The Association of Health Care Journalists announced today that ProPublica’s “Wasted Medicine” series won the Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism in the consumer/feature category. “Lost Mothers,” a collaboration with ProPublica and NPR, won third place for public health reporting.
The “Wasted Medicine” series, by reporter Marshall Allen, identified shocking examples of the hundreds of billions of dollars that the U.S. wastes each year on health care. Allen’s work also pointed to solutions that could save money, making more dollars available for other needs and lowering the cost of care for everyone.
The series included stories on subjects from the valuable supplies that hospitals throw away to wildly overpriced drugs whose true costs are hidden from doctors and patients. Allen reported, for example, that nursing homes across the country toss out hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of unexpired and untainted medication. He also spotlighted an Iowa nonprofit that gathers its discarded medication, inspects it, and dispenses it to patients for free. The story prompted lawmakers in Florida and New Hampshire to introduce bills to create similar programs, and other states are also considering doing the same.
Another piece focused on how drug companies waste money by making eyedrops and vials of cancer drugs much larger than patients can use. Eyedrops are bigger than what the eye can contain—many are two to three times too large. One study showed the U.S. wastes about $1.8 billion due to single-use cancer vials being oversized. In response to the story, several U.S. senators introduced a bill to correct the problem with oversized eyedrops and cancer drug vials.
“We thought this was a truly outstanding reporting and writing effort, which jarred our sensibilities and brought about some real change,” said contest judges. “We hope it brings about more.”
The ProPublica and NPR series “Lost Mothers” on maternal mortality in the U.S. won third place in the AHCJ’s public health category. The pieces at the center of the project focused on maternal deaths and near-deaths, looking at why life-threatening complications occur, why black women are much more likely to die and nearly die than white women, and why providers often fail to implement safety protocols that could prevent needless harm.The series includes stories by ProPublica reporters Nina Martin, Adriana Gallardo and Annie Waldman, and NPR correspondent Renee Montagne.
See a list of all the Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism winners here.