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Prescription Drugs

  • Amazon's Pharmacy Hires Hint of Ambitions to Upend a $360 Billion Market Stat by Casey Ross — If you're in the pharmacy business, Amazon's roster of employees is starting to look ominous. In the past 18 months, the e-commerce giant has poached more than 20 employees from industry heavyweights such as CVS Health, Express Scripts, and UnitedHealth Group, according to a STAT review of available LinkedIn data. The new hires include software engineers, data analysts, business strategists, and others with years of experience in the prescription drug and health care industries.

  • For All Their Risks, Opioids Had No Pain-Relieving Advantage in a Yearlong Clinical Trial  Los Angeles Times by Karen Kaplan — For years, doctors turned to opioid painkillers as a first-line treatment for chronic back pain and aches in the joints. Even as the dangers of addiction and overdoses became more clear, the drugs' pain-relieving benefits were still thought to justify their risks. Now researchers have hard data that challenge this view. In the first randomized clinical trial to make a head-to-head comparison between opioids and other kinds of pain medications, patients who took opioids fared no better over the long term than patients who used safer alternatives. "There was no significant difference in pain-related function between the two groups over 12 months," researchers reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

  • UnitedHealthcare Will Provide Drug Rebates Directly to Members in Some Plans  Washington Post by Carolyn Y. Johnson — In a move likely to help people in high-deductible health insurance plans who take expensive brand-name drugs, the nation's largest health insurer announced it will pass on rebates on prescription drugs directly to some consumers. UnitedHealthcare said the policy, which would begin next year, would lower out-of-pocket costs for 7 million people enrolled in fully insured commercial group benefit plans. Health-care-policy specialists noted that the effects for individuals covered by those plans would vary, depending on which drugs they take, how big the rebates are and the structure of their health benefit. "I think this is a great step in the right direction. I think patients — particularly those struggling with very high deductibles and costs associated with prescription drugs or high coinsurance rates associated with very high price drugs — stand to benefit significantly from this announcement," said Rena Conti, a health economist at the University of Chicago.

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