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1.  Tocilizumab in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis and inadequate responses to DMARDs and/or TNF inhibitors: a large, open-label study close to clinical practice 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;71(12):1950-1954.
Objective
To evaluate the safety and efficacy of tocilizumab in clinical practice in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with inadequate responses (IR) to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or both DMARDs and tumour necrosis factor α inhibitors (TNFis).
Methods
Patients—categorised as TNFi-naive, TNFi-previous (washout) or TNFi-recent (no washout) —received open-label tocilizumab (8 mg/kg) every 4 weeks ± DMARDs for 24 weeks. Adverse events (AEs) and treatment discontinuations were monitored. Efficacy end points included American College of Rheumatology (ACR) responses, 28-joint disease activity score (DAS28) and European League Against Rheumatism responses.
Results
Overall, 1681 (976 TNF-naive, 298 TNFi-previous and 407 TNFi-recent) patients were treated; 5.1% discontinued treatment because of AEs. The AE rate was numerically higher in TNFi-recent (652.6/100 patient-years (PY)) and TNFi-previous (653.6/100PY) than in TNFi-naive (551.1/100PY) patients. Serious AE rates were 18.0/100PY, 28.0/100PY and 18.6/100PY; serious infection rates were 6.0/100PY, 6.8/100PY and 4.2/100PY, respectively. At week 4, 36.5% of patients achieved ACR20 response and 14.9% DAS28 remission (<2.6); at week 24, 66.9%, 46.6%, 26.4% and 56.8% achieved ACR20/ACR50/ACR70 responses and DAS28 remission, respectively. Overall, 61.6% (TNFi-naive), 48.5% (TNFi-previous) and 50.4% (TNFi-recent) patients achieved DAS28 remission.
Conclusions
In patients with RA who were DMARD-IR/TNFi-IR, tocilizumab ± DMARDs provided rapid and sustained efficacy without unexpected safety concerns.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-201087
PMCID: PMC3595980  PMID: 22615456
2.  The views of stakeholders on controlled access schemes for high-cost antirheumatic biological medicines in Australia 
Background
In Australia, government-subsidised access to high-cost medicines is "targeted" to particular sub-sets of patients under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to achieve cost-effective use. In order to determine how this access system could be improved, the opinions of key stakeholders on access to biological agents for rheumatoid arthritis were explored.
Methods
Thirty-six semi-structured interviews were conducted with persons from relevant stakeholder groups. These were transcribed verbatim, and analysed thematically.
Results
Controlled access to expensive medicines was considered to be equitable and practical; however, there was disagreement as to the method of defining the target patient populations. Other concerns included timeliness of access, excessive bureaucracy, and the need for additional resources to facilitate the scheme. Collaboration between stakeholders was deemed important because it allows more equitable distribution of limited resources. The majority considered that stakeholder consultation should have been broader. Most wanted increased transparency of the decision-making process, ongoing and timely review of access criteria, and an increased provision of information for patients. More structured communication between stakeholders was proposed.
Conclusion
The Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme is adapting to meet the changing needs of patients. Provision of subsidised access to high-cost medicines in a manner that is affordable for individuals and society, and that is equitable and efficiently managed is challenging. The views of stakeholders on targeted access to anti-rheumatic biological medicines in Australia acknowledged this challenge and provided a number of suggestions for modifications. These could serve as a basis to inform the debate on how to change the processes and policies so as to improve the scheme.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-4-26
PMCID: PMC2231358  PMID: 18096055
3.  High levels of memory B cells are associated with response to a first tumor necrosis factor inhibitor in patients with rheumatoid arthritis in a longitudinal prospective study 
Introduction
Tumor necrosis factor inhibitor (TNFi) therapy is effective for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Some researchers have suggested that TNFi therapy affects B-cell homeostasis. We studied the effect of TNFi therapy on the distribution of peripheral B-cell subsets to elucidate B-cell–related biomarkers to predict the TNFi response.
Methods
Peripheral B cells were analyzed for expression of CD19, CD27, CD38 and immunoglobulin D in 31 healthy donors and 96 RA patients, including 21 patients who were followed 3 months after TNFi initiation.
Results
Treatment with steroids significantly altered the distribution of B-cell subsets. After we adjusted for age, sex and steroid dose, we found that patients with RA had B-cell subset proportions similar to controls. B-cell subset distributions did not differ upon use of TNFi at baseline or before or after TNFi introduction. TNFi responders (according to European League Against Rheumatism criteria) at 3 months had significantly higher proportions of CD27+ memory B cells at baseline, and ≥26% CD27+ cells at inclusion was associated with a relative risk of 4.9 (1.3 to 18.6) for response to TNFi treatment. CD27+ cells produced three times more TNFα than did TNFi-naïve B cells and were correlated with interferon γ produced from CD4+ cells in patients without TNFi treatment.
Conclusions
In patients with RA, high levels of baseline memory B cells were associated with response to TNFi, which may be related to TNFα-dependent activation of the T helper type 1 cell pathway.
doi:10.1186/ar4543
PMCID: PMC4060280  PMID: 24735586
4.  Identifying priority medicines policy issues for New Zealand: a general inductive study 
BMJ Open  2014;4(5):e004415.
Objectives
To identify priority medicines policy issues for New Zealand.
Setting
Stakeholders from a broad range of healthcare and policy institutions including primary, secondary and tertiary care.
Participants
Exploratory, semistructured interviews were conducted with 20 stakeholders throughout New Zealand.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
The interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed and coded into INVIVO 10, then compared and grouped for similarity of theme. Perceptions, experiences and opinions regarding New Zealand's medicines policy issues were recorded.
Results
A large proportion of stakeholders appeared to be unaware of New Zealand's (NZ) medicines policy. In general, the policy was considered to offer consistency to guide decision-making. In the context of Pharmaceutical Management Agency's (PHARMAC's) fixed budget for procuring and subsidising medicines, there was reasonable satisfaction with the range of medicines available—rare disorder medicines being the clear exception. Concerns raised were by whom and how decisions are made and whether desired health outcomes are being measured. Other concerns included inconsistencies in evidence and across health technologies. Despite attempts to improve the situation, lower socioeconomic groups (including rural residents) Māori and Pacific ethnicities and people with rare disorders face challenges with regards to accessing medicines. Other barriers include, convenience to and affordability of prescribers and the increase of prescription fees from NZ$3 to NZ$5. Concerns related to the PHARMAC of New Zealand included: a constraining budget; non-transparency of in-house analysis; lack of consistency in recommendations between the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee. Constraints and inefficiencies also exist in the submission process to access high-cost medicines.
Conclusions
The results suggest reasonable satisfaction with the availability of subsidised medicines. However, some of the major challenges include access to medicines in vulnerable groups, increasing costs and demand for new medicines, access to prescribers, budgetary constraints, cultural and health literacy, patient affordability and evidence requirement for gaining subsidy for medicines.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004415
PMCID: PMC4039830  PMID: 24871535
5.  Disinvestment policy and the public funding of assisted reproductive technologies: outcomes of deliberative engagements with three key stakeholder groups 
Background
Measures to improve the quality and sustainability of healthcare practice and provision have become a policy concern. In addition, the involvement of stakeholders in health policy decision-making has been advocated, as complex questions arise around the structure of funding arrangements in a context of limited resources. Using a case study of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), deliberative engagements with a range of stakeholder groups were held on the topic of how best to structure the distribution of Australian public funding in this domain.
Methods
Deliberative engagements were carried out with groups of ART consumers, clinicians and community members. The forums were informed by a systematic review of ART treatment safety and effectiveness (focusing, in particular, on maternal age and number of treatment cycles), as well as by international policy comparisons, and ethical and cost analyses. Forum discussions were transcribed and subject to thematic analysis.
Results
Each forum demonstrated stakeholders’ capacity to understand concepts of choice under resource scarcity and disinvestment, and to countenance options for ART funding not always aligned with their interests. Deliberations in each engagement identified concerns around ‘equity’ and ‘patient responsibility’, culminating in a broad preference for (potential) ART subsidy restrictions to be based upon individual factors rather than maternal age or number of treatment cycles. Community participants were open to restrictions based upon measures of body mass index (BMI) and smoking status, while consumers and clinicians saw support to improve these factors as part of an ART treatment program, as distinct from a funding criterion. All groups advocated continued patient co-payments, with measures in place to provide treatment access to those unable to pay (namely, equity of access).
Conclusions
Deliberations yielded qualitative, socially-negotiated evidence required to inform ethical, accountable policy decisions in the specific area of ART and health care more broadly. Notably, reductionist, deterministic characterizations of stakeholder ‘self-interest’ proved unfounded as each group sought to prioritise universal values (in particular, ‘equity’ and ‘responsibility’) over specific, within-group concerns. Our results - from an emotive case study in ART - highlight that evidence-informed disinvestment decision-making is feasible, and potentially less controversial than often presumed.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-204
PMCID: PMC4016640  PMID: 24885716
Australia; Evidence-based health policy; Deliberative methods; Discourse analysis; Disinvestment; Assisted reproductive technology
6.  Differential Expression of NK Receptors CD94 and NKG2A by T Cells in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients in Remission Compared to Active Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27182.
Objective
TNF inhibitors (TNFi) have revolutionised the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Natural killer (NK) cells and Natural Killer Cell Receptor+ T (NKT) cells comprise important effector lymphocytes whose activity is tightly regulated through surface NK receptors (NKRs). Dysregulation of NKRs in patients with autoimmune diseases has been shown, however little is known regarding NKRs expression in patients with TNFi-induced remission and in those who maintain remission vs disease flare following TNFi withdrawal.
Methods
Patients with RA were recruited for this study, (i) RA patients in clinical remission following a minimum of one year of TNFi therapy (n = −15); (2) Active RA patients, not currently or ever receiving TNFi (n = 18); and healthy control volunteers (n = 15). Patients in remission were divided into two groups: those who were maintained on TNFi and those who withdrew from TNFi and maintained on DMARDS. All patients underwent full clinical assessment. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated and NKR (CD94, NKG2A, CD161, CD69, CD57, CD158a, CD158b) expression on T-(CD3+CD56−), NK-(CD3−CD56+) and NKT-(CD3+CD56+) cells was determined by flow cytometry.
Results
Following TNFi withdrawal, percentages and numbers of circulating T cells, NK cells or NKT cell populations were unchanged in patients in remission versus active RA or HCs. Expression of the NKRs CD161, CD57, CD94 and NKG2A was significantly increased on CD3+CD56-T cells from patients in remission compared to active RA (p<0.05). CD3+CD56-T cell expression of CD94 and NKG2A was significantly increased in patients who remained in remission compared with patients whose disease flared (p<0.05), with no differences observed for CD161 and CD57. CD3+CD56− cell expression of NKG2A was inversely related to DAS28 (r = −0.612, p<0.005).
Conclusion
High CD94/NKG2A expression by T cells was demonstrated in remission patients following TNFi therapy compared to active RA, while low CD94/NKG2A were associated with disease flare following withdrawal of therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027182
PMCID: PMC3216944  PMID: 22102879
7.  Making our offices universally accessible: guidelines for physicians 
OBJECTIVE: To develop recommendations for office-based physicians who wish to make their offices accessible to all patients. OPTIONS: Include taking steps to make offices more accessible, or not; offices may be accessible to varying degrees. OUTCOMES: Outcomes of accessibility involve patient-care, economic, ethical and legal issues. Stakeholders in these outcomes include patients, physicians, government and society. EVIDENCE: Data were obtained from a series of searches of MEDLINE, CINAHL and Healthstar (previously Health) databases for articles on disability and family medicine, primary (health) care and family practice, and on access and offices, and health services accessibility, and from a telephone survey of 50 stakeholders. VALUES: A high value was placed on services to persons with disabilities and on stakeholder input. Universal accessibility was valued as an overall goal; improved accessibility was also highly valued. BENEFITS, HARMS AND COSTS: Benefits to patients include improved access to care as guaranteed by the Canada Health Act and in keeping with provincial Human Rights Codes. Benefits to physicians include contact with a broader patient population and freedom from fear of litigation. Costs of improved accessibility vary depending on individual circumstances and on whether an office is being built or renovated; some improvement costs are minimal. RECOMMENDATIONS: All physicians should take measures to improve practice accessibility. Improved access should be considered in each of the following areas: transportation and entrance to the facility, entrance to the office, waiting rooms, rest rooms, examination rooms, general building features and other features. VALIDATION: No similar guidelines exist. To assess the content validity of these guidelines, the authors had a draft document reviewed by 18 stakeholders. All specific recommendations met the minimum criterion of adherence to current legislation, including national and provincial building codes. The specific recommendations are endorsed by the Canadian Paraplegic Association (national and Ontario offices), the DisAbled Women's Network (Ontario) and the Centre for Independent Living (Toronto). SPONSORS: Development of these guidelines was supported in part by the Department of Family and Community Medicine, Toronto Hospital, Toronto, Ont.
PMCID: PMC1232828  PMID: 9068570
8.  Dyslipidemia and Changes in Lipid Profiles Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Initiation of Anti-TNF Therapy 
Arthritis care & research  2012;64(9):1282-1291.
OBJECTIVE
To investigate the frequency of lipid testing in clinical practice and explore the relationship between rheumatoid arthritis (RA), dyslipidemia, and other cardiovascular (CV) risk factors, with RA treatment.
METHODS
Patients in the retrospective database study were ≥18 years old and had ≥2 physician diagnoses for RA or osteoarthritis (OA) [comparator group] between March 2004-March 2008. Outcomes of interest included the percentage of RA and OA patients receiving lipid tests, lipid profiles (total cholesterol [TC], low-density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-C], and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol [HDL-C]) of RA vs. OA patients, and lipid profiles of RA patients before and after initiation with a tumor necrosis factor inhibitor (TNFi). We used multivariable regression to control potential confounders between the cohorts.
RESULTS
Over a median 2+ year follow-up, fewer RA patients than OA patients had at least one lipid test (62% [95% CI, 60-64] vs. 68% [95% CI, 65-71]). Mean TC and LDL-C were each 4 mg/dL lower in the RA cohort (P<0.0001); HDL-C was similar between cohorts. Across the RA cohort, 25.2% of patients had suboptimal LDL-C levels (≥130 mg/dL). Among RA patients not using lipid-lowering therapy who initiated TNFi therapy (n=96), mean TC and LDL-C increased by 5.4 and 4.0 mg/dL, respectively.
CONCLUSION
RA patients were less likely to be tested for hyperlipidemia and had more favorable lipid profiles than OA patients. TNFi therapy modestly increased all lipid parameters. Additional studies are needed to determine the effect of traditional CV risk factors, inflammation, and the impact of biologics on CV outcomes in RA patients.
doi:10.1002/acr.21693
PMCID: PMC3404153  PMID: 22504829
9.  A qualitative evaluation of general practitioners' perceptions regarding access to medicines in New Zealand 
BMJ Open  2012;2(2):e000518.
Objective
The objective of this study was to evaluate general practitioners' (GPs) perceptions regarding access to medicines in New Zealand.
Design
Qualitative.
Setting
Primary care.
Participants
GPs.
Main outcome measures
GPs' views and perceptions.
Results
GPs were of the view that the current range of medicines available in New Zealand was reasonable; however, it was acknowledged that there were some drugs that patients were missing out on. When considering the range of subsidised medicines available in New Zealand, some GPs felt that there had been an improvement over recent years. It was highlighted that unexpected funding changes could create financial barriers for some patients and that administrative procedures and other complexities created barriers in receiving a subsidy for restricted medicines. GPs also reported problems with the availability and sole supply of certain medicines and claimed that switching from a branded medicine to its generic counterpart could be disruptive for patients.
Conclusions
The research concluded that although there were some issues with the availability of certain drugs, most GPs were satisfied with the broader access to medicines situation in New Zealand. This view is to contrary to the situation presented by the pharmaceutical industry. The issues around sole supply, the use of generic medicines and the administrative barriers regarding funding of medicines could be improved with better systems. The current work provides a solid account of what GPs see as the advantages and disadvantages of the current system and how they balance these demands in practice.
Article summary
Article focus
To evaluate GPs' perceptions regarding access to medicines in New Zealand.
To identify GPs' views and perceptions regarding the role of PHARMAC within the New Zealand healthcare system.
Key messages
GPs were of the view that the current range of medicines available in New Zealand was reasonable; however, it was acknowledged that there were some drugs that patients were missing out on.
When considering the range of subsidised medicines available in New Zealand, some GPs felt that there had been an improvement over recent years.
It was highlighted that unexpected funding changes could create financial barriers for some patients and that administrative procedures and other complexities created barriers in receiving a subsidy for restricted medicines.
Strengths and limitations of this study
This is the first independent objective study covering GPs' perceptions regarding access to medicines issues in New Zealand.
Findings from this study will form an essential component of any future research, which reviews New Zealand's current medicines policy.
It will also help in developing strategies to better inform patients' access to medicines, with GPs being a large group of health professionals likely to positively affect patient knowledge and views.
All GPs were working in a large metropolitan city in New Zealand—it is not known whether their views and experiences differ from colleagues working and living in small towns and rural locales.
Also, only 19 of 150 contacted were interested in participating so this could be another source of bias in the study.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000518
PMCID: PMC3317137  PMID: 22457477
10.  Quantifying the Impoverishing Effects of Purchasing Medicines: A Cross-Country Comparison of the Affordability of Medicines in the Developing World 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000333.
Laurens Niëns and colleagues estimate the impoverishing effects of four medicines in 16 low- and middle-income countries using the impoverishment method as a metric of affordability and show that medicine purchases could impoverish large numbers of people.
Background
Increasing attention is being paid to the affordability of medicines in low- and middle-income countries (LICs and MICs) where medicines are often highly priced in relation to income levels. The impoverishing effect of medicine purchases can be estimated by determining pre- and postpayment incomes, which are then compared to a poverty line. Here we estimate the impoverishing effects of four medicines in 16 LICs and MICs using the impoverishment method as a metric of affordability.
Methods and Findings
Affordability was assessed in terms of the proportion of the population being pushed below US$1.25 or US$2 per day poverty levels because of the purchase of medicines. The prices of salbutamol 100 mcg/dose inhaler, glibenclamide 5 mg cap/tab, atenolol 50 mg cap/tab, and amoxicillin 250 mg cap/tab were obtained from facility-based surveys undertaken using a standard measurement methodology. The World Bank's World Development Indicators provided household expenditure data and information on income distributions. In the countries studied, purchasing these medicines would impoverish large portions of the population (up to 86%). Originator brand products were less affordable than the lowest-priced generic equivalents. In the Philippines, for example, originator brand atenolol would push an additional 22% of the population below US$1.25 per day, whereas for the lowest priced generic equivalent this demographic shift is 7%. Given related prevalence figures, substantial numbers of people are affected by the unaffordability of medicines.
Conclusions
Comparing medicine prices to available income in LICs and MICs shows that medicine purchases by individuals in those countries could lead to the impoverishment of large numbers of people. Action is needed to improve medicine affordability, such as promoting the use of quality assured, low-priced generics, and establishing health insurance systems.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In recent years, the international community has prioritized access to essential medicines, which has required focusing on the accessibility, availability, quality, and affordability of life-saving medicines and the development of appropriate data and research agendas to measure these components. Determining the degree of affordability of medicines, especially in low- and middle-income countries, is a complex process as the term affordability is vague. However, the cost of medicines is a major public health issue, especially as the majority of people in developing countries do not have health insurance and medicines freely provided through the public sector are often unavailable. Therefore, although countries have a legal obligation to make essential medicines available to those who need them at an affordable cost, poor people often have to pay for the medicines that they need when they are ill. Consequently, where medicine prices are high, people may have to forego treatment or they may go into debt if they decide to buy the necessary medicines.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to show the impact of the cost of medicines on poorer populations by undertaking an analysis that quantified the proportion of people who would be pushed into poverty (an income level of US$1.25 or US$2 a day) because their only option is to pay out-of-pocket expenses for the life-saving medicines they need. The researchers referred to this consequence as the “impoverishing effect of a medicine.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers generated “impoverishment rates” of four medicines in 16 low- and middle-income countries by comparing households' daily per capita income before and after (the hypothetical) purchase of one of the following: a salbutamol 100 mcg/dose inhaler, glibenclamide 5 mg cap/tab, atenolol 50 mg cap/tab, and amoxicillin 250 mg cap/tab. This selection of drugs covers the treatment/management of three chronic diseases and one acute illness. The cost of each medicine was taken from standardized surveys, which report median patient prices for a selection of commonly used medicines in the private sector (the availability of essential medicines in the public sector is much lower so many people will depend on the private sector for their medicines) for both originator brand and lowest priced generic products. If the prepayment income was above the US$1.25 (or US$2) poverty line and the postpayment income fell below these lines, purchasing these medicines at current prices impoverishes people.
According to the results of this analysis, a substantial proportion (up to 86%) of the population in the countries studied would be pushed into poverty as a result of purchasing one of the four selected medicines. Furthermore, the lowest priced generic versions of each medicine were generally substantially more affordable than originator brand products. For example, in the Philippines, purchasing originator brand atenolol would push an additional 22% of the population below US$1.25 per day compared to 7% if the lowest priced generic equivalent was bought instead. In effect, purchasing essential medicines for both chronic and acute conditions could impoverish large numbers of people, especially if originator brand products are bought.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the purchasing of medicines represents only part of the costs associated with the management of an illness, it is clear that the high cost of medicines have catastrophic effects on poor people. In addition, as the treatment of chronic conditions often requires a combination of medicines, the cost of treating and managing a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is likely to be even more unaffordable than what is reported in this study. Therefore concerted action is urgently required to improve medicine affordability and prevent poor populations from being pushed further into poverty. Such action could include: governments, civil society organizations, and others making access to essential medicines more of a priority and to consider this strategy as an integral part of reducing poverty; the development, implementation, and enforcement of sound national and international price policies; actively promoting the use of quality assured, low-cost generic drugs; ensuring the availability of essential medicines in the public sector at little or no charge to poor people; establishing health insurance systems with outpatient medicine benefits; encouraging pharmaceutical companies to differentially price medicines that are still subject to patent restrictions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000333.
For a comprehensive resource for medicine prices, availability, and affordability, see Health Action International
Guidelines about access to essential medicines and pharmaceutical policies can be found at WHO
Transparency Alliance provides more information about medicines
Access to essential medicines has become a key campaign topic; for more information see Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000333
PMCID: PMC2930876  PMID: 20824175
11.  Corporate Social Responsibility and Access to Policy Élites: An Analysis of Tobacco Industry Documents 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(8):e1001076.
Gary Fooks and colleagues undertook a review of tobacco industry documents and show that policies on corporate social responsibility can enable access to and dialogue with policymakers at the highest level.
Background
Recent attempts by large tobacco companies to represent themselves as socially responsible have been widely dismissed as image management. Existing research supports such claims by pointing to the failings and misleading nature of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. However, few studies have focused in depth on what tobacco companies hoped to achieve through CSR or reflected on the extent to which these ambitions have been realised.
Methods and Findings
Iterative searching relating to CSR strategies was undertaken of internal British American Tobacco (BAT) documents, released through litigation in the US. Relevant documents (764) were indexed and qualitatively analysed. In the past decade, BAT has actively developed a wide-ranging CSR programme. Company documents indicate that one of the key aims of this programme was to help the company secure access to policymakers and, thereby, increase the company's chances of influencing policy decisions. Taking the UK as a case study, this paper demonstrates the way in which CSR can be used to renew and maintain dialogue with policymakers, even in ostensibly unreceptive political contexts. In practice, the impact of this political use of CSR is likely to be context specific; depending on factors such as policy élites' understanding of the credibility of companies as a reliable source of information.
Conclusions
The findings suggest that tobacco company CSR strategies can enable access to and dialogue with policymakers and provide opportunities for issue definition. CSR should therefore be seen as a form of corporate political activity. This underlines the need for broad implementation of Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Measures are needed to ensure transparency of interactions between all parts of government and the tobacco industry and for policy makers to be made more aware of what companies hope to achieve through CSR.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In the past, companies and multinational corporations were judged on the profits they made. Nowadays, though, much is made of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is the commitment by business to behave ethically and to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce, their families, the local community, and society at large. Put simply, companies and corporations now endeavor to show that they have a positive impact on the environment, consumers, employees, and society in addition to making money for their shareholders. Large tobacco companies are no exception. British American Tobacco (BAT, the world's second largest publicly traded tobacco company), for example, began working on a wide-ranging CSR program more than a decade ago. Given that tobacco is responsible for an estimated 5.4 million deaths worldwide annually, this program was initially met with hostility and dismissed as an image management exercise. However, large parts of the investment and CSR communities now approve of BAT's CSR program, which has won numerous awards.
Why Was This Study Done?
But what do BAT and other tobacco companies actually hope to achieve through their CSR initiatives and how successful have they been in achieving these aims? Few studies have addressed these important questions. In particular, there has been little research into the extent to which tobacco companies use CSR initiatives as a form of corporate political activity that can help them gain “access” to policymakers and define the legitimate concerns and optimal alternatives of public policy (“issue definition”). Access is defined as taking place when policymakers consider the views of policy advocates such as tobacco company employees and is a crucial component of issue definition, which refers to the strategies adopted by bodies such as multinational corporations to influence the policy agenda by defining what issues public policy should concern itself with and how it should approach them. In this case study, the researchers explore whether BAT's CSR program works as a form of corporate political activity by systematically examining internal BAT documents made publicly available as a result of US litigation. Specifically, the researchers examine BAT's efforts through its CSR program to reestablish access with the UK Department of Health following the department's decision in the late 1990s to restrict contact with major tobacco companies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using iterative searching, the researchers identified 764 documents in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (a large collection of internal tobacco company documents released as a result of US litigation cases) that contain information relevant to BAT's CSR strategies. Their analysis of these documents indicates that one of the key aims of the CSR program actively developed over the past decade by BAT was to help secure access to policymakers and shows how BAT used CSR to renew and maintain dialogue with policymakers at a time when contact between government and tobacco companies was extremely restricted. The documents also show that BAT employees used CSR initiatives as a means of issue definition to both optimize the probability of subsequent discussions taking place and to frame their content. Finally, the documents illustrate how BAT used its CSR program to expand the number of access points across government, thereby providing BAT with more opportunities to meet and talk to officials.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that CSR is a form of corporate political activity that potentially has important implications for public health given the documented impact of the political activity of tobacco companies in delaying and blocking health-related tobacco control policies. In practice, the impact of the political use of CSR is likely to be context specific and will depend on factors such as whether senior policymakers regard companies as reliable sources of information. Importantly, these findings underline the need for broad implementation of Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international treaty that calls for the introduction of multiple measures to reduce tobacco consumption, including tobacco advertizing bans and relevant taxation policies. Article 5.3 aims to protect public-health policies on tobacco control from tobacco industry influence. The findings of this study indicate that implementation of Article 5.3 will require measures that ensure transparency in interactions between all parts of government and the tobacco industry and will need an increased awareness across government of what tobacco companies hope to achieve through CSR.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001076.
The Corporate Responsibility (CORE) coalition, an alliance of voluntary organizations, trade unions, and companies, maintains a Web site that contains useful material on corporate social responsibility
The European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) promotes corporate accountability by bringing together national platforms of civil society organizations (including NGOs, trade unions, consumer advocacy groups, and academic institutions) from all over Europe
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages), details of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (in several languages), and guidelines for the implementation of Article 5.3 of the FCTC
The Framework Convention Alliance provides more information about the FCTC
For information about tobacco industry influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001076
PMCID: PMC3160341  PMID: 21886485
12.  Intestinal-Specific TNFα Overexpression Induces Crohn’s-Like Ileitis in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72594.
Background and Aim
Human and animal studies have clearly established tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α as an important mediator of Crohn’s disease pathogenesis. However, whether systemic or only local TNFα overproduction is required for the development of chronic intestinal inflammation and Crohn’s disease remains unclear. The aim of this study was to assess the contribution of intestinal epithelial-derived TNFα to the development of murine Crohn’s-like ileitis.
Methods
We adapted the well-established TNF∆ARE/+ mouse model of Crohn’s disease (which systemically overexpresses TNFα) to generate a homozygous mutant strain that overexpress TNFα only within the intestinal epithelium. Intestinal-specific TNFi∆ARE/i∆ARE mice were examined for histopathological signs of gut inflammation and extraintestinal manifestations of Crohn’s disease. The mucosal immune phenotype was characterized, and the contribution of specific lymphocyte populations to the pathogenesis of TNFi∆ARE/i∆ARE ileitis was assessed.
Results
TNFi∆ARE/i∆ARE mice had increased mucosal and systemic TNFα levels compared to wild-type controls (P<0.001), as well as severe chronic ileitis with increased neutrophil infiltration and villous distortion, but no extraintestinal manifestations (P<0.001 vs. wild-type controls). The gut mucosal lymphocytic compartment was also expanded in TNFi∆ARE/i∆ARE mice (P<0.05), consisting of activated CD69+ and CD4+CD62L- lymphocytes (P<0.05). FasL expression was significantly elevated in the mesenteric lymph nodes of TNFi∆ARE/i∆ARE mice (P<0.05). Adoptive transfer of mucosal TNFi∆ARE/i∆ARE lymphocytes resulted in ileitis in immunologically naïve severe combined immunodeficiency recipients (P<0.05 vs. wild-type controls), indicating an effector phenotype that was associated with increased production of both Th1 (IFNγ) and Th2 (IL-5, IL-13) cytokines.
Conclusion
Intestinal epithelial-derived TNFα is sufficient for the induction of Crohn’s-like ileitis, but not for the occurrence of extraintestinal manifestations, in TNFi∆ARE/i∆ARE mice. These effects were associated with generation of effector lymphocytes within the intestinal mucosa and dysregulated apoptosis. Thus, targeted intestinal blockade of TNFα may provide an effective means to neutralize gut-derived TNFα with reduced side effects.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072594
PMCID: PMC3748077  PMID: 23977323
13.  Cryptococcal Meningitis Treatment Strategies in Resource-Limited Settings: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(9):e1001316.
David Boulware and colleagues assess the cost effectiveness of different treatment strategies in low- and middle-income countries for cryptococcal meningitis, one of the most common opportunistic infections of people with HIV.
Background
Cryptococcal meningitis (CM) is the most common form of meningitis in Africa. World Health Organization guidelines recommend 14-d amphotericin-based induction therapy; however, this is impractical for many resource-limited settings due to cost and intensive monitoring needs. A cost-effectiveness analysis was performed to guide stakeholders with respect to optimal CM treatment within resource limitations.
Methods and Findings:
We conducted a decision analysis to estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of six CM induction regimens: fluconazole (800–1,200 mg/d) monotherapy, fluconazole + flucytosine (5FC), short-course amphotericin (7-d) + fluconazole, 14-d of amphotericin alone, amphotericin + fluconazole, and amphotericin + 5FC. We computed actual 2012 healthcare costs in Uganda for medications, supplies, and personnel, and average laboratory costs for three African countries. A systematic review of cryptococcal treatment trials in resource-limited areas summarized 10-wk survival outcomes. We modeled one-year survival based on South African, Ugandan, and Thai CM outcome data, and survival beyond one-year on Ugandan and Thai data. Quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were determined and used to calculate the cost-effectiveness ratio and ICER. The cost of hospital care ranged from $154 for fluconazole monotherapy to $467 for 14 d of amphotericin + 5FC. Based on 18 studies investigating outcomes for HIV-infected individuals with CM in resource-limited settings, the estimated mean one-year survival was lowest for fluconazole monotherapy, at 40%. The cost-effectiveness ratio ranged from $20 to $44 per QALY. Overall, amphotericin-based regimens had higher costs but better survival. Short-course amphotericin (1 mg/kg/d for 7 d) with fluconazole (1,200 mg/d for14 d) had the best one-year survival (66%) and the most favorable cost-effectiveness ratio, at $20.24/QALY, with an ICER of $15.11 per additional QALY over fluconazole monotherapy. The main limitation of this study is the pooled nature of a systematic review, with a paucity of outcome data with direct comparisons between regimens.
Conclusions
Short-course (7-d) amphotericin induction therapy coupled with high-dose (1,200 mg/d) fluconazole is “very cost effective” per World Health Organization criteria and may be a worthy investment for policy-makers seeking cost-effective clinical outcomes. More head-to-head clinical trials are needed on treatments for this neglected tropical disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Cryptococcal meningitis, a fungal infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord, affects about a million people every year (most of them living in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia) and kills about 640,000 people annually. People become infected with Cryptococcus neoformans, the fungus that causes cryptococcal meningitis and which is found in soil and dirt, by breathing it in. In healthy individuals, infection rarely causes disease. But in people living with AIDS, whose immune system has been damaged by HIV infection, and in people whose immune system is compromised for other reasons, the fungus can invade and damage many organs, including the brain. Cryptococcal meningitis, the symptoms of which include fever, stiff neck, headache, and vomiting, is diagnosed by looking for the fungus in fluid taken from the spinal cord in a procedure called a lumbar puncture. Cryptococcal meningitis is treated with antifungal drugs such as amphotericin, fluconazole, and flucytosine (induction therapy); recurrence of the infection is prevented by taking fluconazole daily for life or until the immune system recovers.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a 14-day regimen of intravenous (injected) amphotericin and oral flucytosine or fluconazole for induction therapy of cryptococcal meningitis. Unfortunately, this regimen is impractical in many resource-limited settings because of the cost of the drugs and hospital care and the need for intensive monitoring—amphotericin is extremely toxic. Consequently, high-dose fluconazole monotherapy is the usual treatment for cryptococcal meningitis in resource-limited countries, although this regimen is much less effective. Another regimen that has improved survival in trials is flucytosine with fluconazole for two weeks. However, flucytosine is very expensive and is not licensed in most sub-Saharan African countries. Stakeholders in developing countries badly need guidance, therefore, on which induction treatment for cryptococcal meningitis they should recommend to optimize outcomes in their particular countries. In this cost-effectiveness analysis (a study that compares the costs and health effects of different interventions), the researchers use costs in Uganda to estimate the survival, cost, and cost per benefit associated with various induction treatments for cryptococcal meningitis in HIV-infected patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers calculated the overall cost of six induction treatments using 2012 healthcare costs in Uganda for medications, supplies, and hospital care, and average laboratory costs for monitoring treatment from three African countries. They used data from published trials of cryptococcal meningitis treatment in resource-limited areas to estimate ten-week and one-year survival, life expectancy, and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs, the number of years of life added by an intervention, adjusted for the quality of life) for each intervention. Finally, they calculated the cost-effectiveness ratio (cost per QALY gained) and the incremental cost effectiveness ratio (ICER, the additional cost of a treatment strategy compared to fluconazole monotherapy divided by the incremental improvement in QALYs) for each intervention. The estimated costs per person for each induction treatment strategy ranged from US$154 for 14 days of fluconazole monotherapy to US$467 for 14 days of amphotericin plus flucytosine. Estimated average one-year survival was lowest for fluconazole (40%) and highest for short-course (seven days) amphotericin plus 14 days of fluconazole (66%), similar to other amphotericin-based treatments. Cost-effectiveness ratios ranged from US$20 per QALY for short-course amphotericin plus fluconazole to US$44 per QALY for 14 days of amphotericin plus flucytosine. Short-course amphotericin plus fluconazole had the lowest ICER (US$15.11 per additional QALY over fluconazole monotherapy).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, among the treatments investigated, a seven-day course of amphotericin with high-dose fluconazole for at least two weeks is the most cost-effective induction treatment for cryptococcal meningitis in Uganda. Although this result should be generalizable to other African countries, it needs to be treated with caution because very few trials have actually looked at the clinical effectiveness of this particular regimen. While short short-course amphotericin appears to be substantially more effective than fluconazole monotherapy, large-scale trials comparing short-course amphotericin regimens with more traditional 14-day regimens in resource-limited countries must be undertaken before short-course amphotericin-based treatments are adopted. Notably, however, if these trials confirm that survival with short-course amphotericin with fluconazole is about 30% better than with fluconazole alone, the researchers calculate that moving to short-course amphotericin could save about 150,000 lives every year in sub-Saharan Africa at a cost of US$220 per life saved.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001316.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Andrew Farlow
Preventcrypto.org provides a clearinghouse for updated guidelines for cryptococcal diagnosis and treatment.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on Cryptococcus neoformans and a training manual called the Cryptococcal Screening Program Training Manual for Healthcare Providers
NAM/aidsmap provides information about all aspects of infection with Cryptococcus neoformans, including a personal story about cryptococcal meningitis
AIDS InfoNet has a fact sheet on cryptococcal meningitis (in several languages)
The not-for-profit organization Project Inform, which provides information, inspiration, and advocacy for people with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C (in English and Spanish), has a fact sheet on cryptococcal meningitis
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on cryptococcal meningitis (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001316
PMCID: PMC3463510  PMID: 23055838
14.  Diet and Physical Activity for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Policy Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001465.
Carl Lachat and colleagues evaluate policies in low- and middle-income countries addressing salt and fat consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, and physical activity, key risk factors for non-communicable diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are increasing rapidly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and constitute a leading cause of mortality. Although a call for global action has been resonating for years, the progress in national policy development in LMICs has not been assessed. This review of strategies to prevent NCDs in LMICs provides a benchmark against which policy response can be tracked over time.
Methods and Findings
We reviewed how government policies in LMICs outline actions that address salt consumption, fat consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, or physical activity. A structured content analysis of national nutrition, NCDs, and health policies published between 1 January 2004 and 1 January 2013 by 140 LMIC members of the World Health Organization (WHO) was carried out. We assessed availability of policies in 83% (116/140) of the countries. NCD strategies were found in 47% (54/116) of LMICs reviewed, but only a minority proposed actions to promote healthier diets and physical activity. The coverage of policies that specifically targeted at least one of the risk factors reviewed was lower in Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the Eastern Mediterranean compared to the other two World Health Organization regions, South-East Asia and Western Pacific. Of the countries reviewed, only 12% (14/116) proposed a policy that addressed all four risk factors, and 25% (29/116) addressed only one of the risk factors reviewed. Strategies targeting the private sector were less frequently encountered than strategies targeting the general public or policy makers.
Conclusions
This review indicates the disconnection between the burden of NCDs and national policy responses in LMICs. Policy makers urgently need to develop comprehensive and multi-stakeholder policies to improve dietary quality and physical activity.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)—chronic medical conditions including cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma)—are responsible for two-thirds of the world's deaths. Nearly 80% of NCD deaths, close to 30 million per year, occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where they are also rising most rapidly. Diet and lifestyle (including smoking, lack of exercise, and harmful alcohol consumption) influence a person's risk of developing an NCD and of dying from it. Because they can be modified, these risk factors have been at the center of strategies to combat NCDs. In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. For diet, it recommended that individuals achieve energy balance and a healthy weight; limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids; increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts; limit the intake of free sugars; and limit salt consumption from all sources and ensure that salt is iodized. For physical activity, it recommended at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity physical activity on most days throughout a person's life.
Why Was This Study Done?
By signing onto the Global Strategy in 2004, WHO member countries agreed to implement it with high priority. A first step of implementation is usually the development of local policies. Consequently, one of the four objectives of the WHO Global Strategy is “to encourage the development, strengthening and implementation of global, regional, national and community policies and action plans to improve diets and increase physical activity.” Along the same lines, in 2011 the United Nations held a high-level meeting in which the need to accelerate the policy response to the NCD epidemic was emphasized. This study was done to assess the existing national policies on NCD prevention in LMICs. Specifically, the researchers examined how well those policies matched the WHO recommendations for intake of salt, fat, and fruits and vegetables, as well as the recommendations for physical activity.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the Internet (including websites of relevant ministries and departments) for all publicly available national policies related to diet, nutrition, NCDs, and health from all 140 WHO member countries classified as LMICs by the World Bank in 2011. For countries for which the search did not turn up policies, the researchers sent e-mail requests to the relevant national authorities, to the regional WHO offices, and to personal contacts. All documents dated from 1 January 2004 to 1 January 2013 that included national objectives and guidelines for action regarding diet, physical exercise, NCD prevention, or a combination of the three, were analyzed in detail.
Most of the policies obtained were not easy to find and access. For 24 countries, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean, the researchers eventually gave up, unable to establish whether relevant national policies existed. Of the remaining 116 countries, 29 countries had no relevant policies, and another 30 had policies that failed to mention specifically any of the diet-related risk factors included in the analysis. Fifty-four of the 116 countries had NCD policies that addressed at least one of the risk factors. Thirty-six national policy documents contained strategies to increase fruit and vegetable intake, 20 addressed dietary fat consumption, 23 aimed to limit salt intake, and 35 had specific actions to promote physical activity. Only 14 countries, including Jamaica, the Philippines, Iran, and Mongolia, had policies that addressed all four risk factors. The policies of 27 countries mentioned only one of the four risk factors.
Policies primarily targeted consumers and government agencies and failed to address the roles of the business community or civil society. Consistent with this, most were missing plans, mechanisms, and incentives to drive collaborations between the different stakeholders.
What Do These Findings Mean?
More than eight years after the WHO Global Strategy was agreed upon, only a minority of the LMICs included in this analysis have comprehensive policies in place. Developing policies and making them widely accessible is a likely early step toward specific implementation and actions to prevent NCDs. These results therefore suggest that not enough emphasis is placed on NCD prevention in these countries through actions that have been proven to reduce known risk factors. That said, the more important question is what countries are actually doing to combat NCDs, something not directly addressed by this analysis.
In richer countries, NCDs have for decades been the leading cause of sickness and death, and the fact that public health strategies need to emphasize NCD prevention is now widely recognized. LMICs not only have more limited resources, they also continue to carry a large burden from infectious diseases. It is therefore not surprising that shifting resources towards NCD prevention is a difficult process, even if the human cost of these diseases is massive and increasing. That only about 3% of global health aid is aimed at NCD prevention does not help the situation.
The authors argue that one step toward improving the situation is better sharing of best practices and what works and what doesn't in policy development. They suggest that an open-access repository like one that exists for Europe could improve the situation. They offer to organize, host, and curate such a resource under the auspices of WHO, starting with the policies retrieved for this study, and they invite submission of additional policies and updates.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001465.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Stuckler and Basu
The WHO website on diet and physical activity contains links to various documents, including a diet and physical activity implementation toolbox that contains links to the 2004 Global Strategy document and a Framework to Monitor and Evaluate Implementation
There is a 2011 WHO primer on NCDs entitled Prioritizing a Preventable Epidemic
A recent PLOS Medicine editorial and call for papers addressing the global disparities in the burden from NCDs
A PLOS Blogs post entitled Politics and Global HealthAre We Missing the Obvious? and associated comments discuss the state of the fight against NCDs in early 2013
The NCD Alliance was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control, the International Diabetes Federation, the World Heart Federation, and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease; its mission is to combat the NCD epidemic by putting health at the center of all policies
The WHO European Database on Nutrition, Obesity and Physical Activity (NOPA) contains national and subnational surveillance data, policy documents, actions to implement policy, and examples of good practice in programs and interventions for the WHO European member states
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001465
PMCID: PMC3679005  PMID: 23776415
15.  The ASTUTE Health study protocol: Deliberative stakeholder engagements to inform implementation approaches to healthcare disinvestment 
Background
Governments and other payers are yet to determine optimal processes by which to review the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of technologies and procedures that are in active use within health systems, and rescind funding (partially or fully) from those that display poor profiles against these parameters. To further progress a disinvestment agenda, a model is required to support payers in implementing disinvestment in a transparent manner that may withstand challenge from vested interests and concerned citizens. Combining approaches from health technology assessment and deliberative democratic theory, this project seeks to determine if and how wide stakeholder engagement can contribute to improved decision-making processes, wherein the views of both vested and non-vested stakeholders are seen to contribute to informing policy implementation within a disinvestment context.
Methods/design
Systematic reviews pertaining to illustrative case studies were developed and formed the evidence base for discussion. Review findings were presented at a series of deliberative, evidence-informed stakeholder engagements, including partisan (clinicians and consumers) and non-partisan (representative community members) stakeholders. Participants were actively facilitated towards identifying shared and dissenting perspectives regarding public funding policy for each of the case studies and developing their own funding models in response to the evidence presented. Policy advisors will subsequently be invited to evaluate disinvestment options based on the scientific and colloquial evidence presented to them, and to explore the value of this information to their decision-making processes with reference to disinvestment.
Discussion
Analysis of the varied outputs of the deliberative engagements will contribute to the methodological development around how to best integrate scientific and colloquial evidence for consideration by policy advisors. It may contribute to the legitimization of broad and transparent stakeholder engagement in this context. It is anticipated that decision making will benefit from the knowledge delivered through informed deliberation with engaged stakeholders, and this will be explored through interviews with key decision makers.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-101
PMCID: PMC3520863  PMID: 23088222
Public participation; User involvement; Disinvestment; Policy
16.  Stakeholder perceptions of a nurse led walk-in centre 
Background
As many countries face primary care medical workforce shortages and find it difficult to provide timely and affordable care they seek to find new ways of delivering first point of contact health care through developing new service models. In common with other areas of rural and regional Australia, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is currently experiencing a general practitioner (GP) workforce shortage which impacts significantly on the ability of patients to access GP led primary care services. The introduction of a nurse led primary care Walk-in Centre in the ACT aimed to fulfill an unmet health care need in the community and meet projected demand for health care services as well as relieve pressure on the hospital system. Stakeholders have the potential to influence health service planning and policy, to advise on the potential of services to meet population health needs and to assess how acceptable health service innovation is to key stakeholder groups. This study aimed to ascertain the views of key stakeholders about the Walk-in Centre.
Methods
Stakeholders were purposively selected through the identification of individuals and organisations which had organisational or professional contact with the Walk-in Centre. Semi structured interviews around key themes were conducted with seventeen stakeholders.
Results
Stakeholders were generally supportive of the Walk-in Centre but identified key areas which they considered needed to be addressed. These included the service's systems, full utilisation of the nurse practitioner role and adequate education and training. It was also suggested that a doctor could be available to the Centre as a source of referral for patients who fall outside the nurses' scope of practice. The location of the Centre was seen to impact on patient flows to the Emergency Department.
Conclusion
Nurse led Walk-in Centres are one response to addressing primary health care medical workforce shortages. Whilst some stakeholders have reservations about the model others are supportive and see the potential the model has to provide accessible primary health care. Any further developments of nurse-led Walk-in Centres need to take into account the views of key stakeholders so as to ensure that the model is acceptable and sustainable.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-382
PMCID: PMC3529673  PMID: 23126431
17.  Clinical Benefits, Costs, and Cost-Effectiveness of Neonatal Intensive Care in Mexico 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000379.
Joshua Salomon and colleagues performed a cost-effectiveness analysis using health and economic outcomes following preterm birth in Mexico and showed that neonatal intensive care provided high value for the money in this setting.
Background
Neonatal intensive care improves survival, but is associated with high costs and disability amongst survivors. Recent health reform in Mexico launched a new subsidized insurance program, necessitating informed choices on the different interventions that might be covered by the program, including neonatal intensive care. The purpose of this study was to estimate the clinical outcomes, costs, and cost-effectiveness of neonatal intensive care in Mexico.
Methods and Findings
A cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted using a decision analytic model of health and economic outcomes following preterm birth. Model parameters governing health outcomes were estimated from Mexican vital registration and hospital discharge databases, supplemented with meta-analyses and systematic reviews from the published literature. Costs were estimated on the basis of data provided by the Ministry of Health in Mexico and World Health Organization price lists, supplemented with published studies from other countries as needed. The model estimated changes in clinical outcomes, life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, lifetime costs, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) for neonatal intensive care compared to no intensive care. Uncertainty around the results was characterized using one-way sensitivity analyses and a multivariate probabilistic sensitivity analysis. In the base-case analysis, neonatal intensive care for infants born at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks gestational age prolonged life expectancy by 28, 43, and 34 years and averted 9, 15, and 12 DALYs, at incremental costs per infant of US$11,400, US$9,500, and US$3,000, respectively, compared to an alternative of no intensive care. The ICERs of neonatal intensive care at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks were US$1,200, US$650, and US$240, per DALY averted, respectively. The findings were robust to variation in parameter values over wide ranges in sensitivity analyses.
Conclusions
Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios for neonatal intensive care imply very high value for money on the basis of conventional benchmarks for cost-effectiveness analysis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks but increasing numbers of babies are being born preterm, before they reach 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother). In developed countries and some middle-income countries such as Mexico, improvements in the care of newborn babies (neonatal intensive care) mean that more preterm babies survive now than in the past. Nevertheless, preterm birth is still a major cause of infant death worldwide that challenges attainment of Target 5 of Millennium Development Goal 4—the reduction of the global under-five mortality rate by two-thirds of the 1990 rate by 2015 (the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, aim to reduce world poverty). Furthermore, many preterm babies who survive have long-term health problems and disabilities such as cerebral palsy, deafness, or learning difficulties. The severity of these disabilities and their long-term costs to families and to society depend on the baby's degree of prematurity.
Why Was This Study Done?
Mexico recently reformed its health system in an effort to improve access to care, particularly for the poorest sections of its population, and to improve the quality of its health care. The central component of this health care reform is the System of Social Protection of Health (SSPH). The SSPH contains a family health insurance program—Seguro Popular—that aims to provide the 50 million uninsured people living in Mexico with free access to an explicit set of health care interventions. As with any insurance program, decisions have to be made about which interventions Seguro Poplar should cover. Should neonatal intensive care be covered, for example? Do the benefits of this intervention (increased survival of babies) outweigh the costs of neonatal care and of long-term care for survivors with disabilities? In other words, is neonatal intensive care cost-effective? In this study, the researchers investigate this question by estimating the clinical benefits, costs, and cost-effectiveness of neonatal intensive care in Mexico.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers built a decision analytic model, a mathematical model that combines evidence on the outcomes and costs of alternative treatments to help inform decisions about health care policy. They gathered data about the health outcomes of preterm births in Mexico from registers of births and deaths and from hospital discharge databases, and estimated the costs of neonatal intensive care and long-term care for disabled survivors using data from the Mexican Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. They then applied their model, which estimates changes in parameters such as life expectancy, lifetime costs, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs; one DALY represents the loss of a year of healthy life), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs; the additional cost expended for each DALY averted) for neonatal intensive care compared to no intensive care, to a group of 2 million infants. Neonatal intensive care for infants born at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks gestation prolonged life expectancy by 28, 43, and 34 years and averted 9, 15, and 12 DALYs at incremental costs of US$11,000, US$10,000, and US$3000, respectively, compared to no intensive care. The ICERs of neonatal intensive care for babies born at these times were US$1200, US$700, and US$300 per DALY averted, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Interventions with ICERs of less than a country's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) are highly cost-effective; those with ICERs of 1–3 times the per capita GDP are potentially cost-effective. Mexico's per capita GDP in 2005 was approximately US$8,200. Thus, neonatal intensive care could provide exceptional value for money in Mexico (and maybe in other middle-income countries), even for very premature babies. The accuracy of these findings inevitably depends on the assumptions used to build the decision analytic model and on the accuracy of the data fed into it, but the findings were little changed by a wide range of alterations that the researchers made to the model. Importantly, however, this cost-effectiveness analysis focuses on health and economic consequences of different intervention choices, and does not capture all aspects of well-being. Decisions regarding neonatal intensive care will need to be based on a full consideration of all relevant factors, including ethical issues, and cost-effectiveness analyses should continue to be updated as new data emerge on health outcomes and costs associated with neonatal intensive care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000379.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development and protection around the world; it provides information on Millennium Development Goal 4 and its Childinfo website provides detailed statistics about child survival and health (some information in several languages)
A PLoS Medicine Policy Forum by Núria Homedes and Antonio Ugalde discusses health care reforms in Mexico
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000379
PMCID: PMC3001895  PMID: 21179496
18.  Evaluating Drug Prices, Availability, Affordability, and Price Components: Implications for Access to Drugs in Malaysia 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e82.
Background
Malaysia's stable health care system is facing challenges with increasing medicine costs. To investigate these issues a survey was carried out to evaluate medicine prices, availability, affordability, and the structure of price components.
Methods and Findings
The methodology developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Action International (HAI) was used. Price and availability data for 48 medicines was collected from 20 public sector facilities, 32 private sector retail pharmacies and 20 dispensing doctors in four geographical regions of West Malaysia. Medicine prices were compared with international reference prices (IRPs) to obtain a median price ratio. The daily wage of the lowest paid unskilled government worker was used to gauge the affordability of medicines. Price component data were collected throughout the supply chain, and markups, taxes, and other distribution costs were identified. In private pharmacies, innovator brand (IB) prices were 16 times higher than the IRPs, while generics were 6.6 times higher. In dispensing doctor clinics, the figures were 15 times higher for innovator brands and 7.5 for generics. Dispensing doctors applied high markups of 50%–76% for IBs, and up to 316% for generics. Retail pharmacy markups were also high—25%–38% and 100%–140% for IBs and generics, respectively. In the public sector, where medicines are free, availability was low even for medicines on the National Essential Drugs List. For a month's treatment for peptic ulcer disease and hypertension people have to pay about a week's wages in the private sector.
Conclusions
The free market by definition does not control medicine prices, necessitating price monitoring and control mechanisms. Markups for generic products are greater than for IBs. Reducing the base price without controlling markups may increase profits for retailers and dispensing doctors without reducing the price paid by end users. To increase access and affordability, promotion of generic medicines and improved availability of medicines in the public sector are required.
Drug price and availability data were collected from West Malaysian public sector facilities, private sector retail pharmacies, and dispensing doctors. Mark-ups were higher on generic drugs than on innovator brands.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The World Health Organization has said that one-third of the people of the world cannot access the medicines they need. An important reason for this problem is that prices are often too high for people or government-funded health systems to afford. In developing countries, most people who need medicines have to pay for them out of their own pockets. Where the cost of drugs is covered by health systems, spending on medicines is a major part of the total healthcare budget. Governments use a variety of approaches to try to control the cost of drugs and make sure that essential medicines are affordable and not overpriced. According to the theory of “free market economics,” the costs of goods and services are determined by interactions between buyers and sellers and not by government intervention. However, free market economics does not work well at containing the costs of medicines, particularly new medicines, because new medicines are protected by patent law, which legally prevents others from making, using, or selling the medicine for a particular period of time. Therefore, without government intervention, there is nothing to help to push down prices.
Why Was This Study Done?
Malaysia is a middle-income country with a relatively effective public health system, but it is facing a rapid rise in drug costs. In Malaysia, medicine prices are determined by free-market economics, without any control by government. Government hospitals are expected to provide drugs free, but a substantial proportion of medicines are paid for by patients who buy them directly from private pharmacies or prescribing doctors. There is evidence that Malaysian patients have difficulties accessing the drugs they need and that cost is an important factor. Therefore, the researchers who wrote this paper wanted to examine the cost of different medicines in Malaysia, and their availability and affordability from different sources.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In this research project, 48 drugs were studied, of which 28 were part of a “core list” identified by the World Health Organization as “essential drugs” on the basis of the global burden of disease. The remaining 20 reflected health care needs in Malaysia itself. The costs of each medicine were collected from government hospitals, private pharmacies, and dispensing doctors in four different regions of Malaysia. Data were collected for the “innovator brand” (made by the original patent holder) and for “generic” brands (an equivalent drug to the innovator brand, produced by a different company once the innovator brand no longer has an exclusive patent). The medicine prices were compared against international reference prices (IRP), which are the average prices offered by not-for-profit drug companies to developing countries. Finally, the researchers also compared the cost of the drugs with daily wages, in order to work out their “affordability.”
The researchers found that, irrespective of the source of medicines, prices were on average very much higher than the international reference price, ranging from 2.4 times the IRP for innovator brands accessed through public hospitals, to 16 times the IRP for innovator brands accessed through private pharmacies. The availability of medicines was also very poor, with only 25% of generic medicines available on average through the public sector. The affordability of many of the medicines studied was again very poor. For example, one month's supply of ranitidine (a drug for stomach ulcers) was equivalent to around three days' wages for a low-paid government worker, and one month's supply of fluoxetine (an antidepressant) would cost around 26 days' wages.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results show that essential drugs are very expensive in Malaysia and are not universally available. Many people would not be able to pay for essential medicines. The cost of medicines in Malaysia seems to be much higher than in areas of India and Sri Lanka, although the researchers did not attempt to collect data in order to carry out an international comparison. It is possible that the high cost and low availability in Malaysia are the result of a lack of government regulation. Overall, the findings suggest that the government should set up mechanisms to prevent drug manufacturers from increasing prices too much and thus ensure greater access to essential medicines.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040082.
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article by Suzanne Hill
Information is available from the World Health Organization on Improving Access to Medicines
Information on medicine prices is available from Health Action International
Wikipedia has an entry on Patent (a type of intellectual property that is normally used to prevent other companies from selling a newly invented medicine). (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit.)
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative is an international collaboration between public organizations that aims to develop drugs for people suffering from neglected diseases
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040082
PMCID: PMC1831730  PMID: 17388660
19.  Health policy and systems research in access to medicines: a prioritized agenda for low- and middle-income countries 
Objectives
To identify priority policy issues in access to medicines (ATM) relevant for low- and middle-income countries, to identify research questions that would help address these policy issues, and to prioritize these research questions in a health policy and systems research (HPSR) agenda.
Methods
The study involved i) country- and regional-level priority-setting exercises performed in 17 countries across five regions, with a desk review of relevant grey and published literature combined with mapping and interviews of national and regional stakeholders; ii) interviews with global-level stakeholders; iii) a scoping of published literature; and iv) a consensus building exercise with global stakeholders which resulted in the formulation and ranking of HPSR questions in the field of ATM.
Results
A list of 18 priority policy issues was established following analysis of country-, regional-, and global-level exercises. Eighteen research questions were formulated during the global stakeholders’ meeting and ranked according to four ranking criteria (innovation, impact on health and health systems, equity, and lack of research). The top three research questions were: i) In risk protection schemes, which innovations and policies improve equitable access to and appropriate use of medicines, sustainability of the insurance system, and financial impact on the insured? ii) How can stakeholders use the information available in the system, e.g., price, availability, quality, utilization, registration, procurement, in a transparent way towards improving access and use of medicines? and iii) How do policies and other interventions into private markets, such as information, subsidies, price controls, donation, regulatory mechanisms, promotion practices, etc., impact on access to and appropriate use of medicines?
Conclusions
Our HPSR agenda adopts a health systems perspective and will guide relevant, innovative research, likely to bear an impact on health, health systems and equity.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-11-37
PMCID: PMC3854087  PMID: 24124696
Access to medicines; Health systems; Health systems research; Priority setting
20.  Implementing the 2009 Institute of Medicine recommendations on resident physician work hours, supervision, and safety 
Long working hours and sleep deprivation have been a facet of physician training in the US since the advent of the modern residency system. However, the scientific evidence linking fatigue with deficits in human performance, accidents and errors in industries from aeronautics to medicine, nuclear power, and transportation has mounted over the last 40 years. This evidence has also spawned regulations to help ensure public safety across safety-sensitive industries, with the notable exception of medicine.
In late 2007, at the behest of the US Congress, the Institute of Medicine embarked on a year-long examination of the scientific evidence linking resident physician sleep deprivation with clinical performance deficits and medical errors. The Institute of Medicine’s report, entitled “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety”, published in January 2009, recommended new limits on resident physician work hours and workload, increased supervision, a heightened focus on resident physician safety, training in structured handovers and quality improvement, more rigorous external oversight of work hours and other aspects of residency training, and the identification of expanded funding sources necessary to implement the recommended reforms successfully and protect the public and resident physicians themselves from preventable harm.
Given that resident physicians comprise almost a quarter of all physicians who work in hospitals, and that taxpayers, through Medicare and Medicaid, fund graduate medical education, the public has a deep investment in physician training. Patients expect to receive safe, high-quality care in the nation’s teaching hospitals. Because it is their safety that is at issue, their voices should be central in policy decisions affecting patient safety. It is likewise important to integrate the perspectives of resident physicians, policy makers, and other constituencies in designing new policies. However, since its release, discussion of the Institute of Medicine report has been largely confined to the medical education community, led by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
To begin gathering these perspectives and developing a plan to implement safer work hours for resident physicians, a conference entitled “Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety: What will it take to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations?” was held at Harvard Medical School on June 17–18, 2010. This White Paper is a product of a diverse group of 26 representative stakeholders bringing relevant new information and innovative practices to bear on a critical patient safety problem. Given that our conference included experts from across disciplines with diverse perspectives and interests, not every recommendation was endorsed by each invited conference participant. However, every recommendation made here was endorsed by the majority of the group, and many were endorsed unanimously. Conference members participated in the process, reviewed the final product, and provided input before publication. Participants provided their individual perspectives, which do not necessarily represent the formal views of any organization.
In September 2010 the ACGME issued new rules to go into effect on July 1, 2011. Unfortunately, they stop considerably short of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations and those endorsed by this conference. In particular, the ACGME only applied the limitation of 16 hours to first-year resident physicans. Thus, it is clear that policymakers, hospital administrators, and residency program directors who wish to implement safer health care systems must go far beyond what the ACGME will require. We hope this White Paper will serve as a guide and provide encouragement for that effort.
Resident physician workload and supervision
By the end of training, a resident physician should be able to practice independently. Yet much of resident physicians’ time is dominated by tasks with little educational value. The caseload can be so great that inadequate reflective time is left for learning based on clinical experiences. In addition, supervision is often vaguely defined and discontinuous. Medical malpractice data indicate that resident physicians are frequently named in lawsuits, most often for lack of supervision. The recommendations are: The ACGME should adjust resident physicians workload requirements to optimize educational value. Resident physicians as well as faculty should be involved in work redesign that eliminates nonessential and noneducational activity from resident physician dutiesMechanisms should be developed for identifying in real time when a resident physician’s workload is excessive, and processes developed to activate additional providersTeamwork should be actively encouraged in delivery of patient care. Historically, much of medical training has focused on individual knowledge, skills, and responsibility. As health care delivery has become more complex, it will be essential to train resident and attending physicians in effective teamwork that emphasizes collective responsibility for patient care and recognizes the signs, both individual and systemic, of a schedule and working conditions that are too demanding to be safeHospitals should embrace the opportunities that resident physician training redesign offers. Hospitals should recognize and act on the potential benefits of work redesign, eg, increased efficiency, reduced costs, improved quality of care, and resident physician and attending job satisfactionAttending physicians should supervise all hospital admissions. Resident physicians should directly discuss all admissions with attending physicians. Attending physicians should be both cognizant of and have input into the care patients are to receive upon admission to the hospitalInhouse supervision should be required for all critical care services, including emergency rooms, intensive care units, and trauma services. Resident physicians should not be left unsupervised to care for critically ill patients. In settings in which the acuity is high, physicians who have completed residency should provide direct supervision for resident physicians. Supervising physicians should always be physically in the hospital for supervision of resident physicians who care for critically ill patientsThe ACGME should explicitly define “good” supervision by specialty and by year of training. Explicit requirements for intensity and level of training for supervision of specific clinical scenarios should be providedCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should use graduate medical education funding to provide incentives to programs with proven, effective levels of supervision. Although this action would require federal legislation, reimbursement rules would help to ensure that hospitals pay attention to the importance of good supervision and require it from their training programs
Resident physician work hours
Although the IOM “Sleep, supervision and safety” report provides a comprehensive review and discussion of all aspects of graduate medical education training, the report’s focal point is its recommendations regarding the hours that resident physicians are currently required to work. A considerable body of scientific evidence, much of it cited by the Institute of Medicine report, describes deteriorating performance in fatigued humans, as well as specific studies on resident physician fatigue and preventable medical errors.
The question before this conference was what work redesign and cultural changes are needed to reform work hours as recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s evidence-based report? Extensive scientific data demonstrate that shifts exceeding 12–16 hours without sleep are unsafe. Several principles should be followed in efforts to reduce consecutive hours below this level and achieve safer work schedules. The recommendations are: Limit resident physician work hours to 12–16 hour maximum shiftsA minimum of 10 hours off duty should be scheduled between shiftsResident physician input into work redesign should be actively solicitedSchedules should be designed that adhere to principles of sleep and circadian science; this includes careful consideration of the effects of multiple consecutive night shifts, and provision of adequate time off after night work, as specified in the IOM reportResident physicians should not be scheduled up to the maximum permissible limits; emergencies frequently occur that require resident physicians to stay longer than their scheduled shifts, and this should be anticipated in scheduling resident physicians’ work shiftsHospitals should anticipate the need for iterative improvement as new schedules are initiated; be prepared to learn from the initial phase-in, and change the plan as neededAs resident physician work hours are redesigned, attending physicians should also be considered; a potential consequence of resident physician work hour reduction and increased supervisory requirements may be an increase in work for attending physicians; this should be carefully monitored, and adjustments to attending physician work schedules made as needed to prevent unsafe work hours or working conditions for this group“Home call” should be brought under the overall limits of working hours; work load and hours should be monitored in each residency program to ensure that resident physicians and fellows on home call are getting sufficient sleepMedicare funding for graduate medical education in each hospital should be linked with adherence to the Institute of Medicine limits on resident physician work hours
Moonlighting by resident physicians
The Institute of Medicine report recommended including external as well as internal moonlighting in working hour limits. The recommendation is: All moonlighting work hours should be included in the ACGME working hour limits and actively monitored. Hospitals should formalize a moonlighting policy and establish systems for actively monitoring resident physician moonlighting
Safety of resident physicians
The “Sleep, supervision and safety” report also addresses fatigue-related harm done to resident physicians themselves. The report focuses on two main sources of physical injury to resident physicians impaired by fatigue, ie, needle-stick exposure to blood-borne pathogens and motor vehicle crashes. Providing safe transportation home for resident physicians is a logistical and financial challenge for hospitals. Educating physicians at all levels on the dangers of fatigue is clearly required to change driving behavior so that safe hospital-funded transport home is used effectively. Fatigue-related injury prevention (including not driving while drowsy) should be taught in medical school and during residency, and reinforced with attending physicians; hospitals and residency programs must be informed that resident physicians’ ability to judge their own level of impairment is impaired when they are sleep deprived; hence, leaving decisions about the capacity to drive to impaired resident physicians is not recommendedHospitals should provide transportation to all resident physicians who report feeling too tired to drive safely; in addition, although consecutive work should not exceed 16 hours, hospitals should provide transportation for all resident physicians who, because of unforeseen reasons or emergencies, work for longer than consecutive 24 hours; transportation under these circumstances should be automatically provided to house staff, and should not rely on self-identification or request
Training in effective handovers and quality improvement
Handover practice for resident physicians, attendings, and other health care providers has long been identified as a weak link in patient safety throughout health care settings. Policies to improve handovers of care must be tailored to fit the appropriate clinical scenario, recognizing that information overload can also be a problem. At the heart of improving handovers is the organizational effort to improve quality, an effort in which resident physicians have typically been insufficiently engaged. The recommendations are: Hospitals should train attending and resident physicians in effective handovers of careHospitals should create uniform processes for handovers that are tailored to meet each clinical setting; all handovers should be done verbally and face-to-face, but should also utilize written toolsWhen possible, hospitals should integrate hand-over tools into their electronic medical records (EMR) systems; these systems should be standardized to the extent possible across residency programs in a hospital, but may be tailored to the needs of specific programs and services; federal government should help subsidize adoption of electronic medical records by hospitals to improve signoutWhen feasible, handovers should be a team effort including nurses, patients, and familiesHospitals should include residents in their quality improvement and patient safety efforts; the ACGME should specify in their core competency requirements that resident physicians work on quality improvement projects; likewise, the Joint Commission should require that resident physicians be included in quality improvement and patient safety programs at teaching hospitals; hospital administrators and residency program directors should create opportunities for resident physicians to become involved in ongoing quality improvement projects and root cause analysis teams; feedback on successful quality improvement interventions should be shared with resident physicians and broadly disseminatedQuality improvement/patient safety concepts should be integral to the medical school curriculum; medical school deans should elevate the topics of patient safety, quality improvement, and teamwork; these concepts should be integrated throughout the medical school curriculum and reinforced throughout residency; mastery of these concepts by medical students should be tested on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) stepsFederal government should support involvement of resident physicians in quality improvement efforts; initiatives to improve quality by including resident physicians in quality improvement projects should be financially supported by the Department of Health and Human Services
Monitoring and oversight of the ACGME
While the ACGME is a key stakeholder in residency training, external voices are essential to ensure that public interests are heard in the development and monitoring of standards. Consequently, the Institute of Medicine report recommended external oversight and monitoring through the Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The recommendations are: Make comprehensive fatigue management a Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goal; fatigue is a safety concern not only for resident physicians, but also for nurses, attending physicians, and other health care workers; the Joint Commission should seek to ensure that all health care workers, not just resident physicians, are working as safely as possibleFederal government, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, should encourage development of comprehensive fatigue management programs which all health systems would eventually be required to implementMake ACGME compliance with working hours a “ condition of participation” for reimbursement of direct and indirect graduate medical education costs; financial incentives will greatly increase the adoption of and compliance with ACGME standards
Future financial support for implementation
The Institute of Medicine’s report estimates that $1.7 billion (in 2008 dollars) would be needed to implement its recommendations. Twenty-five percent of that amount ($376 million) will be required just to bring hospitals into compliance with the existing 2003 ACGME rules. Downstream savings to the health care system could potentially result from safer care, but these benefits typically do not accrue to hospitals and residency programs, who have been asked historically to bear the burden of residency reform costs. The recommendations are: The Institute of Medicine should convene a panel of stakeholders, including private and public funders of health care and graduate medical education, to lay down the concrete steps necessary to identify and allocate the resources needed to implement the recommendations contained in the IOM “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety” report. Conference participants suggested several approaches to engage public and private support for this initiativeEfforts to find additional funding to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations should focus more broadly on patient safety and health care delivery reform; policy efforts focused narrowly upon resident physician work hours are less likely to succeed than broad patient safety initiatives that include residency redesign as a key componentHospitals should view the Institute of Medicine recommendations as an opportunity to begin resident physician work redesign projects as the core of a business model that embraces safety and ultimately saves resourcesBoth the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should take the Institute of Medicine recommendations into consideration when promulgating rules for innovation grantsThe National Health Care Workforce Commission should consider the Institute of Medicine recommendations when analyzing the nation’s physician workforce needs
Recommendations for future research
Conference participants concurred that convening the stakeholders and agreeing on a research agenda was key. Some observed that some sectors within the medical education community have been reluctant to act on the data. Several logical funders for future research were identified. But above all agencies, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the only stakeholder that funds graduate medical education upstream and will reap savings downstream if preventable medical errors are reduced as a result of reform of resident physician work hours.
doi:10.2147/NSS.S19649
PMCID: PMC3630963  PMID: 23616719
resident; hospital; working hours; safety
21.  Inflammatory pathways of importance for management of inflammatory bowel disease 
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of chronic disorders of the gastrointestinal tract comprising Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). Their etiologies are unknown, but they are characterised by an imbalanced production of pro-inflammatory mediators, e.g., tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, as well as increased recruitment of leukocytes to the site of inflammation. Advantages in understanding the role of the inflammatory pathways in IBD and an inadequate response to conventional therapy in a large portion of patients, has over the last two decades lead to new therapies which includes the TNF inhibitors (TNFi), designed to target and neutralise the effect of TNF-α. TNFi have shown to be efficient in treating moderate to severe CD and UC. However, convenient alternative therapeutics targeting other immune pathways are needed for patients with IBD refractory to conventional therapy including TNFi. Indeed, several therapeutics are currently under development, and have shown success in clinical trials. These include antibodies targeting and neutralising interleukin-12/23, small pharmacologic Janus kinase inhibitors designed to block intracellular signaling of several pro-inflammatory cytokines, antibodies targeting integrins, and small anti-adhesion molecules that block adhesion between leukocytes and the intestinal vascular endothelium, reducing their infiltration into the inflamed mucosa. In this review we have elucidated the major signaling pathways of clinical importance for IBD therapy and highlighted the new promising therapies available. As stated in this paper several new treatment options are under development for the treatment of CD and UC, however, no drug fits all patients. Hence, optimisations of treatment regimens are warranted for the benefit of the patients either through biomarker establishment or other rationales to maximise the effect of the broad range of mode-of-actions of the present and future drugs in IBD.
doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i1.64
PMCID: PMC3886034  PMID: 24415859
Anti-tumor necrosis factor; Biologics; Crohn’s disease; Pro-inflammatory cytokines; Signaling pathways; Treatment; Ulcerative colitis
22.  The risk of acute coronary syndrome in rheumatoid arthritis in relation to tumour necrosis factor inhibitors and the risk in the general population: a national cohort study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2014;16(3):R127.
Introduction
The elevated risk of ischaemic heart disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been linked to inflammation and disease severity. Treatment with tumour necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFis) is often effective in reducing disease activity and could possibly modify cardiovascular risk. Our objective in the study was to evaluate the risk of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) in patients with RA treated with TNFis compared with the risk among biologic-naïve RA patients and the general population.
Methods
By linkage of the Swedish National Patient Register and the Swedish Biologics Register, we identified a cohort of patients who were started on their first biologic, a TNFi, between 2001 and 2010 (N = 7,704), and a cohort comprising matched biologic-naïve RA patient referents at a 3:1 ratio. Furthermore, a matched comparator cohort (5:1 ratio) was extracted from the Swedish population register. The incidence rates of a first ACS event were calculated and compared between cohorts using Cox proportional hazards regression in three different risk windows: ‘ever-exposed’, ‘actively on TNFi’ and ‘short-term exposure’ (active treatment maximized to 2 years). The models were adjusted for disease duration, joint surgery, comorbidity and socioeconomic factors, and, in a sensitivity analysis including a subpopulation started on therapy beginning 1 January 2006 or later, for dispensed drugs.
Results
Based on 221 events in 7,704 patients (comprising 32,621 person-years) treated with TNFi biologics, the hazard ratio ((HR); ever-exposed) for ACS among the TNFi-exposed RA patients compared with biologic-naïve RA patients was 0.8 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.7 to 0.95). In comparison with the general population referents, statistical analysis using fully adjusted models resulted in a HR of 2.0 (95% CI = 1.8 to 2.3) for biologic-naïve RA patients and a HR of 1.6 (95% CI = 1.4 to 1.9) for the TNFi-exposed group. Similar risk estimates were obtained using the other two risk windows. A sensitivity analysis in which we compared the TNFi-exposed patients included from 1 January 2006 onward with biologic-naïve patients resulted in a HR (ever-exposed) of 0.7 (95% CI = 0.5 to 1.0).
Conclusions
RA patients treated with TNFi had a lower risk of ACS compared with biologic-naïve RA patients. Compared with the general population, the risk among patients with RA was elevated, although the difference was less pronounced among the TNFi-exposed patients. This finding could be attributable to the TNFi as such, or it could correspond to a lower degree of inflammation in the TNFi-treated group.
doi:10.1186/ar4584
PMCID: PMC4095691  PMID: 24941916
23.  Stakeholder analysis for a maternal and newborn health project in Eastern Uganda 
Background
Based on the realization that Uganda is not on track to achieving Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, Makerere University School of Public Health in collaboration with other partners proposed to conduct two community based maternal/newborn care interventions aimed at increasing access to health facility care through transport vouchers and use of community health workers to promote ideal family care practices. Prior to the implementation, a stakeholder analysis was undertaken to assess and map stakeholders’ interests, influence/power and position in relation to the interventions; their views regarding the success and sustainability; and how this research can influence policy formulation in the country.
Methods
A stakeholder analysis was carried out in March 2011 at national level and in four districts of Eastern Uganda where the proposed interventions would be conducted. At the national level, four key informant interviews were conducted with the ministry of health representative, Member of Parliament, and development partners. District health team members were interviewed and also engaged in a workshop; and at community level, twelve focus group discussions were conducted among women, men and motorcycle transporters.
Results
This analysis revealed that district and community level stakeholders were high level supporters of the proposed interventions but not drivers. At community level the mothers, their spouses and transporters were of low influence due to the limited funds they possessed. National level and district stakeholders believed that the intervention is costly and cannot be affordably scaled up. They advised the study team to mobilize and sensitize the communities to contribute financially from the start in order to enhance sustainability beyond the study period. Stakeholders believed that the proposed interventions will influence policy through modeling on how to improve the quality of maternal/newborn health services, male involvement, and improved accessibility of services.
Conclusion
Most of the stakeholders interviewed were supporters of the proposed maternal and newborn care intervention because of the positive benefits of the intervention. The analysis highlighted stakeholder concerns that will be included in the final project design and that could also be useful in countries of similar setting that are planning to set up programmes geared at increasing access to maternal and new born interventions. Key among these concerns was the need to use both human and financial resources that are locally available in the community, to address supply side barriers that influence access to maternal and child healthcare. Research to policy translation, therefore, will require mutual trust, continued dialogue and engagement of the researchers, implementers and policy makers to enable scale up.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-58
PMCID: PMC3599511  PMID: 23497057
Stakeholder analysis; Maternal and newborn health; Eastern Uganda; Future health systems
24.  Stakeholders’ perspectives on access-to-medicines policy and research priorities in Latin America and the Caribbean: face-to-face and web-based interviews 
Background
This study aims to rank policy concerns and policy-related research issues in order to identify policy and research gaps on access to medicines (ATM) in low- and middle-income countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), as perceived by policy makers, researchers, NGO and international organization representatives, as part of a global prioritization exercise.
Methods
Data collection, conducted between January and May 2011, involved face-to-face interviews in El Salvador, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Suriname, and an e-mail survey with key-stakeholders. Respondents were asked to choose the five most relevant criteria for research prioritization and to score policy/research items according to the degree to which they represented current policies, desired policies, current research topics, and/or desired research topics. Mean scores and summary rankings were obtained. Linear regressions were performed to contrast rankings concerning current and desired policies (policy gaps), and current and desired research (research gaps).
Results
Relevance, feasibility, and research utilization were the top ranked criteria for prioritizing research. Technical capacity, research and development for new drugs, and responsiveness, were the main policy gaps. Quality assurance, staff technical capacity, price regulation, out-of-pocket payments, and cost containment policies, were the main research gaps. There was high level of coherence between current and desired policies: coefficients of determination (R2) varied from 0.46 (Health system structure; r = 0.68, P <0.01) to 0.86 (Sustainable financing; r = 0.93, P <0.01). There was also high coherence between current and desired research on Rational selection and use of medicines (r = 0.71, P <0.05, R2 = 0.51), Pricing/affordability (r = 0.82, P <0.01, R2 = 0.67), and Sustainable financing (r = 0.76, P <0.01, R2 = 0.58). Coherence was less for Health system structure (r = 0.61, P <0.01, R2 = 0.38).
Conclusions
This study combines metrics approaches, contributing to priority setting methodology development, with country and regional level stakeholder participation. Stakeholders received feedback with the results, and we hope to have contributed to the discussion and implementation of ATM research and policy priorities in LAC.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-12-31
PMCID: PMC4079916  PMID: 24965383
Access to medicines; Health systems; Health systems research; Interviews; Latin America and the Caribbean; Priority setting; Web survey
25.  Information from Pharmaceutical Companies and the Quality, Quantity, and Cost of Physicians' Prescribing: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(10):e1000352.
Geoff Spurling and colleagues report findings of a systematic review looking at the relationship between exposure to promotional material from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of prescribing. They fail to find evidence of improvements in prescribing after exposure, and find some evidence of an association with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality.
Background
Pharmaceutical companies spent $57.5 billion on pharmaceutical promotion in the United States in 2004. The industry claims that promotion provides scientific and educational information to physicians. While some evidence indicates that promotion may adversely influence prescribing, physicians hold a wide range of views about pharmaceutical promotion. The objective of this review is to examine the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing.
Methods and Findings
We searched for studies of physicians with prescribing rights who were exposed to information from pharmaceutical companies (promotional or otherwise). Exposures included pharmaceutical sales representative visits, journal advertisements, attendance at pharmaceutical sponsored meetings, mailed information, prescribing software, and participation in sponsored clinical trials. The outcomes measured were quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing. We searched Medline (1966 to February 2008), International Pharmaceutical Abstracts (1970 to February 2008), Embase (1997 to February 2008), Current Contents (2001 to 2008), and Central (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2007) using the search terms developed with an expert librarian. Additionally, we reviewed reference lists and contacted experts and pharmaceutical companies for information. Randomized and observational studies evaluating information from pharmaceutical companies and measures of physicians' prescribing were independently appraised for methodological quality by two authors. Studies were excluded where insufficient study information precluded appraisal. The full text of 255 articles was retrieved from electronic databases (7,185 studies) and other sources (138 studies). Articles were then excluded because they did not fulfil inclusion criteria (179) or quality appraisal criteria (18), leaving 58 included studies with 87 distinct analyses. Data were extracted independently by two authors and a narrative synthesis performed following the MOOSE guidelines. Of the set of studies examining prescribing quality outcomes, five found associations between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and lower quality prescribing, four did not detect an association, and one found associations with lower and higher quality prescribing. 38 included studies found associations between exposure and higher frequency of prescribing and 13 did not detect an association. Five included studies found evidence for association with higher costs, four found no association, and one found an association with lower costs. The narrative synthesis finding of variable results was supported by a meta-analysis of studies of prescribing frequency that found significant heterogeneity. The observational nature of most included studies is the main limitation of this review.
Conclusions
With rare exceptions, studies of exposure to information provided directly by pharmaceutical companies have found associations with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality or have not found significant associations. We did not find evidence of net improvements in prescribing, but the available literature does not exclude the possibility that prescribing may sometimes be improved. Still, we recommend that practitioners follow the precautionary principle and thus avoid exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
A prescription drug is a medication that can be supplied only with a written instruction (“prescription”) from a physician or other licensed healthcare professional. In 2009, 3.9 billion drug prescriptions were dispensed in the US alone and US pharmaceutical companies made US$300 billion in sales revenue. Every year, a large proportion of this revenue is spent on drug promotion. In 2004, for example, a quarter of US drug revenue was spent on pharmaceutical promotion. The pharmaceutical industry claims that drug promotion—visits from pharmaceutical sales representatives, advertisements in journals and prescribing software, sponsorship of meetings, mailed information—helps to inform and educate healthcare professionals about the risks and benefits of their products and thereby ensures that patients receive the best possible care. Physicians, however, hold a wide range of views about pharmaceutical promotion. Some see it as a useful and convenient source of information. Others deny that they are influenced by pharmaceutical company promotion but claim that it influences other physicians. Meanwhile, several professional organizations have called for tighter control of promotional activities because of fears that pharmaceutical promotion might encourage physicians to prescribe inappropriate or needlessly expensive drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
But is there any evidence that pharmaceutical promotion adversely influences prescribing? Reviews of the research literature undertaken in 2000 and 2005 provide some evidence that drug promotion influences prescribing behavior. However, these reviews only partly assessed the relationship between information from pharmaceutical companies and prescribing costs and quality and are now out of date. In this study, therefore, the researchers undertake a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) to reexamine the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the literature for studies of licensed physicians who were exposed to promotional and other information from pharmaceutical companies. They identified 58 studies that included a measure of exposure to any type of information directly provided by pharmaceutical companies and a measure of physicians' prescribing behavior. They then undertook a “narrative synthesis,” a descriptive analysis of the data in these studies. Ten of the studies, they report, examined the relationship between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and prescribing quality (as judged, for example, by physician drug choices in response to clinical vignettes). All but one of these studies suggested that exposure to drug company information was associated with lower prescribing quality or no association was detected. In the 51 studies that examined the relationship between exposure to drug company information and prescribing frequency, exposure to information was associated with more frequent prescribing or no association was detected. Thus, for example, 17 out of 29 studies of the effect of pharmaceutical sales representatives' visits found an association between visits and increased prescribing; none found an association with less frequent prescribing. Finally, eight studies examined the relationship between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and prescribing costs. With one exception, these studies indicated that exposure to information was associated with a higher cost of prescribing or no association was detected. So, for example, one study found that physicians with low prescribing costs were more likely to have rarely or never read promotional mail or journal advertisements from pharmaceutical companies than physicians with high prescribing costs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
With rare exceptions, these findings suggest that exposure to pharmaceutical company information is associated with either no effect on physicians' prescribing behavior or with adverse affects (reduced quality, increased frequency, or increased costs). Because most of the studies included in the review were observational studies—the physicians in the studies were not randomly selected to receive or not receive drug company information—it is not possible to conclude that exposure to information actually causes any changes in physician behavior. Furthermore, although these findings provide no evidence for any net improvement in prescribing after exposure to pharmaceutical company information, the researchers note that it would be wrong to conclude that improvements do not sometimes happen. The findings support the case for reforms to reduce negative influence to prescribing from pharmaceutical promotion.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000352.
Wikipedia has pages on prescription drugs and on pharmaceutical marketing (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UK General Medical Council provides guidelines on good practice in prescribing medicines
The US Food and Drug Administration provides information on prescription drugs and on its Bad Ad Program
Healthy Skepticism is an international nonprofit membership association that aims to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information
The Drug Promotion Database was developed by the World Health Organization Department of Essential Drugs & Medicines Policy and Health Action International Europe to address unethical and inappropriate drug promotion
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000352
PMCID: PMC2957394  PMID: 20976098

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