It’s good to be the king (of retail)

You can’t turn on the telly (shout out to the UK), open an industry email (like this one), or read Süddeutsche Zeitung (wir hören Sie, Deutschland) without someone talking about Wal-Mart, Amazon, or Apple doing something with healthcare. And, this is no different. Sorry. That said, turns out Wal-Mart doesn’t want to be left in the healthcare dust. This week it was reported they are in talks to buy PillPack, an online pharmacy and Humana. Buying Humana comes with a built-in market for Wal-Mart’s pharmacy businesses. If you remember, Aetna once courted Humana, but the US squashed the deal on Medicare monopoly concerns. Wal-Mart has a huge brand, lots of customers, a growing home-delivery service, and a market cap north of $250B so hold on. Big things are coming. Because it’s good to be the king.

Apple, at it again

Backed by the “who’s who” of US hospitals, Apple recently launched the Apple Health Records feature, which will aggregate existing patient-generated data in a user’s health app with data from their EHR. For a screen shot of the app/feature go here. With names like Stanford, Duke, and Vanderbilt already signed on, you might think we’re talking about your busted NCAA bracket. We’re not. The Apple “feature” has been in beta for a bit and Dr. Paul Testa of NYU has used it to enable 35 ER doctors, through Apple Watch’s push notifications, to request vital lab results be delivered so they see the results and respond quickly to patient needs. Pretty Star Trek-ish. While Apple has plans to go where no one has gone before, this just might be their one shining moment. RIP the NCAA tournament.

Kratom crap-shoot

Kratom’s back in the news and—big surprise—not in a positive light. While there’s no research to support what people claim it does, proponents of the plant say it can help with opioid addiction, relieve pain and increase energy. But this isn’t actually an article to debunk another junk medicine, because that’s not the reason the FDA’s mad about it (this time.) The agency has used their mandatory recall power for the first time to warn consumers about kratom products made by Triangle Pharmanaturals, which are apparently rife with salmonella. Multiple cases of infection have been traced back to consuming kratom in the past couple years, and apparently the FDA’s finally had enough. Figures that a company hawking a dubious product can’t even make it properly.

This week, coffee bad

Every week it seems science determines coffee is alternately a health benefit and a health detriment. Well, a California judge has declared it settled. If the ruling stands, all California coffee sellers will be forced to place a cancer warning at the point of purchase. Plaintiffs in the case claimed—and apparently demonstrated—that the chemical acrylamide, produced as beans are roasted, increases the risk of cancer. Defendants lead by the likes of Starbucks claimed—and apparently failed to demonstrate—that the levels of acrylamide are not harmful, that coffee has health benefits that outweigh any potential harm, and that they can’t remove the chemical without altering the flavor. Like Shania Twain, the judge said, that don’t impress me much. The good news? If the ruling is upheld, coffee will still only cause cancer in California. Coffee-Cat meme.

Naloxone for the people

The US Surgeon General has issued a nationwide advisory calling for more people to get training and access to the opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone. The life-saving drug can be administered by shot or nasal spray, and blocks the brain’s response to opioids while allowing the patient to breathe again. So yeah, America’s doctor is saying this drug can save lives in a bad epidemic, what’s the big deal? Well one of the big points of the announcement is to loosen up restrictions for prescribing the drug to family and friends of opioid abusers. It also argues for wider application of ‘Good Samaritan’ laws, so that someone doesn’t worry about getting arrested for calling 911 when observing an overdose. You know what they say, no good deed…