How expensive are hepatitis C meds?

Expensive enough that just those drugs pushed up the country’s retail prescription drug spending noticeably in 2014 and 2015, according to CMS figures.

Retail prescription drug spending hit $328.6 billion in 2016, up 1.3% versus 2015, according to a new analysis by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The figure pales in comparison to 12.4% spending growth in 2014 and 8.9% in 2015.

What caused the deceleration? According to the agency, it was a decrease in hepatitis C costs […] fewer new drug launches, and a moderation in price hikes.

Healthcare spending in total grew 4.3 percent last year to $3.3 trillion.

Birth control increases breast cancer risk … slightly

A Danish study (those Danes have been busy lately) found that women who use hormonal birth control have, on average, a 20 percent greater risk of breast cancer.

Sounds bad? It’s actually about the same risk as drinking alcohol regularly. And it depends significantly on how long it’s used. And it’s incredibly low compared to other environment-cancer risks (e.g., smoking, HPV).

Viagra goes generic

The little blue pill is getting a cheaper generic brother — the little white pill, also by Pfizer. It’s half the price (only about $33) of the identical brand name version.

In other words you’d pay an extra $32 just for that blue coloring. Or wait for other companies’ generics for even lower prices.

Wait, it’s that easy?

Surgeons at the University of Michigan found a simple way to reduce the chance of opioid addiction: They gave their patients lower doses right after surgery.

First they asked patients about their post-op pain, and about how much pain medication they took. Then they used that information to develop new prescribing guidelines for the hospital.

The takeaway: After surgery, patients are getting prescribed more opioids than necessary and doctors can reduce the amount without experiencing negative side effects.

Within five months of the new guidelines taking effect at Michigan Medicine, surgeons reduced the volume of prescribed opioids by about 7,000 pills.

That’s one take on “do no harm”

What happens when it’s more profitable for hospitals to treat an illness than to prevent it? Just what you might expect.

In Baltimore, home of Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Medical Center, “The perverse incentives of the health care payment system have long made it far more lucrative to treat severe, dangerous asthma attacks than to prevent them.”

The power of “dark social”

There’s plenty of yapping* about the power of social media in marketing, but there’s a lot of that metaphorical iceberg that’s hidden under the water.

“Dark social” refers to the social sharing that can’t be tracked — private messages via e-mail, instant messages, texts, Snapchats, mobile apps … you get the idea.

It’s not easy to take advantage of it, but it’s powerful enough that it might be worth it.

* Sorry, I meant “plenty of thoughtful professional analysis and discussion”.

Eew. Good, but eew

The title: “A reversible thermoresponsive sealant for temporary closure of ocular trauma.”

What it means: Researchers have developed a temporary superglue to seal shut an eyeball when it’s been sliced open.