Livin' on the MDedge

Medicare ‘offers’ cancer patient a choice: Less life or more debt


We’re gonna need a bigger meth lab

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 15 years, the TV show “Breaking Bad” details the spiraling rise and downfall of a high school chemistry teacher who, after developing a case of terminal lung cancer, starts producing methamphetamine to provide for his family in response to the steep cost of treatment for his cancer.

A hand with money printed on it and and Medicare written across it TheaDesign/Thinkstock

Meanwhile, here in 2023 in the real world, we have Paul Davis, a retired physician in Ohio, who’s being forced to choose between an expensive cancer treatment and bankrupting his family, since Medicare’s decided it doesn’t want to cover the cost. Hey, we’ve seen this one before!

A bit of backstory: In November 2019, Dr. Davis was diagnosed with uveal melanoma, a very rare type of cancer that affects eye tissue. The news got worse in 2022 when the cancer spread to his liver, a move which typically proves fatal within a year. However, in a stroke of great news, the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Kimmtrak earlier that year, which could be used to treat his cancer. Not cure, of course, but it would give him more time.

His initial treatments with the drug went fine and were covered, but when he transferred his care from a hospital in Columbus to one closer to home, big problem. Medicare decided it didn’t like that hospital and abruptly cut off coverage, denying the local hospital’s claims. That leaves Dr. Davis on the hook for his cancer treatment, and it’s what you might call expensive. Expensive to the tune of $50,000.

A week.

Apparently the coding the local hospital submitted was wrong, indicating that Dr. Davis was receiving Kimmtrak for a type of cancer that the FDA hadn’t approved the drug for. So until the government bureaucracy works itself out, his treatment is on hold, leaving all his faith in Medicare working quickly to rectify its mistake. If it can rectify its mistake. We’re not hopeful.

And in case you were wondering, if Dr. Davis wanted to go full Walter White, the average street price of meth is about $20-$60 per gram, so to pay for his treatment, he’d need to make at least a kilogram of meth every week. That’s, uh, quite a lot of illegal drug, or what we here at the LOTME office would call a fun Saturday night.

When you give a mouse a movie

Researchers have been successfully testing Alzheimer drugs on mice for years, but none of the drugs has proved successful in humans. Recent work, however, might have found the missing link, and it’s a combination no one ever thought of before: mice and movies.


Turns out that Orson Welles’ 1958 film noir classic “Touch of Evil” tapped a part of the mouse brain that has been overlooked: the hippocampus, which is crucial for learning and memory. Previous researchers thought it was just used as a kind of GPS system, but that’s only partially true.

Not only did the mice choose to pay attention to the movie clip, but the hippocampus responded to the visual stimuli only when the rodents saw the scenes from the clip later in the order that they were presented and not in a scrambled order. These findings represent a “major paradigm shift” in studying mouse recall, Mayank Mehta, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement from the school.

This breakthrough could run parallel to Alzheimer’s patients struggling with similar defects. “Selective and episodic activation of the mouse hippocampus using a human movie opens up the possibility of directly testing human episodic memory disorders and therapies using mouse neurons, a major step forward,” said coauthor Chinmay Purandare, PhD, who is now at the University of California, San Francisco.

Who would have thought that a classic film would help advance Alzheimer research?


Recommended Reading

Early retirement and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad cognitive decline
MDedge Internal Medicine
It’s all about the brains: Guilt placebos, transplants, and negative feelings
MDedge Internal Medicine
The longevity gene: Healthy mutant reverses heart aging
MDedge Internal Medicine
The long-range thrombolysis forecast calls for tiny ultrasonic tornadoes
MDedge Internal Medicine
Pound of flesh buys less prison time
MDedge Internal Medicine