Headlines: May 10, 2010
by Meg Larkin
In government regulatory news, House Lawmakers have formed a panel to investigate a recent drug recall. Following the recall of over 40 types of children’s allergy and pain medicine by Johnson & Johnson last week, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has opened an investigation into the drugmaker. The House panel will investigate allegations that some ingredients in the medicines were contaminated, and that some of the medications contained higher than appropriate levels of the active ingredients.
In other government news, a fight has broken out over the regulations issued by the Obama Administration to implement the Mental Health Parity Law. The law is designed to ensure that health insurance companies provide equal coverage for mental and physical health conditions. Health insurers are upset about government limits on nonquantitative treatment limits. Under the regulations, insurers would face limits on their ability to pay lower rates for mental health providers, severely limit which providers patients could go to, or require pre-approval by the insurer for mental health care. While the insurers are concerned that the regulations limit their ability to effectively spread risks, patients’ groups largely support the government effort.
The American Cancer Society has criticized the recent report by the President’s Cancer Panel as overstating the environmental cancer risks in the United States. Contrary to the report’s assertion that the cancers caused by environmental factors were grossly underestimated, the cancer society believes that only 6% of cancers are caused by environmental factors. However, an epidemiologist with the cancer society has said that the cancer society “shared the panel’s concerns about people’s exposure to so many chemicals, the lack of information about chemicals, the vulnerability of children and the radiation risks from medical imaging tests. “
In other cancer-related news, a recent study by the U.S. CDC has found that cancer costs have doubled in the past 20 years. The study also found that most of that increase wasn’t due to the high cost of treatment, but was instead due to the increasing number of cancer patients in the United States. Additionally, private insurers now cover a greater percentage of cancer costs, and cancer patients are paying for less of their treatment out of pocket. According to the Washington Post, “The study is being called the first to combine national cancer costs for all types of payers and see how they've changed over time.”
Finally, the Boston Globe has reported on the high cost of patients failing to take their medication as prescribed. Last month, in the New England Journal of Medicine, a Harvard Economist and Wendy Everett, president of the New England Healthcare Institute, pointed out the high cost of patients not taking their prescriptions. According to the Boston Globe, “the behavior spawns hospital stays costing $100 billion a year — stays that could have been averted. And 89,000 deaths from high blood pressure could be prevented annually if hypertension drug regimens were followed.” The next step may be figuring out ways to ensure that patients’ take their medications as directed.
Meg Larkin is a second year law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns.