RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 03/10/2016

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Medicare Rx Proposal Will Need Help from Doctors
Caitlin Owens, MC
The Obama administration’s latest proposal to rein in prescription drug costs relies on doctors and their price savvy. It is, in essence, a gamble that they will be more thrifty in their treatment of patients. A proposed rule, unveiled Tuesday, aims to change the way the federal government pays for prescriptions administered by Medicare doctors. Although it comes after months of railing against the cost of drugs, it would most directly impact doctors and outpatient facilities if it isn’t changed before it is finalized.

An Experiment to Fight Perverse Incentives
Margot Sanger-Katz, Upshot
Before Obamacare, a payment change this large would have required new legislation. But the health law allows Medicare to introduce pilot programs and experiments, and expand them nationwide if they measure up. Earlier, such experiments were voluntary, but the drug pilot is one of a small number of tests that are now mandatory for doctors and hospitals who practice in certain parts of the country.

Cigna Could Save $350M from Med. Adv. Shift
Bob Herman, Modern HC
The CMS has scrapped a policy that reduced star ratings for Medicare Advantage plans facing sanctions for poor compliance. The move, which was quietly released by the CMS in a memo (PDF) and shocked many in the industry, will immediately protect hundreds of millions of dollars at Cigna Corp., which had its Medicare Advantage plans sanctioned in January.

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Drug Pricing Could Come Up in Innovation Bill
Peter Sullivan, The Hill
Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday that drug pricing measures could be considered as part of the medical innovation bill that his committee is working on. He said he expects that there will be a proposal from Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who have been investigating spikes in drug prices in the Senate Aging Committee.

NIH Funds Put Senate Innovation Bills in Jeopardy
Sheila Kaplan, Stat
A Senate package of biomedical innovation bills got bogged down in a partisan fight Wednesday over funding for the National Institutes of Health, foreshadowing more trouble ahead that could threaten the effort to accelerate the search for medical cures. Although a Senate committee eventually approved the seven innovation bills, Democrats warned that they won’t support a final package when it reaches the Senate floor unless they get an agreement with Republicans that guarantees a big funding increase for biomedical research.

Leukemia Drug Keeps Getting Pricier
Carolyn Y. Johnson, Washington Post
When the drug company Novartis launched its breakthrough cancer medicine, Gleevec, in 2001, the list price was $26,400 a year. The company’s chief executive acknowledged it was expensive, calling it an “uphill battle to win understanding for our decision.” Today, that hill is a mountain. Since Gleevec was approved to treat a rare form of leukemia, similar drugs have come on the market — and the U.S. wholesale list price for a year’s supply of that little orange pill has soared to more than $120,000.

U.S. Cancer Death Rate Continues to Fall
Robert Preidt, HealthDay
Overall rates of cancer and deaths from cancer in the United States continue to decline, a newly released report says. However, an increase in liver cancer deaths is cause for concern, the report authors noted. An increase in hepatitis C infections is likely a major reason for the increase, they said.

Over Half of Hospital Bills Don't Get Paid
Holly Fletcher, Tennessean
Hospitals and medical practices share a growing problem with those they treat: Patients aren't paying their bills. Working people are on the hook for an increasingly large portion of the cost of their care, as insurance policies pay for less. It's a trend that is not reversing — and it’s causing financial distress for families and CEOs alike.

FDA Deal Unlikely to Spark Off-Label Promition
Silverman, Pharmalot
The Food and Drug Administration may have reached a first-of-its-kind settlement allowing Amarin to promote its prescription fish-oil pill for unapproved uses, but experts say other drug makers are unlikely to quickly engage in off-label marketing.

Few Children Getting HPV Vaccine
Lori Kurtzman, Columbus Dispatch
Health officials began recommending HPV vaccines for girls a decade ago, and later proposed them for boys as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 11 and 12 are ideal ages for the vaccine, though patients can still receive it in their early 20s. But most children aren’t being vaccinated. The most recent figures from the CDC show that 40 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys receive all three doses of the vaccine.

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