Weekend ICYMI: April 29 to May 3

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In case you missed it, this week we had news about marijuana reclassification, the Change Healthcare cyberattack, declining wages among community pharmacists, and more.

DEA Aims to Reclassify Marijuana as Less Dangerous Drug

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has proposed to reclassify marijuana—a drug that has been increasingly accepted by the American public—from a high-regulation Schedule I drug to a less-restrictive Schedule III drug. What might this move mean for the future of marijuana in the country?

Marijuana leaves / Lumppini - stock.adobe.com

Marijuana leaves / Lumppini - stock.adobe.com

State drug policy has outpaced federal drug policy in recent years. Alongside a more tolerant population, 38 studies have legalized medical marijuana and 24 have legalized its recreational use. Although the move by the DEA to reclassify marijuana as Schedule III would not federally legalize it, the decision has the potential to positively impact the clinical and economic spaces associated with the drug.

Retail Community Pharmacist Wages Declined from 2012 to 2022

Wage trends of pharmacy workers from 2012 to 2022 show a decrease in wages for pharmacists and an increase for pharmacy aides and technicians, according to new research. Furthermore, trends show that the retail community pharmacy workforce was making significantly less than those working in a hospital setting.

Investigators found the annual wage reduction to be $1974 greater for retail pharmacists compared with hospital pharmacists. In other words, there was a 16.6% decrease in annual retail pharmacist wages compared with just a 2.5% decrease for hospital pharmacists from 2012 to 2022.

CGM Use Linked to Improved Diabetic Retinopathy Outcomes in T1D

Although elevated hemoglobin A1c and longer duration of diabetes are understood as major risk factors for developing diabetic retinopathy (DR) particularly among patients with T1D, outcomes of diabetes technology use on the development of the complication is not well established. In supplementing this area of knowledge, investigators found that use of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) may reduce the likelihood of DR and proliferative diabetic retionpathy.

The current study's findings on CGM’s positive impact on DR development suggest its effectiveness in managing T1D and underscores the need for wider integration of CGM data into eye care assessments among the patient population. Further research, investigators recommended, should focus on how CGM-specific parameters affect long-term complications among patients with T1D.

UnitedHealth CEO Testifies Before Congress on Change Healthcare Cyberattack

During a Congressional hearing, UnitedHealth CEO Andrew Witty fielded questions from a series of senators on the February Change Healthcare cyberattack.

During the hearing, Witty was asked about the attack and how Change Healthcare was not using multi-factor authentication (MFA) to protect its hypersensitive data. Change, which was acquired by UnitedHealth in 2021, is a company that processes insurance claims and keeps health records for millions of Americans utilizing Medicare services. Witty addressed the company’s failure to use MFA and apologized to the millions of Americans whose confidential data were at risk from the attack.

Weight-Loss Drugs Fuel Rise in US Prescription Spending

In 2023, prescription drug spending grew 13.6% compared with 2022. Semaglutide was the highest selling drug due to a recent increase of weight-loss classifications. According to researchers, the evolution of weight-loss medications is following a continuous trend of increased spending beyond 2023.

“Expenditures for semaglutide doubled last year, making it the new top-selling drug in the US, replacing adalimumab, which treats autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease,” wrote the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in a press release. “Adding to the weight-loss category, spending on the diabetes drug tirzepatide grew an astounding 373% even though its approval for weight loss came late in 2023.”

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