What We're Reading: Heartburn Drug Dangers; Leaving Medicare Advantage; Wisconsin Malpractice Ruling

Proton Pump Inhibitors Can Heighten Risk of Early Death

A new study in BMJ Open finds that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) sold over the counter to treat heartburn increased the risk of premature death for users, and the risk was heightened when the drugs were taken for longer amounts of time. According to the New York Times, lead study author Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, urged consumers not to panic, but said PPIs should be reserved for people with demonstrated medical need, like for a bleeding ulcer. When these popular drugs are being consumed unnecessarily, however, people are “getting no benefit, only the risk,” he told the Times.

Medicare Advantage Plans Less Appealing to Sicker Patients

Sicker elderly patients are more likely to drop their Medicare Advantage (MA) plans than their healthier counterparts, according to an NPR article summarizing a Government Accountability Office report. Of 126 MA plans studied by the report, 35 had disproportionately high rates of sicker patients dropping out. Many patients reported that they found it too hard to access their preferred physicians, including specialists, in the MA plans. Some then chose to sign up for traditional Medicare instead.

Wisconsin Court Rules Against Malpractice Award Cap

An appellate court in Wisconsin has determined that the state’s $750,000 limit on non-economic medical malpractice claims is unconstitutional, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The case involved a woman who had all 4 limbs amputated after doctors failed to detect a strep infection; she and her husband then sought over $25 million in damages for the resulting pain and suffering. In contrast, the US House of Representatives voted last week to cap non-economic malpractice damages at $250,000.