RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 03/08/2016

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Inside the $100 Million Ad Blitz for Harvoni
Rebecca Robbins, Stat
At a time when some insurers have been reluctant to cover — and some physicians have been reluctant to prescribe — such an expensive drug, Gilead has pushed Harvoni in front of potential patients at every opportunity: as they read celebrity gossip, watch science fiction shows, follow the news, and more. As a result, doctors say patients are coming in asking for the drug by name, apparently not deterred by the cost or by the heavy political and legal fire aimed at Harvoni’s price tag.

Notifying Doctors Doesn't Stop Overprescribing
Seaman, Reuters
Government letters informing doctors they're prescribing vastly more addictive drugs than their peers fall on deaf ears, according to a new study. The doctors in the study were all writing far more prescriptions for drugs like opioid painkillers than doctors in similar specialties practicing nearby - but the letters didn't lead to changes in prescribing.

Whistleblower Takes on 'Made in India' Drugs
Anna Edney, Bloomberg
The man who helped U.S. prosecutors reach the largest safety settlement ever with a generic-drug company is now trying to take on the entire pharmaceuticals industry in India, which he alleges makes unsafe medicines and sells them worldwide.

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Results of Clinical Trials Often Kept Secret
Ben Sutherly, Col. Dispatch
Scientific advances often take root in clinical trials. Too often, though, researchers at U.S. academic medical centers aren’t sharing their taxpayer-funded work publicly, potentially placing blinders and biases on what we know about health and illness. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the medical journal formerly known as the British Medical Journal, now simply called BMJ.

New Battle Over Retiree Medicare Advantage
Mary Ellen McIntire, MC
The fight over Medicare Advantage payment rates has entered a new front this year as employers, unions, and trade groups embark on an intense lobbying campaign to head off proposed rate increases to insurers for certain retiree health care plans.

Hospice Fraud Is a Costly Problem for Medicare
Kris Mamula, Pitt. P-G
The system that was built to help dying patients live out their remaining days with dignity and comfort has few quality metrics to meet, no minimum requirements for how often care is provided, and low barriers to getting into the business. Critics say that can make end-of-life care seem ripe for abuse. A long-awaited reform in how Medicare pays hospice providers that went into effect in January will do little to curb such abuse, experts say.

Deadly Superbugs from Hospitals Get Stronger in Sewers
Petersen, LAT
Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced they had discovered a lethal superbug — the same one that caused outbreaks at UCLA and two other Los Angeles-area hospitals — in sewage at one of those plants. They declined to name the facility.

Depression a Challenge for Primary Care Settings
Shefali Luthra, KHN
Often referred to as the “common cold of mental health,” depression causes about 8 million doctors’ appointments a year. More than half are with primary care physicians. A new study suggests those doctors may not be the best to treat the condition due to insurance issues, time constraints and other factors.

Getting Hit With a Surprise Medical Bill
Haley Sweetland Edwards, Time
Surprise medical bills happen most often when a hospital contracts with medical providers—including doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, lab technicians—that do not accept the same insurance plans that the hospital does. That means that patients, like Elfrank-Dana, can walk into an in-network hospital, see an in-network doctor, and suddenly find himself on the hook for thousands of dollars anyway, just because he inadvertently received care from a provider, such as a lab technician or physician, who was out-of-network.

Don't Forget About the IPAB
James C. Capretta, Mercatus Center
The Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, is one of the more notorious provisions of the Affordable Care Act because it is the perfect embodiment of belief in technocratic expertise. The IPAB’s fifteen “expert” members would have great power and little accountability.

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