Grandma’s got some stylish new earbuds

In a blow to more established hearing aid producers, the audio magicians at Bose have been FDA approved to market the Bose Hearing Aid to consumers. The news sent shares sliding for traditional manufacturers like William Demant and Sonova Holding AG. It’s the first hearing aid that patients can fit and control themselves through the use of a smartphone app. That’s great news for Grandpa—who now doesn’t need to go to the doctor to adjust his volume levels—as well as for your kids who get to see Grandpa way more since you’re now the one who has to adjust his volume levels. Clinical data shows that patient outcomes were comparable between self-fitted and professionally-fitted devices, so expect more self-fitted aids in the future. We’re looking at you Samsung.

Good will brand drug hunting

Channel your inner Matt Damon and you might be able to understand the math in this article. We’ll cut to the chase in case you nod off. A recent article by Rachel D. Melamed & Andrey Rzhetsky indicates that “urban areas, particularly the corridor from New York to Washington, DC prefer more expensive drugs, as do parts of the southeast. Northern New England, some midwestern and western states prefer cheaper drugs. Using the demographic information on each county to predict preference for expensive drugs, we find income, health care costs and access to exercise opportunities are most predictive of expensive drug preference.” The implication from the research is that docs in urban areas prefer branded drugs, but couldn’t it be the patients? Just askin’ the question.

A merger “O.K.” with a slight delay

Not to be outdone by the Cigna-Express Scripts merger, CVS Health and Aetna’s proposed merger has been approved by the US Justice Department. The $69B (nice) deal combines Aetna’s insurance skills with CVS’s drug benefits management and nearly 10,000 pharmacy locations to create a healthcare behemoth. The deal will allow Aetna customers to seek less expensive medical services at those pharmacy locations, including CVS’s 1,000+ walk-in clinics which have served 25M patients since 2000.  To get the deal approved, Aetna had to sell all its standalone Medicare Part D plans. Otherwise, the merged company would have owned 30 percent of those drug plans—an unacceptable share to the DOJ. We’ll be interested to see how the new company competes with the similarly structured Cigna-Express Scripts in the coming years.

Can I get your digits?

You give me your zip code and I’ll tell you how long you’re likely to live. Deal? A new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provides the life expectancy average by US zip code here. While the US average is 78.8 years, the figures can change drastically, even across neighborhoods. “In Washington, D.C., for example, people living in the Barry Farms neighborhood face a life expectancy of 63.2 years. Yet, less than 10 miles away, a baby born in Friendship Heights and Friendship Village can expect to live 96.1 years, according to CDC data.” Whoa. A pretty cool article outlines how increased spending on local programs (public goods, police) can increase life expectancy. In fact, there are programs where you can apply for grant money to improve your community’s life expectancy metrics.

US pharmacists bound and gagged—and not in a fun way

Ahh, the US healthcare system…all the s#!t we don’t know until it comes out in the news. Did InsightCity’s US readers know that many pharmacists are under gag orders to NOT inform you when you could spend less money on a prescription? That’s right, if the cash price for your drug is lower than the co-pay that was negotiated by your insurance plan, the pharmacist may not have been allowed to tell you. Well, President Donald J. Trump—a long-time fan of gag orders 😊—has just signed a law that bans these particular gag orders, and while the law does not require a pharmacist to inform the customer of a lower price, it does prohibit the prohibition. Or something like that. Shut up. You know what I mean. Just ask your pharmacist if the cash price is lower than your copay. Also, the law doesn’t go into effect for 2 years. What the…?

British ban Brazilian butts

Well, not really butt it made for better alliteration in the title. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAPPS) has advised surgeons to stop performing Brazilian butt lift procedures (BBLs) due to the incidence of serious complications, including death. For the BBL ignorant among us, the elective procedure involves removing fat from one part of a person’s body and injecting it into that person’s rear end to alter its size and shape. BAPPS suggests the procedure has the highest death rate in all of plastic surgery—approximately 1 in 3,000 procedures. Problems often arise as newly injected fat cells enter the blood vessels that surround the injection areas, causing “fat embolisms.” Ick. According to CNN the demand for BBLs has more than doubled in the past 5 years, which only proves that Sir Mix-A-Lot was decades ahead of his time (WARNING: 80s/90s hip-hop is a bit crude—but pretty awesome).