Search Journal-type in search term and press enter
Social Media-Follow Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care on Facebook and Twitter

News

Last 50 News Postings

 (Click on title to be directed to posting, most recent listed first)

Drug Prices Continue to Rise
New Center for Physician Rights
CMS Decreases Clinic Visit Payments to Hospital-Employed Physicians
   and Expands Decreases in Drug Payments 340B Cuts
Big Pharma Gives Millions to Congress
Gilbert Hospital and Florence Hospital at Anthem Closed
CMS’ Star Ratings Miscalculated
VA Announces Aggressive New Approach to Produce Rapid Improvements
   in VA Medical Centers
Healthcare Payments Under the Budget Deal: Mostly Good News
   for Physicians
Hospitals Plan to Start Their Own Generic Drug Company
Flu Season and Trehalose
MedPAC Votes to Scrap MIPS
CMS Announces New Payment Model
Varenicline (Chantix®) Associated with Increased Cardiovascular Events
Tax Cuts Could Threaten Physicians
Trump Nominates Former Pharmaceutical Executive as HHS Secretary
Arizona Averages Over 25 Opioid Overdoses Per Day
Maryvale Hospital to Close
California Enacts Drug Pricing Transparency Bill
Senate Health Bill Lacks 50 Votes Needed to Proceed
Medi-Cal Blamed for Poor Care in Lawsuit
Senate Republican Leadership Releases Revised ACA Repeal and Replace Bill
Mortality Rate Will Likely Increase Under Senate Healthcare Bill
University of Arizona-Phoenix Receives Full Accreditation
Limited Choice of Obamacare Insurers in Some Parts of the Southwest
Gottlieb, the FDA and Dumbing Down Medicine
Salary Surveys Report Declines in Pulmonologist, Allergist and Nurse 
   Incomes
CDC Releases Ventilator-Associated Events Criteria
Medicare Bundled Payment Initiative Did Not Reduce COPD Readmissions
Younger Smokers Continue to Smoke as Adults: Implications for Raising the
   Smoking Age to 21
Most Drug Overdose Deaths from Nonprescription Opioids
Lawsuits Allege Price Fixing by Generic Drug Makers
Knox Named Phoenix Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs
Rating the VA Hospitals
Garcia Resigns as Arizona University VP
Combination Influenza Therapy with Clarithromycin-Naproxen-Oseltamivir
   Superior to Oseltamivir Alone
VAP Rates Unchanged
ABIM Overhauling MOC
Substitution of Assistants for Nurses Increases Mortality, Decreases Quality
CMS Releases Data on Drug Spending
Trump Proposes Initial Healthcare Agenda
Election Results of Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
ACGME Proposes Dropping the 16 Hour Resident Shift Limit
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: RT Out, Pembrolizumab In, and Vaccine
   Hope or Hype
Dental Visits May Prevent Pneumonia
Hospital Employment of Physicians Does Not Improve Quality
Clinton's and Trump's Positions on Major Healthcare Issues

 

For an excel file with complete news listings click here.

A report from Heartwire described a letter written by Peter Wilmshurst to the AHA asking for full disclosure of conflicts of interest in the MIST trial. Wilmshurst was portrayed in SWJPCC on April 27, 2012 in our Profiles of Medical Courage series. We felt the report of the letter might be of interest to the readership of SWJPCC but there was no good section to pass along the Heartwire article. For this reason, a new Section entitled “News” has been started to report developments outside the usual medical journal purview or from other sources which might interest our readers. We encourage bringing news-worthy articles to our attention and would welcome submission of written reports of such articles.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday
Jul132017

Senate Republican Leadership Releases Revised ACA Repeal and Replace Bill

Today, the Senate Republican leadership released a revised version of a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The new bill draft includes an amendment sponsored by Sen. Cruz (R-TX) that permits insurers to offer health insurance plans on the ACA exchanges that do not cover the ACA’s 10 essential health benefits (EHB) as long as they offer at least one other plan that provides full coverage of EHB’s. The bill also includes more funding for opioid addiction and for state initiatives to reduce insurance premiums and additionally, some flexibility for state Medicaid funding in the event of a public health crisis. The bill must still receive a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which will include the impact of the bill on insurance coverage levels, expected out Monday. The ATS remains deeply concerned about the bill because under the Cruz proposal, insurance coverage costs for people with pre-existing conditions would soar, leaving coverage unaffordable for many people with chronic respiratory conditions. The Senate leadership aims to begin voting on the bill by the middle of next week in an open amendment process, so changes could be made to the bill with subsequent votes occurring quickly.

Just before the revised leadership bill was introduced, Sen. Graham (R-SC) and Cassidy (R-LA) released their own ACA repeal and replace bill, which focuses on sending ACA funding directly to the states, rather than the federal government and would preserve more state Medicaid funding. The Graham/Cassidy proposal would also permit states to waive the ACA’s EHB’s although full details of this bill are not yet clear and some aspects are still under revision.

Despite the release of the Senate leadership’s new bill, it is still not at all clear whether it will gain the support of all Senate Republicans, a number of whom have concerns with the funding reductions to Medicaid.

Nuala S. Moore

American Thoracic Society

Washington, DC USA

Cite as: Moore NS. Senate Republican leadership releases revised ACA repeal and replace bill. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;15(1):41. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc092-17 PDF

Tuesday
Jun272017

Mortality Rate Will Likely Increase Under Senate Healthcare Bill

Today (6/27/17) an article was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein from New York University on the effects of health insurance on mortality (1). The article has special significance because of pending healthcare legislation in the Senate.  

The Annals article concludes that the odds of dying among the insured relative to the uninsured is 0.71 to 0.97. However, the authors acknowledge that this is a very difficult study to conduct because of the nonrandomized, observational nature of the studies and lack of a strict separation between covered and uncovered Americans. For example, many people cycle in and out of insurance diluting differences between groups.

Of course, what is needed is a randomized trial, and surprisingly, one does exist which is discussed in the Annals article (1,2). In 2008, Oregon initiated a limited expansion of its Medicaid program for about 6,000 poor, able-bodied, uninsured adults aged 19 to 64 years through a lottery to win the opportunity to apply for Medicaid and to enroll if they met eligibility requirements. Compared to uninsured adults, mortality was 13% lower in the insured. However, the trial was underpowered and the mortality differences did not reach statistical significance.

Another study mentioned was one examining the mortality rates in New York, Maine, and Arizona after expansion of Medicaid (1,3). Compared to neighboring states that did not expand Medicaid, a significant decrease in all-cause mortality in the expansion states was observed (−25.4 deaths per 100,000 population; p = 0.02; Figure 1).

Figure 1. Unadjusted mortality and rates of Medicaid coverage among nonelderly adults before and after state Medicaid expansions (1997–2007). The vertical line represents the year during which the Medicaid expansions were implemented, meaning that year 1 was the first full year after the expansions.

Figure 1 shows roughly parallel death rates before Medicaid expansion, and a gradually widening split after Medicaid expansion. From this data, the authors calculated that Medicaid expansion to 176 adults would prevent one death per year.

On Monday (6/26/17), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that the pending Senate healthcare bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, will result in 22 million fewer people having health insurance by 2026 (4,5). The bill would cut $772 billion in Medicaid spending and $408 billion in subsidies for individual enrollees. The net effect of these spending reductions is partially offset by $541 billion in tax cuts mostly to corporations and wealthier Americans. These numbers all approximate the effects under the similar House version of the bill that passed on May 4.

If Medicaid expansion prevents one death for each 176 enrolled (4), presumably dropping Medicaid for 176 Americans would result in one additional death per year. Given that the CBO estimates 22-23 million Americans will lose coverage under either bill, the potential increase in deaths is staggering. If either bill is passed, an increase in the death rate among the Medicaid population seems the likely consequence of the politics of reducing the Federal deficit and billions in tax cuts for corporations and the richest Americans.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Woolhandler S, Himmelstein DU. The relationship of health insurance and mortality: is lack of insurance deadly? Ann Int Med. June 27, 2017. Available at: http://annals.org/aim/latest (accessed 6/27/17) [CrossRef]
  2. Baicker K, Taubman SL, Allen HL, Bernstein M, Gruber JH, Newhouse JP, Schneider EC, Wright BJ, Zaslavsky AM, Finkelstein AN; Oregon Health Study Group.The Oregon experiment--effects of Medicaid on clinical outcomes. N Engl J Med. 2013 May 2;368(18):1713-22. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Sommers BD, Baicker K, Epstein AM. Mortality and access to care among adults after state Medicaid expansions. N Engl J Med. 2012 Sep 13;367(11):1025-34.  [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  4. Congressional Budget Office. H.R. 1628, Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. June 26, 2017. Available at: https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52849 (accessed 6/26/17).
  5. Frieden J. Senate GOP's ACA repeal bill would knock 22 million off insurance: CBO. MedPage Today. June 26, 2017. Available at: https://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/repeal-and-replace/66275?isalert=1&uun=g687171d5575R5764210u&xid=NL_breakingnews_2017-06-26 (accessed 6/26/17).

Cite as: Robbins RA. Mortality rate will likely increase under Senate healthcare bill. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;14(6):318-9. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc084-17 PDF 

Thursday
Jun152017

University of Arizona-Phoenix Receives Full Accreditation

University of Arizona (UA) officials announced yesterday that the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix, which was originally a branch of the UA-Tucson medical school, was granted full accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) (1). The College of Medicine-Phoenix was created 10 years ago. In 2012, the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix received “preliminary” accreditation with the LCME, then “provisional” accreditation in 2015 and now full accreditation.

To date, the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix has graduated 354 physicians, with classes of about 80 students per year. One year ago this month, the Arizona Medical Association asked for an investigation after a half-dozen of the Phoenix medical school’s top leaders left for positions out of state. Among those departures was the school’s dean, Dr. Stuart D. Flynn. Dr. Kenneth Ramos served as interim dean and helped lead the Phoenix medical school through the accreditation. Dr. Guy Reed from Tennessee was recently hired as the school’s new dean and assumes his duties in July.

There are now five medical schools in Arizona: the two UA medical schools; the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, which is opening its Arizona campus in Scottsdale this summer; and Midwestern University and A.T. Still University, which both operate osteopathic medical schools in the Phoenix area. A sixth medical school, Omaha-based Creighton University School of Medicine, has medical students doing third- and fourth-year rotations in Arizona.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

Reference

  1. Innes S. University of Arizona's Phoenix medical school receives full accreditation. Arizona Star. June 14, 2017. Available at: http://tucson.com/news/local/education/college/university-of-arizona-s-phoenix-medical-school-receives-full-accreditation/article_64a1da80-1866-5a51-a062-7cc04ecd261d.html (accessed 6/15/17).

Cite as: Robbins RA. University of Arizona-Phoenix receives full accreditation. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;14(6):311. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc077-17 PDF 

Monday
Jun122017

Limited Choice of Obamacare Insurers in Some Parts of the Southwest

The New York Times is reporting that all of Arizona, much of Nevada, and portions of Utah and Colorado will have only one insurer available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) marketplace (Figure 1) (1).

 

Figure 1. New York Times compilation of insurance company announcements for providing coverage under the ACA or Obamacare.

 

About 35,000 people buying insurance in Affordable Care Act marketplaces in 45 counties could have no choice in carriers in Ohio and Missouri (Figure 1), This would be the first time that has happened since the marketplaces were opened in 2014.

Some insurance companies are still deciding what they will do in 2018, and others may reverse course, so these numbers could go up or down.

Most Americans get health insurance from a job or government program, but about 22 million people buy individual policies under Obamacare. More than half of them use Obamacare marketplaces, where most of them get a federal tax credit to help pay for coverage. The rest buy directly from an insurer or broker, outside the Obamacare marketplaces. A recent New York Times analysis showed that many insurers are now choosing to sell exclusively outside the marketplaces, where their customers are not eligible for federal subsidies. Because customers cannot use subsidies for these plans, many may not be able to afford coverage.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

Reference

  1. Park H, Carlsen A. For the first time, 45 counties could have no insurer in the Obamacare marketplaces. New York Times. June 9, 2017. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/09/us/counties-with-one-or-no-obamacare-insurer.html (accessed 6/12/17).

Cite as: Robbins RA. Limited choice of healthcare insurers in some parts of the southwest. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;14(6):295. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc074-17 PDF 

Friday
Apr142017

Gottlieb, the FDA and Dumbing Down Medicine

Gottlieb, the FDA and Dumbing Down Medicine

In the last few weeks several events have occurred that might impact drug approval in the US. President Donald Trump's pick for FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. Gottlieb, like many of Trump’s picks for administration healthcare positions, is a physician. He also has experience as deputy FDA commissioner from 2005-7.  However, his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions alarmed some who say his deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry will cause a conflict of interest (1). Others praised Gottlieb as the right man to lead the FDA.

As opposed to Trump, Gottlieb denied any connection between vaccines and autism (1,2). Dr. Gottlieb called the issue "one of the most exhaustively studied questions in medical history," before saying, "There is no plausible link between vaccines and autism. At some point, we have to accept 'no' for an answer." However, Gottlieb did not give a straight answer when asked to share his thoughts on drug importation. While President Donald Trump has supported increased drug importation and is reported to be working with Democratic lawmakers on drug importation legislation, Dr. Gottlieb had previously opposed the measure (1). When asked if he opposes importing cheaper drugs from foreign countries, he said, "I can tell you I have a lot of ideas that I want to work on right away on how I think we can get more product competition onto the market."

Gottlieb stated that the FDA could speed up approval of new drugs and devices (1). However, a letter to the editor published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined compared review times for new therapeutic agents that were approved by the FDA or the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the primary drug regulator in Europe, between 2011 and 2015 (3). The median total review time was 306 days (interquartile range, 239 to 371) at the FDA, as compared with 383 days (interquartile range, 327 to 446) at the EMA.

In welcome news to many physicians, Gottlieb voiced uneasiness over increasing regulation of physicians’ practices (1). “My concern that the agency was losing confidence in physicians and felt it need[ed] …to supplant their judgment for the judgment of doctors,” Gottlieb said. He had previously referred to the FDA’s action on Arcoxia, a pain killer that was rejected in April 2007 because of concern that it could increase the risk of heart attack and stroke with prolonged use despite being meant for short-term pain relief. Gottlieb stated the opioid epidemic would be his "highest and most immediate priority." He added that the epidemic is a "public health emergency on the order of Ebola and Zika" that requires dramatic action from the FDA. "[T]o address it now, the types of actions that we are going to need to take are going to be more dramatic, perhaps, than the types of actions we would have taken 10 years ago."

Gottlieb did not note that some have linked the present opioid crisis to meddling by bureaucrats, administrations and politicians as an unattended consequence of the pain scale, opioid prescribing guidelines and patient satisfaction ratings (4). Furthermore, he did not note that increasing prescribing authority has been given to non-physicians with less education and clinical experience, e.g., unsupervised nurse practitioners in the Department of Veterans Affairs (5). Whether these non-physician clinicians will use drugs any more or less appropriately than physicians is unclear.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Dickson V. Gottlieb favors regulations that empower doctors while keeping FDA standards. Modern Healthcare. April 5, 2017. Available at: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20170405/NEWS/170409965 (requires subscription, accessed 4/11/17).
  2. Dodgson L. Trump has suggested vaccines cause autism — an idea that couldn't be more wrong. Business Insider. January 24, 2017. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-vaccines-autism-wrong-2017-1 (accessed 4/11/17).
  3. Downing NS, Zhang AD, Ross JS. Regulatory review of new therapeutic agents — FDA versus EMA, 2011–2015. N Engl J Med. 2017Apr 6;376:1386-7. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  4. Robbins RA. Pain scales and the opioid crisis. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;14(3):119-22. [CrossRef]
  5. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA grants full practice authority to advance practice registered nurses. December 14, 2016. Available at: https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2847 (accessed 4/11/17).

Cite as: Robbins RA. Gottlieb, the FDA and dumbing down medicine. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;14(4):166-7. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc047-17 PDF