Recent news stories have warned, for example, that:
Federal officials have ramped up the pressure on a Dutch conglomerate over its expanding but slow recall of sleep apnea breathing devices relied on by millions of increasingly angry U.S. patients.
The Justice Department has issued a subpoena to Royal Philips NV in preparation for an undetermined investigation of the company’s CPAP machines and their recall, a problematic process about which the Food and Drug Administration recently also gave the company a kick, the Wall Street Journal reported:
“Philips said its Respironics division, and some other subsidiaries received the subpoena on April 8 to ‘provide information relating to events leading to the Respironics recall.’ It said it was cooperating with the agency. Philips Chief Executive Frans van Houten told investors … that the company wasn’t aware of any specific allegations. ‘They are preparing an investigation and we just have to accept that,’ he said.”
Expectant parents, doctors, and regulators need to reconsider the rising use of gee-whiz genetic testing as doubts emerge about popular blood screenings to detect rare prenatal disorders and a costly test relied on by couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.
This is what the New York Times reported about what researchers have found about preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy, or PGT-A. It is an increasingly common screening in IVF and has led potential parents to discard embryos as unfeasible or unacceptable due to abnormalities to carry to term:
“PGT-A … has, over the last two decades, become a standard add-on to already pricey IVF procedures. But the test, which can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000, has become controversial over the years as studies have cast doubt on whether it increases birthrates from IVF at all. A growing number of scientists have questioned the widespread use of the test, which leads to tens of thousands of discarded embryos per year and causes many women to believe they may not be able to carry biological children. A new study published last week details 50 patients who underwent transfers of abnormal embryos at the Center for Human Reproduction in New York City … The study reported eight births after 57 transfer cycles of embryos with abnormal genetic testing results since 2015. Seven of the babies were born healthy. The average age of the women in the study was 41 years old.
While patients often seek treatment at big, fancy hospitals, in part because they are designated as National Cancer Institute centers, these institutions provide a sticker-shock surprise for those receiving their specialized care: They jack up the already sky-high cost of prescription cancer drugs with markups going up from 120% to 630% above what they pay for the medications.
Those are the findings of researchers at the Harvard and Yale medical schools and elsewhere as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine publication. As they noted with expert restraint:
“The findings of this study suggest that, to reduce the financial burden of cancer treatment for patients, institution of public policies to discourage or prevent excessive hospital price markups on … chemotherapeutics may be beneficial.”
A glaring gap in the U.S. health care system — the giving of care at home — is burgeoning into a costly chasm. Pretty much everybody involved needs to pay close attention and finally act to deal with the nation’s failure to support home caregiving for the sick, injured, debilitated, and aged.
The consequences of inaction already are becoming clear, as the dearth of home care is smacking the recovering economy, “contributing to labor shortages around the country and playing a role in overall inflation,” the Washington Post reported, finding:
“At least 6.6 million people who weren’t working in early March said it was because they were caring for someone else, according to the most recent Household Pulse Survey from the Census Bureau. Whether — and when — they return to work will play a role in the continued recovery and could reshape the post-Covid labor force. For all the attention on parents — and mothers in particular — who stopped working to care for children during the pandemic, four times as many people are out of the work force, caring for spouses, siblings, aging parents, and grandchildren, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest Monetary Policy Report.
The nation’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are in dire need of drastic overhaul to dramatically improve the quality and safety of their treatment of the aged, sick, and disabled. They too often now get what one expert has described as “ineffective, inefficient, inequitable, fragmented, and unsustainable” care.
To repair the glaring, longstanding wrongs in these facilities — problems that critics say contributed to 150,000 resident deaths during the coronavirus pandemic — requires sweeping practical, regulatory, and financial changes in an industry focused on profits and resistant to change, according to newly published expert research report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
The academies, with members who are leaders in their fields, are private, nonprofit institutions that work outside of government to provide objective advice on matters of science, technology, and health.
A public health agency once held up as the world’s gold standard will put itself under the microscope and try to diagnose swift, appropriate remedies for the relentless criticism it has received for months of faulty performance in dealing with one of the most lethal infectious disease outbreaks in a century.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must improve its work in its core functions, including “beefing up the nation’s public health workforce, data modernization, laboratory capacity, health equity, rapid response to disease outbreaks, and preparedness within the United States and around the world,” the agency’s chief, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has written to her 13,000 expert colleagues. She is insisting, no matter the political risks and practical difficulties, that significant changes must occur, the Washington Post reported, noting of the agency’s much-derided work on the coronavirus pandemic:
“Since the pandemic began more than two years ago, the once-storied agency has been under fire for its pandemic response, from initial delays developing a coronavirus test, to the severe eligibility limits to get the test, to missteps often attributed to Trump Administration meddling. But even under the Biden Administration, the agency’s guidance on masking, isolation and quarantine, and booster doses has been repeatedly faulted for being confusing. A consistent criticism has been the agency’s failure to be agile, especially with analysis and release of real-time data.
Although Medicare officials have slammed the door for now on paying for widespread use of a drug targeted for Alzheimer’s treatment, patient advocacy groups have thrown themselves into the battle over Aduhelm and whether taxpayers should pay its hefty price.
Aduhelm is the risky, costly prescription medication with sparse evidence of its purported benefits for those in early stages of cognitive decline.
The giant federal health insurer for seniors will cover Aduhelm only for patients participating in clinical trials that may yield more persuasive evidence about the drug’s safety and effectiveness, Medicare officials have decided. In doing so, they withstood a furious lobbying campaign from the nonprofits Alzheimer’s Association, a leading patient advocacy group reporting more than $400 million in 2021 revenue, and UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, which reported $9 million in 2020 revenue.
The coronavirus pandemic does not have a magical on-off switch, and even if its current lull turns out to be longer lasting — and signs suggest this may not be so — the lethal infectious outbreak will keep sending shocks through the U.S. health care system that will affect us all.
Experts are expressing growing concern about several areas where patients, insurers, and medical providers must make major, challenging changes if federal officials truly see huge reductions in the pandemic’s threat and they begin to wind down key programs put in place to battle it, the Associated Press reported.
If that occurs, health insurance for millions of Americans could change swiftly and dramatically, while many patients and health providers may be forced to reconsider the future of telehealth care, the AP reported. And how much support will there be for continued efforts to test, vaccinate, and provide treatments for the coronavirus, if the pandemic diminishes as a major peril?
- One set of federal regulators may have jawboned the leading credit reporting agencies to deal better with how they tell lenders about individuals’ medical debt and its significance for their hiring, renting, borrowing, and more.
- And another set of federal regulators may be getting closer to rolling back one of the largest Medicare premium increases in recent memory.