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Drug prices work against patients

Drug Prices ‘Work Against Patients,’ Pharma Exec Admits

High Rx costs are no new thing. But pharmaceutical execs actually copping to it? It happened yesterday.

In a hearing in D.C., senators grilled top executives from pharma companies including Pfizer, Merck, and Sanofi about list prices of medications, some of which can be life-saving for patients.

During three hours of questioning, the pharma CEOs told senators that prices are set so high in order for them to pay rebates to insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers, reported The Washington Post.

While the CEOs spent the hearing deflecting blame, Merck chief executive Kenneth C. Frazier acknowledged the undue burden placed on patients, especially those without insurance.

“The list price is actually working against the patient,’’ Frazier said. “The people who can least afford it are paying the most.’’

He and other pharma CEOs suggested doing away with rebates would solve the problem, rather than other potential solutions like government regulations on drug prices.

In the meantime, you’re not totally powerless in reducing the costs of your meds. Try these tricks for saving money on treatments for cancer, thyroid disease, diabetes, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and migraine.

Have More Than One Health Condition? It’ll Cost You

It may sound obvious, but a study conducted at the University of Otago in New Zealand confirms the cost of treating someone who has more than one chronic medical condition is higher than the cost of treating each condition separately.

The study, which was published in PLOS Medicine, used comprehensive health data on 18.9 million people over the period from 2007 to 2014. The researchers calculated average annual health spending per person related to these six disease classifications or combinations of them:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Neurological disorders
  • Lung/liver/kidney diseases

Taking into account hospitalizations, outpatient services, prescription medications, laboratory tests, and primary care, the researchers found that about 24 percent of the total spending could be attributed to the additional cost of treating two or more of these conditions — above and beyond the cost of treating each disease separately.

If you’ve ever been hospitalized, you probably thought to yourself — or maybe even complained to your night nurse — “How is anyone supposed to get any sleep around here?” Sleep disruption puts hospitalized patients at risk for grogginess, delirium, and falls. To help solve the sleep deprivation problem, researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine conducted a study called Sleep for Inpatients: Empowering Staff To Act (SIESTA).

The research focused on a total of 1,083 patients in two 18-bed general medicine units. For the study, the researchers adjusted the medical facility’s electronic health records (EHR) system to include reminders urging doctors and nurses to avoid minimally valuable disruptions — like waking patients during the night to measure vital signs or administer non-urgent medications. They also did a presentation reminding doctors and nurses of the detrimental effects of in-hospital sleep deprivation. According to the researchers, these measures successfully changed the health care providers’ behavior, allowing more patients to sleep through the night without being disturbed.

During the year-long SIESTA study, health care providers entered patient rooms 44 percent fewer times, and patients experienced an average of six fewer caregiver entries during sleeping hours.

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