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Generic liquid Tamiflu approved

Washington, D.C. — On September 15, the FDA approved the first generic version of the flu drug Tamiflu.  The generic knockoff, made by Nesher Pharmeuticals, comes in liquid form, making it suitable for patients as young as two weeks old who cannot ingest capsules.


As with the branded version, the generic is indicated for acute treatment within 48 hours of flu-like symptom onset.  It can also be used for prevention in patients aged one and older.


The drug should not be used as a substitute for flu vaccination, the FDA stresses.


Kaiser, Target to open more in-store clinics

Oakland, CA — Leading U.S. healthcare system Kaiser Permanente and major U.S. retailer Target will be opening 31 more Target Clinics in 31 California Target stores over the next three years. 


Each “Target Clinic, care provided by Kaiser Permanente” is staffed by nurse practitioners (NPs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs).  They provide flu shots, pediatric care, women’s healthcare, chronic disease management and care for minor illnesses like sore throats and colds.


The new retail clinics are just another example of healthcare’s ongoing shift away from hospitals, ERs and primary-care doctor’s offices.


Send a postcard, save a life

Washington, D.C. — Saving a life may cost nothing more than a postcard.


That’s the lead suggestion resulting from a new National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study on the best long-term follow-up for ER patients treated for suicide attempts.


The study examined the effectiveness (and cost) of emergency rooms sending postcards to patients, calling patients, or ordering therapy for patients.


The study found that that sending postcards with caring messages once a month for four months to post-ER patients who were at risk for self-harm reduced the most risk and cost the least.


The study appeared in the September 15 issue of Psychiatric Services.


Industry stymies price-shopping doctor

Boston, MA — Being a physician, a healthcare industry researcher and an informed and involved parent still took Harvard’s Dr. Ateev Mehrotra over a month to navigate the system, the health-policy professor wrote in an amusing recent online post.


An ophthalmologist was needed to surgically remove a growth on his daughter’s eyelid, and Dr. Merhotra’s high-deductible family insurance coverage wouldn’t pay.  Enter price-shopping.


The good professor describes his price-shopping experience as going “terribly.”  First, it was hard to find prices on the insurer’s website.  The uncommon procedure wasn’t listed.  An ophthalmologist’s office priced the surgery at $1,007—which didn’t include anesthetics or operating room (OR) prices.


Next calling insurer customer service for a better price estimate, Dr. Mehrotra was asked “to submit a written cost request for the surgeon and the hospital we were considering.”  The Mehrotras got an incomplete estimate of $452 (not including anesthetics or OR prices) 24 days later. 


Other ophthalmologists would only quote prices if they could first re-evaluate his daughter for another $200 per visit.


It cost Dr. Mehrotra $1,443 in the end: $556 for the surgery, and $887 for the anesthetics and OR.


“Sadly, my family’s price-shopping experience is the norm in the U.S.  Most people can’t successfully shop for care,” Dr. Mehrotra concluded.  “Offering people a price transparency website doesn’t help them switch to lower-cost providers and doesn’t decrease health care spending.”


Premiums up, enrollment hampered for ACA: CBO

Washington, D.C. — A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report released Sept. 14 says that premiums in next year’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans will be about 15 percent higher than this year because of short-term market uncertainty.


The analysis also found that enrollment in these marketplace plans will increase slightly, but will be limited by higher premiums and by funding cuts of up to 98 percent for “Navigator” community groups that help people enroll in ACA plans.  Those organizations got notice of the cuts mid-September.


Amgen, Allergan win first U.S. cancer biosimilar approval

Washington, D.C. — On Sept. 14, the FDA approved Amgen Inc. and Allergan plc’s biosimilar version of Roche AG’s blockbuster medicine Avastin, marking its first approval of a cancer drug copycat biologic.


Amgen’s biosimilar, to be marketed under the brand name Mvasi, is cleared for use across five of Avastin’s approved indications.  But it was not approved as an interchangeable, notably—meaning pharmacists can’t automatically switch patients taking Avastin to Mvasi.