Tag Archives: medications

When covering drug-price reform, keep patients’ medication costs in perspective

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the trade group for drug makers, produced the ad on the left that has been called misleading. The AARP produced the ad on the right calling out PhRMA for attempting to scare seniors into opposing efforts in Congress to pass drug-price reforms. (Photo courtesy of PhRMA and AARP’s YouTube video ads.)

Last week, Aimee Picchi reported for CBS News on a new Gallup and West Health survey showing that 18 million Americans (7% of U.S. adults) cannot afford the medications their doctors prescribe.

Households with annual income under $24,000 struggle even more, she wrote, adding that almost 20% of those Americans were unable to pay for at least one prescription drug in the previous three months. To save money, about 10% of all adults skipped a pill in the prior year, she noted. Gallup and West Health surveyed some 5,000 adults in June.

Picchi made two important points for journalists to consider when writing about efforts in Congress to reform how much Americans pay for prescription drugs. Continue reading

Updated Beers Criteria identifies risky drugs for seniors

A panel of experts in geriatric care has identified nearly 100 medications that should be avoided or used with caution among the older population in the latest update to the Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults.

The recommendations by the American Geriatrics Society are widely used by clinicians, educators, researchers, health care administrators and regulators to ensure medications are appropriately prescribed. Continue reading

More adults over 50 risk benzodiazepine misuse

Prescription rates of opioids and benzodiazepines are on the rise among the older adult population, according to two recent studies. And that is cause for concern, say researchers.

In one study, Greg Rhee, Ph.D., an adjunct assistant professor in the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, examined prescribing trends in outpatient settings of opioids and benzodiazepines. His analysis found that between 2006-07 and 2014-15, the prescription rates of benzodiazepine drugs such as Xanax and Halcion increased from 4.8 percent to 6.2 percent; the rate of prescription opioids alone increased from 5.9 percent to 10 percent, and the co-prescribing rate of both benzodiazepines and opioids increased over time from 1.1 percent to 2.7 percent, respectively. Continue reading

Be cautious about superlatives in cancer drug reporting

Photo: Amy Dame via Flickr

Photo: Amy Dame via Flickr

For much of modern medical history, the elusive holy grail of medical research has been a “cure for cancer.” Today, scientists have a better understanding of cancer, the diversity of cancer types and the fact that “cure” probably is not the correct word – ever – to use in discussing cancer treatment.

Yet not all journalists appear to have gotten that memo. A study posted Oct. 29 in the Research Letter section of JAMA Oncology explored how often “cure” and nine other similarly exaggerated terms were used by the media when describing new cancer medications. What they found is nothing to brag about. Continue reading

Here’s why specialty pharmaceuticals need value-based insurance design

Image by Bill Brooks via flickr.

Image by Bill Brooks via flickr.

This spring, Gilead Sciences Inc. introduced Solvaldi, a drug that could cure the liver virus that causes hepatitis C. The drawback, however, was the cost of $84,000 or about $1,000 per pill, as Julie Appleby reported at Kaiser Health News.

“And that price tag is prompting outrage from some consumers and a scramble by insurers to figure out which patients should get the drug – and who pays for it,” she wrote.

Bernard Munos wrote in Forbes that the cost of one recently introduced cancer medication was $66,000 and another was $90,000.

At such high prices, consumers may be unable to afford these medications and insurers may not cover them. If insurers do cover these high-priced drugs, they may require patients to pay the typical copayment of 30 percent or more.

In a new report from the University of Michigan Center for Value-Based Insurance Design (V-BID Center) and the National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC), researchers argue that insurers need a new approach to paying for specialty medications. Continue reading