a cardboard box with foam pieces and an RX perscription bottle
  • Takeda launched its Digital Accelerator last year, and the digital incubator has now funded 34 projects, including a VR MOA project for their UC/Chron’s drug Entyvio. Fierce has a look at how they’re faring with what could be a model for other pharmas looking to jumpstart their digital medicine portfolios and engage tech talent.
  • Walgreens and UnitedHealth’s Optum PBM are partnering on a deal in which Optum will steer patients to Walgreens by offering them mail order prices in-store, and in exchange, Walgreens will accept lower reimbursement for meds. The deal includes a data provision – Optum patients that want to get their meds at a bricks-and-mortar store have to opt in to sharing their data in order to get the lower rates.
  • Sermo launched a new feature – Sermo Pages – which lets drug and device companies (among others) publish pages on the platform for free. Klick took it for a test drive and ran through some of the regulatory considerations.
  • It’s an election year, and everyone hates pharma direct-to-consumer advertising. The AMA wants to ban DTCA. Politicians of all stripes want to ban DTCA. But here’s a smart look at the evidence for DTC as a benefit to patient health. Puts some flesh on the notion of patient empowerment.
  • Novartis has been catching criticism for a major consumer ad campaign touting their innovative heart failure drug Entresto. Some cardiologists call the ads alarmist. The campaign is a response, in part, to a surprising reluctance among cards to prescribe the drug, which stems in part from a generally cautious, wait-and-see approach to new drugs, and in part to poor initial insurance coverage. Novartis is betting that better reimbursement will improve sales, but several category-defining launches have had an uphill slog, even after establishing broader coverage.
  • Connected health guru Joe Kvedar recaps the HIMSS summit. Among other things, he says “While CES was about more and more wearables/sensors, HIMSS was about more and more analytics,” and “Patient engagement is still a much used (and abused) phrase.”
  • The watchword of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems conference last week (think: all things EHR/PHR and HIPAA) was FHIR, according to mobihealthnews. Okay, so that’s an acronym, not a word. It stands for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, and it’s a data standard-slash-API that big players in health IT are getting behind. Could a world in which EHR systems speak the same language be on the horizon? ONC’s Karen DeSalvo said: “It's time for us to see some digital dividend, to really make that data sing.”
  • In recent weeks, Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo AI squared off against a Go grandmaster and won four out of five games, capturing the attention of the world press much as IBM’s Deep Blue did in its face-off with Gary Kasparov. It was hardly a clean sweep, though – here’s where DeepMind was bested by human intelligence.
  • The Wall Street Journal has a look at how Cardiogram, a consumer heart rate tracking app for Apple Watch, is using AI to spot Afib.
  • Target is going to start stocking digital health device sections in 500 of its stores.
  • A look at video games built around empathy rather than entertainment. There’s powerful potential for patient and provider education and behavior change in games like these.
  • In the turf war between doctors and nurses, nurses continue to gain ground – most recently with victories by APRNs in West Virginia and Florida that expand their autonomy and authority over prescribing drugs, among other things.
  • Valeant was the model of financialized pharma, but it’s mired in scandal and its stock price is in free fall. Forbes’ Matt Herper looks at what went wrong and the implications for the industry. TLDR version: developing innovative drugs matters.
  • FDA quietly tweaked the rules to speed reviews of generics that would compete with those made by only one company – such as Daraprim, the drug made notorious after Martin Shkreli’s Turing acquired it and hiked the price sky-high.
  • Researchers looked at the price of Gleevec and the rebates offered to better understand the dynamic between list prices, price increases and discounts, aiming to pierce the opacity around drug pricing. They concluded that annual price increases were a wholly independent factor used to sustain revenues in the face of increasing competition.
  • The CDC issued long-anticipated guidelines on opiate prescribing meant to help combat the epidemic of abuse and addiction. Doctors are urged to prescribe only a few days’ worth at a time, and only after trying to control pain with OTC analgesics like aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • NEJM has a fascinating look at VA and NHS scandals and the tradeoffs between cost and quality of care that are shaking down the healthcare system at all levels. It’s a tale of unfunded mandates driven by government cost-cutting efforts – and our inability to reckon with the implications for patient care.

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