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CMS Names Costliest Drugs in 2015


CMS released a dashboard that revealed the amount of money spent by the agency on specific drugs. Maryland docs reject medical marijuana.

Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.

Medicare's Priciest Drugs in 2015

CMS released a dashboard this week that revealed the amount of money spent by the agency on specific drugs. The dashboard exposed sharp increases in overall spending on certain drugs, The Wall Street Journal reports. For instance, spending on the diabetes drug Glumetza rose 381 percent from 2014 to 2015. Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate, which is for malaria, lupus, and arthritis, saw an increase in Medicare spending of 372 percent. The drug that cost Medicare the most in 2015? That would be the hepatitis C treatment, Harvoni. According to the dashboard, Medicare spent $7.03 billion on the drug for just over 75,000 beneficiaries, at a cost of more than $92,000 per beneficiary. The costliest drug per beneficiary was H.P. Acthar, which is used for patients with multiple sclerosis and lupus. It cost more than $160,000 per beneficiary.

Maryland Docs Not on Board with Medical Marijuana

In the state of Maryland, only 1 percent of the 16,000 doctors who treat Medicare patients have signed up for the state's medical marijuana program, The Baltimore Sun reports. Along with the lack of interest from practicing physicians, two hospitals in the state have banned their physicians from participating. Most patients interested in obtaining medical marijuana won't be able to use their own physician to get a prescription and many rural patients won't have access to drug at all, the paper reports. Many doctors say there is not enough known about medical marijuana to recommend it. Others are concerned over liability since it's illegal under federal law.

Nursing Skill Important in Mortality

A new study from researchers at University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing reveals that replacing professionally qualified nurses with lower skilled nursing assistants leads to a heightened risk of patient death. The study was published in the British Medical Journal. Using data spanning 243 hospitals across Europe, the researchers found that for every 25 patients, just one professional nurse substitution was associated with a 21 percent rise in the odds of dying in a hospital with average nurse staffing levels and skill mix. The researchers say the data proves that "diluting" hospitals with nurses of a lower skill set is "not in the public interest."

Mental Health Professionals and the President-elect

The election of President-elect Donald Trump means that mental health professionals will have to work to heal the country's divisiveness following the election, psychiatrist H. Steven Moffic writes in Psychiatric Times. For those experiencing anxiety about the future of the country and healthcare, Moffic says mental health professionals will need to "be realistically supportive and to address whatever unique patient trauma and transference reactions might be connected to this race." He says that whatever a mental health professional's personal opinion is on the President-elect, they'd be wise to keep it to themselves when treating anxious patients and "monitor any countertransference reactions."

Quote of the Week:

Calling Physician Leaders: Step up and Advocate

"Physicians have often let policymakers determine the details, but we cannot be on the sidelines any longer. We cannot find ourselves lost in the shuffle of burdensome demands of maintenance of certification, unproven quality markers, and ever growing stacks of paperwork. We need action."

KrisEmily McCrory, MD

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