What We're Reading: Second US Coronavirus Death; Expensive Extended-Release Drugs; Third ACA Decision

March 2, 2020

The second US Coronavirus death was reported in EvergreenHealth hospital in Kirkland, Washington; extended-release drugs were shown to cost almost $14 billion more than twice-a-day medications over a 5-year study; the Supreme Court plans to hear the third challenge to the Affordable Care Act in October.

Second US Coronavirus Death in Washington State

Yesterday, health authorities in King County, Washington, announced that 1 of the 6 individuals infected with coronavirus in a nursing facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland had died at EvergreenHealth hospital, with 3 more in critical condition, according to The New York Times. This is the second coronavirus death on US soil and the second to occur at EvergreenHealth hospital, as a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions was reported on Saturday as the first fatality by the CDC. The preparedness of hospitals in handling a potential pandemic in the United States has been questioned, with an additional article posted in the The New York Times showing that only about 62,000 full-featured ventilators were in hospitals across the county in 2010, paling in comparison to the suggestion of nearly 740,000 mechanical ventilators that would be required for a severe influenza outbreak.

Extended-Release Drugs Linked With Significantly Higher Costs

According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, prescriptions for extended-release drugs cost the healthcare system almost $14 billion more than would have been spent on equivalent twice-a-day medications, based on Medicare and Medicaid spending between 2012 and 2017. Reported in Reuters, co-study author Ambarish Pandey, MD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, highlighted that there is not a huge difference in patient convenience when comparing the 2 regimens, “but the cost difference is remarkable.”

Supreme Court to Hear Third Challenge to the ACA

After turning down a motion by the House of Representatives and Democratic-led states this term to review the legality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Supreme Court will hear a third challenge to the ACA, potentially in October, with a decision coming before the November election. The Washington Post reports that the request was submitted by Democratic-controlled states that are fighting a lower court decision that challenged the constitutionality of the law.