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Tag: Matthew Holt

Interview with Ogi Kavazovic, CEO of House Rx

Ogi Kavazovic, CEO of House Rx joined Matthew Holt to explain how his company is trying to ungum the specialty pharmacy market. Its a huge market with a few huge oligopolies in charge of it, and Ogi thinks there is room to work directly with the clinics responsible for most patients using injectables and provide them a better and cheaper experience. Last year they raised $30m in a round led by Bessemer, but as Ogi says there’s along way to go!

THCB Gang Episode 120, Thursday March 16

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday March 16 at 1PM PT 4PM ET were futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve); medical historian Mike Magee (@drmikemagee); patient safety expert and all around wit Michael Millenson (@mlmillenson); and delivery & platform expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis). Lots of discussion about the Walgreens not selling abortifacients, Silicon Valley Bank’s impact on digital health, and how hospitals are doing.

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

THCB Gang Episode 119, Thursday March 9

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday March 9 were writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), benefits expert Jennifer Benz (@Jenbenz); Suntra Modern Recovery CEO JL Neptune; and special guest digital health investment banker Steven Wardell (@StevenWardell). Lots of conversation about Walgreens and the reaction to its non-sales of abortifacients and the possible outcomes. Then a round up of the latest in digital health financing.

If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Matthew Holt

Matthew’s health care tidbits: Oh, the DEA makes me sigh….

Each time I send out the THCB Reader, our newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB (Sign up here!) I include a brief tidbits section. Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

I have always thought that the dual role of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was an anachronism that severely hampers America’s complex relationship with pharmaceuticals. Congress deems some medicines legal and regulates them via the FDA, and deems others illegal and tells the DEA and other law enforcement agencies to attempt to control their supply. Leaving aside the basic futility of this task, somehow DEA was also given the task of regulating the prescribers of legal prescription (and non-prescription) drugs–in particular those around controlled substances.

This has led to decades of DEA-led persecution of doctorspatients and even convenience store clerks in the name of reducing the diversion of opiates and methamphetamines. Of course going after any of these folks is much easier and less risky than hunting a Mexican cartel or busting real criminals, so it’s easy to see why the DEA has taken that approach. Has it worked in reducing the supply of opiates? Maybe. Has it had any impact on the opiate crisis? Not really. Have a whole lot of patients been caught in the crossfire? Yup.

Now the DEA is moving onto the next phase–re-regulating the online prescribing of controlled substances that was liberalized at the start of the public health emergency in 2020. As you can imagine, their proposals are not exactly bursting with reason.

The DEA is essentially banning all controlled prescribing without a face to face visit first. This is despite the fact that the demand for those mental health medications increased dramatically during the pandemic as rates of depression and anxiety went up by a factor of three. While you can argue that in 2021 and 2022 some online services (notably Cerebral) may–and I stress may–have crossed the over-prescribing line for ADHD and other conditions, there’s no evidence that what happened is any worse than the in-person care that the DEA has been inadequately overseeing for decades. More importantly, those online services have already pulled out of those exact therapeutic markets the DEA is alarmed about. Who is left providing online ADHD care? Local clinicians and reputable services. And of course DEA knows full well, and is doing nothing about, the lack of access to mental health professionals that existed long before the increase in demand.

Is there any reason to suspect DEA will improve the quality of the system dealing with these medications? Highly doubtful. There are two current examples suggesting why not. First, due to the increased demand from the pandemic induced mental-health crisis and production problems at pharma company Teva, there’s a massive shortage of ADHD medication already. The DEA could help patients out here, but have declined to increase production quotas–sending millions of patients and their parents on a wild goose chase hunting down pharmacies with actual supply of Adderall and related meds.

Secondly, the DEA wants to also ban the the online prescribing of another drug, buprenorphine, which is used to help wean patients with substance use disorder off opiates and other substances. OK, so there’s a one month grace period here but essentially this is a short-sighted ban that will directly lead to patients going to the black market to acquire opiates, leading to more addiction and death.

My conclusion is that the DEA should be removed from its oversight of licensed clinicians and that role be given to FDA or HHS. At the least these proposed  regulations should be abandoned and rolled back to what we have now. The only good news is that there is still time to comment on the regulations. I went and did so and I hope you will too. Patients have suffered enough already.

THCB Gang Episode 118, Thursday March 2

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday March 2 at 1PM PT 4PM ET are DiME CEO, & Olympic rower for 2 countries Jennifer Goldsack, (@GoldsackJen); writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard); benefits expert Jennifer Benz (@Jenbenz); and Suntra Modern Recovery CEO JL Neptune (@JeanLucNeptune). Today we have also a special guest –former Permanente Medical Group CEO Robbie Pearl @robertpearlmd, who is not shy with his opinions!

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

Matthew’s health care tidbits: Medicare Advantage is now a provider fracking contest

Each time I send out the THCB Reader, our newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB (Sign up here!) I include a brief tidbits section. Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

Yes it’s time to talk Medicare Advantage (MA). It’s been a huge couple of weeks for the world of MA. On the commercial side, CVS bought the biggest pure play MA provider, Oak Street Health for $10bn. This pissed me off as if they paid $2 a share more I’d have made a profit on the stock I foolishly bought “on a dip” in 2021.

But this amazed many of us on THCB Gang, as they paid a huge premium and it works out to some $60k per patient. Now health care organizations have been overpaying for patient “lives” as long as I can remember–going at least as far back as Aetna nearly going out of business when it bought US Healthcare in 1996. So why is today’s incarnation of Aetna buying providers?

Well that’s to do with the regulatory side of MA. I have been on record since the very first post of THCB that Medicare FFS is an inefficient and expensive program–even if 80% of American hospitals say they lose money on it and have to charge commercial insurers more to make up for it. But while it’s possible to agree with George Halvorson that MA delivers better care at a lower cost than FFS Medicare, it is simultaneously possible to believe that MA costs more than it should. That’s because of aggressive RAF upcoding that’s been built both into home visits from companies like Signify and also into the EMRs doctors have been using to code MA members’ health status.

There are lots of proposals on how to fix this–including this one from Chenmed on how to change MA from paying for inputs (i.e how sick people are when they join MA) to outputs (how much better they got while in MA). But it’s clear that CMS is now officially coming after upcoding including full cross plan audits back to 2018. Even if not back to 2011. The MA plans will grumble about those past audits and tie CMS up in court but they know going forward the game is up

To make more money in MA they need to get hold and shake loose or frack some of the 85% of the premium that goes to provider organizations. Hence they are all getting into bed with them or buying them outright. UHG, Humana & now Aetna/CVS have been buying physician groups that serve MA populations at a quickening rate, and their goal is to put more of the 50% of seniors already into MA into those groups.

Will this save any money?  Well probably not, at least not yet. Humana has been reporting on the costs in its full risk capitated MA groups versus its FFS ones for a couple of years, and the difference is a rounding error. But the point is that the next war in Medicare Advantage is going to be what happens inside these plan-owned medical groups. So expect a lot more scrutiny of both costs, outcomes and patient experience within MA focused medical groups starting about now. 

THCB Gang Episode 116, Thursday February 16

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday February 16 were futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve); delivery & platform expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis); and Olympic rower for 2 countries and all around dynamo Jennifer Goldsack, (@GoldsackJen). Sadly, fierce patient activist Casey Quinlan (@MightyCasey) had to cry off, and sadly never returned to THCBGang.

We really dug into distributed care and who was going to control the emerging virtual first conundrum.

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

THCB Gang Episode 115, Thursday February 9

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday February 9 at 1PM PT 4PM ET were futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve); medical historian Mike Magee (@drmikemagee); patient safety expert and all around wit Michael Millenson (@mlmillenson); and delivery & platform expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis). There was the usual chat and a lot of conversation about the future of Medicare, Medicare Advantage and the CVS acquisition of Oak Street.

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

THCB Gang Episode 114, Thursday February 2 1pm PT 4pm ET

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday February 2 at 1PM PT 4PM ET are futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve); fierce patient activist Casey Quinlan (@MightyCasey); writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard); and Olympic rower for 2 countries and all around dynamo Jennifer Goldsack, (@GoldsackJen).

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.