Business briefs: United Concordia, FDA
Healthcare costs are all about the numbers, but the Washington Post's graphtastic explanation, pulled from the International Federation of Health Plans, pulls comparative data into 21 quick-takes of just what's being argued over when policy makers and advocates talk about where the US fits in on costs. The intro paragraph also links to a March 15 article that tackled part of this very same issue, and notes that beyond the price controls exerted in other countries that “health care is an unusual product in that it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, for the customer to say ‘no.'” For one thing, the patient may be “passed out, or otherwise incapable of making decisions,” about care.
Although the November hearings about the New England Compounding Center's contaminated injections highlighted gaps in oversight authority, the regulatory impact continues to wend its way through Hill, even if the news cameras aren't hovering. Among the recent moves were FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg's March 14 appearance on 60 Minutes in which she said the regulator needs more oversight over compounders. Hamburg then posted a similar message on the FDA Voice Blog last week, writing that the agency needs the authority to do more to rein in bad practices. In short: the current rules are insufficient, and more streamlined regulations will help the agency “provide appropriate and efficient oversight of this growing industry.” Hamburg's blog post recaps much of what was covered in the November hearings, including the growth of an industry that no longer works within the confines of the traditional compounder concept, which was a small-scale operation with limited reach. MM&M asked the regulator if this media road show was a sign that new legislation was making the rounds. The House Assistant Commissioner for Media Affairs Steven Immergut said the regulator is getting feedback from a number of stakeholders and the goal is to “let them know what we think is important.” Immergut added that “it's a high priority for the commissioner,” and they are working to ensure “it doesn't happen again.” The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is the go-to group before legislation can hit the floor for a vote, had no details to share on how and if things are progressing.