Category Archives: Pharmaceuticals

Some tips on tracking national action on opioid abuse

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at susan@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: CDC/Debora Cartagena/CDCLegislators, facing an election year, are starting to take action in an attempt to control the drug epidemic surrounding heroin and other opioid abuse.

Photo: CDC/Debora Cartagena/CDCLegislators, facing an election year, are starting to take action in an attempt to control the drug epidemic surrounding heroin and other opioid abuse.

Stories on how heroin and other opioid abuse shattering communities have been the focus of many powerful pieces in media outlets across the country. After years of inaction, Washington, D.C. ,has begun turning its attention to the issue and moving toward some possible action.

But covering the moving parts of the Department of Health and Human Services, Congress and the White House in tackling the issue is akin to tracking a moving target, all complicated by election-year politicking. What’s a reporter – especially one outside D.C. – to do? Continue reading

Watch surgeon general’s speech at Health Journalism 2016 #AHCJ16

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

United States Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., (@Surgeon_General) spoke to attendees of Health Journalism 2016 and discussed how his administration will address the overuse of opioids in the United States.

A follow-up blog post will feature Murthy answering journalists’ questions after his prepared talk.

Chicago panel explores the world of drug pricing

Carla K. Johnson

About Carla K. Johnson

Carla K. Johnson (@CarlaKJohnson) is a medical writer at The Associated Press and has covered health and medicine since 2001. A former member of AHCJ's board of directors, she leads the Chicago AHCJ chapter.

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonCraig Garthwaite, assistant professor, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management (left); Roy Guharoy, Pharm.D. vice president and chief pharmacy officer for the Resource Group at Ascension (middle); and independent journalist and AHCJ member Duncan Moore (right) spoke at the Chicago chapter event “Drug Pricing: Covering the Controversy” at Columbia College in Chicago on Feb. 23.

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonCraig Garthwaite, assistant professor, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (left); Roy Guharoy, Pharm.D. vice president and chief pharmacy officer for the Resource Group at Ascension (middle); and independent journalist and AHCJ member Duncan Moore (right) spoke at the Chicago chapter event “Drug Pricing: Covering the Controversy” at Columbia College in Chicago on Feb. 23.

A blockbuster hepatitis C drug costs $84,000, straining state budgets. Martin Shkreli acquires the rights to a generic and raises its price 5,000 percent. Presidential candidates react to the public outcry, claiming they know what to do about the drug prices.

What does it all mean? Until recently, “there’s been an equilibrium in the public mind between a free market regimen of the market setting prices and what the public and payers are willing to pay,” said independent journalist Duncan Moore,  “but there are indications this informal tradeoff has begun to swing out of control.” Continue reading

Senators push CMS on containing prescription drug costs

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

pills-and-moneyIn an effort to help consumers get a better handle on drug prices, five U.S. senators — all Democrats — are pressuring the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to be more forthcoming about efforts to contain costs and help seniors cope with the high costs of prescription drugs.

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) cosigned a letter on Dec. 17 to CMS Acting Administrator Andrew Slavitt, seeking more information on the agency’s efforts to maximize the agency’s existing authorities on prescription drug costs. Continue reading

ACA limits Medicare’s use of key value metric for drug prices

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Health insurers are trying a wide variety of methods to link drug costs to the value medications deliver to patients. Value-based payment strategies bear watching for two reasons. First, they are aimed at controlling the high costs of prescription medications, and, second, they could usher in new ways of pricing all medications.

The idea that insurers should link a drug’s value to price is not new, but it is gaining traction, at least among private health plans. One proposal calls for paying for drugs based on the quality-adjusted life year, or QALY, a measure used to quantify the value of treatment. Continue reading