Each week the Office of the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging releases a Friday newsletter with information relevant to activities, issues and events for older Pennsylvanians and persons with disabilities across the Commonwealth. Click here download the newsletter as a .pdf file.
“Some can be deadly. Some hit older adults harder than others. How to know how much is too much”
by Betsy Stephens
“If the good news is that over-the-counter pain killers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen won’t put you at risk for addiction issues like prescription opioids or narcotics can, the less good news is that no pain pill comes without the potential for problems, says Nitin Sekhri, medical director of pain management at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y.
“Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is considered the safest option by many, and yet, Sekhri notes, it’s still to blame for about 50 percent of acute liver failures in the U.S. Acetaminophen also is the leading reason behind calls to poison control and to blame for more than 50,000 emergency room visits a year.
“Often problems arise from people not realizing they’ve taken as much acetaminophen as they have. The over-the-counter painkiller isn’t just in Tylenol: It shows up in remedies meant to fight allergies, colds, flu, coughs and sleeplessness. It’s also an ingredient in prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet.”
Read this article in its entirety at AARP, click here.
“Spending on pharmaceuticals is on the rise worldwide. And it well should be. Today, we are able to cure some diseases like hepatitis C that were virtual death sentences just a few years ago. This progress required significant investments by governments and private companies alike. Unquestionably, the world is better off for it.
“Unfortunately, as President Trump pointed out in the State of the Union address, the United States has borne a significant amount of the negative effects associated with this development. For one, its regulatory apparatus has focused largely on drug safety, yet regulators have failed to emphasize cost-effectiveness when it comes to both new and existing drugs.
“At the same time, the United States also pays significantly higher prices than the rest of the developed world when it comes to prescription drugs, due primarily to limited competition among drug companies.”
Read this article at The Conversation in its entirety, click here.
Read this related article: “Paying for Prescription Drugs Around the World: Why Is the U.S. an Outlier?” – The Commonwealth Fund
“The Out-of-Pocket Cost Burden for Specialty Drugs in Medicare Part D in 2019” – Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
“Medicare Part D has helped to make prescription drugs more affordable for people with Medicare, yet many beneficiaries continue to face high out-of-pocket costs for their medications. Specialty tier drugs—defined by Medicare as drugs that cost more than $670 per month in 2019—are a particular concern for Part D enrollees in this context. Part D plans are allowed to charge between 25 percent and 33 percent coinsurance for specialty tier drugs before enrollees reach the coverage gap, where they pay 25 percent for all brands, followed by 5 percent coinsurance when total out-of-pocket spending exceeds an annual threshold ($5,100 in 2019). While specialty tier drugs are taken by a relatively small share of enrollees, spending on these drugs has increased over time and now accounts for over 20 percent of total Part D spending, up from about 6 to 7 percent before 2010.”
“Figure 1: Medicare Part D beneficiaries can pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for specialty tier drugs, with the majority of costs for many drugs above the catastrophic threshold.”
“More than half of older Americans lack the skills to gather and understand medical information. Providers must simplify, researchers say.”
by Paula Span
“Every time her parents pick up a new prescription at a Walgreens in Houston, they follow Duyen Pham-Madden’s standing instructions: Use the iPad she bought for them, log onto FaceTime, hold up the pill bottles for her examination.
“Her mother, 79, and father, 77, need numerous medications, but have trouble grasping when and how to take them.
“The label may say to take one pill three times a day, but ‘my dad might take one a day,’ said Ms. Pham-Madden, 56, an insurance purchasing agent in Blue Springs, Mo. ‘Or take three at a time.’
“So she interprets the directions for them, also reminding her mother to take the prescribed megadose of vitamin D, for osteoporosis, only weekly, not daily.”
Continue reading this important article at The New York Times, click here.
NeedyMeds is a national non-profit organization that maintains a website of free information on programs that help people who can’t afford medications and healthcare costs.
Check out this resource to find help with the cost of medicine: https://www.needymeds.org
“The CDC estimates that 20% of Americans suffer from chronic pain.” (Getty/smartstock)
by Paige Minemyer
“Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from chronic pain that interferes with their daily activities, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The CDC reviewed the 2016 National Health Interview Survey, which includes responses from more than 17,000 adults, and found that 1 in 5 Americans, or about 50 million people, suffer from chronic pain.
“Of those, 8%, or about 19.6 million, suffer from pain that interferes with their daily lives.”
by Raca Banerjee
“Mary is a 55-year old patient with terminal breast cancer. She suffers from severe pain and her doctor suggests that she consider using a fentanyl transdermal patch to help alleviate her symptoms. In response, she exclaims: ‘Fentanyl? The stuff that killed Prince? No thank you!’
“Current Prescribing Perilous
“This anecdote reflects society’s changing attitude toward opioids, but brings up another important point. How, while our nation battles an opioid epidemic, do we ensure that patients are open to taking narcotics when needed, or have access to pain medication? It is difficult to manage opioid prescribing in a way that prevents abuse while meeting patients’ needs. This becomes twice as hard when prescribing for the aging population, including older adults who have advanced-stage illness or who are at the end of life.
“Barriers that limit access to appropriate opioid treatment include patient fear, physician reluctance to prescribe and strict pharmacy controls or insurer preauthorization restrictions. While these last three issues are important to curbing the opioid epidemic, they may inadvertently lead to under-treatment of pain.”
by Helen Branswell
“Next winter, there may be a new drug for people who contract influenza — one that appears to be able to shut down infection quickly and, unlike anything else on the market, can be taken as a single dose.
“The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday said that it would give the drug, baloxavir marboxil, a priority review, and approval has the potential to upend the way influenza is treated.
“Baloxavir marboxil has already been licensed in Japan, where it is sold by Shionogi & Co. under the brand name Xofluza.”
by Gary Kaye, Chief Content Officer
“By some estimates, the cost of patients not taking their medications as prescribed – known as medical non-adherence or non-compliance – is as high as $290 billion each year and may result in as many as 125,000 unnecessary deaths.
“It’s a vexing problem for health care providers, pharmacies, insurers, and almost every other player in the health care system with only 50% of us take our medication as prescribed.
“I recently spoke with Tomer Gofer, CEO of Vaica, a company developing digital health products to help us remember how and when to take our medications as we should.
“Gofer says ‘there are many reasons why patients don’t take their medications as prescribed: forgetfulness; side effects; the cost; the complexity of regimen; they don’t understand why they need to take it; or they are getting better and think they don’t need it anymore. And the constant: no one knows exactly what the patient is doing because no one is around to see or help in the event of an emergency.’”
Keep reading this important article, click here.