RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 03/15/2016

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Express Scripts: Rx Spending Grew 5.2% in 2015
Silverman, Pharmalot
Despite rising prices for prescription medicines, Express Scripts released data today showing spending for its health plans rose 5.2 percent in 2015, roughly half of what was seen the year before. The pharmacy benefits manager — which negotiates drug prices for companies and government agencies, among others — was able to keep costs down by negotiating with drug makers and managing the list of medicines it covers, said Dr. Glen Stettin, a senior vice president and chief innovation officer.

Cancer and Arthritis Drugs Drive Up Spending
Alison Kodjak, NPR
But drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and other inflammatory illnesses sucked up the largest share of cash. Express Scripts says treatments for such conditions cost every person with insurance about $89 last year. Insurers use a measure known as "per member per year" to show how spending is spread across population of insured people.

Drug Makers, Insurers Blame Each Other for Prices
Caitlin Owens, MC
The rift between the insurer industry and the prescription drug industry exposes a conundrum. Who is responsible for the high cost of prescription drugs? Insurers say drug prices are too high, and drugmakers say insurers pass on too much of the tab for drugs to consumers.

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies believe it’s important to take medications as directed by your doctor for the best health and safety. Learn more.

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Shkreli's Pricing Strategy May Be Curbed by FDA
Anna Edney, Bloomberg
With a small regulatory change, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may have just stopped the next Martin Shkreli. The agency said Friday that it will prioritize review of new applications for generic drugs that would compete with treatments made by only one company. That could help make it less profitable for somebody like Shkreli, who was until last year the chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, from buying an old, patent-expired drug with no competition and jacking up the price.

Eaiser to Get Painkillers Than Anti-Addiction Rx
Christine Vestal, WP
Addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin has grown so deadly that the Obama administration wants to spend more than $1 billion over the next two years fighting it. Nearly all of the money would go to making anti-addiction medications, including buprenorphine, more available. Yet in the midst of the worst epidemic of unintentional drug overdose in U.S. history — mortality rates are four to fives times as high as in the mid-1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — it can be harder to get drugs to treat an addiction than it is to get the drugs that feed it.

Clinton, Sanders Both Right about 1990s History
Young & Cohn, HuffPo
In fact, Sanders opposed the proposal throughout the process, his campaign confirmed to The Huffington Post. As late as August 1994, while Democrats were making a last-ditch effort to pass Clinton’s plan, Sanders held a press conference opposing it -- and touting single-payer, according to his campaign. Sanders' commitment, or lack thereof, to the White House plan wasn't a cause of its failure, considering staunch resistance from the health care industry, Republicans and conservative Democrats. But Clinton clearly hasn't forgotten it.

Puerto Rico's Health Crisis Threatens Mainland
Mattie Quinn, Governing
Puerto Rican immigrants -- many of them sick and in need of care -- are flocking to the states in unprecedented numbers. New York has volunteered to help the island, but it may not be able to.

Clinical Messaging Can Overwhelm Doctors
Neil Versel, MedCityNews
Secure clinical messaging promises to improve communications between healthcare providers and promote continuity of care, but office-based physicians are starting to get overwhelmed with e-mail, just like the rest of us. It’s a particularly serious problem for primary care physicians, according to a research letter published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

NFL Executive Acknowledges Football-CTE Link
Farmer & Fenno, LAT
In what could be a watershed moment in the debate about the long-term effects of head injuries in the nation's most popular sport, the NFL's top health and safety executive acknowledged Monday for the first time that there is a connection between football-related brain trauma and a degenerative disease that can be diagnosed only after death.

House E&C Committee Moves to Cut CHIP Funding
Joan Alker, CCF
The Congressional budget process appears to be in a fair amount of chaos with Senate and House Republicans at risk of failing to agree with each other even on a Budget Resolution. While that is not surprising — given the state of disarray in Congress — I was surprised to see that the House Energy and Commerce Committee is moving rapidly to mark up a bill tomorrow that includes cuts to the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies believe it’s important to take medications as directed to make sure you get the right dose at the right time. Following doctors’ directions, remembering to take medicines and disposing of them properly are all important for better health and safety. Learn more.

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