Lead poisoning was, not surprisingly, entirely driven by environment. Conditions such as flu and Lyme disease were, again unsurprisingly, affected by differences in climate.

When researchers looked at classes of diseases by monthly health care spending, they found that both genes and environment significantly contributed to cost of care, with the two being nearly equal drivers of spending. Almost 60 percent of monthly health spending could be predicted by analyzing genetic and environmental factors.

Large-scale analysis like this study can help forecast long-term spending for various conditions and inform resource allocation and policy decisions, the researchers said.

Detailed study results available here: http://apps.chiragjpgroup.org/catch/

SOURCE

http://apps.chiragjpgroup.org/catch/

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/01/researchers-able-to-determine-the-effects-of-genes-and-environment-in-560-common-conditions/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Gazette%202%20stories%201%20event%20(no%20Seen%20or%20Heard)%20(1)

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Non pure motives for pushing recertification: The American Board of Internal Medicine attempted to expand its recertification process and keep its medical monopoly that abuses its immense power.

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

“It is incumbent upon The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and/or the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to engage a respected independent party to assess the impact of The Maintenance of Certification, (MOC) program and make the findings publicly available” required by The American College of Rheumatology

ABIM’s survival as a medical monopoly that abuses its immense power seems less probable with each passing day. And, because of its arrogance and the appearance of corruption it allowed to metastasize inside the organization, the officials there have no one to blame but themselves.

It’s a horror story that has played out for years throughout the U.S. as the ABIM abuses its monopoly power to force doctors to do whatever it decrees, while ignoring the many doctors who have demanded for years that independent researchers conduct comprehensive studies to determine if ABIM’s requirements do anything to improve patient care. This medical protection racket has made millionaires of ABIM top officers, financed a ritzy condominium, limousines and first-class travel, all while sucking huge sums of cash out of the health care system.

But now, after decades of unchecked rule by ABIM, cracks are appearing in the organization’s facade of power. Thousands of doctors began a widespread revolt months ago and, in the last few weeks, evidence that their efforts are succeeding has started rolling in. ABIM officials have proclaimed that they are rushing to make changes—and indeed have announced some changes—but it seems they waited too long and are changing too little.

Rheumatologists, who must fulfill ABIM’s requirements for maintenance of certification, or MOC, recently slapped down the process—and hard.

“There is evidence that many of the MOC requirements have no beneficial impact on clinical care,” the statement says. “Moreover, the direct and indirect costs of the MOC program to physicians and the health care system is excessive.”

The study concluded that internists incur an average of $23,607 in MOC costs over 10 years—with doctors who specialize in cancers and blood diseases out $40,495. All told, the study concluded, MOC will suck $5.7 billion out of the health care system over 10 years, including $5.1 billion in time costs (resulting from 32.7 million physician-hours spent on MOC) and $561 million in testing costs. And remember—all that time and expense is for a program that has not been proven to accomplish anything.

And the NBPAS process is completely different than the one required by ABIM. A two-year recertification through NBPAS costs $169 (a single review course for the ABIM test costs more than $1,000.) It requires that physicians obtain initial certification through ABIM or one of its affiliated organizations. Then, for recertification, it requires physicians to attend 50 hours of what are known as qualified continuing medical education programs every two years. That way, doctors choose what education programs most benefit their practice by attending about 25 hours of those courses and conferences each year. No time is wasted learning about items that have no relevance to the work of a particular doctor.

And the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons (NBPAS) process is completely different than the one required by ABIM. A two-year recertification through NBPAS costs $169 (a single review course for the ABIM test costs more than $1,000.) It requires that physicians obtain initial certification through ABIM or one of its affiliated organizations. Then, for recertification, it requires physicians to attend 50 hours of what are known as qualified continuing medical education programs every two years. That way, doctors choose what education programs most benefit their practice by attending about 25 hours of those courses and conferences each year. No time is wasted learning about items that have no relevance to the work of a particular doctor.

SOURCE

https://www.newsweek.com/abim-american-board-internal-medicine-doctors-revolt-372723

What’s ruining medicine for physicians: MOC costs and requirements

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CMS initiative in Modernizing Medicare to lead to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

CMS Takes Action to Lower Prescription Drug Costs by Modernizing Medicare

 

     

CMS Takes Action to Lower Prescription Drug Costs by Modernizing Medicare 
Proposed regulation for Medicare Parts C & D would strengthen negotiations with prescription drug manufacturers to lower costs and increase transparency for patients

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed polices for 2020 to strengthen and modernize the Medicare Part C and D programs. The proposal would ensure that Medicare Advantage and Part D plans have more tools to negotiate lower drug prices, and the agency is also considering a policy that would require pharmacy rebates to be passed on to seniors to lower their drug costs at the pharmacy counter.

“President Trump is following through on his promise to bring tougher negotiation to Medicare and bring down drug costs for patients, without restricting patient access or choice,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “By bringing the latest tools from the private sector to Medicare Part D, we can save money for taxpayers and seniors, improve access to expensive drugs many seniors need, and expand their choice of plans. The Part D proposals complement efforts to bring down costs in Medicare Advantage and in Medicare Part B through negotiation, all part of the President’s plan to put American patients first by bringing down prescription-drug prices and out-of-pocket costs.”

In the twelve years since the Part D program was launched, many of the tools outlined in today’s proposal have been developed in the commercial health insurance marketplace, and the result has been lower costs for patients. Seniors in Medicare also deserve to benefit from these approaches to reducing costs, so today CMS is proposing to modernize the Medicare Advantage and Part D programs and remove barriers that keep plans from leveraging these tools.

“In designing today’s proposal, foremost in the agency’s mind was the impact on patients, and the proposal is yet another action CMS has taken to deliver on President Trump and Secretary Azar’s commitment on drug prices,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Today’s changes will provide seniors with more plan options featuring lower costs for prescription drugs, and seniors will remain in the driver’s seat as they can choose the plan that works best for them. The result will be increasing access to the medicines that seniors depend on by lowering their out-of-pocket costs.”

Private plan options for receiving Medicare benefits are increasing in popularity, with almost 37 percent of Medicare beneficiaries expected to enroll in Medicare Advantage in 2019, and Part D enrollment increasing year-over-year as well. The programs are driven by market competition; plans compete for beneficiaries’ business, and each enrollee chooses the plan that best meets his or her needs. Consumer choice puts pressure on plans to improve quality and lower costs.  Premiums in both Medicare Advantage and Part D are projected to decline next year.

Today’s proposed changes include:

  • Providing Part D plans with greater flexibility to negotiate discounts for drugs in “protected” therapeutic classes, so beneficiaries who need these drugs will see lower costs;
  • Requiring Part D plans to increase transparency and provide enrollees and their doctors with a patient’s out-of-pocket cost obligations for prescription drugs when a prescription is written;
  • Codifying a policy similar to the one implemented for 2019 to allow “step therapy” in Medicare Advantage for Part B drugs, encouraging access to high-value products including biosimilars; and
  • Implementing a statutory requirement, recently signed by President Trump, that prohibits pharmacy gag clauses in Part D.

CMS is also considering for a future plan year, which may be as early as 2020, a policy that would ensure that enrollees pay the lowest cost for the prescription drugs they pick up at a pharmacy, after taking into account back-end payments from pharmacies to plans.

Medicare Advantage and Part D will continue to protect patient access, as both programs are embedded with robust beneficiary protections. These include CMS’s review of Part D plan formularies, an expedited appeals process, and a requirement for plans to cover two drugs in every therapeutic class.

CMS looks forward to receiving comments on these proposals and other policies under consideration.

For a blog post on the proposed rule by Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma, please visit: https://www.cms.gov/blog/proposed-changes-lower-drug-prices-medicare-advantage-and-part-d.

For a fact sheet on the proposed rule, please visit: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/contract-year-cy-2020-medicare-advantage-and-part-d-drug-pricing-proposed-rule-cms-4180-p.

The proposed rule (CMS-4180-P) can be downloaded from the Federal Register at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2018-25945.pdf

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Get CMS news at cms.gov/newsroom, sign up for CMS news via email and follow CMS on Twitter CMS Administrator @SeemaCMS

SOURCE

https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-takes-action-lower-prescription-drug-costs-modernizing-medicare?mc_cid=ca8901d1c5&mc_eid=32328d8919

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HUBweek 2018, October 8-14, 2018, Greater Boston – “We The Future” – coming together, of breaking down barriers, of convening across disciplinary lines to shape our future

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

HUBweek 2018

Hi Aviva,

 

At HUBweek and in this community, we believe a brighter future is built together. In these times of division, particularly when many are feeling excluded from the benefits brought forth by rapid technological development, there is critical importance in the act of coming together, of breaking down barriers, of convening across disciplinary lines to shape our future.

That’s why this year’s theme for HUBweek is We the Future. It is a call to action and an invitation. Throughout the week, we’ll bring together innovators, artists, and curious minds to explore the ways in which we can shape a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

Today, HUBweek kicks off with dozens of events taking place across the city–from public art tours, a drone zoo, and discussions on nuclear weapons and the impact of emerging technologies on people with disabilities, to a policy hackathon hosted by MIT and the first ever Change Maker Conference.

There are 225+ more experiences to take part in throughout HUBweek–a three-day Forum and a documentary film festival; open dialogues with leading thinkers; a robot block party; and collaborative and participatory art. And we’ve got a little fun in store for you, too–make sure you sign up and stop by The HUB later this week to check it all out.

At its core, HUBweek is a collaboration. If not for our partners and the unwavering support of this community, this would not be a reality. A big thank you to our presenting partners Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Liberty Mutual Insurance, and Merck KGaA, to our sponsors, and to the hundreds of collaborating organizations, speakers, artists, and creative minds that are behind this year’s festival.

On behalf of the HUBweek team and our founders The Boston Globe, Harvard University, Mass. General Hospital, and MIT, we’re thrilled to invite you to join us at HUBweek 2018.

 

Linda Pizzuti Henry

SOURCE

 

From: Linda Pizzuti Henry <hello@hubweek.org>

Reply-To: <hello@hubweek.org>

Date: Monday, October 8, 2018 at 9:38 AM

To: Aviva Lev-Ari <AvivaLev-Ari@alum.berkeley.edu>

Subject: Welcome to HUBweek

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