Jason deBruyn

Pharmaceutical and medical device companies continue to try to gain influence with medical providers.
AP

North Carolina's doctor offices are awash in pharmaceutical and medical device industry cash. These financial relationships are starting to raise questions about prescribing habits and other conflicts of interest.

Already, some large pharmaceutical companies have paid millions to settle allegations of kickback schemes, and watchdog groups are asking questions about deep relationships between some doctors and drug and medical device companies.

UNC Chapel Hill Basketball game
Hanging Curve / Wikimedia Commons -2017

The NCAA infractions committee issued a verdict today and concluded it could not find evidence the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill violated academic rules with the use of fake classes. 

microscope
PxHere

Scientific journals are periodically forced to issue retractions of scientific papers. It is a decision no scientist or publisher wants to make, but in some cases studies with major inaccuracies, or even fraud, manage to find their way into scientific publications. 

Voter stickers
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

In North Carolina more people are registered as unaffiliated than Republican, according to recent data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections. 

Robert Scoble / Flickr - Creative Commons

Amazon’s recent announcement to establish a new headquarters in North America has ignited a frenzy of proposals from various cities. 

Doctor checks on baby at hosptial
Slava / Flickr - Creative Commons - https://flic.kr/p/8mh8fz

Hospital executives announced last week that the state’s largest hospital system, Carolinas Healthcare, would combine with UNC Health. They called the nearly $14 billion move “a marriage, not a merger.” 

Crews working at the site of the damaged transmission line
Courtesy of the NC Dot

UPDATE: Officials now estimate between six and 10 days for power to be fully restored for Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.

Governor Roy Cooper ordered a mandatory evacuation of tourists on the islands after a contractor sliced through a line carrying electricity from mainland Dare County late last week. The islands are now running on alternative backup generators, but residents are being advised to reduce their electricity consumption. 

Scott Beale / Flickr/ Creative Commons

It is tough out there for biotech companies. The rewards can be big, but the time frames are long and the risks are high. Research Triangle Park-based G1 Therapeutics is the latest hope for the area’s biotech scene.

Duke Energy / Flickr Creative Commons

Last year Duke Energy acquired Piedmont Natural Gas for $4.9 billion. The purchase is a marker of the energy industry’s shift toward using natural gas to produce electricity. Supporters of natural gas say it is cheaper and burns cleaner than coal. But critics argue that methane leaks during storage and transportation, which can accelerate global warming.

HCC Public Information Office Biotechnology Program

The Research Triangle is dotted with life sciences research and development companies, and Big Pharma operates sizeable manufacturing facilities in surrounding counties. The industry is a big player in North Carolina’s economy. It supports high-paying jobs, and in 2016 alone, it contributed an estimated $86 billion to the state’s economy.

Image of tools in doctor's office
Morgan / Flickr/Creative Commons

Contrary to popular belief, statistics show that North Carolina does not have a doctor shortage problem; it has a doctor distribution problem.

Experts say the lack of funding for graduate medical education (GME) in rural areas is one reason that those communities have worse health outcomes.

photo of a stethoscope
Wesley Wilson / Pexels

When the Affordable Care Act went into effect, the federal government hoped visits to the Emergency Room - some of the most expensive treatments in the industry - would decrease.

Instead, ER visits are rising. Experts blame the spike on patients who have health insurance for the first time and have yet to visit a primary care physician.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield has said it might remove some of its health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act.
Jed Record / Flickr Creative Commons

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina CEO Brad Wilson recently told the News and Observer that the company might have to consider pulling some of its health insurance policies offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Wilson cited financial losses of more than $100 million in the first year of ACA coverage.

Prison Bars
Michael Coghlan / Flickr Creative Commons

Increasing prison population means higher healthcare costs for taxpayers. In addition, the rising number of elderly people in prison means more chronic diseases with higher treatment costs.

Policymakers are considering early release as one viable option for reducing elderly populations behind bars. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Triangle Business Journal reporter Jason deBruyn about the latest. 

Doctor payoffs
Mike Licht / Flickr Creative Commons

Physicians earn their livings from patient care, but for many, fees are not their only source of income.

New data released under the Affordable Care Act shows how much individual doctors receive from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Several physicians in the Triangle receive thousands of dollars.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Triangle Business Journal reporter Jason deBruyn about the fees and access to the data.

Jason deBruyn, Triangle Business Journal
Triangle Business Journal

The FDA approved the first-ever drug for female sexual dysfunction. The Raleigh-based company, Sprout, is behind the libido pill.

  This morning, Valeant Pharmaceuticals announced it is buying Sprout for $1 billion. Some hail the FDA approval as a victory for gender equality but critics say the many risky side effects outweigh the benefits.

Blue Cross Blue Shield pen
frankieleon / Flickr Creative Commons

The Affordable Care Act was designed to give more access to healthcare at lower costs. But the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, has requested a rate increase of more than 34% for patients enrolled in the ACA plans.

The company says it needs the additional revenue to offset increasing costs. The request, along with increase requests from other insurers, will be considered by the North Carolina Insurance commissioner.

Image of Toyota Plant in Indiana. North Carolina was in the running to be the home of Toyota's North American Headquarters in 2014, but Plano, Texas won the bid.
Kurt Weber / Wikimedia Commons

North Carolina was able to lure 47 new or expansion business projects to the state last year. The haul promises to bring more than 8,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in capital investment.

But the state recently lost the bids for a Volvo manufacturing plant and the Mercedes Benz U.S. headquarters.

So how's the state doing with economic development overall?

Image of sticky notes with one titled find job
www.flazingo.com / Flickr Creative Commons

New economic numbers out this month show workers in the Triangle are finding fewer jobs, and those who do have employment are making less money. 

The latest unemployment figures are the highest the Triangle has seen since August of last year. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Triangle Business Journal reporter Jason deBruyn about the latest figures. 

Image of tools in doctor's office
Morgan / Flickr/Creative Commons

The Affordable Care Act is still attracting big enrollment numbers in North Carolina.

Nearly 500,000 people in the state have coverage, but premiums could rise by as much as 40 percent next year for some health plans.

   

And the Obama administration says more than 300,000 people still are not covered because the state did not expand Medicaid. 

A picture of the UNC and GSK press conference.
WUNC

UNC-Chapel Hill announced a partnership this week with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline to work on a cure for AIDS.

Scientists say what once was a lofty goal is now more realistic, thanks in part to UNC's already-extensive AIDS research. 

GSK and UNC will create a company called Qura Therapeutics to oversee more research at UNC laboratories, with an eye on producing a cure within the next 30 years.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Triangle Business Journal reporter Jason deBruyn about the details of the partnership.

On Tax Day, The State of Things talks changes in North Carolina's tax laws.
Ken Teegarden / Flickr Creative Commons

Many North Carolinians are spending April 15 finishing up their income tax statements.

But others have already noticed a few surprises on their returns due to changes in the state tax code and subsidies from the Affordable Care Act. The revisions mean higher or lower tax bills for thousands of taxpayers.

A U.S. Dept. of Commerce report says high-wage jobs are on the decline in North Carolina.
Andrew Magill / Flickr Creative Commons

New numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce show personal income in North Carolina is lower than the national average.

The state ranks 38th in average annual income. And North Carolina’s unemployment numbers are improving but does that show the full picture? High-wage jobs are vanishing and North Carolinians are taking low-wage positions.

The shooting of Michael Brown set off a series of protest nationwide and had Americans questioning the role of police in their communities.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2014_Ferguson_and_Beyond_Rally_12.jpg

  From the streets of Ferguson to the halls of Congress, 2014 saw many pivotal moments in the country's narrative.