Good afternoon, readers. This is Sy.
First things first—I’d like to apologize for a snafu with our newsletter yesterday. Due to a technical problem, the news blurbs that usually accompany our essays didn’t show up in Monday’s email. The issue’s been resolved and we’re back in business. With that out of the way…
The National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation on Monday had a wide-ranging panel on transforming health care in the United States, touching on complex issues like drug pricing, the barriers to (and fuels for) health care innovation, and what the future of American medicine will look like. Panelists at the Washington, D.C. event included Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Peter Bach, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s Patrick Conway, former CMS Administrator Gail Wilensky, GuideWell and Florida Blue’s Patrick Geraghty, NIHCM Foundation’s Nancy Chockley, and one Clifton Leaf of Fortune.
It would be difficult to condense this all-star crew’s presentations into a single email. But NIHCM has conveniently made their slides available to the public. And I’d like to touch on just a few overarching highlights from a nuanced, in-depth conversation.
Wilensky, a widely-respected health care economist and former government official, broached one of the most significant big-picture questions about medicine in her presentation: Is the private or public sector better at nudging progress?
“In almost all of those instances, it’s not a matter of which is better… They both have relative strengths, and there are cases where the other is stronger,” she said. “For very large-scale changes, it’s very hard for the private sector to pull that off in a way that government can do. But if you’re talking about new products, new payment models, commercializing new products as a strategy, generally speaking, the private sector is able to do that much more easily.”
Wilensky went on to note that “only government can produce large changes on a very specific timeline,” pointing to the examples of massive population health surveys that only the public sector is suited to undertake and innovation spurred by groups like DARPA. But she also stressed the fluidity of the enterprise—for instance, artificial intelligence development began in the public sector, but the funding was so sporadic and unreliable that it had to move to the private sector to really take off, Wilensky said.
Peter Bach, who leads Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, presented equally thought-provoking ideas about high drug prices, including whether or not the health care industry is right to cheer President Trump’s recent speech on curbing prices. “My group focuses on the weeds… It’s difficult to know if Wall Street’s got this right. The question is whether or not there’s going to be follow through on these things,” said Bach.
You can flip through all of the group’s PowerPoint presentations here (there is a lot to dig through). And read on for the day’s news.
CRISPR pioneers launch another gene-editing company. Armed with $87 million in launch money, a trio of CRISPR gene-editing technology pioneers (Feng Zhang, David Liu, and J Keith Joung) are launching a new outfit called Beam Therapeutics. The CRISPR crew were among the founders of Editas; but Beam has a whole new kind of genomic innovation in mind. Rather than slice and dice DNA, Beam will focus on technology that can actually make tweaks to genetic base pairs without having to cut them out with a more heavy-handed instrument. (Endpoints)
Scientists reportedly transferred memories between snails. File this one under “Literal Black Mirror Episode”: UCLA scientists have reportedly been able to transfer a (very) simple form of memory from one snail to another. “What we are talking about are very specific kinds of memories, not the sort that says what happened to me on my fifth birthday, or who is the president of the United States,” lead researcher David Glanzman told the Guardian; others noted that this sort of memory transfer process is extremely early stage and achieving something similar in humans would be a whole different story. (The Guardian)
FDA clears Pfizer copycat of anemia treatments. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared Pfizer’s Retacrit, a “biosimilar” copy of anemia treatments from Johnson & Johnson and Amgen. It’s a reversal from last year, when regulators rejected the Pfizer drug over potential manufacturing concerns. But the bigger issue surrounding biosimilars is whether or not they’ll eventually confer the kinds of savings to patients that they do in Europe here in America, where discounts for biosimilars tend to be steeper. (Reuters)
THE BIG PICTURE
Why did STD cases hit a record in California? California public health officials are sounding the alarm on STD cases, which rose to a record high in 2017. That includes a troubling number of stillborn babies related to congenital syphilis. Experts had a number of theories as to what’s driving the spike, including: A lack of access to STD screenings through community clinics and a potential drop in safe sex practices. Low-income and vulnerable populations may also be more affected by the spike in infections. (Fortune)
Facebook Removed 2.5 Million Pieces of Hate Speech in the First Quarter, by Don Reisinger
How Lyft Is Working With the U.S. Military, by Kirsten Korosec
|Produced by Sy Mukherjee|