Undermining Genetic Privacy? Employee Wellness Programs and the Law

NEJM, 24 May 2017
Authors: Kathy L. Hudson, Karen Pollitz
“Genetic information is becoming ubiquitous in research and medicine. The cost of genetic analysis continues to fall, and its medical and personal value continues to grow. Anticipating this age of genetic medicine, policymakers passed laws and regulations years ago to protect Americans’ privacy and prevent misuse of their health-related information. But a bill moving through the House of Representatives, called the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (H.R. 1313), would preempt key protections. Because the bill, which was sent to the full House by the Education and the Workforce Committee in March, would substantially change legal protections related to the collection and treatment of personal health and genetic information by workplace wellness programs, it should be on the radar screens of physicians, researchers, and the public.”
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Abbott, Novartis and Sanofi Targeted in NPPA Clampdown on Drugs Sold Without Price Approval

RAPS, 23 May 2017
Author: Nick Paul Taylor
“The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) of India is taking action against drugmakers including Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Sanofi. These top pharmaceutical firms allegedly introduced drugs without seeking price approval and may have to pay back what they overcharged. In a letter to the companies the director of enforcement at NPPA, accused the businesses of altering scheduled formulations, either by changing the dose or combining the drug with a non-scheduled medicine. To NPPA, such changes represent the introduction of new drugs. As such, the companies should have obtained approval from NPPA for the prices of their new products before introducing them to the market.”
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Modi’s generics-only drugs plan worries health experts, Indian pharma sector

Reuters, 25 May 2017
Author: Zeba Siddiqui
“India’s plan to bring in a law to ensure doctors prescribe medicines only by their generic names risks proliferating the sale of substandard drugs in a country where regulation is already lax, doctors and pharmaceutical executives say. Prime Minister said last month that the government was looking at such a law to improve affordability of medicines in the country of 1.2 billion people. Pharmaceutical executives said any law would have to stipulate that the drugs consumers get from pharmacists meet certain quality standards.”
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Alzheimer’s Deaths Jump 55 Percent: CDC

WebMD, 25 May 2017
Author: Steven Reinberg
“As more baby boomers age, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have jumped 55 percent, and in a quarter of those cases the heavy burden of caregiving has fallen on loved ones, U.S. health officials report. “Alzheimer’s disease is a public health problem that affects not only people with Alzheimer’s disease, but also the people who provide care to them, which is often family members,” said report author Christopher Taylor.”
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Safe space for illegal drug consumption in Baltimore would save $6 million a year

Eurekalert, 25 May 2017
Source: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
“A new cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and others suggests that $6 million in costs related to the opioid epidemic could be saved each year if a single “safe consumption” space for illicit drug users were opened in Baltimore. It would also reduce overdose deaths, HIV and hepatitis C infections, overdose-related ambulance calls and hospitalizations – and bring scores of people into treatment, they found.”
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Many patients with early-stage breast cancer receive costly, inappropriate testing

EurekAlert, 24 May 2017
Author: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
“A study from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center shows that asymptomatic women who have been treated for early-stage breast cancer often undergo advanced imaging and other tests that provide little if any medical benefit, could have harmful effects and may increase their financial burden.”
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Ethics Survey: Drug testing remains a clinical tug of war

Behavioural Net, 18 May 2017
Author: Julie Miller
“In recent weeks, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) prepared comprehensive guidelines on drug testing within the continuum of care. The goal is to present evidence-based recommendations for the frequency and application of testing, which payers and providers can adopt as best practices. It’s significant because up until now, there was no true consensus. And there’s also no denying that some treatment operators have aimed to maximize their profit streams through the overuse of testing and subsequent billing of insurance companies.”
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How do we choose who gets the flu vaccine in a pandemic – paramedics, prisoners or the public?

The Conversation, 24 May 2017
Author: Connal Lee
“Ideally, everyone who needs to be immunised against influenza has access to the flu vaccine. But in a pandemic, initially there will be more people needing protection than there are doses. The potential impact of a pandemic is difficult to predict. In a pandemic, vaccines may not be available immediately and could take four to six months to produce. Once available, difficult distribution decisions arise. So how do authorities decide who to vaccinate first? Is it based on who’s most vulnerable? Who would benefit most? Or are other factors at play?”
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In Bold Move, FDA Approves Cancer Drug For Any Advanced Tumor With Genetic Changes

Forbes, 23 May 2017
Author: Elaine Schattner
“For the first time, the FDA has approved a drug for use in cancer—of any type—that harbors certain molecular features. Merck’s Keytruda, an immune oncology drug, may be prescribed for any resistant, metastatic tumor with microsatellite instability (MSI) or other evidence for defective DNA mismatch repair. This is good news for patientsby trying this medication if they have advanced cancer of any form with pathological MSI or DNA mismatch repair defects.”
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New laws in UK ‘stifling vaping’s success’ in curbing smoking

The Guardian, 20 May 2017
Author: Jamie Doward
“Britain’s burgeoning vaping industry is warning of a rise in homemade versions of the liquids used in the devices as new laws governing their strength take effect this weekend. Vape shops warn that the health of consumers will be put at risk because people will end up buying stronger products from the black market or the internet that do not meet safety standards. The new rules include restrictions on the size of the e-cigarette tanks and refill containers that vapers can use.”
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