– amid surge of dengue, ZikaAlthough it was announced that the National Public Health Reference Laboratory would commence testing for Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses, blood samples from suspected cases are still being sent overseas for testing.The Public Health Ministry had declared that the Laboratory, which was expected to start testing for mosquito-borne viruses years ago, would commence testing soon, since it has two trained medical technologists working at the facility. However, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) continues to receive samples for testing.Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton, stated that the Laboratory has been constrained by a shortage of consumables to test for the different viruses.“We are concerned about this matter, particularly that we are unable to test for Zika, since it is on a rise,” he said.The CARPHA had trained the two Guyanese medical technologists attached to the National Public Health Reference Laboratory to test for the three vector-borne diseases. Shameza Ally Sonaram and Johanna Vaughn had completed training at the agency on operating equipment to test vector-borne diseases and were expected to work along with a number of other specialist staff identified by the Ministry to perform specific duties in helping them complete these tests.Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shamdeo Persaud had stated that the Laboratory would be the principal testing site. “We had the intention to build capacity level at our National Public Health Reference Laboratory, but, of course, you know these lab tests are very specific, and not only require special skills, operators and technicians, but also require special equipment,” he said.So far, there have been 5375 reported cases of Chikungunya, with 264 confirmed cases, and 35 confirmed cases of Zika in Guyana. There are also 303 confirmed cases of dengue fever in Guyana.The rise in these vector-borne diseases had influenced the move towards facilitating local testing.
Amazon has remade retail by adopting Apple founder Steve Jobs’s dictum of showing consumers what they want before they know they want it—and then getting it to them fast. CEO Jeff Bezos is now betting he can use this strategy to disrupt the pharmacy business, which could use the competition. This week Amazon announced it is paying $1 billion for online pharmacy PillPack. The five-year-old startup sorts prescriptions by dose and provides labels and directions for patients with a picture of each pill. This is a godsend for patients with chronic conditions who have difficulty following a regimen. Think of the 85-year-old with high cholesterol, anemia and arthritis. (6/29) This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Despite investor enthusiasm for Amazon’s purchase of the online pharmacy PillPack, the giant online retailer needs to do more deals to catch CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart if it’s to compete in the U.S. prescription business. Most Americans get healthcare coverage through health insurance companies that control where the prescription is picked up or how it’s delivered. PillPack is in several health insurance and Medicare Part D drug plan networks, which is important as CVS, Walgreens and Walmart are forming closer ties with health insurers to lock up their customers in insurer networks. (Bruce Japsen, 7/2) If Amazon’s move to disrupt health care is going to make Americans any healthier, the improvement is most likely to take place in the business of getting prescription drugs to patients more reliably. For one thing, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Failure to take prescription drugs kills about 125,000 Americans a year, according to a recent review in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and this form of noncompliance costs the health care system $100 billion to $289 billion a year. PillPack — the online pharmacy service that Amazon.com Inc. bought this week — already simplifies health care for its customers by pre-sorting multiple prescriptions. Amazon could do even more by cutting down on the 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions that are reportedly never filled, easing communications between doctors and patients, and helping the medical community collect useful data on side effects and customer satisfaction. (Faye Flam, 6/29) CNBC: High Drug Prices Caused By US Patent System, Not ‘Foreign Freeloaders’ Forbes: PillPack Aside, Amazon’s Far From Catching CVS And Walgreens The Hill: Pharmacists Can Help Manage Drug Costs If State And Federal Laws Just Let Them The Wall Street Journal: Amazon The Rx Disrupter Dallas Morning News: Doctors Should Know The Cost Of The Drugs They Prescribe, But Most Don’t The Hill: The Trump Plan To Reduce Drug Prices — Are American Patients First? For decades, our government has attempted to address one of the most pressing health care problems in our country — skyrocketing drug prices — to little avail. This week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testified before the Senate Finance Committee addressing the challenges of prescription drug affordability for millions of Americans. But there is another high cost of prescription drugs often overlooked: The most expensive drug may be the one not taken, or not taken as recommended by physicians and pharmacists. The good news for patients is that they are not alone when dealing with medication challenges. Pharmacists are in a good position to assist, if state and federal laws would allow. (Lucinda Maine, 6/29) Americans continue to suffer the highest prescription drug costs of anyone in the world. One in four are unable to fill prescriptions due to high prices, according to a recent poll. And even though drug prices tripled over the last decade, analysts predict they will double again in the next ten years. We have a runaway problem on our hands, and while new proposals from Congress and the president seek to improve the drug pricing system, we will fail to reach lasting solutions unless we address a root factor in this national crisis: patents. (Tahir Amin, 6/27) Perspectives: Amazon’s Reliability Could Make Huge Difference In Getting Patients To Actually Take Their Pills Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues. Forbes: Sticker Shock: The Real Cost Of America’s 10 Most Expensive Drugs The high price of pharmaceuticals has become a constant topic of conversation in the U.S. As medical costs rise, consumers face greater financial uncertainty. And day after day, both the White House and Congress make promises that they will lower prescription costs to alleviate constituent concerns, but few changes have backed up their words. That said, time and again we are reminded that despite the rising costs of pharma, the medical industry is exceptionally complex and very rarely do patients see the real price tag of their drugs. And that lack of information – not to mention the number of third-party entities that get involved – creates a confusing and frustrating, and often bloated, price structure. (Nicole Fisher, 6/26) On July 1, more than 30,000 new doctors will begin medical residency and have the honor of serving patients across the spectrum of health care. I am one of them. And I’m concerned that we will contribute to the $750 billion epidemic of excessive health care spending, according to a 2012 Institute of Medicine report, and risk financially hurting our patients if we do not know the cost of what we prescribe. Most patients are in a black box about the specific cost of health care services. A national poll from the West Health Institute and the University of Chicago shows that 4 in 10 Americans skip medical tests or treatment because they are too expensive, and, according to an Ipsos survey, 85 percent of Americans are concerned with the cost of health care. (Hussain Lalani, 6/29) Cancer drug prices continue to increase by 10 to 12 percent every year. Spending on cancer drugs doubled in the past five years, and will double again by 2022. All cancer drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 were priced above $160,000 per year. Patients are additionally burdened with crushing out-of-pocket prescription expenses. Effective solutions to lower cancer drug prices were outlined in many commentaries, and became part of the 2016 presidential campaign agendas. (Hagop Kantarjian and Vivian Ho, 7/1) Bloomberg: What An Amazon Pharmacy Could Solve, And What It Won’t