I want my 80-grand back

A recent study conducted by Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, set out to answer the question: “Why is health care spending in the US so much greater than in other high-income countries?” To do this, his team compared healthcare data from the US with those of 10 of the highest-income countries. Some background: In 2016, the US spent 17.8% of its GDP on health care, and spending in the other countries ranged from 9.6% (Australia) to 12.4% (Switzerland). The net-net: “utilization rates in the US were largely similar to those in other nations. Prices of labor and goods, including pharmaceuticals, and administrative costs appeared to be the major drivers of the difference.” Admin costs seem like a bad place to spend money, so in the immortal words of Leslie Chow, “give me my 80-grand back.” [WARNING: Language]

Killer of bad guys

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent issues affecting healthcare, costing thousands of lives and billions in medical costs each year (click here for the CDC’s list of the scariest strains.) It’s an annoying problem. R&D produces a new antibiotic and within some years the little buggers have already figured out how to not get killed by it (very sick video of that process here.) Well at least we have a new weapon that they might have some trouble fighting against. Malacidin is a distant relative of a newer antibiotic called daptomycin which up until now has evaded bacterial resistance. While discovering a new antibiotic is immediately cool and helpful, discovering a class that can avoid being useless after its introduction would be huge.

Taking on the healthcare tapeworm

There have been rumblings for a while now that Amazon would somehow be entering the healthcare space to shake things up. Well last week Amazon officially made its move, bringing heavy hitters Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase along too. What do two of the world’s richest people and the leader of the US’s largest bank plan on doing exactly? That’s a great question, and we’d love to tell you if there were any kind of concrete details to explain the venture. We do know the goal is to “improve US employee satisfaction while reducing overall costs,” and that they plan to use technology to do it. Sounds vague, but the news was scary enough for investors sent insurer and drug store stocks tumbling after the announcement.

Civil War: healthcare edition

The formula for rising healthcare costs in the US is filled with a bunch of pointed fingers lately. One finger is being pointed at drug maker Kaléo (no, not that Kaleo) by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts. They’re suing Kaléo over its price hikes on a heroin/painkiller overdose treatment. According to Express Scripts, these hikes triggered price protection rebates owed to Express Scripts, which total around $14 million—most of the lawsuit. The PBM has successfully sued larger drug companies like Horizon, so Kaléo may be at a bit of a disadvantage here. Especially since Express Scripts could use the extra cash to deal with the fingers pointed at it, including one $15B lawsuit by its (soon-to-be former) largest customer, the insurance provider Anthem.

Protecting access to doctors’ wallets

A bill proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, would cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000. Many healthcare organizations are giving this bill a huge thumbs-up since it’ll allow them to focus less on so-called defensive medicine, bringing down healthcare costs. It also proposes protecting health care providers from being affected by product liability lawsuits against products approved by the FDA. However, opponents argue that it will deny plaintiffs the ability to get full repayment for wrongdoings. It hasn’t been put up for a full House vote yet, but this is definitely an interesting bill to watch. No word yet on if it will protect HCPs from relentlessly insulting anesthetized patients.