Category Archives: Drugs & Medicines

High-cost hepatitis C treatments hits big insurer

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$100-dollar bill inside a capsuleBy Jay Hancock
KHN

UnitedHealth Group spent $100 million on hepatitis C drugs in the first three months of the year, much more than expected, the company said Thursday.

The news helped drive down the biggest insurance company’s stock and underscores the challenge for all health care payers in covering Sovaldi, an expensive new pill for hepatitis C.

“We’ve been surprised on the volume — the pent-up demand across all three businesses” — commercial insurance and private Medicare and Medicaid plans, said Daniel Schumacher, chief financial officer of UnitedHealth’s insurance wing. Continue reading

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Health law’s free contraceptive coverage saved US women $483 million in 2013

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleThe Affordable Care Act provision that requires insurers to cover contraceptives with zero co-pay saved US women $483 million last year — $269 on average, according to a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Overall, 24 million more prescriptions for oral contraceptives were filled in 2013, the first full year the health law’s contraceptive provision was in force, compared to 2012.

“The share of women with no out-of-pocket cost for these forms of birth control increased to 56% from 14% one year ago,” the report says.

To learn more read: 

IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Medicine use and the shifting costs of healthcare: A review of the use of medicines in the United States in 2013. April 2014. LINK:

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States target asthma care as number of patients grow

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Washington is one of the few states that has made the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America honor roll of states that have adopted comprehensive public policies supporting people with asthma, food allergies, anaphylaxis risk and related allergic diseases in schools.

Illustration of the lungs in blueBy Michael Ollove
Stateline Staff Writer

April 16, 2014 

In a valley wedged between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, St. Louis often finds itself beset by a stationary air mass that only a severe storm of some kind can dislodge.

St. Louis is also an industrial city with high humidity, so it’s no wonder it usually makes the list of worst places for asthmatics to live.

But the state has also pioneered advances in addressing asthma treatment and costs. Two years ago, the Missouri legislature became the first to allow schools to stock quick-relief asthma medications for emergencies.  Continue reading

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Measles update: WA case count grows to 12, extending to third county

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Kitsap County resident confirmed with measles; exposure likely in San Juan County

 

From the Washington State Department of Health:

Alert IconApril 11, 2014 - Measles continues to spread in Washington as cases in San Juan County have extended to a Kitsap County resident. A man in his 40s from Kitsap visited several places in Friday Harbor, including a restaurant where a contagious San Juan County man was at the same time.

San Juan County’s case count is now five, and Kitsap County has one. In Whatcom County, the case count remains at six.  Continue reading

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Another person with measles visited Seattle and Sea-Tac

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Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!From Public Health – Seattle & King County

Local public health officials have confirmed a measles infection in a traveler who was at Sea-Tac airport and two locations in Seattle during his contagious period.

The traveler is a resident of California and was likely exposed to the measles while on a flight with an earlier confirmed measles case on March 21, 2014.

Locations of potential exposure to measles

Before receiving the measles diagnosis, the traveler was in West Seattle and at Sea-Tac Airport.

Anyone who was at Sea-Tac Airport or the locations listed during the following times was possibly exposed to measles:

Seattle

  • Safeway, 9620 28th Ave SW, Sunday, March 30th, 4:00p.m.-8:00 p.m.
  • Marshalls, 2600 SW Barton Street, Sunday March 30th, 4:00p.m.-8:00 p.m.

Sea-Tac

  • Sea-Tac Airport, Monday, March 31st, 4:30p.m.-8:30p.m.: terminal B

If you were at one of the locations at the times listed above and are not immune to measles, the most likely time you would become sick is between April 7th and April 21st.

What to do if you were in a location of potential measles exposure  Continue reading

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Cholesterol guidelines could mean statins for half of 40s

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Three red-and-white capsulesBy Richard Knox
MARCH 20TH, 2014

This story was produced in collaboration with 

When sweeping new advice on preventing heart attacks and strokes came out last November, it wasn’t clear how many more Americans should be taking daily statin pills to lower their risk.

new analysis provides an answer: a whole lot. Nearly 13 million more, to be precise.  Continue reading

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Drug company agrees to pay $27.6 million to settle allegations involving Chicago psychiatrist

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ProPublica Logoby Kara Brandeisky
ProPublica, March 12, 2014

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. has agreed to pay more than $27.6 million to settle state and federal allegations that it induced Chicago psychiatrist Michael Reinstein to overprescribe clozapine, a powerful antipsychotic drug.

Reinstein has twice figured into ProPublica investigations.

Four years ago, ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune spotlighted Reinstein’s prescribing pattern, findingthat in 2007 he had prescribed more clozapine to patients in Medicaid’s Illinois program than all of the doctors in the Medicaid programs of Texas, Florida and North Carolina combined. Continue reading

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Medicare officials back away from changes to prescription drug plan

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Rx_symbol_borderBy Mary Agnes Carey
KHN

Facing heavy bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill as well as from patient groups, businesses, insurers and others, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Monday it did not plan to move ahead “at this time” with several proposed changes to the Medicare prescription drug program.

The draft regulation, which had been released in January, would have wide-ranging impact on the drug program, also known as Part D, including new limits on the number of plans insurers could offer consumers and new rules about what drugs those plans must cover.

It also would prohibit exclusion of pharmacies from a plan’s “preferred pharmacy network” as long as the pharmacies agreed to the plan’s terms and conditions. Continue reading

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There’s a life-saving hepatitis C drug. But you may not be able to afford it.

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Sovaldi logoBy Julie Appleby
KHN Staff Writer

MAR 03, 2014

This KHN story was produced in collaboration with 

There’s a new drug regimen being touted as a potential cure for a dangerous liver virus that causes hepatitis C.  But it costs $84,000 – or $1,000 a pill.

And that price tag is prompting outrage from some consumers and a scramble by insurers to figure out which patients should get the drug —and who pays for it.

Called Sovaldi, the drug is made by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. and is the latest in handful of new treatments for hepatitis C, a chronic infection that afflicts at least 3 million Americans and is a leading cause of liver failure. It was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in December. Continue reading

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Three key changes proposed for Medicare part D

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Center for Medicare & Medicaid ServicesBy Mary Agnes Carey
KHN Staff Writer

MAR 03, 2014

The Obama administration is proposing several changes to the Medicare drug program, also known as Part D.

They range from new limits on the number of plans insurers could offer consumers to new rules about what drugs those plans must cover.

The plan also would prohibit exclusion of pharmacies from a plan’s “preferred pharmacy network” as long as they agree to the plan’s terms and conditions.

Here’s a quick look at those proposals:

Continue reading

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Will new hepatitis C drugs bust state budgets?

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OlysioBy Michael Ollove
Stateline Staff Writer

Two new medications to treat the deadly epidemic of hepatitis C promise millions of Americans a better chance of a cure, shorter periods of treatment and fewer side effects than older drugs. They also threaten to bust state budgets and raise private insurance rates. Continue reading

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For right price, consumers accept limited choice of doctors, hospitals — poll

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H for hospitalBy Jordan Rau
KHN

People buying health insurance through the health law’s new online marketplaces are more willing than the public at large to accept a limited roster of doctors and hospitals in return for lower premiums, a poll released Wednesday finds.

But that enthusiasm nosedives if they are told their regular doctor isn’t included in the plan. Continue reading

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