Headlines: June 11, 2010
by Meg Larkin
In health reform news, a new joint venture between venture capitalists and the Cleveland Clinic aims to help Americans comparison shop for health care. The project, called CastLight Health, works with employers to go through their health benefits summaries, and make an interface where employees can search for less expensive health care options. According to the New York Times, “Several studies and pilot projects suggest that the more patients know about prices, the more money they save.” As consumers increasingly share the cost of their health care through high deductible health plans, comparison shopping is becoming a more attractive proposition. CastLight is one of a number of companies starting to make inroads into the area of price transparency in health care.
In other cost news, many patients aren’t getting the shingles vaccine because of its expense. Shingles, which is a form of the chicken pox virus, is more common in elderly adults and can cause long lasting and painful complications. Although there are a limited number of moderately effective treatments for shingles, a vaccine was approved in 2006 that is the safest and most effective way of combating the disease. However, because the vaccine often isn’t entirely covered by insurance, or because seniors must pay out of pocket for the vaccine before getting reimbursed later, many doctors don’t stock the vaccine, and many patients who should be getting it do not. While some doctors have attempted to eat the cost of the vaccine in order to ensure that their patients get it, such practices are financially unsustainable.
In regulatory news, the FDA’s advisory panel has recommended that the agency approve Novartis’s new Multiple Sclerosis drug. Gilenia is the first pill that can be used to treat multiple sclerosis, and it has the potential to effectively treat MS patients with fewer side effects than drugs already on the market. The panel found that Gilenia helps to reduce relapses of people with MS, but the panel also voted to have Novartis conduct further testing to see if the drug would be effective at a lower dose. Although the panel’s findings are not binding on the FDA, the agency is likely to follow the panel’s lead.
Finally, drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. According to a Portuguese study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, drinking three or more cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of contracting Parkinson’s disease by as much as 25 percent. The researchers also found a relationship between the amount of coffee drunk and the protective effect, with those who drank more coffee having a lower risk for the disease. The study was performed through a survey of available evidence according to the Telegraph.
Meg Larkin is a law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any comments, questions, suggestions, or concerns.