Investigating the high costs of health care
Over the last year, Elisabeth Rosenthal, a journalist and science editor for The New York Times, has written a brilliant series of articles titled Paying Till it Hurts:
In her series on the costs of health care, Elisabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times examines the price of medical care in the United States, interviewing patients, physicians, economists, and hospital and industry officials. In each installment, readers were invited to share their perspectives on managing costs and treatment.
I’ve been reading the series, and the truly shocking charging and billing practices she … Continue reading
Be a proactive patient
In addition to talking to my doctor friends, I spend a lot of time reading various doctor blogs because I want to better understand our health care system from their unique point of view.
The majority of those I read seem to agree with me that the industry has morphed into a giant profit-making machine—profits first, patients second. Many physicians write of their loss of autonomy and the ability to treat patients in a thoughtful, patient-centered and cost-effective way.
More than ever, they say, patients need to be informed and take control of their health care. … Continue reading
The high cost of insomnia
I read with some trepidation that the pharmaceutical giant Merck recently received FDA approval for a new sleeping pill, Belsomra (suvorexant). It will be available later this year or early in 2015.
2/20/15 Updated post: Belsomra – Use with caution
Great, I thought, what will another brain-altering drug cost us?
Financially, Belsomra is expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in its first year. That’s great for Merck, whose shares went up after the announcement. But not so great for the individuals, insurance companies and government agencies that will need to … Continue reading
Because it doesn’t help everyone
There is nothing I like more than cleaning clutter out of drawers, closets, shelves and…my medicine cabinet.
Over the last year, as I’ve been researching for my blog, I’ve eliminated multivitamins, calcium supplements, vitamin D supplements and niacin. Now it’s time to give that unopened bottle of baby aspirin the heave-ho.
My husband bought it a few of years ago on the advice of his physician. At that time, many doctors were recommending a daily baby or low-dose aspirin to patients that had some risk of heart attack or stroke, usually those … Continue reading
Latest niacin news
In yet another instance of “we thought this drug was useful until we actually tested it and found out it wasn’t”, researchers are warning us that niacin should no longer be used to manage cholesterol levels.
A popular supplement before statins were introduced, niacin has been prescribed by doctors for decades. And it’s still being used by patients who don’t want or can’t tolerate statins.
There are two reasons why niacin should not be used.
- Niacin raises the good cholesterol or HDLs, but evidence has shown that a higher HDL level due to niacin therapy is
… Continue reading
The latest stand on vitamin D screening
Over the last year and a half, I’ve written several posts on vitamin D, and here’s another one.
Last week the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released its draft recommendation statement on vitamin D screening. (After a short comment period, a final recommendation will be made later this year. Rarely do these differ from the draft versions.)
Screening for vitamin D levels in healthy adults was given an “I” grade, or insufficient evidence.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concludes that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance
… Continue reading
Or have you seen the commercials?
Not too long ago I posted about Big Pharma’s approach to marketing a new drug:
- Give the condition (disease) a catchy nickname
- Create a website as a credible sounding organization or foundation
- “Increase awareness” of this “new” disease through radio and TV ads
- Provide “helpful” self diagnosis quizzes to encourage “talk to your doctor” visits
Ever since direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription drugs was first allowed by the FTC almost 20 years ago, I’ve watched Big Pharma perfect this technique. They spend millions of dollars promoting each new drug.
The most recent condition/drug to … Continue reading
The yearly reminder
The other day I received in the mail a form letter from my physician’s office reminding me that I am due for my annual “well woman” visit. The letter also pointed out that if I have an ACA-compliant health insurance plan, the cost for the exam would be 100% covered as a preventive benefit.
I have three problems with this letter.
- Although my current physician is part of my new insurance plan’s network, the hospital she works out of is not. What if I needed to have surgery or be hospitalized? My care would then be given
… Continue reading
A uniquely American public health crisis
Last weekend I finally watched a film that has been sitting in my Netflix queue for some time. American Addict, produced by a physician, Gregory Smith, MD, is a well-made, informative and compelling documentary about America’s drug culture.
I don’t mean dope and crack and methamphetamine. I’m talking about the overuse and abuse of prescription drugs—pain pills, sleeping pills, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and stimulants.
It’s a public health crisis that is costing this country billions of dollars in health care costs, health insurance fraud, criminal activity, local and federal drug enforcement, loss of employment … Continue reading
They aren’t what they seem
When I buy a product on Amazon or Ebay, I like to read the reviews, see how many stars a product or seller rates. Did the product arrive on time and in good condition? Is the product as the seller described? Did the product work as expected?
A high rating, indicating customer satisfaction, should be a good thing, right?
Normally, yes. But not when it comes to judging physicians.
For example, a friend of mine is a surgeon, a really good surgeon. Last year he saw a morbidly obese woman to consult about an elective … Continue reading