Massachusetts Medical Society: Cost trends hearings call out pharma prices

Cost trends hearings call out pharma prices


What’s up in advocacy and policy

Cost trend hearings call out pharma prices

state-house-220.jpg Physicians continue to hold the line on health care costs in the Commonwealth, while high and rising pharmaceutical costs need to be addressed — two key findings of the Health Policy Commission (HPC) annual Cost Trend Hearings, held this week. Physician-led ACOs have demonstrated the strongest cost savings, and physician services saw very moderate cost growth. The HPC affirmed the MMS's priority of addressing high and rising pharmaceutical costs as a vital way to control health care spending. The Society looks forward to continuing to work with the HPC and other stakeholders to monitor costs and contain them through legislation and regulation, particularly as the next state legislative session approaches.

The HPC convened a diverse group of speakers representing health care systems, health plans, pharmaceutical companies, patient advocates, and other stakeholders, on Tuesday and Wednesday. MMS staff attended both day-long sessions. Speakers of note included Dr. Ashish Jha of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (for another chance to hear him speak, see the BML Garland lecture, below), Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo. Click the button for more information.


News and announcements

Med-tech forums: combination products and medical devices for seniors (Oct 30, Dec 3)

Two upcoming forums explore med-tech opportunities and approaches relating to medical and public health challenges, including the opioid crisis. These events are provided by MDG (Medical Development Group) Boston; the MMS is a premium sponsor.

New Advances in Combination Products: Addressing the Unmet Need to Develop Drug Delivery Innovation Strategies in Preclinical Drug Discovery & Development explores combination products comprised of a medical device and/or a drug and/or a biologic and/or companion diagnostics — e.g., prefilled drug delivery systems and medicated devices. This session will be held on October 30, 5:30–8:30 p.m., in Weston; information and registration

Technologies and Approaches for Monitoring and Improving Health and Aging in Place explores the growing marketplace for medical devices supporting seniors' at-home care. This session will be held on December 3, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m., in Weston; information and registration.


Learn how to increase adult immunization rates (Nov 13)

Older adults are disproportionately affected by diseases such as influenza, pneumonia, and shingles, which may raise their risk of a heart attack or stroke. Become a leader in protecting older adults and raising immunization rates with The Gerontological Society of America’s (GSA) Immunization Champions, Advocates, and Mentors Program (ICAMP). This half-day program will be held on Tuesday, November 13, at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. Click the button for information and registration.


Renew your membership

MMS Membership: Be an early bird

The early bird gets the worm. Thank you to all our members who have renewed. Be an early bird this year and renew your membership with MMS today. Click the button below — it’s fast and easy — or go to


Get involved

2019 MMS Annual Award season

Do you have a colleague who deserves to be nominated for their outstanding work or service to the community? Medical students, residents, and fellows are recognized too. Click the button below for information. The MMS honors excellence in multiple categories (in order of deadline):


Students and residents: Could you use $5000? (Nov 25)

Each year the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Information Technology recognizes both a medical student and a resident/researcher for the creation of information technology solutions for medicine. Two Medical Information Technology Awards are presented annually for functioning projects substantially completed in the past year that use technology to assist physicians in the practice of medicine, the teaching of medicine, or the pursuit of clinical research. Apply by November 25. Click the button below for more information.


Medical students: Call for essay contest abstracts (Nov 12)


The MMS Committee on History invites current medical students to submit abstracts related to the history of medicine or public health since the initiation of the MMS in 1781. A $1,000 prize will be awarded to the winning essay. Click the button below for submission information. Abstracts are due by November 12.

Rajesh Reddy of Tufts University School of Medicine won the 2017 contest with an essay on a local Community Health Center as the precedent for patient-centered medical homes: "Now the site of a presidential library and a prominent university, Boston’s Columbia Point in Dorchester was once used as a prisoner of war camp and later as a garbage dump. By the 1960s, the most prominent structures in the neighborhood were the low-rise buildings of the 1200-unit public housing project. Observing the plight of the area’s residents, Dr. H. Jack Geiger and Dr. Count Gibson established in 1965 the nation’s first community health center at Columbia Point."


Evolution of medical practice told through the stories of MMS past presidents: Penicillin shortage

Rodkey_video.png "I was an intern at Mass. General when penicillin first became available, and the dosage was 10 units. Every administration had to be done by an intern — not a nurse — and we had to save the urine of the patients and recycle it to get the penicillin back."

— Grant Rodkey, MD, MMS president 1979–1980, in conversation with Dale McGee, MD.  

This series of video interviews with MMS past presidents illuminates the evolution of the medical practice and profession over recent decades.


Reminders: Stuff you should click on

BML lecture: Health care spending solutions  (Oct 25)

Please join your peers at the Boston Medical Library (BML) for the Annual Garland Lecture exploring Why is US Healthcare Spending So High, and What Can We Do About It? Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, will present new data on health care spending and performance, challenging common myths and pointing toward solutions. Dr. Jha is director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and professor of global health at Harvard Chan School of Public Health. The event will be held on October 25, 5:30 p.m. (please note the corrected date), in the Armenise Amphitheater at HMS. The BML is the official library of the MMS. To register, click the button below.


Last chance: What to do about drug costs (Oct 25, free)

The pharmaceutical industry is essential to developing lifesaving treatments, but the price of prescription drugs can prevent patients from getting the medicines they need. At the 15th Annual Public Health Leadership Forum, a free half-day CME program, health care leaders and practitioners will gather to grapple with the implications for patients, doctors, and public health. The Prescription Drug Predicament: Improving Access and Fostering Innovation includes a panel discussion and networking opportunities. Live tweet the event using #PublicHealthRx  Click the button below.

Photo: Speaker Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.


Imminent Interim Meeting deadlines

The 2018 Interim Meeting of the House of Delegates will be held Friday, November 30, at MMS Headquarters, and Saturday, December 1, at the Westin Hotel, Waltham. Note: the HOD will start at 9:00 a.m. both days.

Full meeting details are online.

Western Mass. casual event (Oct 25)

Please join your colleagues and friends for an evening of professional networking, with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and drinks, on October 25, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at Hotel on North in Pittsfield.  Physicians (members and nonmembers) and your guests are welcome. Please reply to or Questions? Call (800) 944 5562.

Photo: Networking event 2018, Cape Cod


Fall mixer for LGBTQ providers (Oct 25)

Meet and network with other LGBTQ medical students and physicians from around the state at Club Café, Boston. Yvonne Gomez-Carrion, MD, will receive the MMS 2018 LGBTQ Health Award, an honor recognizing an individual who has made outstanding contributions to LGBTQ health. This event is sponsored by the MMS Committee on LGBTQ Matters. It will be held at Club Café, 209 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA; the price fix menu is $20 pp (including tax and tip, excluding drinks). To register, click the button below. Questions? Contact Erin Tally at or (781) 434-7413.


Identifying solutions for immigrant health care

State advocates for immigrant health care gathered this week to call out the hidden challenges and highlight innovative tools and resources that help physicians and other professionals provide better care to immigrants. This free dinner and discussion was hosted by the MMS Committee on Senior Volunteer Physicians.   

Educational programs and events

Live events

The Prescription Drug Predicament: Improving Access and Fostering Innovation
15th Annual Public Health Leadership Forum  
Friday, October 25    

Managing Workplace Conflict: Improving Leadership and Personal Effectiveness
Thursday & Friday, November 1-2

More live CME

Featured online CME: Disabilities

Legal Advisor: Treating Hearing Impaired Patients under American with Disabilities Act 

Legal Advisor: Legal Obligations in Treating Patients with Disabilities

More online CME

Quote of the week

“It is disappointing and difficult. The science is settled. There is no controversy.”
— Dr. Allison Bartlett, associate medical director of the infection control program at Comer Children’s Hospital, on fear-mongering related to flu vaccination (Chicago Tribune)

Tweet of the week

@BrewsterEMS - Brewster Ambulance Service is known for providing superior 911-call emergency response, ALS, BLS and wheelchair service throughout the greater Boston area.

What’s new in health care

Check out the most clicked-on stories from this week's MMS Media Watch. Sign up for daily Massachusetts media roundups by email. Some publications are fully accessible only to their subscribers.

Baker pursuing state, federal drug purchasing reform (State House News Service)

Gov. Charlie Baker's administration is preparing to roll out a proposal to allow the state to negotiate prices directly with drug manufacturers and possibly hold price hearings as he seeks to curb what he called "the single biggest driver, at this point, to the rising cost of health care in Massachusetts." Health care spending in Massachusetts rose 1.6 percent to $61.1 billion in 2017, according to the Center for Health Information and Analysis. Prescription drug spending climbed 5 percent to $9.7 billion in 2017 and is one of two main drivers of cost growth, along with hospital outpatient spending, CHIA said.

Mass lawmakers gear up for another run at health care overhaul (State House News Service)

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said "no one is more disappointed than am I" about the collapse in July of negotiations between the House and Senate on a health care bill, but he said the House's work on that legislation will serve as a good starting point for the upcoming session. "Because of that work, the valued input from the health care community and our commitment to the people of the commonwealth, we will not give up. This coming legislative session, the House will try again," he said.  

Massachusetts EMTs help make dying woman's wish come true (WHDH)

Brewster Ambulance Service EMTs Brian Costa and Era Koroveshi honored a hospice patient's dying wish of seeing a lighthouse Monday. Laura Mullins, 55, asked her Kindred Hospice nurse Beverly Bellegarde not to provide medical care but instead make her dying wish come true, according to the ambulance service. Bellegarde took action to ensure Mullins' wish was fulfilled. Costa, Koroveshi, Bellegarde and the patient's chaplain drove for over an hour from Norwood to the Scituate Lighthouse, where Mullins took in the sights and sounds of the harbor. 

DPH confirms 2 cases of polio-like disease in Massachusetts (WHDH)

The odds of getting the polio-like disease is less than one in a million; however, six cases in the Bay State are under investigation and two are confirmed, the Department of Public Health announced. The rare disease, acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis, mainly in children. Symptoms of AFM include sudden limb weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial and eyelid drooping, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech, according to the CDC. The most severe symptom is trouble breathing. There is no specific treatment for AFM.

Eczema treatment gets hair growing (Boston Herald)

;We were shocked," said Dr. Maryanne Makredes Senna, senior author of the JAMA Dermatology report and MGH dermatology doctor. She said she immediately checked to see if the side effect had ever been reported before, "As far as we know, this is the first report of hair regrowth with dupilumab in a patient with any degree of alopecia areata," said Senna. Senna said the patient had been resistant to alopecia treatments and eczema treatments as well. 

Harvard, Brigham call for retractions of cardiac stem cell research (STAT)

Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital have recommended that 31 papers from a former lab director be retracted from medical journals. The papers from the lab of Dr. Piero Anversa, who studied cardiac stem cells, "included falsified and/or fabricated data," according to a statement to Retraction Watch and STAT from the two institutions. Last year, the hospital agreed to a $10 million settlement with the U.S. government over allegations Anversa and two colleagues' work had been used to fraudulently obtain federal funding.

UMass Memorial Health Care lays off 17 workers (Worcester Business Journal)

UMass Memorial Health Care, facing a multimillion-dollar budget gap, laid off 17 information-technology workers. UMass Memorial did not say how much it expected to save from the layoffs. "We are working with our human resources partner to make sure we are responsive to the needs of the impacted team members during this difficult transition," spokesman Tony Berry said. The move marks the latest by the Worcester healthcare system to bring costs more in line with revenue.

Not all nurses back ballot question to regulate staffing (Boston Globe)

It's hard to know exactly how nurses will split over the question; an oft-cited survey from the nurses union says 86 percent of nurses support patient limits. But other nursing organizations oppose Question 1. Jennifer Theriault, also an emergency room nurse in Brockton, said nurses need to think on their feet. They have to strategize and balance the needs of their patients with other patients in the hospital. "The problem with this bill is the rigid, inflexible wording," Theriault said. "We just don't feel like the bill is what is going to provide our patients with the best care." 

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