This month in healthcare news: the war against opioids, healthcare boosts Wall Street, and new upgrades for heart stents and artificial kidneys
The 2015 pace of health spending accelerated in the U.S…
Healthcare spending growth in the U.S. sped up in 2015 and a rise is set to continue at a moderate pace throughout the next 10 years—just not as quickly as some of us remember from healthcare news from 20 years prior to the recession.
- Spending on all healthcare is estimated to have grown 5.5 percent in 2015, versus the 5.3 percent growth in 2014.
- Growth is expected to dip to a slightly lower rate of 4.8 percent in 2016, according to a report by actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The report projects spending growth should hit 6 percent in 2025.
- The pickup in the past 2 years follows 5 consecutive years in which average spending growth through 2013 was the lowest rates since the government began tracking health-care spending in the 1960s: less than 4 percent annually,
- Acceleration is largely due to a stronger economy, faster growth in medical prices, and aging baby boomers, while growth was accentuated by expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Healthcare, consumer stocks boost Wall Street…
Wall Street reversed course to trade higher this week, helped by healthcare and consumer discretionary stocks. While oil prices and strong U.S. services data—which hit a seven-month high in June thanks to new orders, company hiring—also assisted investors about global economic slowdown concerns.
Brexit-related worries have sent markets reeling, leading investors to safe havens assets. Gold hit a more than two-year high, while the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield US10YT=RR reached a record low.
In major step forward, U.S. governors vow to fight opioid crisis in unity…
The U.S. is embroiled in a national opioid epidemic. An average of 78 Americans die from overdoses of opioids—pain relievers, heroin, and fentanyl—each day. The number of deaths has nearly quadrupled since 1999 and has been responsible for six in 10 overdose deaths in 2014, the highest on record. Prescription opioids’ sales have also nearly quadrupled in the last 15 years, and addictions to those prescriptions have led many users to a cheaper, deadly alternative: heroin.
Over 45 state governors have signed on to the Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction, leading a committed charge against the crisis, especially the rampant overprescribing of prescription pain relievers. This week, governors will hear from experts about the crisis and explore responses.
The compact also seeks to raise awareness about the issue, encourage treatment, and recovery for those facing addiction. Policy is already in place in some states, but as New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan explained, “This horrible national epidemic continues to require urgent action and constant vigilance.”
Experts say that many policymakers believed the epidemic was fueled by drug abusers and were concerned that limiting prescription could hurt legitimate pain patients. Now, with the recent surge in awareness, it is clear that doctors and dentists are prescribing too many addictive painkillers.
New guidelines—like possibly including opioid limits for some patients, requiring medical personnel to receive continuing education on pain management, and improving monitoring of opioid prescribers—along with coordinated and comprehensive responses across every level of government and the private sector, will not only assist in supporting law enforcement, but strengthening prevention, treatment, and recovery.
FDA approves an absorbable heart stent…
850,000 American patients are treated with stents annually, says consulting firm Decision Resources Group. The most popular stents are drug-coated metal stents, where drugs gradually seep into the interior of the blood vessel to prevent growth of scar tissue responsible for the formation of clots. These stents, however, may be associated with serious health problems: death and heart attacks.
A dissolvable stent may be the solution to reduce such problems.
In healthcare news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Abbott Laboratories’ absorbable heart stent—a.k.a. “Absorb”, a device cardiologists call a huge advance in the treatment of coronary artery disease. While the device carries the risk of blood clots for some patients, Abbott intends to have a careful launch of the stent.
Unlike the metal devices—permanent implants—the new stent is made of a polymer, designed to completely dissolve within two to three years after it is deployed. It also allows arteries to bounce back to their normal shape.
The device is already on the market in Europe, Latin America, and parts of Asia where it has been implanted in over 150,000 patients. Average prices are estimated to range from $1,200 to $1,400.
Wearable artificial kidney could be coming soon…
Findings from a clinical trial have indicated that wearable artificial kidneys could be developed—with a few redesigns required to leapfrog over some technical issues encountered during testing—as an alternative to conventional hemodialysis for patients with end-stage kidney disease.
Currently, treatment usually requires three sessions a week on a stationary machine, restricting patients’ ability to talk while attached. A wearable device would open up mobility and further treatment benefits from longer sessions or more frequent days of dialysis for patients. An FDA-authorized trial of a prototype for this concept was tested back in fall of 2015 with seven patients at University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.
The efficacy and safety of the device—especially its ability to take over several functions of failed kidneys—was measured during the trial, alongside gathering feedback from participants about their feelings about the experimental treatment versus that of standard dialysis treatment.