Your favorites of 2014, community health in DC, and dubious use of diabetes drugs
January 8, 2015
In order to bring you more of the news you want to read, RightCare Weekly summarizes and interprets three important articles and provides headlines linking to the many other articles and editorials you’ll find interesting. As always, RightCare Weekly presents articles related to moving our healthcare system toward the right care for all patients.
Join the conversation: Post your comments in our new section at the bottom of this page.
You told us your favorites: Thanks to everyone who submitted their favorite RightCare Weekly stories to us last week. From the many we received, our staff selected their top five favorites. They are:
District of Columbia Acting Insurance Commissioner Chester McPherson signed an order this week for CareFirst Blue Cross BlueShield to spend $56 million on community health needs in the District after it was noted that its reserve holdings belonging to a subsidiary went well beyond what is considered a hedge against possible catastrophes. In a Washington Post article, the subsidiary, chartered as a benevolent institution, will now be required to turn over the excess to the community. The holdings, valued at more than $900 million at the end of 2011, the year in review, went beyond the appropriate reserve level by more than $250 million. Possible uses for the surplus include premium reductions for policy holders, direct funding for community health programs and corporate sponsorship of health-related events. Efforts like reallocating dollars into tangible benefits that keep communities healthy are extremely wise.
Expanding the definition of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes since 1997 has placed millions more Americans on drugs, many to lower blood sugar levels. But none of the dozens of new drugs available have been proven to improve key outcomes, like reducing heart attacks or strokes. Instead, they were approved by the FDA because they lower blood sugar levels, which is considered a surrogate endpoint. In an article by the Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today, the authors assert many of the drugs not only have questionable benefits, but also some are dangerous. “We’ve called a sign of the disease the disease, but there are no rigorous studies that prove we understand how to treat the illness rather than its symptoms,” said David Newman, MD, director of clinical research, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, and a Lown Institute advisory board member. Several experts who serve on panels advising companies that make diabetes drugs were paid handsomely as speakers or consultants, the article concludes. Could that have something to do with the convergence of new drugs and definitions?
QUESTION: Should physicians with financial ties to drug companies be allowed to serve on specialty society guideline committees? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.
We mourn the loss of Thomas B. Graboys, MD, president emeritus of the Lown Institute and former director of the Lown Cardiovascular Center, who died on January 5. Dr. Graboys was an exceptional, kind and generous physician, loved by all his patients and colleagues. Our deepest condolences to his family.