Members of Congress Put Costly Drugs in Their Crosshairs

  • by Shannon Firth

WASHINGTON — Prescription drug prices are getting more attention on Capitol Hill, with two senators from opposite sides of the aisle announcing plans to investigate while House Democrats declared they were forming a task force on the issue as well.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) this week announced a bipartisan probe into drug costs, according to a press release from McCaskill’s office. The senators are requesting drug pricing information from four companies whose products’ prices have recently spiked: Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Turing Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin, and Rodelis Therapeutics.

“We need to get to the bottom of why we’re seeing huge spikes in drug prices that seemingly have no relationship to research and development costs,” McCaskill said, in the statement.

According to the release, the investigation will look into:

  • “Substantial price increases on recently acquired off-patent drugs”
  • “Mergers and acquisitions within the pharmaceutical industry that have led to dramatic increases in off-patent drug prices”
  • “The FDA’s role in the drug approval process for generic drugs, the agency’s distribution protocols, and, if necessary, its off-label regulatory regime”

The Senate Special Committee on Aging has scheduled an initial hearing on this issue for Dec. 9.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) announced the formation of the “Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force.”

House representatives said they hope to advance legislation that would enable Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to negotiate Medicare prices and to force drug companies to be transparent about the cost of making their products.

Doggett cited the now infamous example of Turing Pharmaceutical’s Daraprim (pyrimethamine), a drug for treating infections common in patients with cancer and AIDS. After the company acquired the drug 3 months ago, the price went from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. On Tuesday, the company said it would lower the price by the end of the year, but did not say by how much.

“But exorbitant drug prices are not about one wrongdoing, or one drug, or one class of drugs; they are a systemic problem that involve a wide range of manufacturers,” said Doggett while standing at a podium flanked by posters of Turing’s CEO Martin Shkrelivilified by the media for his tone-deaf comment that his actions would benefit society — and Michael Pearson, CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

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Understanding the role of pharmacists

Pharmacist Amy Schiveley talks with a customer at Lakeview Pharmacy

If your recent flu vaccine was administered at a pharmacy, you have already sampled the expanded role that pharmacists play in our health care today.

A flu shot, though, is just one of many patient-care services pharmacies across the country offer beyond filling prescriptions. From blood pressure tracking to Medication Therapy Management counseling, today’s pharmacists can be a resource for a wide range of information and advice.

In a Medication Therapy Management session, pharmacists can sit down with a customer and go through all of their medications, find out what is working and what’s not, review the purpose of each medication, explain how they work and more, according to Amy Schiveley, managing pharmacist at Lakeview Pharmacy, 516 Monument Square.

Pharmacists already provide some consultation when a customer picks up a prescription, Schiveley said, but MTM sessions take a more in-depth look at the entire medicine profile — including over-the-counter products and supplements — and help the patient better understand what they are taking, why they are taking it and how to take it.

“We go through all of it with a fine-toothed comb,” Shiveley said.

Pharmacists can also help patients understand the risks versus benefits of each medication; explore ways to reduce costs; and work with physicians and insurance companies to figure out what medication options are best for each person, she said.

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Congressman and Medical Doctor Phil Roe Presents An Outstanding Obamacare Alternative

Family Research Council discussion of the Republican Study Committee’s alternative to the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare.”

Dr. Phil Roe, the Congressman representing Tennessee’s First Congressional District, will present an overview and answer questions about the RSC’s patient-centered and free market alternative, the American Health Care Reform Act. More information about RSC’s bill can be found here. Because of the federal government’s expansive role in structuring health care’s cost and coverage, this important discussion is relevant to all Americans. Dr. Roe has a valuable perspective as a medical doctor who understands the challenges facing America’s health system today.

Congressman Phil Roe represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee. A native of Tennessee, Phil was born on July 21, 1945 in Clarksville. He earned a degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Austin Peay State University in 1967 and went on and to earn his Medical Degree from the University of Tennessee in 1970. Upon graduation, he served two years in the United States Army Medical Corps. Congressman Roe serves on two Committees, Education and the Workforce, and Veterans’ Affairs, that allow him to address and influence the many issues that are important to the First District students, teachers, veterans and workers.

Click here to watch this presentation on YouTube >>> Congressman Phil Roe: An Obamacare Alternative

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Psoriasis and Look-alikes—A Photo Essay

Click on this picture for a slide show of photos and descriptions of psoriasis and look-alikes

Understanding Melanoma In Situ (Stage 0)

Symptoms, treatment, and prognosis for melanoma in situ, the earliest stage of melanoma.

.By Diana Rodriguez

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With regular and thorough examinations of your skin, you can increase your changes of catching any abnormalities very early — which is good news in terms of treatment and prognosis if that abnormality turns out to be a malignant melanoma. In fact, experts now recommend that men and women of all ages check their skin frequently to increase their odds of spotting potential malignant mole at the earliest possible point: stage 0, or melanoma in situ.

What Is Melanoma In Situ?
Melanoma in situ comes from the Latin phrase “in situ,” which means “in place.” Melanoma in situ is cancer in the very early stages, when it affects only the top layer of the skin. At this point, the cancer has not spread deeper into the body. Cancer diagnosed at this early stage also means that it is less likely to recur or spread to other parts of the body than melanomas that are diagnosed at a later stage.

The very first symptoms of melanoma are any abnormalities in one or more moles on the skin. Abnormalities include moles with anyAsymmetry, uneven Borders, different Colors, large Diameter, orEvolution (any change). That’s why learning the ABCDEs of melanoma and checking yourself regularly are so important. If you see anything different about any of your moles, it could be a sign of melanoma in situ. The best course is to report any changes that you see to your doctor and schedule an exam to rule out melanoma, or to catch and treat it early.

How Is Melanoma In Situ Treated?
The treatment for melanoma in situ is usually fairly simple. In a doctor’s office, an outpatient procedure can be performed in which the melanoma is cut out of the skin, a process that medical personnel call resecting or excising.

“The treatment option for early stage melanoma is a wide excision procedure,” says Bruce A. Brod, MD, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “The key prognostic feature in melanoma is the thickness [in millimeters] of the melanoma, which is based on the initial biopsy of the lesion.”

How much skin needs to be cut out depends, then, on the biopsy results. “The consensus for treatment of melanoma in situ is to remove a half-centimeter diameter around the lesion or the initial biopsy site,” Dr. Brod says. “The consensus for treating melanomas less than 2 millimeters in thickness is to remove a 1-centimeter diameter, if possible, around the lesion.”

If the melanoma is larger in size, more skin may need to be removed, and a biopsy performed. “In melanomas greater than 2 millimeters [in thickness], the consensus is to excise a 2-centimeter diameter area around the lesion,” he says. “Since melanoma can spread to the lymph nodes in close proximity to the initial melanoma, a biopsy of lymph nodes is sometimes performed for melanoma close to or greater than 1 millimeter in thickness at the time of the wide excision procedure.”

Following Up on Melanoma in Situ
The good news? People who are diagnosed with melanoma in situ and receive early treatment have a great survival rate — 100 percent at 5 and 10 years. And everyone with melanoma in situ, including those diagnosed at an early stage, should check in with their doctors frequently to be certain that the cancer has not returned. Patients should have a complete physical and skin exam every six months for a year or two after their initial diagnosis, and typically once each year for several years after that.

“When melanoma is found early, it is easily cured with simple outpatient surgery,” says Catherine Poole, president and co-founder of the Melanoma International Foundation. “When found in later stages, it may become life-threatening, and there are few effective therapies to treat metastasized melanoma.”

Some good advice for healthy, cancer-free skin: Protect your skin at all times. “The most effective sun protection is to wear protective clothing, a broad-rimmed hat, seek shade, avoid being in the sun during the prime-time solar hours of 10 to 4, and use sunscreen as an adjunct to these behaviors,” says Poole.

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A couple of weeks ago an ugly mole was removed from my stomach. After the biopsy results came back Doctor Rowe said that it was confirmed to be ‘Melanoma In Situ.’
Got it early enough that it shouldn’t be serious. I Praise God and thank the Veterans Administration!

Going back for one more minor surgery as a precautionary move. — Bob Diamond