From The New York Times

Why Aren’t There Better Cancer Drugs? Scientists May Have Picked the Wrong Targets

September 12, 2019

Twenty years ago, the fight against cancer seemed as if it were about to take a dramatic turn.

Traditionally, cancer doctors fought the disease with crude weapons, often simply poisoning fast-growing cells whether they were cancerous or healthy. But then a team of researchers hit on a new strategy: drugs targeting proteins produced by cancer cells that seemed necessary to their survival.

Twenty years ago, the fight against cancer seemed as if it were about to take a dramatic turn.

Traditionally, cancer doctors fought the disease with crude weapons, often simply poisoning fast-growing cells whether they were cancerous or healthy. But then a team of researchers hit on a new strategy: drugs targeting proteins produced by cancer cells that seemed necessary to their survival.

Once such drug, Gleevec, worked spectacularly in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia. But the clinical trials that followed mostly have produced disappointments. According to a study published earlier this year, only 3 percent of cancer drugs tested in clinical trials between 2000 and 2015 have been approved to treat patients.

A study published on Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine offers one reason for the failure: Scientists are going after the wrong targets….

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Opioid Treatment Is Used Vastly More in States That Expanded Medicaid

August 22, 2019

States that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act have seen a much bigger increase in prescriptions for a medication that treats opioid addiction than states that chose not to expand the program, a new study has found.

The study, by researchers at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research group, adds to the evidence that the 2010 health care law is playing a significant role in addressing the opioid epidemic.

States that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act have seen a much bigger increase in prescriptions for a medication that treats opioid addiction than states that chose not to expand the program, a new study has found.

The study, by researchers at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research group, adds to the evidence that the 2010 health care law is playing a significant role in addressing the opioid epidemic. The researchers found that the number of Medicaid-covered prescriptions for buprenorphine, which eases cravings and withdrawal symptoms, increased almost fivefold nationally — to 6.2 million from 1.3 million — between 2011 and 2018.

“Expanding Medicaid is probably the most important thing states can do to increase treatment rates,” said Lisa Clemans-Cope, the study’s lead author. “But even some states that did expand Medicaid look like they are falling short in meeting the treatment needs….”

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Novartis Hid Manipulated Data While Seeking Approval for $2.1 Million Treatment

August 6, 2019

The drug maker Novartis concealed manipulated data from the Food and Drug Administration while applying for approval of an extremely expensive gene therapy treatment and then delayed reporting the issue, the agency said on Tuesday.

Officials said the inaccurate data, which involved testing in mice of two different strengths of the treatment, did not affect the safety or efficacy of the therapy, Zolgensma, used to treat a rare, often fatal genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy.

The drug maker Novartis concealed manipulated data from the Food and Drug Administration while applying for approval of an extremely expensive gene therapy treatment and then delayed reporting the issue, the agency said on Tuesday.

Officials said the inaccurate data, which involved testing in mice of two different strengths of the treatment, did not affect the safety or efficacy of the therapy, Zolgensma, used to treat a rare, often fatal genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy.

Approved in May, the treatment’s price — set at $2.1 million — stoked concerns about the astronomical costs of potential cures for rare diseases and upset parents who initially could not get insurance coverage for the breakthrough treatment….

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House Votes to Repeal Obamacare Tax Once Seen as Key to Health Law

July 17, 2019

In the heat of the legislative fight over the Affordable Care Act, Obama administration officials argued that including a steep tax on high-cost, generous health insurance plans was critical to the law because it would hold down soaring costs while helping to pay for its expanded health benefits.

On Wednesday, that feature, once considered central to Obamacare, was dealt a blow by an unlikely foe: Democrats.

In the heat of the legislative fight over the Affordable Care Act, Obama administration officials argued that including a steep tax on high-cost, generous health insurance plans was critical to the law because it would hold down soaring costs while helping to pay for its expanded health benefits.

On Wednesday, that feature, once considered central to Obamacare, was dealt a blow by an unlikely foe: Democrats.

The House voted almost unanimously to repeal the tax, which was intended to prompt employers to rein in such costly plans and force employees to spend more of their own money on their care. It was expected to be a key cost-containment provision in President Barack Obama’s signature health law and one of the main ways it was supposed to pay for itself.

It was not to go into effect until 2022, but the unions never liked it, nor did business groups or Republicans….

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Trump’s Assault on Obamacare Could Undermine His Own Health Initiatives

July 11, 2019

In court, the Trump administration is trying to get all of Obamacare erased. But at the White House, President Trump and his health officials are busily using the law to pursue key proposals.

Last week, the president highlighted a policy in the works meant to narrow the gaps between what drugs cost in the United States and overseas. On Wednesday, he signed an executive order to transform care for patients with kidney disease.

In court, the Trump administration is trying to get all of Obamacare erased. But at the White House, President Trump and his health officials are busily using the law to pursue key proposals.

Last week, the president highlighted a policy in the works meant to narrow the gaps between what drugs cost in the United States and overseas. On Wednesday, he signed an executive order to transform care for patients with kidney disease.

Both measures were made possible by a provision in the Affordable Care Act, and both would be effectively gutted if the administration’s position prevailed in court.

In between, administration lawyers told a receptive panel of judges in New Orleans that the entire Affordable Care Act should be overturned….

Read the full The New York Times article