Monday, August 24, 2009

Resumption after an extended hiatus

Things have been really insanely busy on the work front over the last year, necessitating some radical prioritisation and thus I have only posted on Pharma Strategy Blog instead of here and Oncology Market Trends.

It will be changing from this week as things gear up for some interesting new perspectives on the Pharma CI front and I'd like to take the time to thank everyone for their patience during the hiatus.

Normal service will resume shortly.

Monday, October 13, 2008

When tomorrow never comes... the rising cost of health care

"This weekend, I had the opportunity to read Matt Miller’s outstanding upcoming book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas. In his chapter on the folly of employer-provided health insurance, Miller gives us today’s startling factoid: 'It’s crazy but true: Starbucks spends more on health care than on coffee; General Motors spends more on health care than on steel.'"

Daniel Pink

What is the world coming to when the cost of basic health care is so exorbitant? The National Coalition on Health Care has some startling facts:

"In 2007, total national health expenditures were expected to rise 6.9 percent — two times the rate of inflation.1 Total spending was $2.3 TRILLION in 2007, or $7600 per person. Total health care spending represented 16 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). U.S. health care spending is expected to increase at similar levels for the next decade reaching $4.2 TRILLION in 2016, or 20 percent of GDP."

When we look back at Starbucks and GM, we find that in 2007, employer health insurance premiums increased by 6.1 percent, which is two times the rate of inflation. The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $12,100. For many in more expensive cities that will only cover a family of two people.

Washington's focus on drug costs is in many ways displaced, because like earmarks it represents a very small proportion of the total budget. Meanwhile, the health care system is riddled with inefficiencies, excessive administrative expenses, inflated prices, poor management, and inappropriate care, waste and fraud. These problems significantly increase the cost of medical care and health insurance for employers and workers and affect the security of families.

But is anything done about this excessive waste and bloated administration?

Rising medical costs correlate to drops in health insurance coverage. That's not a good thing because ultimately, people who do drop coverage and then get ill will end up paying more for their health care if something goes wrong. If you get cancer or need a bone marrow transplant, it could wipe you out.

There is no doubt that health care reform is essential, the issue is what's the best way to go about it? In the current Presidential election, the two candidates have very different approaches to the problem. McCain is offering a $5,000 tax credit towards the cost of the annual health care plans. Obama believes that health care is a right and people should not be denied access, while there should be stricter rules for insurers.

In the McCain approach, one key detail missing from the plan is whether the tax credits created by eliminating employer-based tax benefits would keep up with the cost of medical care. This plan favours the young, fit and healthy. Those who are older, unfit and have a family history of medical problems will likely end up with higher costs.

In contrast, cost is the key detail missing from the Obama health reform plan. The campaign has not said how large the tax would be for businesses that opt not to offer insurance, or how small a business would have to be to be excluded from the requirement. If the payroll tax is too low, say 6 percent, many businesses may opt to pay it instead of offering insurance, sending their employees into the public program and boosting federal costs. Overall, it sounds very similar to the successful MA health care plan introduced by then Governor Mitt Romney, where no one was denied coverage, but the plan cost was adjusted according to people's means.

Either way, whichever candidate gets in will have to grapple with many of the same issues and the inertia that has confounded health reform for decades.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Thought for the Day

Azul-Azul.Image by berpala via FlickrTim Ferriss of the Four Hour Work week just tweeted this one:

"Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength."
Eric Hoffer

How true. There is such a thing as manners, even in stressful times.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Health care bear?

A bear nearly walked into a health care facility, but seemed a little shy:


Monday, September 22, 2008

The Pharma industry gets off to a slow start this week

The FT reports that the WHO may remove Sandoz' authorization to sell some of it's antibiotics after discovering manufacturing problems at the plant.

The Economic Times notes that Indian officals may complain to the FDA regarding the ongoing issues with drugs from Ranbaxy being banned, again over manufacturing irregularities. Interestingly, Ranbaxy have hire Rudy Guiliani to advise them on the issue.

Still on the generics front, sanofi-aventis has improved its bid for Zentiva NV to clinch the support of the Czech generic-drug company's board in a deal valued at 1.8 billion euros ($2.6 billion), according to Bloomberg.

Photo of powdered milkImage via WikipediaBloomberg also declared that Taiwan banned all dairy products from China as inspectors found more cases of melamine contamination, a day after Hong Kong's two biggest supermarket chains pulled milk powder from their shelves. The scandal over melamine-tainted milk in China is linked to four infant deaths and hospitalization of 12,892 babies. Hong Kong's two largest supermarket chains, Wellcome and ParkNShop, withdrew Nestle SA's milk products after traces of the chemical were found.

Nestle yesterday said the amount was minute and wasn't considered harmful. However, the head of China's quality watchdog is reported to have resigned over the tainted baby milk scandal that has killed four children and nearly 53,000 others have now declared to be poorly.

Meanwhile, just as people thought the round of job losses and cuts in the industry had stabilised, Schering Plough announced 1,000 job losses on Friday in a bid to reduce costs, according to CNBC. Much of the downsizing will be felt in the field as they let go up to 20% of their US sales force.

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Nestle, Schering-Plough

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thought for the Day

The dog days of summer have ended and the pharma industry heads into the Fall season leaner and focused on year end targets. 'Tis is the season for getting things done.

There haven't been any blockbuster breakthroughs yet this year in the oncology or hematology space, but AACR, ASH and the San Antonio Breast Cancer conferences have yet to come.

I wonder who the eventually winners and losers for 2008 are going to be?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A day of silence

"Let us honor if we can the vertical man, though we value none but the horizontal one."

WH Auden