URGENT NEWS IF YOU’RE UNDER 40

It looks like chocolate will be gone in about 40 years as the cacao plant succumbs to global warming.

But there’s a ray of hope: Scientists from the University of California are teaming up with Mars (the company, not the god) to use — you guessed it — CRISPR to try to save the plant.

Cacao plants occupy a precarious position on the globe. They can only grow within a narrow strip of rainforested land roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator, where temperature, rain, and humidity all stay relatively constant throughout the year. Over half of the world’s chocolate now comes from just two countries in West Africa — Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

As the climate changes, it pushes the growing area further up the mountains to the point it becomes inaccessible.

You look sick

Yes, humans can tell if one another are sick just by looking. So says a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B*. But why read a dry academic paper when you can read the plain English version from the Washington Post?

* You would think they could come up with a better name. That’s like naming your son “Steve” and your second son “Steve B.”

Patient co-pays and “accumulator” programs

Drug Channels’s Adam Fein writes about what he says are going to get a lot of attention this year: Co-pay accumulator programs.

In a nutshell:

  • Many people have a separate prescription deductible as part of their health insurance. Co-pays come out of this deductible.
  • When co-pays are high, drug makers often gives patients coupons to help cover them.
  • Those co-pays are between the patient and the drug maker, so patients still count their full co-pays against their deductibles. (It’s as if a friendly relative helped pay for their meds.)

But that, says Fein, is starting to change. Health plans are beginning to say, “If the drugmaker gives you a coupon, it doesn’t count against your deductible.”

And that will be a shock for a lot of patients, who suddenly have to bear a much larger share of their annual prescription costs because these coupons effectively count against them.

As Fein explains, adding insult to injury, PBMs give these policies names like “Out of Pocket Protection program.” And, he says, “Every word in those names is wrong.”

Moo

No, avoiding cow’s milk doesn’t prevent diabetes. So concludes a fairly large, long-term study that found “Cow’s Milk Doesn’t Play a Critical Role in Development of Type 1 Diabetes.” (That’s the news story, click here for the study in JAMA.)

Provider status hits a Senate milestone

APhA reports that 51 U.S. senators have now co-signed the big provider-status bill, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act.

It would have Medicare pay for “certain pharmacist services that: (1) are furnished by a pharmacist in a health-professional shortage area, and (2) would otherwise be covered under Medicare if furnished by a physician.”

Contact your senators and ask them to support S. 109.

Johnny Isakson: Phone: (770) 661-0999; fax: (770) 661-0768

David Perdue: Phone: (404) 865-0087; fax (404) 865-0311