Articles written by Tom Murphy


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  • A cyberattack forces a big US health system to divert ambulances and take records offline

    JOHN HANNA and TOM MURPHY|May 10, 2024

    TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A cyberattack on the Ascension health system operating in 19 states across the U.S. forced some of its 140 hospitals to divert ambulances, caused patients to postpone medical tests and blocked online access to patient records. An Ascension spokesperson said it detected "unusual activity" Wednesday on its computer network systems. Officials refused to say whether the non-profit Catholic health system, based in St. Louis, was the victim of a ransomware attack or whether it had paid a ransom, and it did not immediately r...

  • It's the first drug shown to slow Alzheimer's. Why is is it off to a slow start?

    TOM MURPHY|Apr 12, 2024

    The first drug shown to slow Alzheimer's disease hit the U.S. market over a year ago, but sales have lagged, major hospital systems have taken months to start using it and some insurers have rejected coverage. Doctors also expect some patients will hesitate to take Leqembi due to its limited impact and potential side effects. They say it will take years to learn how best to deploy the drug and that work must be done to improve diagnosis. "This is the start of a very exciting journey," said Dr. Ambar Kulshreshtha, a suburban Atlanta family...

  • Amazon will start testing drones that will drop prescriptions on your doorstep, literally

    TOM MURPHY and HALELUYA HADERO|Oct 18, 2023

    Amazon will soon make prescription drugs fall from the sky when the e-commerce giant becomes the latest company to test drone deliveries for medications. The company said Wednesday that customers in College Station, Texas, can now get prescriptions delivered by a drone within an hour of placing their order. The drone, programed to fly from a delivery center with a secure pharmacy, will travel to the customer's address, descend to a height of about four meters — or 13 feet — and drop a padded package. Amazon says customers will be able to cho...

  • Insurers won't cover new Alzheimer's treatment for some customers

    TOM MURPHY|Aug 11, 2023

    Some private insurers are balking at paying for the first drug fully approved to slow mental decline in Alzheimer's patients. Insurers selling coverage in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York, among other states, told The Associated Press they won't cover Leqembi with insurance offered on the individual market and through employers because they still see the $26,000-a-year drug as experimental. Their decision stands in contrast to Medicare, which will wind up covering most patients who take the drug. The federal coverage program mainly...

  • Soaring sales of diabetes drug Mounjaro, widely used for weight loss, sends Eli Lilly to new heights

    TOM MURPHY|Aug 9, 2023

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Eli Lilly's diabetes treatment Mounjaro, which is widely used for weight loss, raked in nearly $1 billion in second-quarter sales, or more than $200 million above what Wall Street had expected. Shares of the drugmaker soared 17% to an all-time-high Tuesday after Lilly said Mounjaro sales swelled more than 70% since the first quarter to $980 million. Almost all of that came from the U.S., and the company said significant demand was leading to delays in filling orders for some doses. Analysts expected the drug to bring in a...

  • Are you confronting a big medical bill? Attack it with a plan - and these tips

    TOM MURPHY|Jul 2, 2023

    An enormous medical bill can trigger a wave of panic, but try to resist. That startling invoice that arrived in the mail may not be what you wind up paying. Errors or slow insurance payments may have inflated the total. Even if it's accurate, financial aid or other assistance might help pare it. Sometimes a simple phone call clears up a problem. Other times, reinforcements are necessary. Debt experts say patients should attack medical bills with a plan. Here are key steps to take. CHECK THE NUMBERS Don't stash the bill in a pile of mail and...

  • How to shop for new insurance if you lose Medicaid coverage

    TOM MURPHY|Mar 19, 2023

    Medicaid will end for millions of Americans in the coming months, and that pushes many into unfamiliar territory: the health insurance marketplace. States will start cutting people from the government-funded coverage when they no longer qualify based on income, a process that has been paused since shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The timing of these cuts will vary. But all states have insurance markets where people who lose Medicaid can buy new coverage with help from subsidies. Shopping for insurance that covers regular doctors and...

  • Lilly plans to slash some insulin prices, expand cost cap

    TOM MURPHY|Mar 1, 2023

    Eli Lilly will cut prices for some older insulins later this year and immediately give more patients access to a cap on the costs they pay to fill prescriptions. The moves announced Wednesday promise critical relief to some people with diabetes who can face thousands of dollars in annual costs for insulin they need in order to live. Lilly's changes also come as lawmakers and patient advocates pressure drugmakers to do something about soaring prices. Lilly said it will cut the list prices for its most commonly prescribed insulin, Humalog, and...

  • Why a new Alzheimer's drug is having a slow US debut

    TOM MURPHY|Feb 5, 2023

    The first drug to show that it slows Alzheimer's is on sale, but treatment for most patients is still several months away. Two big factors behind the slow debut, experts say, are scant insurance coverage and a long setup time needed by many health systems. Patients who surmount those challenges will step to the head of the line for a drug that delivers an uncertain benefit. Here's a closer look. THE SITUATION The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Leqembi, from Japanese drugmaker Eisai, in early January. It's for patients with mild or...

  • Primary care a hot target; CVS spends $10.6B on Oak Street

    TOM MURPHY|Feb 5, 2023

    Big money is pouring into primary care clinics as the nation's health care giants hunt for ways to cut costs by keeping people healthy. CVS Health said Wednesday that it will spend about $10.6 billion to buy Oak Street Health, which runs clinics that specialize in treating Medicare Advantage patients. The acquisition comes just three months after a nearly $9-billion investment by rival Walgreens in VillageMD's acquisition of the urgent and primary care chain Summit Health-CityMD. And that deal was announced two months after CVS said it would...

  • Children's medicine shortage hits as flu season starts fast

    TOM MURPHY|Dec 18, 2022

    Caring for sick children has become extra stressful recently for many U.S. parents due to shortages of Children's Tylenol and other medicines. Doctors and other experts say the problem could persist through the winter cold-and-flu season but should not last as long as other recent shortages of baby formula or prescription drugs. They also say parents have alternatives if they encounter empty store shelves. Here's a closer look: WHAT'S HAPPENING An unusually fast start to the annual U.S. flu season, plus a spike in other respiratory illnesses,...

  • Medicaid extensions for new moms grow, may run into limits

    TOM MURPHY|Sep 4, 2022

    States around the country are making it easier for new moms to keep Medicaid in the year after childbirth, a time when depression and other health problems can develop. But tight government budgets and the program's low reimbursement may ultimately limit this push or make it hard for women with extended coverage to find doctors. "A lot of things have changed since the pandemic," said Venessa Aiken, a new mom in Orlando, Florida. "A lot of places no longer take Medicaid or if they do, you have to wait like two months before you can be seen."...

  • Moderna sues Pfizer over patents behind COVID-19 vaccine

    TOM MURPHY|Aug 26, 2022

    COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna is suing Pfizer and the German drugmaker BioNTech, accusing its main competitors of copying Moderna's technology in order to make their own vaccine. Moderna said Friday that Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine Comirnaty infringes on patents Moderna filed several years ago protecting the technology behind its preventive shot, Spikevax. The company filed patent infringement lawsuits in both U.S. federal court and a German court. A Pfizer spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the company had not been served with a copy...

  • Teladoc eyes several new phases of growth for telemedicine

    TOM MURPHY|Nov 29, 2020

    Fresh off a big acquisition and riding a wave of customer growth, Teladoc Health is ready to do more for patients. CEO Jason Gorevic said the telemedicine provider can play a big role in helping people manage high blood pressure, diabetes or other chronic conditions. Plus he wants customers to think well beyond primary care when they consider telemedicine, which involves care delivered remotely, often with a live video connection through smartphones or tablets. Last month, Teladoc finished a more than $18 billion deal to buy the technology...

  • Pandemic forces some patients to phone in doctor visits

    Regina Garcia Cano and Tom Murphy|Jun 26, 2020

    Video telemedicine took off earlier this year as the coronavirus paused in-person doctor visits. Earl Egner missed that trend. The 84-year-old diabetic and cancer survivor has no computer or cellphone. Instead, he relies on a form of communication older than himself — the telephone — to talk to doctors as he stays hunkered down in his Somerset, Virginia, home. "We don't even have people come out to the house because I have underlying conditions," Egner said. "If this bug every passed my way, I'm a dead man, and I'm going to try to be as car...

  • Insurance marketplaces offer help with coronavirus job cuts

    Tom Murphy|Apr 3, 2020

    More than a million people could swamp the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplaces in the coming months as employers lay off staff during the coronavirus pandemic. The health insurance markets are a backbone of the Obama-era law that President Donald Trump has tried to demolish. They are now seen as a key option to help protect people from devastating medical bills while they search for another job and new coverage. Nearly 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the final two weeks of March, far exceeding the...

  • Paging Dr. Robot: Artificial intelligence moves into care

    Tom Murphy|Nov 24, 2019

    Artificial intelligence is spreading into health care, often as software or a computer program capable of learning from large amounts of data and making predictions to guide care or help patients. It already detects an eye disease tied to diabetes and does other behind-the-scenes work like helping doctors interpret MRI scans and other imaging tests for some forms of cancer. Now, parts of the health system are starting to use it directly with patients. During some clinic and telemedicine appointments, AI-powered software asks patients initial...

  • Hurry up and wait: Docs say insurers increasingly interfere

    Tom Murphy|Jul 28, 2019

    After Kim Lauerman was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, doctors wanted to give her a drug that helps prevent infections and fever during chemotherapy. Her insurer said no. Anthem Blue Cross told Lauerman the drug wasn't necessary. She eventually got it after an infection landed her in the hospital, but that led to another problem: She ended up missing several chemo sessions. "The insurance has been great until I got to a point that I really needed something for survival," Lauerman said. Doctors say they worry about the growing influence insurers...

  • Even a small amount of medical debt can trigger headaches

    Tom Murphy|Aug 30, 2018

    It doesn't take a huge unpaid medical bill to make a collection agency come calling ... and calling. Researchers found in a study of credit reports that more than 2 percent of adults had medical bills under $200 sent to a collection agency. Over half of the annual medical collections were for less than $600, according to the study, which examined 2016 credit reports for more than 4 million unidentified people. "A lot of these bills are much more modest than many people will think," said one of the researchers, Benedic Ippolito, an economist wit...

  • Rising air ambulance bills hit patients with added shock

    Tom Murphy|Jul 5, 2018

    A helicopter trip to a hospital may not be the only shock a patient faces after a bad accident. The next one could hit when the bill arrives. Rides in so-called air ambulances can lead to bills of more than $20,000 depending on a person's coverage, and insurance experts say big invoices are becoming more common as costs rise and coverage shifts. Air ambulances transport around 400,000 people each year in the U.S., according to industry estimates. Most trips are from one hospital to another. But they also play a vital role in getting seriously...

  • Many cancer patients juggle care along with financial pain

    TOM MURPHY, AP Health Writer|May 23, 2018

    Josephine Rizo survived chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, but breast cancer treatment wrecked her finances. Money was already tight when doctors told the Phoenix resident she had an aggressive form of the disease. Then she took a pay cut after going on disability leave, and eventually lost her job and insurance coverage. During treatment, Rizo got swamped with more than $50,000 in medical bills. "My concern was, 'Am I going to die?'" she said. "I had to kind of focus 100 percent on my health to make sure I was around for my kids." As...

  • Study: Medical bankruptcies may not be as common as thought

    TOM MURPHY, AP Health Writer|Mar 23, 2018

    Medical bills can push patients over the financial cliff, but a new study says this may not happen as often as previous research suggests. Hospitalizations cause only about 4 percent of personal bankruptcies among non-elderly U.S. adults, according to an analysis published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. This contrasts with previous research by former Harvard professor and current U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others that pointed to medical reasons as the trigger for more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies. In the new...

  • Health insurer Cigna buying Express Scripts for $52 billion

    TOM MURPHY, AP Health Writer|Mar 9, 2018

    Health insurer Cigna is buying the nation's biggest pharmacy benefit manager, Express Scripts, the latest in a string of proposed tie-ups as health care's bill payers attempt to get a grip on rising costs. The $52 billion deal announced Thursday follows the drugstore chain CVS Health Corp.'s roughly $69 billion bid to buy the insurer Aetna Inc., an acquisition the companies detailed in December. Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers — which run drug plans for insurers and employer-based plans — have struggled to keep costs under control for...

  • Insurers get into care, but is it good for your health?

    TOM MURPHY, AP Health Writer|Mar 9, 2018

    In the not-too-distant future, your health insurance, your prescription drugs and some of your treatment may come from the same company. Insurers are dropping billions of dollars on acquisitions and expansions in order to get more involved in customer health. They say this push can help cut costs and improve care, in part by keeping the sickest patients healthy and out of expensive hospitals. That's a huge potential benefit for employers and other customers stressed by rising costs. But is this good for your health? That question worries some...

  • Grocer Albertsons eyes Rite Aid deal in health care push

    TOM MURPHY, AP Health Writer|Feb 21, 2018

    The owner of Safeway and other grocery brands is buying the drugstore chain Rite Aid as retailers continue to plunge deeper into health care and adjust to swiftly changing shopping habits. Albertsons Companies executives said Tuesday that their purchase of Rite Aid's more than 2,500 remaining stores will help the combined company become a "leader in food, health and wellness." The combination will have 4,892 stores and more than 4,300 pharmacies with a stronger presence on both coasts of the U.S. market. Leaders of both companies said the deal...

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