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June 28, 2017            

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

New river blindness vaccine funds for New York nonprofit

New York, NY — The New York Blood Center (NYBC), a global blood-medicine leader headquartered in Manhattan, was recently given a $3.6 million, five-year grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to invent a vaccine that protects against river blindness. 


River blindness is a tropical disease caused by infection with the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus.  Among its symptoms is vision impairment or loss.  Occurring mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and in some South and Central American countries, it’s virtually unheard of in the U.S.


Local health centers cut kids’ healthcare costs

St. Louis, MO — New research by George Washington University finds that community health centers (CHCs) reduce the costs of children’s healthcare—a significant finding amid the current debate over lowering the overall cost of healthcare.


According to the research, yearly healthcare costs for kids getting the majority of care at CHCs were about 35 percent lower than kids getting the majority of care elsewhere.  Care at CHCs was also associated with lower costs for ambulatory care and prescriptions.


Some 70 percent of all CHC patients have incomes below the federal poverty level—qualifying the vast majority of kids seen at CHCs for the state/federal Medicaid healthcare program.


According to the June 20 research paper, federally-funded CHCs delivered primary healthcare in 2015 to 7.6 million children under age 18, or nearly four in ten low-income children nationwide.


EpiPen alternative gets FDA nod

Washington, D.C. — On June 16, the FDA approved Symjepi, another alternative to EpiPen, the popular epinephrine autoinjector device dominating the market.


The newly-approved Symjepi device, which comes as two pre-filled, 0.3 mg dose syringes of epinephrine, is indicated for Type 1 allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis due to bug bites, foods or other drugs.  It’s made by Adamis Pharmaceuticals.


Other existing epinephrine devices on the market include Auvi-Q, which costs $4,500 out of pocket but $360 for families earning less than $100,000 a year, and Adrenaclick, normally $365 apiece but available at CVS for about $110.


The company plans to launch the product in the second half of this year, and is gearing up to file another New Drug Application (NDA) for a “junior” version.


Most new provider-sponsored health plans not profitable

Princeton, NJ — A new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report found that only four of 42 recently formed provider-sponsored health plans were profitable in 2015.  Some reported significant losses; five went out of business.


The study found that many of the new plans are not using clinically integrated networks and accountable care organizations (ACOs) to cut healthcare costs; both are relatively new cost-of-care-cutting industry innovations.  Instead, new plans are cutting healthcare costs by paying providers less.


The study says that the new health plans must provide high-quality care at lower cost to succeed—but most have not, with only a few making progress in that area.