500. That’s the number of Walgreens pharmacy chains that will begin installing disposal stations for customers to safely throw away prescriptions they don’t want or don’t need, according to a recent online report in The Hill. The move is intended to combat the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse. The chain also has plans to make naloxone, a life-saving drug to counter overdose, available without a prescription in more than 35 states. Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said at an event announcing the effort that most abusers get their prescription drugs from the medicine cabinets of family and friends, making a proper and convenient place to dispose of drugs important. With more than 6.5 million Americans abusing a prescription drug in 2014 , it’s clear that more must be done to stop the abuse.
TRANSPARENCY IN DRUG PRICES? The phrase is uncommon in health care, but a few entrepreneurs are looking to make prescription drug prices more accessible to consumers. The issue of rising drug prices is only growing; it has become a focus in the presidential race and Americans are increasingly struggling with growing out-of-pocket costs. Companies such as Blink Health allow customers to pay for their drugs online, and then pick up their prescriptions at virtually any pharmacy. Prices for generic drugs are often quoted at rates only available and oftentimes visible to insurers. And while nearly 90 percent of prescriptions dispensed in the United States are for generic drugs, according to a New York Times article, patients who suffer most from high prices are those who need expensive brand-name drugs. As Louise Norris, a Colorado insurance broker and writer for Healthinsurance.org says, “So far, at least, we haven’t seen anything that seems like a magic solution.”
'HEALTH CARE HOMES' SAVE BIG. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on a University of Minnesota analysis that noted “health care homes,” which manage overall care and offer extra support to chronically ill patients, outperformed other primary clinics and saved Minnesota more than $1 billion over five years. The study also found that patients who received primary care from a health care home were less likely to need a lengthy hospital stay between 2010 and 2014, and accrued 9 percent less in medical expenses per year than a patient who received traditional primary care. “You save one hospitalization, you save a lot of resources,” said Ed Ehlinger, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health. One problem is that private insurers don’t provide care-coordinated payments for health care homes as Medicaid does, which is where most of the state’s savings came from, making it tougher for smaller clinics to maintain these homes.
THE WAR ON … MOSQUITOES. Most of the world would probably be OK with completely eradicating mosquitoes, though only 150 of the 3,500 species carry deadly pathogens. In an attempt to control the killers of 600,000 people each year, a majority being children in Africa, Maureen Coetzee, entomologist at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and international expert on mosquito control, is using a new approach that involves breeding male mosquitoes, sterilizing them with radiation and releasing them into the wild. The thinking is that if enough sterilized mosquitoes can replace wild males from the mating pool, the current generation will die out without reproducing. She admits that the goal of eliminating the entire species that carries diseases is “highly unlikely.” In the Los Angeles Times report, Coetzee also notes that mosquito populations have become more resistant along with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and those carrying the Zika virus are especially difficult because they breed in homes and small pools of water. But, as Zika continues to wreak havoc across the Americas, a method of controlling the main carriers of the disease would be invaluable.