Morning rounds: Why healthcare costs are almost a fifth of GDP

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Good morning. Don’t miss Nicholas Florkos’ striking investigation into medical marijuana companies marketing their products to treat cancer or depression without regulatory oversight.

Medical marijuana companies follow the prescription manual except for the rules

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Medical marijuana companies borrow a lot of marketing tactics from pharmaceutical companies. But because they don’t follow the same rules, patients are at risk, STAT’s Nicholas Florko tells us in a new STAT study. Big players like Trulieve, Curaleaf, and Verano advertise their products as treatments not only for muscle pain, but also for cancer and depression, with no evidence to back up these claims.

How can they get away with this? Herein lies the paradox: Cannabis companies don’t have to follow rules regarding the claims they make or the freebies they give to doctors, because for the most part, cannabis medicine is not regulated at the federal level. The U.S. government has deemed pot too dangerous a drug, so it turned almost all responsibility over to the states. They can call it a drug without the necessary rigorous determination of whether it is actually a drug or not, James Berry of West Virginia University said of the companies. Read more, including responses from companies.

SNL skit about sickle cell therapy sparks outrage

Maybe you’ve already seen (and if you’re like me, freaked out over) last weekend’s Saturday Night Live episode about new gene treatments for sickle cell disease. If you haven’t already, here’s the thing: In a white-elephant-style gift exchange, a white employee (Kate McKinnon) enrolls a black sickle cell employee (Kenan Thompson) in the Vertex Pharmaceutical and CRISPR Therapeutics exa-cel program. sickle cell anemia. He says no thanks and informs me to trade this for a Boogie Woogie buck. Later, another black employee (Punkie Johnson) also rejects the treatment in favor of a singing, trumpet-playing Santa figure.

Now Sickle cell disease foundation, Sickle cell disease association and Sick Cellsall condemned the draft. This is how they had sickle cell characters: they made them look stupid, they made them look unintelligent, said Ashley Valentine, director of Sick Cells. “Those two caricatures that they put on national television are how people see us,” Valentine said. NBC did not respond to a request for comment. STATs Jason Mast has more.

Pharmaceutical companies must tell the FDA how they are diversifying clinical trials. Does it work?

Excluding people of color from clinical trials hurts healthcare and drug development. Starting next year, drug and medical device companies will have to tell the FDA how they plan to make their clinical trials more representative of the diverse U.S. population. But planning isn’t the same as doing, the industry’s achievements aren’t great, and it’s not clear whether the FDA is gun-twisting, experts told John Wilkerson.

It’s a myth that people of color are reluctant to join a clinical trial, Steve Smith of clinical trial consulting firm WCG told John. According to a recent survey by Research America, people of color were only slightly more cautious about clinical trials than white Americans. The low participation of people of color in clinical trials is mainly due to logistics, Smith said. Read more.

STAT’s best photos of 2023

landscape shot of Mission Hospital at sunset in Asheville, NC
Mission Hospital, part of the nation’s largest hospital chain, HCA Healthcare, is located in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Read the story: HCA doctors say its cost cuts are putting Appalachian patients at risk in a warning to the entire US health care system. Mike Belleme for STAT

I don’t know how they narrowed their list down to just 14. Alissa Ambrose, STAT’s director of photography and multimedia, worked with Crystal Milner, STAT’s image editor, to select the most memorable photos of 2023 from STAT’s many photographers. In the photo above, Bat-Erdene Namsrai conducts an experiment on a rat for new research into cryogenic organ preservation, described by author Marion Renault in this story.

Here you can find more photos of the people whose stories we told, including investors and researchers who are moving their industries forward, a man trying to escape the cycle of addiction, and a doctor who has taken a career path after the abortions he performed were made illegal. home state.

Lessons from the power of contact tracing

Remember Covid-19 contact tracing? A new Nature study looking at 7 million contacts reported by the NHS’s COVID-19 app in England and Wales concludes that how much time someone spent with an infected person was the single biggest predictor of whether they themselves would contract COVID-19 – infection. The authors say their analysis also demonstrates the power of contact tracing apps like this one to provide accurate information about the risks of future outbreaks.

Here’s how it worked: The app relied on Bluetooth signal strength to measure how close and how long the smartphones were close, then reported confirmed cases to contacts. The researchers combined this information with the 240,000 positive tests reported after the announcement. Duration and proximity mattered: fleeting contacts (less than 30 minutes) made up half of reported contacts, but very few transmissions. Contacts from households were only 6% of the contacts, but their share of the transmissions was 40%.

Health care cost increases are not outpacing inflation for one good reason

We reported yesterday that US governments will spend more on health care in 2022 than the six countries with universal health care combined. Today, oncologist Ezekiel Emanuel points out that while health care spending in the United States has historically outpaced overall inflation, that has changed in recent years.

Except for the Covid spike in the 2020s, health care costs have remained at or below 18% of GDP since 2010, when Obamacare began. Medicares per capita spending has remained flat for more than a decade, and premiums for private employer-sponsored insurance have risen 3.7% over the past decade, much slower than the 8.4% between 1999 and 2011. Why? The mindset of American doctors and other clinicians has changed from ignoring costs to cutting them, Emanuel writes in his first STAT statement. Read his explanation.

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