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What We’re Reading: Drug Price Savings; Telehealth Abortion Pill Prescriptions; Patient Discrimination

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Medicare beneficiaries are beginning to see the first savings from the Inflation Reduction Act; abortion pills prescribed to patients via telehealth and the mail are safe; nearly half of health care workers have witnessed racism or discrimination in their workplace.

Patients See First Savings From Drug Price Push

Medicare beneficiaries are beginning to see the first savings from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which capped out-of-pocket spending on brand-name drugs at about $3500 in 2024, according to KFF Health News. The IRA is intended to give Medicare patients immediate relief and to improve governmental controls on what pharmaceutical companies charge for their products in the long run; it represents the most significant overhaul for the US drug marketplace in decades. The law includes provisions on drug prices, free vaccines, and Medicare negotiations of prices for certain expensive drugs. It could save the government $237 billion over a decade, although it may reduce the number of drugs coming to market. Conversely, the IRA is facing legal challenges from pharmaceutical companies, which are arguing that limiting their profits will strangle the pipeline of lifesaving drugs. Because of this, the fate of the IRA’s changes may depend on court decisions, congressional action, and the results of the upcoming elections.

Study: Abortion Pills Acquired Via Telehealth, Mail Considered Safe, Effective

A study published yesterday in Nature Medicine found that abortion pills prescribed to patients via telehealth and the mail are safe, according to NPR. The researchers examined the electronic medical records for more than 6000 patients from 3 providers of abortion via telehealth; they also conducted an opt-in survey of 1600 patients. They found that some patients seeking an abortion talked to a provider over video, while others used a secure chat platform. Providers prescribed patients less than 10 weeks pregnant and otherwise eligible either mifepristone, which blocks the pregnancy hormone called progesterone, or misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions. Patients got both medicines via mail-order pharmacy and discussed their experiences with providers through clinical follow-ups. The researchers found the medication to be effective as it ended the pregnancy without any additional follow-up care for 97.7% of patients; it was also found to be safe as 99.7% of abortions were not followed by any serious adverse events.

Health Care Disparities Amid Rampant Discrimination, Report Says

A report this week from the Commonwealth Fund and the African American Research Collaborative found that nearly half of health care workers have witnessed racism or discrimination in the workplace, according to USA Today. Researchers surveyed 3000 health care workers to quantify whether employees see discrimination within their workplace; they surveyed workers from hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient care, mental health and addiction centers, and community or school health centers. Through the survey, the researchers found that 47% of US health care workers witnessed discrimination against patients, and 52% said racism against patients is a major problem. Also, employees at health facilities with a higher percentage of Black or Latino patients witnessed higher rates of discrimination. Consequently, 70% of workers at hospitals with mostly Black patients and 61% of workers at hospitals with mostly Latino patients reported witnessing discrimination against patients. Overall, younger Black or Latino health care workers were more likely than their older or white counterparts to say they noticed discrimination against patients.

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