Health Policy News and Views
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd
Boston bombing: Scott Rigsby, who was just three minutes from the Boston Marathon finish line last week before the explosions occurred, has launched Aid for Boston, a campaign to support the victims that have loss of limb or mobility from the tragedy. Rigsby, whose Scott Rigsby Foundation is headquartered in Marietta, will offer his services to these family members as they begin to address the personal challenges ahead. Visit www.scottrigsbyfoundation.org to participate in this global campaign. The Scott Rigsby Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to inspire, inform and enable individuals with loss of limb or mobility, to live a healthy, active lifestyle. As a founding member of the Georgia Warrior Alliance, the Foundation is also sponsoring the Greater Atlanta Veteran Hiring Expo, May 3, 2013 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. Watch Rigsby’s television interview here.
Bone cells to brain cells: Scientists have discovered a way to turn stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow directly into brain cells, a potential breakthrough in the treatment of neurological diseases and injuries, according to US News and World Report. A specific antibody is injected into stem cells from bone marrow – which normally turn into white blood cells – and the cells can be triggered to turn into brain cells. “There’s been a lot of research activity where people would like to repair brain and spinal cord injuries,” said Richard Lerner of the Scripps Research Institute in California. “With this method, you can go to a person’s own stem cells and turn them into brain cells that can repair nerve injuries.” (Wouldn’t it be nice for some people if scientists found a way to turn boneheads into brainiacs?)
Outsourcing innovation: Drug makers are increasingly turning to early-stage venture investing as a proxy for expensive in-house drug development, and while many are asking the Food and Drug Administration to rethink the cumbersome and lengthy drug approval process, others are setting up their own venture funds. GlaxoSmithKline announced this week will partner with venture capitalists in a deal worth up to $495 million to fund as many as 10 drug-discovery startup companies over the next three years. GSK will provide financing and technical support to startups established by Avalon Ventures and will have first rights on buying each new company, Reuters reports. Avalon will contribute up to $30 million and GSKI will provide as much as $465 million in initial funding and development milestone payments.
Overregulation overwhelms innovation: Pharmaceutical companies are working on just seven new treatments for bacteria that resist even the strongest antibiotics, according to a report from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). The antibiotic pipeline “is on life support,” IDSA President Dr. David Relman said in a statement. The group called for more research funding, an improved regulatory climate and economic incentives for drugmakers working on superbug treatments. Drug-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, are fueled, in part, by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Source: Reuters
One more headache for migraine medication: The Food and Drug Administration has refused to approve an inhaled migraine drug from Allergan Inc, citing manufacturing concerns related to the canisters used to dispense it. After the FDA expressed concerns about Exemplar Pharma, which fills the drug canisters for Allergan, the company said it paid less than $20 million for Examplar and appointed members of its own team to oversee the facility. The application is expected to be reconsidered by year’s end. The drug, Levadex, is an inhaled version of an existing drug, dihydroergotamine, which is typically given by nasal spray or by injection at a headache center or hospital Did you know? Migraines affect around 30 million Americans, according to the National Headache Foundation. Allergan’s injectable wrinkle-filler Botox was approved for headaches in October 2010.
Back to basics? A key study and reports of problems have raised questions about the safety and cost-effectiveness of robotic surgery, leading to an FDA review of the 12-year-old Da Vinci robotic arm system and causing some experts to question the benefits of the surgery. Robotic surgery is similar to conventional laparascopic surgery, in which surgical instruments are inserted into small incisions in a patient’s torso and manipulated by the surgeon. In robotic surgery, however, the surgeon sits at a console in the operating room and uses hand and foot controls to manipulate surgical tools attached to a robot’s arms. Both types of surgery may result in quicker recovery times, less blood loss and pain for patients compared with traditional “open” surgeries. But a study published in February of more than 260,000 hysterectomy patients found that the median hospital cost for robot-assisted surgery was $8,868, compared with $6,679 for a laparascopic hysterectomy. The study found that although patients who got robotic hysterectomies were less likely than laparscopic patients to be hospitalized for more than two days, there was no significant difference between the two groups on other measures, such as complications and blood transfusion rates. Source: Kaiser Health News
ObamaCare and illegal residents: You’ve heard of anchor babies. But have you heard of “medical repatriation?” Hospitals are required to care for all patients who need emergency treatment, regardless of citizenship status or ability to pay. Once a patient is stabilized, that funding ceases, along with the requirement to provide care. The Associated Press reports that hundreds of people in the United States illegally who are hospitalized have been sent to their home countries, not by the federal government trying to enforce laws but by hospitals seeking to curb high costs. A recent report by an immigrant advocacy group estimated that at least 600 immigrants were removed over a five-year period. “Medical repatriation” allows hospitals to put patients on chartered international flights, often while they are still unconscious. Hospitals typically pay for the flights. Now some are concerned that hospitals will expand the practice after full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which will make deep cuts to the payments hospitals receive for taking care of the uninsured.
Makin’ GM bacon: Researchers at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, where Dolly the cloned sheep was created in 1996, say they have created the first genetically modified (GM) pig through “gene editing” as part of an ambitious project to produce disease-resistant animals by genetic engineering. The male piglet has been genetically engineered with the smallest of DNA mutations – a single deletion of one out of the 3 billion chemical “letters” of its entire genome. The “gene-editing” technique is at least 10 times more efficient than existing GM technology and does not involve the use of antibiotic-resistance genes, which has been heavily criticized by GM opponents. Source: Daily Mercury (Australia)
Want to know what’s happening with ObamaCare, and when? The federal government offers a timeline for what changes take place and when they must happen. Unless, of course, you’re the federal government. For the feds, there are no deadlines, just guidelines. But don’t try that at home. To see the timeline, go to www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/index.html.
Quotes of Note
“Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them.” – Broderick Crawford
“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one. …” – James Madison, letter to Edmund Pendleton, January 21, 1792
When I served four terms in the state Senate, one of the few places where you could go to always and get concrete information about real solutions was the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. That hasn’t changed. [The Foundation] is really right up there at the top of the state think tanks, so you should be very proud of the work that they are doing!