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Volume 2, Number 36
October 7, 2005


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In the Spotlight

New FDA leadership

Robert Goldberg, Ph.D., Washington Times, 10-4-05

The departure of FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford and the appointment of the director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, as his replacement, may prove to be a defining moment in American medicine. Those who believe that the Food and Drug Administration is placing politics above scientific review of new drugs are hailing the Crawford resignation. But whether the FDA will be allowed to reform itself with better science remains an open question. The litmus test will be if the same critics allow Dr. von Eschenbach ó who is widely regarded for his efforts to improve cancer care by increasing the number of treatments and tests that target specific cancers ó to lead the FDA in a similar mission.
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News

Getting Your Health Care at Wal-Mart: To Boost Sales, Retail Chains Open In-Store Clinics; A Strep Test and a Bar of Soap
Wall Street Journal, 10-5-05

Editorís Notes:

The FDA has made enormous strides in expanding access to over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Dozens of drugs from Tylenol to Claritin, Aleve and Nexium are available without a prescription, giving consumers convenient access to relatively safe, valuable treatments at affordable prices.
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WHO: Chronic Diseases May Kill 400 Million by 2015
Associated Press Newswires, 10-5-05

Editorís Notes:

While media attention has been focused on the spread of communicable diseases in developing nations (AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis), policymakers have lost sight of the much larger toll that chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes inflict in both wealthy and poor nations. A new report from the WHO quantifying the global toll of chronic diseases is likely to lead to a fresh debate about global health priorities.
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Medicare Drug Plan Stumps Seniors
USA Today, 10-4-05

Editorís Notes:

Will the Medicare drug benefit be too complicated for seniors to navigate? Only time will tell, as insurers have just begun advertising their programs. But there is some early polling data available. According to a recently released USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll,
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Program Offers Health Care for Some Part-Time Workers
The New York Times, 10-4-05

Editorís Notes:

Purchasing health insurance on the open market is often prohibitively expensive for part-time or free-lance employees who arenít covered by employer-provided plans. To help at least some part-time workers find affordable health insurance, six large companies are enrolling their part-time employees in a national program with limited, but affordable health care coverage:
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Vermont testing cap on Medicaid
Washington Times, 10-3-05

Editorís Notes:

When former Vermont Governor Howard Dean ran for President last year, he was quick to claim that he had solved Vermontís health care problems through dramatic expansion of the stateís Medicaid program. In hindsight, he ďsolvedĒ the problem by creating a fiscally-unsustainable program that now threatens to bring the state to its knees.
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US FDA to search insurer data for drug safety info
Reuters News, 10-3-05

Editorís Notes:

The inherent complexity of human biology means that when physicians prescribe medicines (both old and new) to patients' they are often conducting de facto mini-clinical trials. Not surprisingly, this means some of the most serious adverse events will only be discovered after, not before, FDA approval.
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Commentary

Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals and the Public Health
Ronald W. Buzzeo, Wall Street Journal, 10-4-05

Supporters of legalizing U.S. prescription drug importation have largely shrugged off safety concerns about counterfeit and dangerous drugs as an industry ploy. They have pointed to Europe as one example of how drug importation can be made both safe and legal. However, there is mounting evidence that counterfeit drug sales are a global problem that is fast making inroads in the U.S.:
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Medicaidís Code Red
Louis S. Richman, The New York Times, 10-2-05

New Yorkís Medicaid program has hit the trifecta. It seems to lead the nation in fraud, waste and cost. Richman warns New York legislators that if they want to save the programís generous benefits they are going to have to consider deep and wide-ranging reforms:
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In praise of U.S. health care
Michael Tanner, Washington Times, 10-1-05

Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and prostate cancer survivor, points out that for patients with serious illnesses the U.S. remains very much the destination of choice:
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Research

Older Drugs, Shorter Lives? An Examination of the Health Effects of the Veterans Health Administration Formulary
Frank R. Lichtenberg, Center for Medical Progress, 10-7-05

Some policymakers have advocated modeling the new Medicare Drug Benefit on the VA National Formulary. This report, ďOlder Drugs, Shorter Lives: An Examination of the Health Effects of the Veterans Health Administration FormularyĒ, researched and written by Columbia Business School Professor Frank R. Lichtenberg, delves into the history of the VA National Formulary and estimates the impact of the use of new drugs on longevity.
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In this week's issue:

SPOTLIGHT

New FDA leadership

NEWS

Getting Your Health Care at Wal-Mart: To Boost Sales, Retail Chains Open In-Store Clinics; A Strep Test and a Bar of Soap
WHO: Chronic Diseases May Kill 400 Million by 2015
Medicare Drug Plan Stumps Seniors
Program Offers Health Care for Some Part-Time Workers
Vermont testing cap on Medicaid
US FDA to search insurer data for drug safety info

COMMENTARY

Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals and the Public Health
Medicaidís Code Red
In praise of U.S. health care

RESEARCH

Older Drugs, Shorter Lives? An Examination of the Health Effects of the Veterans Health Administration Formulary
Center for Medical Progress 
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