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JAMA examines rising drug costs • CVS' ambitious transformation • Cook County extends Medicaid contract
A study points to the increasing price of Humira, the AbbVie-produced autoimmune disease drug, as representative of a general trend.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business
by Jon Asplund

JAMA DOCUMENTS RISING COSTS OF TOP DRUGS: The cost of nearly eight in 10 of the top-selling prescription drugs in the United States have risen more than 50 percent from 2012 to the end of 2017, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers at Scripps Research used pharmacy claims data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Axis database, which includes data from more than 35 million privately insured people, to examine pricing on 36 top-selling drugs from 2012 to 2017.

The study showed many drugs followed a steadily increasing cost trend for most of the drug prices examined. The study pointed to the cost rise of Humira, the AbbVie-produced autoimmune disease drug, as representative of the general trend in cost increases. Humira and other drugs in the study generally saw cost increases once or twice a year near the beginning and middle of the calendar year, researchers said. The median cost for Humira rose from $1,940 per prescription to $4,338, a 124 percent increase, over six years, according to the study.

The study authors stated competition among brand-name competitors “appeared to do little to stymie rising costs,” pointing to cost increases for the interchangeable Humira and Enbrel that were “highly synchronized. ”

“Such seeming coordination coinciding with high price increases is particularly worrisome,” the study said, making price transparency vital.

CVS MAKES PITCH FOR FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE: Shares of CVS Health have been battered in recent months along with other health care companies amid stepped-up scrutiny of the industry’s pricing practices and calls from lawmakers and the Trump administration to overhaul the current complicated and costly U.S. health system. CVS also has had the added task of integrating Aetna Inc., the insurer it bought for $69 billion in November as part of an ambitious plan to transform itself from a pharmacy giant into a more complete provider of health-care services. READ MORE.

COOK COUNTY EXTENDS MEDICAID CONTRACT: Cook County Health extended its contract with Medical Home Network’s Accountable Care Organization through 2021 to provide managed health care to about 120,000 Medicaid patients. The contract shifts additional financial accountability to MHN ACO, Medical Home Network said in a statement. “MHN ACO will take financial risk while continuing to be responsible clinically to provide patients with better care through the use of coordinated care management at the practice level,” the statement said.

HEALTH SYSTEM EXECS ADMIT PRESSURE FROM CONSUMER-SAVVY COMPETITION: Eighty-eight percent of U.S. hospital and health system executives say their organizations are vulnerable to consumer-friendly offerings from non-hospital competitors, such as Optum, CVS Health and Amazon, according to a report by Kaufman Hall. The Chicago-based management consultant’s fourth annual report on consumerism in health care concludes health systems continue to emphasize building facilities like urgent care centers vs. investing in consumer-friendly offerings like online scheduling, according to a Kaufman Hall statement.

U of C MEDICINE DATA EXPOSED: A cyber security researcher writes he alerted University of Chicago Medicine that its database of potential financial donors was left exposed. A vendor hosting the database of connections to the university, including donors and patients, accidentally misconfigured a server, exposing the data to the internet, according to a statement by UChicago Medicine. Once notified, the university quickly identified the breach and secured the database, the statement said. The university states it determined no unauthorized party, except the cyber researcher, accessed the database.

BAXTER CHARITY COMMITS $2M TO SMILES IN INDIA: The Baxter International Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Baxter International, will give $2.2 million to Operation Smile, one of the world’s largest volunteer-based surgical nonprofit organizations. The organization delivers free surgical and multidisciplinary care for cleft conditions and other facial care to underserved communities in India.


  • Northwestern Memorial HealthCare is selling its home health and hospice programs to JourneyCare, a Glenview-based hospice and palliative care provider. READ MORE.
  • Two months into the merger that formed CommonSpirit Health, rising expenses and slumping revenue led to a $100 million operating loss in the quarter that ended March 31. READ MORE.
  • As genetic testing gains popularity both at home and in the doctor's office, gaps in privacy protections are becoming more apparent. READ MORE.
  • Rush University Medical Center and Pinnacle Dermatology have entered into an exclusive clinical and academic affiliation, giving Rush a minority stake in the fast-growing multi-state dermatology practice. READ MORE.


  • Michael Murrill has been appointed CEO of Amita Health Adventist Medical Center in Hinsdale. Murrill will lead the Hinsdale hospital in addition to serving as CEO at Amita’s LaGrange medical center. He will focus on integrating the two medical campuses, according to a statement. Murrill has worked for the Adventist Health System for 17 years.
  • Livongo, the Chicago-based medical-technology company has appointed Karen L. Daniel to its board of directors. She will lead the board’s audit committee. Daniel has served as chief financial officer at Black & Veatch and currently serves on the boards of Commerce Bancshares, Snap-On Tools and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City.

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