Welcome to this month’s edition of Comp Medical News. Drug prices, nerve pain prescriptions, and rural hospitals are your headlines for January 2018.
HHS Nominee Promises to Take on Drug Prices
Alex M. Azar II, the former president of the U.S. division of Eli Lilly and Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee last week, arguing that he would solve problems in favor of the people despite his ties to industry. Azar said addressing drug costs would be among his top priorities, after being pushed by Senate Democrats. He is expected to be confirmed.
Read more from Kaiser Health News here.
FDA Plans to Reduce Frequency of Device Malfunction Reports
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a proposal that would allow medical device manufacturers to submit malfunction reports for certain devices to the agency in summary format on a quarterly basis rather than having to file individual reports for each malfunction. They would still be required to file individual reports for deaths and serious injuries. It has not yet finalized which devices it will allow to file these quarterly reports, but said that new types of medical devices will not be eligible for at least two years.
Read more from the FDA here.
Industry Consolidation Threatens Rural Hospitals
A new investigation by the Atlantic addresses how publically-owned small town hospitals have suffered outsize losses due to consolidation and competition from regional health systems. The magazine explains: “Hospitals have been struggling—especially independent public and/or nonprofit hospitals located in smaller cities and rural towns. Last year, for example, the National Rural Health Association, a nonprofit, estimated that 673 rural facilities (with a variety of ownership structures) were at risk of closure, out of over 2,000.”
Read the whole story here.
Nerve Pain Medication Rx Tripled in Recent Years
Nerve pain medication prescriptions for drugs like Lyrica and Neurontin have tripled in the midst of the national opioid crisis. According to Reuters, the proportion of U.S. adults prescribed Neurontin and other drugs in the same family of medicines climbed from 1.2 percent in 2002 to 3.9 percent by 2015, a period that also saw a surge in opioid overdoses and deaths. The family of medicines, known as gabapentinoids, includes gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant) and pregabalin. However, off-label uses of gabapentinoids to treat chronic pain have faced criticism due to these drugs potential addiction risks and the fact that they have not been proven effective for chronic pain.
Read more here.
10 Myths about the Opioid Crisis
Pain News Network published a list of ten myths about the opioid crisis in America. The list includes numerous statistics, including common ones about the how many heroin addicts started with prescription drugs and opioid-induced hyperalgesia.
Read more here.
Researchers Trying to Develop Less Addictive Opioids
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and published in the journal Cell, sought to isolate opioids’ analgesic effects through the crystal structure of the brain’s opioid receptors. Part of why opioids are risky is because most opioids bond to several opioid receptors, which are proteins on the surface of brain cells. Figuring out which bonds relieve pain and which produce side effects gets scientists one step closer to creating a less-dangerous painkiller. The researchers in this study homed in on one promising receptor, the kappa opioid receptor (KOR), sussing out the structure that activates it.
Read more via Tonic here.
Small Social Network Tied to Diabetes Risk
Researchers reporting in BMC Public Health have found that loneliness can contribute to an individual’s risk for developing diabetes. To see how close relationships with friends and family may influence the odds of getting diabetes, researchers examined data on 2,861 adults who ranged in age from 40 to 75 and were 60 years old on average. More than half of these people had normal blood sugar and no diagnosis of diabetes. But 430 people, or 15 percent, had slightly elevated blood sugar classified as “pre-diabetes,” while about 4 percent were newly diagnosed with diabetes when they joined the study and 24 percent already had the disease. On average, people without diabetes had 11 friends and family members in their social network, compared with fewer than 8 friends for people with newly or previously diagnosed diabetes.
Read more from Reuters here.
Image Credit: MBA Healthcare Management