Headlines: December 14, 2009
by Meg Larkin
In the continuing health care debate, a major new health care insurance program for people who need long term care has flown below the radar. Included in the House health care bill, and being debated in the Senate, the program would provide additional assistance to people who become disabled. While the program would help people with disabilities live in society, it would also provide funding for nursing homes or assisted living. Critics are concerned that the program will be overly expensive and fiscally unsustainable.
As many Americans are still struggling to find work, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (Cobra), which provided health insurance subsidies for many unemployed Americans, will end health care subsidies soon. Bills have recently been introduced in the House and Senate that would extend the program, and if those bills do not move forward, some expect that a Cobra extension will be included in a pending jobs bill.
In other legislative news, the Senate passed a bill this week that would allow medical marijuana use in D.C. The same bill would also allow tax dollars to be spent to help low-income women pay for abortions, and continue the funding for a needle-exhange program designed to stop the spread of HIV. According to an article in the New York Times this weekend, children on Medicaid are more likely to receive antipsychotic medications than children from middle class families. Children on Medicaid may face challenges like poorer schools and single-parent homes more often, and are less likely to be able to afford therapy, which is more expensive and less reliably covered by insurance than the antipsychotic drugs. In other pharmaceutical news, many recent lawsuits have been focused on the potentially carcinogenic effects of many common menopause medications. The medications were widely prescribed to not only to control menopausal symptoms, but also for advertised beneficial side effects such as decreased risk of dementia or heart disease. Now, some believe that the added benefits were over emphasized by drug companies in marketing the medications, and many women are suing, alleging that the medications caused conditions such as breast cancer.
Some drug makers are now developing products to treat premature ejaculation. While drugs for premature ejaculation have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Association for use in the United States, Johnson & Johnson’s Priligy was approved for use in other countries earlier this year. Some people are concerned that drug makers are transforming common everyday conditions in to treatable diseases, while drug makers are hoping that these drugs will be as profitable as blockbuster E.D. drug Viagra. According to the New York Times, creating a new quality of life drug sometimes entails creating an area of disease for people to be concerned about so that they will accept the idea of medical treatment for the condition.
The LA Times found this week that some lawmakers are concerned about drug makers doing research on doctors’ prescribing practices. The research enables pharmaceutical companies to target their marketing to doctors’ individual prescribing preferences, and this is worrying some lawmakers. According to the LA Times, 20 states have considered legislation banning the practice, and 3 states have actually banned it. Some are concerned that the data mining practices violate the doctor patient relationship and increase health care spending.
Meg Larkin is a second year law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with questions, comments, or suggestions.