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Quality of the Health System; Also, an annual Covid vaccine

Research has shown that hospital consolidation leads to higher costs for patients, but what about the quality of care? Although most doctors and hospitals are part of larger health care systems in the United States, the quality is only slightly higher than in smaller independent doctors and hospitals, according to a study published this week in JAMA.

Healthcare systems have dominated the market: About 40 percent of doctors and 84 percent of hospital beds were part of 580 healthcare systems in 2018, according to the study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the National Bureau of Economic Research. Health systems scored slightly higher on preventive care, clinical quality and patient experience, but had prices paid 12 to 26% higher for medical services and 31% higher for hospital services. “Small quality differentials combined with large price differentials suggest that health systems have, on average, not realized their potential for better care at equal or lower cost,” the authors write.

One of the main arguments in favor of health system consolidation has been economies of scale: large systems can pool resources and increase purchasing power. But they can also become so large that they develop diseconomies of scale. “In the worst case, we could end up with a system where the quality is lower and the expense higher than necessary, but we would never know because the only possible comparisons would be between large systems,” writes Lorenzo Casalino, professor of science at the population health at Weill Cornell Medicine in an editorial (he was not involved in the research). Casalino argues that this is why we need more research and attention from regulators on the size and performance of the health care system (and the health insurer).

These venture capital veterans have launched a $350 million fund to digitize life sciences

At first blush, this seems like a challenging time for venture capital, especially in the healthcare sector. But the founders of Dimension, a new fund focused on the intersection of life and computer sciences, have found plenty of people to invest in their vision. Lux Capital alums Zavain Dar and Adam Goulburn have partnered with Obvious Ventures alum Nan Li to raise $350 million to focus on seed and Series A rounds. Read more here.

Offers of the week

Cancer treatment: Takeda has announced the acquisition of an exclusive worldwide license (except China) for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer fruquintinib from Chinese pharmaceutical company HUTCHMED. The drug, which was approved in China in 2018, will go through regulatory approval in the US, EU and Japan this year. The deal is worth $400 million upfront, with milestone payments of up to $730 million plus royalties.

Treatment of alopecia: Sun Pharma announced the acquisition of Concert Pharmaceuticals for an upfront cash payment of approximately $576 million, plus contingent value for current shareholders based on milestones for Concert Deuruxolitinib’s JAK inhibitor, which is currently in the clinical development for the treatment of alopecia areata.

Brain-computer implants: Precision Neuroscience Corporation announced it has raised a $41 million Series B from investors including Draper Associations, Alumni Ventures and others. The funding is geared towards the development and preparation for regulatory review of its reversible brain-computer interfaces.

Noteworthy

Amazonia launched a new prescription drug program this week, giving subscribers access to 50 generic drugs for $5 a month, as the online retailer looks to lure customers away from the drugstores.

Health elevation (formerly Anthem) reported $949 million in fourth-quarter profit on Medicaid enrollment. Health insurance has also acquired Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana for an undisclosed sum this week.

Lawsuits filed in North Carolina and West Virginia are calling for states to lift restrictions abortion pillsarguing that federal rules permitting them should trump state bans.

The quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain during the playoff game with Jacksonville. Here’s what that means.

Coronavirus updates

An FDA committee will meet on Thursday to discuss a proposal to change the recommendations for the Covid-19 vaccination. That proposal is to drop the current vaccine recommendation of two initial doses followed by a booster to instead resemble something more akin to seasonal flu shots where adults receive the latest vaccine formulation to combat the newest variants once once a year. Those who are elderly and immunocompromised are advised to have two injections a year.

This new proposal comes as the country already sees a major challenge in getting people to get booster shots for Covid. Only 15.3% of the country has received a bivalent booster dose of the Covid vaccines and about 30% have not received any vaccinations. However, if people get Covid vaccines around the same time as flu shots, that alone could push the numbers up nicely, as more than 50% of Americans get the yearly flu shot. That alone could make a difference, as Covid-19 is still causing significant harm to Americans: More than 4,000 people are being admitted to hospitals from Covid every day right now, according to the CDC, and nearly 4,000 people died last week from of the disease.

Covid continues to kill hundreds of Americans every day as the pandemic enters its fourth year

Vaccines, treatments and other public health measures have helped curb the spread of Covid and curb deaths and hospitalizations, but as the US enters its fourth year of pandemic, data shows hundreds of people still die from the virus every day , an infectious omicron offshoot across the country, and a sad appetite for updated booster shots. Read more here.

More coronavirus news

Covid mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, are effective at preventing serious infection and disease and have low rates of serious side effects in childrenaccording to a new study.

A new study has found that Covid infections during pregnancy are associated with placental lesions by vascular malperfusion, which can result in increased rates of fetal growth restriction, pre-labor membrane rupture, and spontaneous abortion.

Conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines have been undermined public healthand they threaten to undermine responses to future pandemics as well.

Laboratories Abbott it reported $1 billion in fourth-quarter profit despite an “expected year-over-year decline in sales related to Covid-19 testing,” the company said.

On Forbes

A killer has been targeting pregnant moms in a private Facebook group, feds say. Moderators about him claim that no one told him.

TikTok’s Secret “Warm Up” Button Can Make Anyone Go Viral

America’s Most Generous Donors 2023: The Nation’s Top 25 Philanthropists

What else are we reading

The drugs were meant to save the lives of the children. Instead they are dying (Bureau of Investigative Journalism/Stat)

Trying to stop COVID long before it even starts (The Atlantic)

How to be 18 again for just $2 million a year (Bloomberg)

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