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FDA Approves Gene Therapy

WASHINGTON — Opening a new era in cancer care, U.S. health officials on Wednesday approved a breakthrough treatment that genetically engineers patients’ own blood cells into an army of assassins to seek and destroy childhood leukemia.

The Food and Drug Administration called the approval historic, the first gene therapy to hit the U.S. market. Made from scratch for every patient, it’s one of a wave of “living drugs” under development to fight additional blood cancers and other tumors, too.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals set the price for its one-time infusion of so-called “CAR-T cells” at $475,000, but said there would be no charge for patients who didn’t show a response within a month.

“This is a brand new way of treating cancer,” said Dr. Stephan Grupp of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who treated the first child with CAR-T cell therapy — a girl who’d been near death but now is cancer-free for five years and counting. “That’s enormously exciting.”

CAR-T treatment uses gene therapy techniques not to fix disease-causing genes but to turbocharge T cells, immune system soldiers that cancer too often can evade. Researchers filter those cells from a patient’s blood, reprogram them to harbor a “chimeric antigen receptor” or CAR that zeroes in on cancer, and grow hundreds of millions of copies. Returned to the patient, the revved-up cells can continue multiplying to fight disease for months or years.

Scammers Pretend to Be NIH

Please be aware.  It is being reported that scammers are now pretending to be with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The NIH is a government agency.   These scammers are offering “grants” of money in exchange for your bank account info or a prepaid iTunes card- yeah.  Supposedly by giving this info to the caller it will remove any red-tape for receiving the grant funds, or something like fast-tracking you to receive the grant.

Grants are never given by the NIH for personal use under any circumstances and to be considered for a real grant, a researcher has to actually apply for the grant.  The NIH doesn’t just call you.  Again, scammers never sleep apparently.  It’s unbelievable the pitches they think up.  Please be aware.  Hang up immediately if you get one of these calls.  Source: STAT, Federal Trade Commission.

For more details click here.

Update: Large Employer Insurance

“Consumers who get health insurance through their jobs won’t see rate hikes in the double digits like those on the Obamacare exchanges, but they’ll still see the cost of health care go up.

“Large employers estimate that the employee share of health insurance costs next year will be $4,400, up from $4,200 this year, according to a new report from the National Business Group on Health. On average, employers will continue to cover about 70 percent of the total costs, which they project will increase by 5 percent to $14,156.

“As the price of insurance continues to go up, more companies are looking into different kinds of plans. If your company doesn’t offer a high-deductible health insurance plan, it probably will soon.

“The plans, which shift some costs from the company to the worker and encourage consumers to shop around for health care, are becoming far more common. In 2018, nine in 10 large employers will offer at least one high-deductible health plan, up from 84 percent last year, according to NBGH.”  Source: Beth Braverman, Financial Times.

Guideline:  Large Employers have 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (working 30 or more hours per week).

Currently almost 4 out of every 10 companies have only high-deductible health plans as their only plans available for employees.  This trend is predicted to continue across America, with about 97% of large employers making a high-deductible health plan an option for employees to keep their premium cost lower.

The National Business Group on Health has also found trends in large employers offering plans with tele-medicine available and providing onsite health centers for treatment of minor medical issues.