Tag: "cancer"

Why are Health Insurers Persecuting Innovative Drug-Makers, Instead of Bloated Hospitals?

One constant refrain heard in national health policy circles is the need for “integrated” or “coordinated” care. To be sure, I have never heard anyone speak favorably of “disintegrated” or “un-coordinated” care. While there are many good-faith practitioners who do want to integrate and coordinate care for patients, these terms are often used to camouflage a more straightforward way to raise prices. Here’s an example from Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

money-burdenFor the past four years, Pennsylvania insurance company Highmark has watched its bills for cancer care skyrocket. The increase wasn’t because of new drugs being prescribed or a spike in diagnoses. Instead, the culprit was a change that had nothing to do with care: Previously independent oncology clinics and private practices have been acquired by big hospital systems that charge higher rates, sometimes three times as much, for chemotherapy drugs. “The site of care and the type of service provided does not change at all,” says Tom Fitzpatrick, Highmark’s vice president of contracting. “The only significant difference that we primarily see is the [patient] gets a wristband placed on them.”

Does the U.S. Over Diagnose Cancer?

Ezra Klein challenges the notion that patients in the U.S. get better cancer treatment than patients in other developed countries. Klein was writing in response to the Commonwealth Fund’s comparison of health systems in eleven developed countries. As I noted previously, one problem with this survey is that there is no apparent relationship between ranking on the survey and health outcomes. Although the U.S. does poorly in the survey, it does well in health outcomes, especially cancer outcomes.

Or maybe not, according to Klein:

Most of the studies that highlight America’s skill in treating cancer do so by measuring survival rates  — that is to say, they measure how many people survive for a certain number of years after the cancer is diagnosed. So if a certain cancer kills 50 percent of people within five years, then the five-year survival rate is 50 percent.

The problem here is simple: survival rates don’t necessarily measure when people die. They also measure when they’re diagnosed — and sometimes, that’s all they measure.

Hits and Misses

Physician and Nurse Pushing GurneyEmergency room visits increase in wake of ObamaCare.

Nanotech chip detects signs of cancer in blood protein markers.

318,000 federal workers owe $3.3 billion in back taxes.

1 in 4 Americans now consults Google before going to doctor.

California counties sue drug-makers for marketing painkillers in accordance with FDA regulation.

Advances in Personalized Medicine

An article published Thursday in the journal Science describes the treatment of a 43-year-old woman with an advanced and deadly type of cancer that had spread from her bile duct to her liver and lungs, despite chemotherapy.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute sequenced the genome of her cancer and identified cells from her immune system that attacked a specific mutation in the malignant cells. Then they grew those immune cells in the laboratory and infused billions of them back into her bloodstream.

The tumors began “melting away,” said Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg, the senior author of the article and chief of the surgery branch at the cancer institute.

…[T]he report is noteworthy because it describes an approach that may also be applied to common tumors — like those in the digestive tract, ovaries, pancreas, lungs and breasts — that cause more than 80 percent of the 580,000 cancer deaths in the United States every year. (New York Times)

See our previous posts here and here.

Headlines I Wish I Hadn’t Seen

nutrition-labelAre serving sizes on food packages intentional attempts to mislead us? No, they are dictated by the government.

Medicare kept paying dozens of doctors after they were suspended or terminated from state Medicaid programs or were indicted or charged with fraud.

Terminal cancer patients in Russia are sent home to die; can’t get pain medication; some are committing suicide. (HT: Jason Shafrin)

Patients at risk: More than 100,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and healthcare aides abuse prescription drugs.

ObamaCare Plan Refuses to Cover Cancer Patient Treatment

[S]he bought [a] plan and was approved on Nov. 22. Because by January the plan was still not showing up on her online Humana account, however, she repeatedly called to confirm that it was active. The agents told her not to worry, she was definitely covered.

Then on Feb. 12, just before going into (yet another) surgery, she was informed by Humana that it would not, in fact, cover her Sandostatin, or other cancer-related medications. The cost of the Sandostatin alone, since Jan. 1, was $14,000, and the company was refusing to pay. (WSJ)

Breast Cancer and Government Coverage versus Private Health Insurance

Increase-in-Breast-Reconstruction-After-Womens-Health-Law-EnactedHere are results from a 2008 paper on the relationship between breast cancer and type of health coverage in Rhode Island. Covering all breast cancer cases registered from 1996 to 2005, the data once again suggest that the uninsured fare almost as well as people on Medicaid.

The table below lists tumor size and stage at diagnosis by type of health coverage. When breast cancer victims on Medicaid are compared to those with private insurance, those on Medicaid have larger tumors at diagnosis and higher stage tumors. They also have more node positive tumors — tumors that have already spread to lymph nodes. This is cause for concern as survival rates are better for small tumors, tumors that are node negative, and those at stage 1 or below. Women on Medicaid who do have early stage tumors are also less likely to have surgery and, if they have surgery, to have surgery that removes only a part of their breast.

Headlines I Wish I Hadn’t Seen

UPINoBamaCareWellPoint: Surge in doctor visits prior to Jan 1 because of worries about the effects of ObamaCare.

Did Sen. Coburn lose his cancer doctor because of ObamaCare?

Julie Applebee calls out the president on his claim that 9 million people have signed up for health insurance.

39% of the uninsured: ObamaCare has made us worse off.

Hits and Misses

IDavid-M_-assisted-suicides there a right to die?

Could the next president wave the individual mandate altogether?

A blow to cook book medicine: Scientists aim to tailor prostate cancer therapy to a patient’s cell activity.

A second blow: Using DNA to custom-fit drug treatments.

Why Everyone Eventually Gets Cancer

As people age their cells amass more potentially cancerous mutations. Given a long enough life, cancer will eventually kill you — unless you die first of something else. That would be true even in a world free from carcinogens and equipped with the most powerful medical technology…

Maybe someday some of us will live to be 200. But barring an elixir for immortality, a body will come to a point where it has outwitted every peril life has thrown at it. And for each added year, more mutations will have accumulated. If the heart holds out, then waiting at the end will be cancer. (More)