The PCSK9 Inhibitor Conundrum

Medicine is at a crossroads; cardiology in particular. I saw this fact magnified at the American Society for Preventive Cardiology’s recent town hallon access barriers to PCSK9 inhibitors. The event was entitled, “Unraveling a Therapeutic Conundrum,” and the conundrum is this: Will we embrace the potential that these innovative drugs hold for patients, or will we use them as a scapegoat for soaring health care costs?

A guest blog by Seth Baum, MD, at Institute for Patient Access

New Data Spark Debate on Cost and Value of Breakthrough Cholesterol Meds

A new analysis calls for drastic price reductions for PCSK9 inhibitors, breakthrough lipid-lowering medications. Data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that the treatments would need to be reduced to two-thirds their current price to meet analysts’ cost-effectiveness thresholds.

But critics say the analysis drastically overestimates the number of patients who receive the treatment – and overlooks the individual value of these treatments for patients whose high cholesterol is not adequately controlled by traditional statins.

More at Institute for Patient Access

As Heart Disease Plagues the Black Community, America’s Access to Medicines May Be Headed for Crisis

Heart disease is the longstanding No. 1 killer of Americans, and the leading cause of death among Marylanders. While this silent killer devastates populations of all racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are at the highest risk – deaths from heart disease among African Americans are 30 percent higher when compared to the White population.

Many African-Americans are all too familiar with family members who have struggled with this disease and have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects from physical to psychological to financial. With new breakthroughs in life-saving medicines, why does this death toll remain so high? Access continues to be a defining problem for doctors and their patients.

Read more at Orlando Advocate

Latest Plan to Cut Medicare Drug Payments Leaves Senators Skeptical

Under fire from senators in both parties, a senior federal health official told Congress on Tuesday that the Obama administration would adjust its plan to reduce Medicare payments for many prescription drugs, but those assurances did not fully allay deep concerns.

The official, Dr. Patrick H. Conway, a deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, indicated to the Senate Finance Committee that the administration would probably go ahead with its proposal in some form, and he promised that officials would try to prevent any harm to patients.

That did little to calm bipartisan fears. Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, called the administration plan “an ill-conceived experiment” and suggested that it was a form of “human subjects research” for which the government needed the consent of patients.

Read more at New York Times

Obscure group helps block patient access to crucial medications

When it comes to quality health care, the U.S. Latino population starts out at a serious demographic disadvantage. We are more likely to lack health insurance and face other serious hurdles to accessing quality care.  And the incidence of serious disease is much higher among Hispanics than the American population at large.

For instance, heart disease is the nation’s No. 1 killer, and among Hispanics, cardiovascular disease is even more pervasive because of heightened risk factors, like high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

Read more at Fox News Latino

Insurers struggling with drug data

In an effort to combat high drug prices, health insurance companies are trying to pay drugmakers for how well their medicines perform . But health plans are running into a problem all too familiar in digital health: They are having trouble gathering and interpreting the right data, Pro’s Darius Tahir reports this morning.

“The typical payer has claims data…but not the clinical data underlying the service they’re being billed for. The payer knows that a patient’s cholesterol was tested…but not whether his or her cholesterol levels improved since the last reading. Without that knowledge, an insurer can’t assess whether, say, the multi-thousand dollar PCSK9 inhibitor the company paid for is actually reducing “bad” cholesterol — or improving heart health.”

Read more at Politico

Study Shows Telomere Length in Humans Can be Altered by Medical Drugs

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health are reporting evidence that human telomeres can be favorably lengthened by medical drug treatment.  Telomeres are the ends of our chromosomes and function to protect them from damage. Over time, telomeres shorten, and this shortening has been linked with increased disease risk.

Read more at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Aggressive Blood Pressure Treatment Lowers Heart Failure

People who get their high blood pressure down to normal levels may substantially cut their risk of heart disease -- even if they're elderly or have already had heart problems, new research suggests. The study results, from a major clinical trial called SPRINT (Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial), add to evidence that aggressively treating high blood pressure in older adults can pay off.

Read more at Newsmax Health

In child heart patients, novel approach improves symptoms of hazardous lymph blockage

Pediatric researchers have devised an innovative, safe and minimally invasive procedure that helps relieve rare but potentially life-threatening airway blockages occurring in children who had surgery for congenital heart defects. Physician-researchers developed new imaging tools to treat plastic bronchitis -- in which abnormal circulation causes lymphatic fluid to dry into solid casts that clog a child's airways.

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