Spotlight vs Blind Spot

  • by: |
  • 01/04/2016

Spotlight is a movie about how the Boston Globe's investigative team (called Spotlight) exposed the Boston Diocesan's complicity in protecting child molesters in the priesthood.  The most dramatic moment in the film comes when Spotlight's chief, Walter Robinson (played by Michael Keaton) confesses that he buried a story about multiple priests abusing young boys in the in 1970s.  At the time, pursuing the story -- compared to easier and less controversial investigations of police corruption,  racial discrimination,  government incompetency -- went against the ethos of Boston and the narrative that the Church was an integral part of Boston, where most of the reporters were raised.  

While nowhere near the level of irresponsibiity, the WSJ coverage about drug costs appears to be shaped by the same set of beliefs and emotions.  Every article that the WSJ has written about drug costs in 2015 (with the exception of a blog written by Ed Silverman when Pharmalot was part of the WSJ) ignored the role of pharmacy benefit managers and health insurers in hiking the cost of new drugs used by the most chronically ill patients.  The have ignored the fact that PBMs, in particular, pocket 90 billion in rebates, none of which goes to reducing the cost of drugs.  They have ignored the fact that the discounted drugs are less than 3 percent of total health plan spending or that as the percent increases, the cost of other services decline.  They have ignored the fact that health plans have increasd the number of new targeted medicines -- drugs that work best in specific patients -- by 40 percent since 2014.  (See below.)

There are more oversights as well but the list above suggests that the WSJ -- including the most recent WSJ article -- has a blind spot, not a spotlight on the issue of drug costs.  The WSJ is burying the real story to sustain a narrative, at the expense of patient well-being. 

Our focus in 2016 will be to create greater transparency about how drug prices are set and by who, how those decisions affect patient access to and affordability of such medicines, what affect access has on patient well-being, mortality and health costs and finally, what changes in decisionmaking can reduce spending and increase value (to patients) long term.  

Further,  we will look at how the reactionary defense of the randomized clinical trial is the greatest rate limiting factor in reducing the time and cost of bringing new  medicines, diagnostics and devices to patients.   This will NOT be an FDA pinata festival.   Rather, the RCT is being protected by leading medical journals, academic research centers, major medical specialty societies and health insurers.   

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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