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Why No One Knows What Generic Lipitor Costs

Several days ago, the world’s leading cholesterol-lowering “statin” drug, Lipitor, went generic. Doctors are bearing the brunt of the conversion with little information about what the new drug will cost for their patients.

This, of course, is the plan.

Even the Wall Street Journal which has an excellent “user’s guide” to making the switch from name-brand to generic Lipitor offers little help as it mentions “co-pays” rather than actual drug cost:

How much cheaper will generic Lipitor be?

Insurance copayments should drop considerably, if patients are getting Lipitor or atorvastatin on the generic tier of their health plans. Currently, Lipitor has been on a higher, branded tier for prescription drugs. Copays for branded drugs average either $29 or $49 depending on the tier, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. Copays for generics average $10.

In addition, Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd, one of the generic manufacturers of generic Lipitor, won concessions to maintain elevated prices for 180 days from the government (a la our own Food and Drug Administration while the Federal Trade Commission stands idly by complaining how consumers are gouged with this arrangement) to assure prices stay high a bit longer.

But if we forget the insurers and copays, how much will the generic drug actually cost consumers? Read more »

The Best Thing A Patient Can Do Following A Heart Attack

I’ve been telling my smoking patients for years that nothing I do for them is going to make an ounce of difference until they quit smoking for good.  And the Italians are out to prove me right.  The American Journal of Cardiology reported July 11th, 2011 on the Effect of Smoking Relapse On Outcome After Acute Coronary Syndrome.

In a study of just under 1,300 patients,  Reuters reports that just over 1/2 the patients started smoking within 20 days of hospital discharge, despite in-hospital smoking cessation consultation for all patients.   Researchers also found that resuming smoking increased  death 3-fold compared with those that did not relapse and quitting smoking had a similar lifesaving effect as taking cholesterol and blood pressure medications.  And I’m sure these folks all landed themselves back into the hospitals for a very expensive dying process.

That’s why billing the patient or their insurance for smoking cessation (CPT® 99406 and 99407) is so important.  And that’s why I give many of my smoking patients my smoking lecture.  You know how much Medicare pays for a ten minute consultation to help cardiac patients quit smoking right now? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

Are The Low Prices Of Generic Drugs Enough To Make You Switch?

Generic medications appear to be far more cost-effective than previously reported, concluded a team of Harvard professors. But, physicians and patients aren’t adopting them wholeheartedly.

Patents of 20 drugs with annual sales of more than $1 billion expired or will do so between 2010 and 2013, including Lipitor and Plavix, the highest- and second-highest revenue producing drugs in the U.S. While highly effective generics provide low-cost options for chronic disease management, they are not always factored into cost analyses, and are sometimes viewed with concerns about their safety and efficacy.

The Harvard team revisited a 2008 study that used brand-name medication costs in an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of strategies to prevent adverse outcomes associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The study found that up to 244 million quality-adjusted life-years could be gained over 30 years with appropriate preventive care. But, the study authors wrote, that “most prevention activities are expensive when considering direct medical costs.”

The Harvard team recalculated figures from the 2008 research, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Statins Reduce Heart Disease Risk, But Probably Not Because They Lower Cholesterol

When cyclists find out that I am a heart doctor, they most frequently ask about cholesterol numbers.

“…My cholesterol is this…What do you think?”

“…My doctor wants me to take a statin…But I read that these drugs might lower my functional threshold power 2.014 watts/40km.”

All this focus on numbers saddens me. Remember, I am a forest guy, not a tree guy. What’s more, as a doctor that revels in the adrenaline rush of ablating rogue circuits with technology that would impress even a twenty-something, I find questions about biochemistry dreary–like eating quinoa.

I wish folks would ask me about how to terminate AF with a catheter, or how an (evidenced-based) ICD saved a mom’s life, or perhaps even this: “Do you do heart surgery?”

But more often than not people want to know about cholesterol.

Okay. It just so happens that this week brought some very interesting news concerning the treatment of abnormal cholesterol lab values. News that big-picture docs have to like. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Awkward Timing: Actor Featured In TV Drug Commercial During His Own Murder Movie

You may recall, I have a beef with Madison Avenue ad agencies that keep serving up the same New York actors in television commercials for different illnesses. I take it personally. The woman with cancer also has asthma. The man with arthritis also has erectile dysfunction. I feel bad for them!

Last night the quest by an actor to find work got ridiculous for me as my wife, Esther, and I were watching one of our favorite shows, “Criminal Minds,” on CBS. It was a particularly violent episode where a Bonnie and Clyde-type couple shot their way across Montana and proved to be the sickest of cold blooded killers. As the story develops, both the young man and the young woman were abused as children and their plan becomes to mete out retribution to the parents who ruined their lives.

Late in the show the young woman confronts a gray haired man in his 50’s behind the counter at his service station-convenience store. It was her father. She points a gun at him while he pleads for his life. I turned to Esther and said “I know that man! Where do I know him from?” Esther didn’t know and I couldn’t remember. Back on the screen things go from bad to worse, and while the young woman hesitates, her boyfriend sends the father to the hereafter. It was so sad. Where do I know that guy from???? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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