Essential Updates: Comp Medical News for January

Welcome to this month’s Comp Medical News update. Black lung, gun violence, and the ACA “deathwatch” are your headlines as we begin 2017.







Primary Care Physicians Identify Antibiotics and Opioids as Low-Value in New Survey

Primary care doctors surveyed by the American College of Physicians listed the use of antibiotics and opioids among the four most common low-value treatments that are most frequently used by doctors, according to survey data published by the Annals of Internal Medicine cited in a letter on the appropriate use of therapeutic interventions to foster high-value care. Overuse of antibiotics was the practice most commonly cited, accounting for 27.3 percent of the responses. The overuse of nonpalliative care was cited by 8.6 percent of the respondents and pharmacologic treatments (mostly narcotics and opioids) for chronic pain management came in third at 7.3 percent.

Read more via Health Leaders Media here.


“Myths v. Facts” on Opioids Considered

A slideshow presentation consolidating current research on opioid therapy for pain and published on Patient Care poses questions regarding common misconceptions about opioids, separating fact from fiction. Myths busted by the research include: that opioids help sleep, that the spike in heroin use is directly related to prescription opioids, and that few patients get addicted to opioids.

Access the presentation here.


New Hospital Injury Penalties Highlight Antibiotic Resistant Infections

The federal government has cut payments to 769 hospitals with high rates of patient injuries, for the first time counting the spread of antibiotic-resistant germs in assessing penalties. The punishments coincide with an effort (in its third year now) to slap Medicare penalties on hospitals with patients most frequently suffering from potentially avoidable complications. These include various types of infections, blood clots, bedsores and falls. This year the government also examined the prevalence of two types of bacteria resistant to drugs. Based on rates of all these complications, the hospitals identified by federal officials this week will lose one percent of all Medicare payments for a year – with that time frame beginning this past October. In total, 92 hospitals in Louisiana were penalized.

Read more from Kaiser Health News here.


Alleged Generic Drug Price Fixing Happened During “Girl’s Night Out”

Interviews and a complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court by Attorneys General in 20 states alleges that the high prices Americans pay for generic drugs may have been “cooked up by pharmaceutical salespeople on golf courses, at a New Jersey steakhouse or over martinis at a ‘Girls Nights Out’ in Minnesota,” according to a report published in Kaiser Health News. The complaint provides another hit to the reputation of pharmaceutical companies, which have made headlines over the last year for all of the wrong reasons. The AGs contend that social events and parties where drug reps gathered created an atmosphere of collusion. For example, prices for some drugs, like the antibiotic doxycycline, soared more than 8,000 percent in recent years – from $20 for a bottle of 500 pills in October 2013 to more than $1,800 in April 2014. The ongoing investigation began in 2014 and has “uncovered evidence of a broad, well-coordinated and long-running series of schemes.”

Read more here.


Gun Violence Studied Far Less than Other Major Causes of Death

A new study from authors out of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Stanford says that gun violence is underfunded and under-researched compared to other leading causes of death in America. The amount of research on gun violence published between 2004 and 2014 was only 4.5 percent of what would be expected for a cause of death that kills more than 30,000 people across the country each year, researchers say. Funding was only 1.6 percent of what would be expected. A 1996 U.S. law banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using federal funding for injury prevention and control “to advocate or promote gun control.” According to the study, that stipulation and other restrictions soon spread beyond the CDC to other agencies and the research community.

Read more via Reuters here.


Traffic Deaths Fell After States Legalized Medical Marijuana

A new study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that traffic fatalities dropped substantially in states that legalized medical marijuana. The association was especially strong among 25-44 year olds, an age group with greater consumption of medical marijuana. Since 1996, 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Deaths dropped 11 percent on average in states that legalized medical marijuana, researchers discovered after analyzing 1.2 million traffic fatalities nationwide from 1985 through 2014. It is not clear why traffic deaths might drop when medical marijuana becomes legal, and the study can only show an association, as opposed to a causal relationship.

Read more from Reuters here.


CDC Reports Black Lung Resurgence in Kentucky

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting a large, recent cluster of advanced black lung disease occurring among coal miners living and working in a single region of eastern Kentucky. Between January 2015 and August 2016, 60 cases of progressive massive fibrosis (PMF) were identified among current and former coal miners at a single radiology practice, and the cases were later confirmed by investigators with the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Cases of PMF, AKA Black Lung, declined to nearly undetectable levels since the federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. Officials are not certain why this resurgence is happening or what mining practices and safety failures led to it.

Read more via MedPage Today here.


Paduda: Three Problems for the GOP in the ACA “Deathwatch”

Joe Paduda, of Managed Care Matters, identified three major problems facing the GOP as they attempt “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act under President-elect Trump. He explains: “The net – Republicans’ risk – and it is a very real one – is their efforts may blow up the entire healthcare system as it tries to address one narrow slice of the insurance market.” The workers’ comp industry could face claim shifting if patients insured under the ACA or Medicaid expansion lose their general health coverage.

Read the entire post here.



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