How To Get A Drug Company To Give You An Experimental Drug And Other Health Care Updates

Study: HSAs Reduce Costs

The latest and the most comprehensive study of Health Savings Accounts confirms what previous studies have found: they work. In an NBER Working Paper, economists report the results from 13 million person years of data on employees and dependents at 54 large firms. “Consumer directed health care” plans (with deductibles 2 to 3 times the size of the control group) reduced spending by 15% per year for three consecutive years. There was no indication of adverse health effects.

Evidence I would like to Ignore: Moderate Drinking May Not Be Good for You

David Roodman reviews the latest studies:

In light of these facts, Occam’s razor argues for a simple theory: the net marginal impact of drinking on health is negative at all levels; and moderate drinking is a marker for relative youth, affluence, and healthy habits rather than a cause of good health (Chikritzhs et al. 2015). Pending high-quality evidence to the contrary, alcohol taxes should be presumed to save even more lives in the long run.

Do Doctors Care What Drugs Cost?

In 2013, AstraZeneca’s heartburn drug Nexium was prescribed to nearly 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries at a cost of $2.5 billion. That same year, the generic substitute omeprazole was given to nearly 6.4 million Medicare patients at a cost of $643 million. Four times as many patients received the generic drug, yet the spending was almost one-third of the spending on the brand drug. (More)

Medical Tradeoffs

Which is worse – ruining ten million people’s sex lives for one year, or making one hundred people’s livers explode? Scott Alexander explains:

  • Suicidal people take massive overdoses of SSRIs (a type of antidepressant) all the time, and usually end up with little more than a stomachache for their troubles. On the other hand about 50% of users report decreased sexual abilities.
  • Nefazodone is an equally good (and maybe better) antidepressant that does not have these side effects. On the other hand, every year, one in every 300,000 people using it experience sudden and spectacular liver failure — which means they need a liver transplant or else they die.

How to Get a Drug Company to Give You an Experimental Drug

Joshua Hardy, an 8-year-old from Fredericksburg, Va., was battling a life-threatening infection. His only hope was a drug called Brincidofovir, then in the final phase of clinical trials. But Chimerix, the North Carolina company that makes the drug, refused. Writing in the Washington Post, Ana Swanson described what happened next:

Hardy’s family reached out to followers on Facebook and Twitter, and the company received thousands of calls, messages and even death threats. People began inundating their government representatives with requests to help Josh. Chimerix agreed to include Josh in a late-stage study. Less than a month later, the little boy left the intensive care unit, and eventually went home.

Can Our Food Be Too Safe?

America’s food supply is probably the safest in the world. Overaggressive cleanliness can kill the good germs along with the bad. It can also reduce our resistance to future germs. This is Kate Murphy in The New York Times:

Industrial food sanitation practices — along with home cooks’ antibacterial veggie washes, chlorine bleach kitchen cleaners and sterilization cycle dishwashers — kill off so-called good bacteria naturally found in foods that bolster our health. Moreover, eliminating bad or pathogenic bacteria means we may not be exposed to the small doses that could inoculate us against intestinal crises.

… our modern germaphobic ways may be making us sick by harming our microbiome, which comprises all the microscopic beasties — bacteria, viruses, fungi, mites, etc. — that live in and on our bodies….

A result is an immune system that essentially gets bored, spoiling for a fight and apt to react to harmless substances and even attack the body’s own tissues. This could explain the increasing incidence of allergies and autoimmune disorders such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel syndrome.

Originally posted on Forbes on May 11, 2015.