Ordering a prescription through CVS application
  • Pfizer is moving to Ireland – on paper, anyway, having reached agreement with Allergan on a $155 billion “inversion deal” that would give them Botox and shelter from U.S. taxes. Pending approval from antitrust regulators, the merger would make Pfizer, PLC the world’s biggest drug company, with more than $60 billion in annual revenue. They’ll keep their global operational HQ on 42nd
  • Retail pharmacy giants are offering consumers discounts  in exchange for access to their health data through wellness apps – in part, so that they can target ads to shoppers down to the aisle they’re standing in and the number of boxes of Cheerios they buy per week (they also sell de-identified data to third parties). Walgreens alone “has doled out 2 billion rewards points – the equivalent of 50,000 discounts of $50 – since it started rewarding customers for logging their health data last year.” Consumer privacy watchdogs are howling.
  • Speaking of pharmacies, CVS just released a bunch of digital tools, including an Apple Watch app and updates to the CVS Caremark App that, among other things, let users initiate the refill process by snapping a smartphone pic of a prescription.
  • The role of pharmacists as care providers has been growing of late, as pharmacies expand services offered, in part to alleviate a healthcare system stressed by new ACA-insured entrants. Now California and Oregon are allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control directly – without going through a physician, NP or PA.
  • Here’s why employers and insurers are moving ahead with coverage of telehealth services. Meanwhile, CMS opened the reimbursement door a crack more, waiving restrictions for hip and knee replacements.
  • A three-month experiment with bimonthly text messages, a Web portal and home-based medical devices produced an average weight decrease of 3.5 pounds and a mean reduction in A1c levels from 7.41 to 6.77 percent.”
  • A Rock Health survey found that only 8% of consumers would share health data such as medical records and lab results with tech companies, suggesting that tech companies will need to partner with healthcare companies and institutions, much as Apple has with ResearchKit. This finding mirrors one from our CyberCitizen Health® 2015 study, in which we found that 11% of online consumers would share health measurements with tech companies if it would improve their health, while 14% would share data with pharmas and 25% with hospitals.
  • Uber is offering a one-day, $10 on-demand flu shot service Thursday in three dozen cities. Users simply call and an Uber car delivers a Passport Health nurse to their home or office. One more way the point of care is shifting.
  • A startup called PatientPing, which alerts doctors when a patient is admitted into another hospital’s emergency room, just landed an $8 million investment from Google Ventures, which is clearly paying attention to the rise of ACOs, coordinated care and readmissions penalties.
  • Did you know that, in addition to Healthcare.gov, the government also has an online tool that helps Medicare-eligibles find a drug plan? It got a fairly gushing review in the Times.
  • Bad news for the ACA, though, as UnitedHealth threatens to pull the plug on its insurance exchange plans. UnitedHealth says its ACA patients are older and sicker than expected, and is angling for a relaxation of rules around plan design that the insurer says discourage the young and healthy from enrolling and staying enrolled. Given the scale of UnitedHealth’s participation, a withdrawal would be disruptive and would diminish consumer choices.
  • Transparency was a major theme at Friday’s HHS drug prices forum (the Washington version of a college speakout, from the sounds of it), where government officials, pharma brass and health advocacy types gathered to sound off about the causes of high drug prices and what to do about them. Express Scripts said it is piloting a system “featuring adjudications at the indication level instead of drug level” and “involve outside experts helping determine value and spread savings across participating patients.” Beyond bad actors, specialty drugs are driving much of the cost increases.  A recent poll of voters in some key primary states found that 91% want the government to hold down drug costs.
  • Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company better known for its price-hiking former hedge fund wunderkind CEO Martin Shkreli, says it will offer hospitals discounts of up to 50% for its drug Daraprim, the U.S. marketing rights for which Turing bought in August. At the maximum discount of 50%, Daraprim would still be priced at $375 per tablet, which is still a 2,677% increase on the $13.50 per pill it was retailing for in July. <womp womp>

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