Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

Palbociclib – first to target cyclin dependent kinases – breast cancer As all biology majors know, cyclin dependent kinases are critical elements controlling the machinery of cell proliferation.  They have proved difficult targets due to their ubiquitous activity in both normal and abnormal tissue – until now. In a phase 3 study, about 500 patients with metastatic hormone positive, Her2 negative breast cancer were treated with palbociclib (Ibrance, Pfizer, recently FDA approved) vs. placebo.  The median disease progression time for patients on drug was 5 months longer than for placebo (9 vs. 4 months, survival data was pending).  Adverse effects… Read More

Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

Interventionalist treatment for stroke: In the 80s and 90s, treatment of myocardial infraction was greatly advanced by the introduction of systemic clot busting drugs (t-PA and others); further advance occurred in the 90s when it was shown that immediate cardiac catheterization produced even better results. Acute embolic stroke has followed the same path – in the 90s, it was shown that t-PA treatment within 3 hours of onset of symptoms was beneficial, and ever since there has been a move toward treatment modalities where an interventional radiologist acts on the clot directly. Two randomized controlled studies now show unambiguously that… Read More

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Early results of the ACO experiment: directionally right, but impact is still small In this study, the authors compare metrics for Medicare beneficiaries assigned to the 32 ACOs part of the Pioneer program vs. matched beneficiaries who were not in an ACO.  With respect to costs, they find that compared to contemporaneous trends observed in non-ACO members, the ACO beneficiaries yearly spending was approximately $100 below trend (a 1% savings). In a hint of a reversal of a secular trend in health care, office spending visit expenditure increased more in ACOs, while it was the reverse for hospital-based services which… Read More

Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

The rise, fall, and rebirth of the Chinese healthcare system A fascinating account of the evolution of the Chinese healthcare system which almost seems to be an upside-down picture of the rest of the country’s development. Tremendous public health improvements occurred in the 50s, 60s, and 70s but the transition to a free market model of healthcare in the 80s seems to have been a disaster only mitigated by the general increase in wealth of the population. Seeing this as a major threat to social stability, the Chinese government has been trying to pick up the pieces with reforms in 2003… Read More

Posted by on in Providers

The build-out of the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo branded networks continues apace. Most recently, the Virginia Hospital Center joined the Mayo Clinic Care Network in March and Sequoia Hospital (Dignity), Piedmont Healthcare and Valley Health System (NJ) signed up with Cleveland Clinic this past March and early April. Growth of the networks and current snapshot These four deals cap torrid growth in the networks especially in 2013 and 2014. As of the end of the first quarter of 2015, Mayo has affiliations with systems totaling 13.4K beds (and a rough estimate of 14K employed physicians) while the Cleveland clinic… Read More

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A promising agent for Crohn’s Disease, a miserable illness Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that is notoriously unpredictable; flares can affect any part of the digestive tract and lead to grave complications. In this double-blind phase 2 study, patients were dosed with mongersen (licensed by Celgene) an anti-sense oligonucleotide that down-regulates the expression of a protein implicated in the inflammatory cascade. In general these classes of medications have to be given parenterally but in this case the target is the gut so it can be taken orally. At two weeks of treatment, the response rate was about 60% in the… Read More

Posted by on in Payers, Providers

CMS has issued a “Request for Applications” describing its Next Generation (NG) ACO. The model makes progress on three issues that have generated plenty of analytical handwringing from MedPAC and the broader ACO community. It also signals a strategy to set ACOs up to compete more directly with Medicare Advantage (MA). (1) Enhancing predictability The Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) and Pioneer ACO models had different approaches to solving the same business parameters. With NG, CMS has generally picked the ones which enhance simplicity and predictability (see table). For example, Retrospective beneficiary reconciliation used by MSSP meant that… Read More

Posted by on in Biopharma

Ezekiel Emanuel wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last month, which highlighted the low number of new antibiotics that have been brought to market in the past two decades. Antibiotics are a unique market compared to therapeutics for other diseases. Infectious disease clinicians prefer to use innovative new products as a last line of defense against highly resistant infections, relying on tried-and-true antibiotics as their primary options. Paradoxically, the “reward” for being a highly innovative, effective new antibiotic is to be sparsely used. Emanuel points out this conundrum while also highlighting the concurrent resistance to high prices, leading… Read More

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Our selection from a month with relatively few exciting articles – perhaps this long Boston winter has us all down. Precious metals and health plan buying: The implementation of the ACA has placed new decision making on individuals purchasing health insurance on the exchanges. In this report, the authors argue based on experiments that for many individuals, reversing the gold-silver-bronze nomenclature (gold becomes bronze and vice versa) reverses the preference independently of the underlying characteristics of the plans. For the public health advocate this highlights the need for educating shoppers, and also the need for… Read More

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A vaccine for dengue finally nears the market Dengue is a mosquito transmitted viral infection that is often severe and occasionally fatal, and that has been identified as a growing public health threat, largely in the developing world but also with inroads in developed countries with hundreds of millions of cases yearly world-wide. At this time, there is no vaccine or treatment for dengue other than supportive care. In a placebo-controlled study, a dengue vaccine from Sanofi-Pasteur covering all 4 serotypes of dengue was found to be 60% efficacious in preventing disease, and 80% efficacious in preventing hospitalization from dengue raising… Read More