US government’s WWII mobilization on penicillin is a road map to fighting the coronavirus

On March 14, 1942, an American soldier with bacteria coursing through his bloodstream was treated with penicillin, a new wonder drug that saved his life. That single treatment exhausted half the nation’s supply of the drug. Two years later, as U.S. troops prepared to launch the D-Day invasion, America had more than 2 million doses of the drugready to use.

Donald Trump refers to himself as a wartime president. But he is reluctant to use the power of the federal government to meet the nation’s urgent needs, instead relying on private companies to ramp up production and distribution of medical equipment. He should look back to World War II. It wasn’t private industry on its own that overcame the shortage of penicillin. It was an ambitious effort coordinated and funded by the U.S. government.

The history of penicillin manufacturing during World War II teaches an important lesson: If we hope to address the shortage of lifesaving medical equipment, and if we want to make sure available equipment is distributed in a manner that saves the greatest number of lives, the U.S. government needs to take the lead.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit USA Today).

What You Need To Know About The Keto Diet

Ketones are a family of chemicals made by your liver, usually out of the body’s fat, to provide energy when you need it. Right now, you’ve almost certainly got some ketones circulating in your blood. If you fast for the better part of a day, the level of ketones in your blood will rise, as your body turns to its stored fat to make up for the lack of carbohydrates (aka sugars) in your system.

The keto diet tries to hypercharge all this ketone production. The basic idea is that when people forgo almost all carbohydrates, shun excess proteins, and load up on fat, their bodies will respond by producing ketones.

But will all that ketone production do any good?

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

Why Tall People Feel So Intimidating. A Surprising Explanation.

Admit it: you can often tell a lot about a person’s personality from their facial expressions. Someone who glowers at you, forehead contracted in a glare, is probably trying to be intimidating. But what if that person isn’t glaring at you? What if they are simply so tall that, with their head tilted down to look at you, it simply appears as if they are glaring?

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

Reducing End-Of-Life Costs. It’s Not A Futile Pursuit.

In my most recent post, I describe several psychologic and economic phenomena impeding our ability to rein in the cost of end-of-life care. In brief, people with nothing to lose, who don’t trust doctors recommending they receive hospice care, and who face few economic consequences for receiving expensive care – they aren’t likely to put the brakes on a round of salvage chemo or a last-ditch admission to the ICU.

But that doesn’t mean we are powerless to reduce end-of-life spending. Recently, Brad Stuart, Chief Medical Officer at the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, wrote an essay in Health Affairs describing a way to potentially reduce end-of-life costs by better aligning healthcare services with patient preferences.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

The Cost Of Dying In The US Is Exorbitant. Behavioral Economics Explains Why.

Six-year old Kimmy Merrill fell into an abandoned well outside of Oswega, Pennsylvania, her cries unnoticed in the remote countryside until her mother Susan wandered within earshot of the well. Unable to save Kimmy even with the help of local firefighters, Susan pleaded for rescue workers to dig a hole parallel to the well. Desperate townspeople gathered around nervously as the night temperature began to plummet. The Oswega mayor finally took control of the situation, announcing that “the Oswega emergency council has determined that the cost of digging a parallel hole is prohibitive. Sorry folks, but we’re going to have to let the girl die.”

Unbelievable, right? Of course it is. I made up Kimmy’s story to highlight a fundamental truth about healthcare spending – when it comes to life-or-death decisions, cold-hard economic thinking rarely applies.

Currently, one percent of patients accounts for more than 20% of US healthcare spending. Despite efforts to provide hospice services to people near the end of life, many people are not admitted to hospice until just days before their death.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

One In Four Cancer Survivors Can’t Afford Their Medical Care–And We’re Blaming The Wrong People

According to a recent CDC survey, one in four cancer survivors struggle to pay their medical bills. An even higher number worry about whether they’ll be able to scrounge up the money to pay off their out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

I’m quite comfortable blaming the healthcare industry, writ large, for this problem. Healthcare prices in the United States are outrageously high. The cost of cancer care in particular is often unjustifiably burdensome, with new chemotherapies typically coming to market at prices exceeding $100,000 per patient even when they yield pretty modest health benefits.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

Medicare Pays More Money To Doctors Taking Care Of Rich Patients. Here’s Why.

It has always been financially rewarding for doctors to take care of rich patients. People with more money…well, they have more money to spend on healthcare. But shouldn’t this more money/higher payment relationship go away in Medicare?

It doesn’t, and some recent payment reforms may be making matters worse.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

What Higher Ed Can Learn From Health Care

Check out my recent interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education about the rising costs of education and healthcare:

For decades, higher education has come under public scrutiny for rising costs. But there is at least one other sector that seems to feel even more heat from policy makers and ire from the public. That sector is health care — and the parallels are not lost on Peter Ubel, a physician who is a professor in Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

“I realize that I’ve been making my living off both education and health care, and they’re the parts of the economy where the cost has gone up far faster than overall inflation, and I’ve benefited my whole career,” he says. “So I feel guilty on both counts.”

He’s doing something to address that guilt. Ubel’s new book, Sick to Debt, describes the economics of health care and the decision-making of patients, and offers some solutions that could help both society and individuals save money. Health care’s changes have in many ways mirrored those in higher ed: Just as colleges have turned to adjuncts and distance education, hospitals now rely more on physician assistants and technology, like telemedicine, to help scale their services. Small hospitals and clinics are also increasingly consolidating, an outcome that seems likely for the nation’s small institutions.

(To read the full interview, please visit The Chronicle for Higher Education.)

American Healthcare Prices -Simply Outrageous

When it comes to healthcare spending, the U.S. is without peer. Consider the 20 countries making up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (called the OECD by the cool kids). The organization includes countries like Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, and the Czech Republic. Oh also Finland, France, Germany…you get the idea. It also includes the U.S. That means we can compare U.S. healthcare spending to lots of other countries and see exactly what’s going on.

And here’s what is going on. The median country in the OECD spends around 9% of its GDP on healthcare. The U.S. spends more than 17%.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

Pharma Says Price Regulation Will Take Life-Saving Drugs Away From Us. Here’s The Truth.

The US isn’t the only country struggling with the high price of prescription drugs. A decade ago, Germany was facing rapidly rising medication prices. In 2011, it struck back, with a law regulating the price of new medications. Here’s how that law works, and what it has meant for whether Germans have access to new medications.

The law set up an independent, nonprofit institution known as IQWiG (which I pronounce ICK-wig) tasked with determining whether new drugs are priced to reflect value. The folks at IQWiG study the evidence of a new drug’s effectiveness, present the results of their analysis publically, and then review public comments on their analysis. After determining how much benefit a drug produces, the drug company now negotiates prices with the umbrella organization overseeing the nation’s private insurance system. A drug company whose product yields modest benefits is going to have a hard time negotiating a high price.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

PeterUbel