Saturday, November 5, 2011

Quick Links: ObamaCare Surprise, PSA Screening

In the 10/27/2011 Washington Examiner, Diana Furchtgott-Roth discusses "Another unpleasant surprise from Obamacare".

Basically, new ObamaCare rules will create enormous incentives for employers to offer unaffordable health insurance plans to their workers, so the workers' families can qualify for government-subsidized plans on the new exchanges. The ObamaCare rules will also discourage marriage.

In the 10/28/2011 Medical Progress Today, Paul Howard discusses "The PSA debate: to screen, or not to screen?"

He raises the following good point:
It is true that the PSA test has a high number of "false positives" that can drive men who don't have cancer, or don't have life-threatening cancers, to get biopsies or treatments that may have serious side effects but not actually save lives. But this is like saying that the first generation of cell phones was ridiculously expensive, clunky, and didn't work very well -- and so we shouldn't invest in better cellphones since the early ones were so crappy.

Since we don't adhere to that philosophy in technology markets, relatively cheap, fast, and powerful smartphones now rule the world.

Medical technology is benefitting from the same underlying forces that drove the telecommunications and computing industries into producing incredibly rapid, consumer-friendly innovations.

For instance, take a new biomarker test from the San Diego company Gen-Probe, which is under review by the FDA. Unlike PSA, which is produced by inflamed prostate tissue (which may or may not be cancerous), Gen-Probe screens urine for a prostate cancer antigen (PCA3) which is "overproduced in more than 90 percent of patients with prostate cancers."

Depending on how the FDA approves the test, it could be used as a second line screen for patients with unusual PSA readings, allowing doctors and patients to make better decisions about when to seek a biopsy or leave well enough alone.

That's what we really want, right? More confidence that we're seeking treatment when we need it, and it might save lives, and less treatment when we don't. And the PCA3 test isn't the only promising technology in the pipeline.
As always, by stifling current technology through regulatory mandates, we may never know the downstream benefits of future improvements -- the classic issue of "the seen vs. the unseen".

Finally, blogger Glenn Reynolds notes:
EARLY CANCER DETECTION: Suddenly, it's not good for you after all...

Many people are concerned that the new "science" that has led to a sudden about-face on testing, coincident with the passage of ObamaCare, is driven by costs rather than patient welfare. This may be unfair, but one of the hazards of politicizing the health care system is that suspicions of, well, politicization of the health care system become unavoidable.