Lilly’s New Alzheimer Drug Fails Its Major Clinical Trials, But Stock Goes Up Anyway.

In God we trust. All others must bring data.

Yesterday, our local paper reprinted a piece from the Associated Press with the title, “Alzheimer’s drug promising.”  To me, this was a typical   example of what I call “press release medical reporting.”  The question I asked of myself and of the article was,  “how much is being promised.”  In my opinion, the answer is, “not very much,” but to the investment community to which this news release was being reported, it was enough to raise the stock prices of the manufacturer, Eli Lilly.  As a physician, I am not jumping up and down.  As an individual whose family was savaged for over three decades by Alzheimer’s disease, I am annoyed.  Let’s take a look at what is behind this commercial enthusiasm. Continue reading “Lilly’s New Alzheimer Drug Fails Its Major Clinical Trials, But Stock Goes Up Anyway.”

Why Do We Physicians Still Practice So Much Ineffective Medicine?

How Not to Treat Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

One of the first things I wrote about on these pages was the importance of having good evidence backing up what we doctors do to people, and how commercial editorial policies of medical journals have at least the potential of denying doctors and their patients timely knowledge of information that might inform their medical choices. I thought of that article again when I looked at one of the several email news summaries I get from various organizations.

One of the highlighted items that caught my eye was a report that “Combination therapy for pulmonary fibrosis appears to increase risk of death [and] hospitalization.” Several of the diseases I used to treat included pulmonary fibrosis and were notoriously difficult to manage. I clicked the “More…” button and was led to this week’s New England Journal of Medicine. The article provides a stunning example of how we physicians still allow ourselves to be led down the garden path of ineffective medical care. Continue reading “Why Do We Physicians Still Practice So Much Ineffective Medicine?”

I Love My Socialized Medicine.

I am less happy with private-sector managed confusion.

As I may have mentioned in these pages before, I am the beneficiary of socialized medicine in America. Yes, your tax dollars, supplemented by my lifetime of Medicare premiums (already spent on someone else) have been paying for my health care for the past year. Fortunately for you, I am in pretty good shape at the present time. Even better for me, the Supplemental Premiums paid into the kitty by my fellow United Healthcare Seniors are now paying my monthly gym fee through the Silver Sneakers program. That’s $30 or more a month I can spend on gin. I for one am in love with government-run socialized medicine.

Regular Medicare was easy for me. Uncle Sam signed me up automatically for the classic plan. It’s the private sector part of Medicare that is giving me fits. Picking a private Medicare supplement to cover copays and deductibles was relatively easy because UofL (my former employer) partially subsidizes only a single program for its retirees, and because of their feud with Humana, does not provide any support for Medicare Managed Care that might provide drug coverage. The University had earlier abandoned their promise to retirees that they would contribute to drug insurance coverage. (Ironic for an institution that aspires to be a drug company itself– or perhaps very smart.) We are on our own for drugs. Continue reading “I Love My Socialized Medicine.”

Kentucky Medicaid is a Mess.

Slow-Payments or No-Payments for medical care.

A week ago I was pretty tough on a possibly hypothetical physician who was said at a Frankfort hearing to have abandoned two child patients because one of the three new Kentucky Medicaid Managed care vendors had not paid him for three months. What is not hypothetical is that the Medicaid system is now in shambles. There are now four independent Medicaid managed care systems in Kentucky plus original Medicaid itself to deal with. Each of these has its own bureaucracy and unique systems. Thats a lot of different hoops for physicians and other healthcare providers to jump through. I have no doubt all are pulling their hair out. By all accounts, all three new vendors are in the pay-slow, pay-low mode. Cynics will point out that this is an easy way for an insurer to make a profit. After all, even Kentucky government uses the gimmick of paying healthcare providers late as a way to balance the books and make it look like they have actually been doing their jobs.

It is easy to assume that the three new managed care companies are to blame. That does not easily explain why all three seem to have failed at the same time, or why they appear successful in other states in which they work. When I worked in Kentucky Medicaid in the 1990s during my first-ever sabbatical and later as a faculty fellow, it was clear to me that there were major inadequacies in the state’s Medicaid computer systems and their ability to transfer and analyze information. I hope things have improved since then. Remember that all information about eligible beneficiaries, hospitals, and other providers has to be transferred to the managed care companies and continually updated so they know who to pay and for what. The three vendors have been silent publicly, but I will bet a martini in your favorite Louisville bar that internally they are struggling to interface with the state’s system. When you consider that each hospital and doctor’s office may also have their own computer system, it is no surprise that Kentucky Medicaid is staggering under its own weight and complexity. I hope we can pull out of this death spiral of cost and confusion. I still expect the state and providers to hold patients harmless, but that cannot continue infinitely. What a mess! Continue reading “Kentucky Medicaid is a Mess.”