What We're Reading: Drug Approvals; Home Health; American Healthcare Costs

FDA approved 46 drugs in 2017, a 21-year high; pilot program tests using home care to reduce emergency department visits; a look at how increasing prices, not increased use of services, has caused American healthcare spending to grow so much faster than peer nations.

FDA Drug Approvals Hit 21-Year High

In 2017, the FDA approved 46 new drugs, which was more than double the amount approved in 2016. According to Reuters, this represented a 21-year high for FDA drug approvals in 1 year, and the number does not include the first gene therapies approved, which are part of a different category. The FDA has been able to accelerate the approval process by using the breakthrough therapy designation.

Home Care to Reduce ED Visits

A new pilot program in Washington, DC, is virtually connecting Medicaid patients who can’t or won’t visit the clinic to primary care. The program sends a medical assistant to the home to connect the patient with the clinic, according to NPR. The idea is to develop relationships with patients who aren’t going to the doctor’s office and reduce the use of unnecessary visits to the emergency department (ED). In addition, the DC council is considering a way to reimburse for these types of visits.

The Price of American Healthcare

Just a few decades ago, American healthcare spending was closer to that of comparable nations. But today, the country spends almost twice as much. The New York Times blog The Upshot explains that the price, not the use, of healthcare in America is the problem. Americans are actually using the same amount of healthcare as people in peer countries—they just pay a lot more for those services. Research has shown that the growth in American healthcare spending is almost entirely from growth in prices and that US hospital prices are 60% higher than European prices.