Saturday January 25, 2020

Trump’s Chief Heath Officials Urges Congress to Pass Prescription Drug Discount Plan

Consumers are worried about prices for brand-name drugs, particularly new medications that promise breakthrough results.

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In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks about proposed reforms to Medicare Part B drug pricing policies at the Brookings Institute in Washington. VOA

The Trump administration’s top health official asked Congress on Friday to pass its new prescription drug discount plan and provide it to all patients, not just those covered by government programs like Medicare.

The plan would take now-hidden rebates among industry players like drug companies and insurers and channel them directly to consumers when they go to pay for their medications.

Patients with high drug copays stand to benefit from the proposal, while people who take no prescription drugs, or who rely on generics mainly, would probably pay somewhat more, since premiums are expected to rise.

A day after unveiling the plan as a proposed regulation, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar raised the stakes by calling on Congress to make it law and broaden it to include people covered by employer health insurance, not just Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

“Congress has an opportunity to follow through on their calls for transparency … by passing our proposal into law immediately and extending it into the commercial drug market,” Azar said in a speech at the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank.

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U.S. President Donald Trump leads a discussion on immigration proposals with conservative leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Jan. 23, 2019. VOA

Trump under pressure

Ahead of next week’s State of the Union speech, President Donald Trump is under political pressure to show results for his promise to slash prescription drug costs. Data show that prices for brand-name drugs have continued to rise, though at a somewhat slower pace. Polls show consumers across the political spectrum want government action.

Democrats say the administration’s plan doesn’t go far enough because it still leaves drug companies free to set high list prices. They say drug pricing is like a black box, and it’s impossible to tell if prices reflect actual costs or if companies are charging what they think the market will bear.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says she’s also worried that the plan would raise premiums. HHS acknowledges Medicare prescription premiums would go up $3 to $5 a month.

Proposal draws interest

Nonetheless, the administration’s proposal appears to be in the mix as Congress gears up to craft legislation addressing prescription drug costs. Friday evening, the Republican chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, expressed his support. Rebates “ought to lower costs to patients, and this is a good first step towards that goal,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said in a statement.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi talks to reporters during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA

The complex plan would work by doing away with an exemption from federal anti-kickback rules that currently allows drugmakers, insurers and middlemen called pharmacy benefit managers to negotiate rebates among themselves.

Drug companies pay rebates to make sure their medications are covered by insurance plans that are the intermediaries between them and patients. HHS says hidden rebates can amount to up to 30 percent of a drug’s list price. Insurers say they use the money from rebates to hold down premiums for all consumers.

Under the plan, the current anti-kickback exemption for industry rebates would be replaced with a new one for discounts offered directly to consumers.

Azar said the idea would reshape the drug pricing system, shifting it away from hidden rebates to upfront discounts, creating pressure on drugmakers to keep prices down. The proposal was co-authored with the HHS inspector general’s office.

Potential consequences

Experts say it will take time to sort out all the potential consequences.

Peter Bach, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said the current system of rebates harms patients who take costly drugs with high copays.

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A mural honoring the late Prince adorns a building in the Uptown area of Minneapolis, Aug 28, 2016. The rock star died of an overdose at the age of 57. VOA

Think people with cancer, patients with intractable illnesses such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, and those who take brand-name medicines with no generic competition. Patients’ cost sharing is often based on list prices, not the cost of the drug after rebates.

“Simply put, those on no medications at all will just see their premiums go up and see no savings because they don’t take any medicine,” said Bach. “Those on generics only may be essentially in this category (as well).

“But those on expensive medications … they will see savings in total,” he added. More than half a million people filled at least $50,000 in prescriptions in 2014, according to an Express Scripts report.

Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers like Express Scripts and CVS oppose the administration plan, saying it will undercut their ability to bargain with drugmakers for lower prices.

Companies please with plan

Drugmakers have applauded the administration’s action.

Also Years: Injecting Drugs May up Bacterial Heart Infections: Study

Consumers are worried about prices for brand-name drugs, particularly new medications that promise breakthrough results. Generics account for nearly 90 percent of prescriptions filled, but brand-name drugs account for more than 70 percent of the spending.

Azar contends that under the current system everybody but the patient benefits from high prices. A high list price makes room for bigger negotiated rebates for insurers and middlemen. And drugmakers then merely build that expectation into their prices.

Before joining the Trump administration, Azar was a top executive for drugmaker Eli Lilly. That led to criticism that he would be an industry pawn. But the drugmakers vehemently disagree with some of his other ideas, including an experiment using lower international drug prices to cut some Medicare costs. (VOA)

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Top Tips to Personalize Your Fitness Routine

Find a personalised exercise routine for your body

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Fitness
With so many options available in the fitness space, finding the one right for you can be a task. Pixabay

With so many options available in the health, lifestyle fitness space, finding the one right for you can be a task.

Amaresh Ojha, CEO and Founder, Gympik shares his top tips.

1. Assess your fitness level- To assess your fitness progress, calculating the number of beats of your resting heart rate (RHR) is a beneficial way. The RHR should reduce as your fitness improves.

To calculate your RHR, place two fingers on your wrist (radial artery), and then count the number of heart beats you feel in a period of 60 seconds. Make sure to count the first beat as ezero’.

More than 101 is unusually high and not good. Between 81 and 100 is high, but acceptable, between 61 and 80 is average and 60 or less is good.

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Assessing your fitness level can be very helpful. Pixabay

2. Choose what form of exercise works best for you- While any type of physical activity is beneficial for you, different physical activities present different results.

Yoga is a discipline that focuses on breathing methods, meditation, and physical postures. It has a low-impact structure and hence is gentler on the joints. Yoga helps in improving muscle endurance, flexibility and body balance.

Zumba is an amalgamation of both fast and slow dancing, so it works on your whole body, helping you to lose weight and tone every muscle group, predominantly your back and abdominals. It also improves your posture, balance and flexibility. So, if you wish to develop a flamboyant body shape along with enhancing your dance moves, Zumba will be the right choice for you. One concern with this exercise form is that the best result for Zumba comes while working out in groups, so you will have to join a Zumba class to get the best out of this exercise form.

Pilates is largely focused with core strength. It improves muscle tone and strength along with obtaining a leaner look. This exercise form promotes balanced muscle development, flexibility and helps you in gaining a beautiful posture. Hence, the gateway to a graceful personality is through regular Pilates workout. One disadvantage of this type of exercise form is that it misses out on cardio, so it’s not very effective for steady weight loss.

Walking is one of the best exercises that must be an integral part of your fitness schedule. Regular brisk walk can help in preventing heart diseases and managing high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes along with improving the mood. No matter how many hours you spend in the gym, walking is the best way to lose weight and stay healthy. This is one of the exercise forms that can be practised by all.

Cycling is an activity that is gentle on the joints. It burns fat and improves your cardiovascular health. If you wish to increase your stamina and at the same time tone up your muscles, cycling is the best way of doing so. You can easily make it a part of your routine by building it in your day as a means of transport.

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Consult with your doctor before incorporating a fitness routine in your lifestyle. Pixabay

3. E-Fitness learning platforms can help you analyse the pros and cons of any form of exercise and you can choose the correct type of exercise for yourself once you know the benefits of each type. There are several E-Fitness channels that you can subscribe to and work with a virtual instructor, who will guide you through your fitness journey.

4. Exercise safe and focus on the health concerns. Pre-exercise screening will help you to identify any medical conditions that may put you at a higher risk of enduring a health issue during physical activity. Consult with your doctor before incorporating a fitness routine in your lifestyle. Certain exercises like running on the treadmill, sprinting, heavy weightlifting etc. can prove injurious for heart patients. Similarly, certain breathing exercises in Yoga can prove harmful for asthmatic patients.

Also Read- Here are Tips to Apply Foundation

While there are several options available, the most important thing to keep in mind is to choose an exercise that you find fun and can stick to for the long haul. Choose from your preferences and make your exercise time fun. Do you wish to spend time indoors or outdoors? Alone or with friends/people?

If you choose an activity that seems like a burden after some time, you are more likely to abandon a healthy lifestyle. (IANS)