What We're Reading: Watchdog Takes on Medicare Scams; Weight Loss Drug Pulled From Market; Veterans Affairs Faces Challenges

February 14, 2020

A federal watchdog will take on Medicare scams; Belviq, a weight loss drug, has been pulled from market; issues at Veterans Affairs have resulted in healthcare roadblocks.

Feds to Track How Marketers Get Private Medicare Info

A federal government watchdog is planning to conduct a nationwide probe into telemarketers’ attaining of personal Medicare information, the Associated Press reports. The audit is expected to be announced next week and will aim to crack down on potential fraud and waste. Telemarketing scams targeting Medicare recipients have been on the rise, with impersonators posing as a pharmacy or doctor’s office to elicit information. According to the AP, personal details are gleaned from Medicare files and can then be cross-referenced with databases of phone numbers or other contact information. Healthcare fraud costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars a year, the AP reports.

Belviq Pulled from Market Due to Cancer Risks

Eisai Inc, a Japanese company, has pulled the weight loss drug Belviq from the market after federal regulators said it posed a small increased risk of cancer, The Washington Post reports. The company, however, said it disagreed with the FDA’s interpretation of new safety data released on the drug. In an FDA analysis, researchers found 7.7% of users were diagnosed with cancer compared with slightly more than 7.1% of a control group. The drug was approved in 2012 and was the first drug meant to help people lose weight, without increasing the risk for heart problems.

Veterans Affairs Face Healthcare Roadblocks

Veterans Affairs, the agency that oversees care for over 9 million former service members, has recently run into roadblocks hindering their progress, The New York Times reports. In addition to the recent firing of the deparment's deputy secretary, efforts to overhaul the system have been met with implementation issues. The Mission Act, part of the Trump administration's aim to expand care outside of the department's health facilities, has not received the funding necessary for coverage goals. An overhaul of veterans' medical records, estimated to cost $16 billion, has also been delayed due to technical issues. In his most recent budget proposal, President Trump proposed a 10% increase to the department's budget, raising it to $243 billion.