Boston Health News doesn’t take sides, so we won’t be signing the petition to both Massachusetts senators that arrived in the mail yesterday. But it is worth noting. The fat envelope features a quote from Bernie Sanders, a document entitled “Myths and Lies about Single-Payer” and an appeal for donations to Public Citizen, the consumer group that has championed the cause for many years.
A group called Mass Care has been advocating for single-payer in the state, recently gaining a powerful ally, health policy heavyweight Don Berwick. This weekend, the group and its supporters will be gathering on the steps of the State House as part of a “National Day of Action for Improved Medicare.”
Progressives, emboldened by Republicans’ health-care failure, are trying to shift the political debate even further to the left, toward a long-standing goal that Democrats told them was unrealistic. They see in President Trump a less ideological Republican who has also promised universal coverage, and they see a base of Trump voters who might very well embrace the idea.
Here’s a sample of health-related posts from this week. Always double check before attending. Trends toward science but includes policy events. And, thanks to editor Fred Hapgood, who would “appreciate your mentioning this list to people with compatible interests.”
2 – 5p. “The Myths of Testosterone.” A forum. . BU: Photonics Center 906, 8 St. Mary’s St. Details.
6 – 8p. “Rosalind Franklin: DNA’s Shadow Figure.” A screening of NOVA’s “Secret of Photo 51,” which examines Franklin’s largely unsung role in the discovery of DNA. Introduced by Tracey L. Petryshen, of the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine. MGH: Museum of Medical History, 12 North Grove St. Details. To register, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-724-2755.
Wednesday, March 29
11a. “Toward a Therapy for Central Nervous System Injuries: simple solutions for studying neuroregeneration.”Khalid Shah. Northeastern: 333 Curry Student Center. Details, Abstract.
Noon. “Nature’s Gift: How the Discovery of Structural Principles in a Microbial Protein Helped Illuminate the Pathophysiology of Psychiatry.”Karl Deisseroth. Boston Children’s Hospital: Folkman Auditorium, 300 Longwood Ave. Details.* This Event will be webcast.
1p. “Motor Skill Learning and Execution in a Distributed Brain Network.”Steffen Wolff. Harvard: Northwest 243. Details.
6:30p. “Consciousness Hacking: Meditation, Neuroscience, and Technology.” A forum. Harvard Divinity School: Sperry Room and Various Classrooms, Andover Hall, 45 Francis Ave. Details, Abstract, Registration.
6:30p. “What Brain Connectivity Reveals about Music, Language, and Creativity.”Psyche Loui. Aeronaut Brewery, 14 Tyler St, Somerville. Details.
Friday March 31
9 – Noon. “A Mini-Symposium on Cancer Stem Cells.” Dana-Farber Institute, Jimmy Fund Auditorium. Details.
12:45p. “Incorporating Climate Projections in Health Impact Studies.”Pat Kinney. BUSM: L210. Details.
For years, scientist have been arguing about whether amyloid protein in the brain is a cause,or just a symptom of condition. Pharma has been confident — or desperate — enough in the science to bet on amyloid clearing drugs, but they haven’t turned out to be very good bets. So far, none has proved effective.
On Tuesday morning, one of the chief proponents of the theory, Harvard’s Dennis Selkoe, will give a talk at McLean Hospital, the storied psychiatric facility in Belmont. Entitled “New Insights into the Protein Biology of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases,” it takes place at 11 am in room 132 of at the hospital’s de Marneffe Building.
And, if those in audience have read the Atlantic piece — in which Selkoe is quoted — they may have questions about Merck’s recent decision to abandon test on what was once considering a promising treatment. .
After Merck’s announcement last week, one neurologist told Bloomberg that “there is mounting evidence—of which this is another piece—that removing amyloid once people have established dementia is closing the barn door after the cows have left.” An advisor to a life-sciences venture-capital firm tweeted, “I’ve been a long-term adherent of the amyloid hypothesis, but starting to feel like this”: “This” was a gif of the Black Knight from Monty Python, arms missing but still adamant he had suffered nothing worse than a flesh wound.
And well, the amyloid hypothesis is not dead yet. Large clinical trials targeting amyloid are still underway—either using new, potentially more powerful anti-amyloid drugs or trying out the previously failed drugs in patients with less advanced Alzheimer’s. These trials will likely affirm the amyloid hypothesis or kill it for good.
Note that NEJM editor Jeffrey Drazen said “The NIH is undergoing a slow strangulation,…Money is what drives research. You need the resources when you have an idea.”
Lots of people say this.If you argue that more money for research is always good, you agree. And if you are one of the many, many scientists trying to get the NIH money to fund a project, life is a lot harder. But, is there such a thing as evidence-based research funding? Are we getting outr money’s worth?
Still, to many, more is better and level is less. So the increased funding for NIH in the bill perhaps sweetened the provisions in the “21st Century Care Act” that will speed FDA approval of new drugs. That’s good news for those who will get better and richer from new drugs. Bad news for those worried that FDA oversight is already lax. Two of the speakers expressed some “concern about speeding up the FDA’s drug approval process, saying that will result in decisions based on less-rigorous science.”
In an effort to tackle one of the biggest challenges to the Massachusetts economy, members of a special state commission on Tuesday called for regulating the growth in hospital rates to contain health care costs.
Commissioners said the Division of Insurance should have greater authority to oversee hospital-insurer contracts, including the amount hospital rates can increase each year. The controversial proposal comes after months of discussions at the commission, which was convened to study the wide variation in prices at Massachusetts hospitals. Studies have shown that price disparities contribute to higher health spending because the most expensive providers also tend to have the top reputations and attract the most patients.
On the same day, The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) released its annual report on health care spending in Massachusetts in 2016. Main drivers of health care cost growth are prescription drug costs, hospital spending, health insurance enrollment changes, and spending on long-term services.
Why two commissions? On is a quasi-state agency, the other a one-off , set up when hospitals unions agreed not to pursue a ballot question that would have regulated insurance payment to hospitals. The commission was charged with “recommending steps to reduce price variation among different providers and issuing a report by March 15, 2017,” according to the Globe.
And this Sunday, the Globe reported on another attempt to limit the cost of Medicaid in the state”
Governor Charlie Baker “has been backed into a corner by the soaring expense of MassHealth, the state’s publicly subsidized health insurance program for lower-income residents. MassHealth now accounts for about 40 percent of the state budget, and he fears that even more people will choose it over their employer’s coverage.
To help keep that from happening, the governor last month unveiled a measure that would penalize companies that don’t offer adequate health insurance to their workers.”