KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

In Hospitals, High Drug Prices Spark Innovation Versus Cost-Savings Fight

News outlets report on stories related to pharmaceutical drug pricing.

Stat: Stung By Surging Drug Prices, Hospital Pharmacies Fight Back
Facing annual spikes in pharmaceutical costs, major hospitals nationwide are curtailing use of expensive drugs and rejecting new additions to their formularies, sometimes triggering tense debates with clinicians who want to offer cutting-edge medications to their patients. The conflict, involving a wide array of drugs, is bound to become more intense amid the specter of a GOP-led health care overhaul that could further undermine hospital finances. Already, hospitals are cutting down on use of certain pain medications and carefully scrutinizing requests to add expensive new drugs to treat conditions ranging from epilepsy to cancer. (Ross, 3/14)

The New York Times: Vaccine Makers Ranked On Pricing And Research
The pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi sell the most vaccines and earn the most money doing so, while the Serum Institute of India sells the most vaccines at a discount, according to the first Access to Vaccines Index, which was released last week. (McNeil, 3/13)

Modern Healthcare: Will The Cost Of Cancer Drugs Break The Economy?
If left unchecked, the rising cost of cancer drugs could have devastating implications for individuals, societies and national economies, a group of cancer physicians and researchers said. In a new paper published Tuesday in Nature Reviews: Clinical Oncology, the cancer experts excoriated the pharmaceutical industry for pricing oncology drugs at rates that make them inaccessible and are unjustifiably high given the often scant benefit some of these drugs bring patients. (Whitman, 3/14)

Kaiser Health News: Sticker Shock Forces Thousands Of Cancer Patients To Skip Drugs, Skimp On Treatment
With new cancer drugs commonly priced at $100,000 a year or more, [John] Krahne’s story is becoming increasingly common. Hundreds of thousands of cancer patients are delaying care, cutting their pills in half or skipping drug treatment entirely, a Kaiser Health News examination shows. One-third of Medicare patients who were expected to use Gleevec — a lifesaving leukemia medication that costs up to $146,000 a year — failed to fill prescriptions within six months of diagnosis, according to a December study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. (Szabo, 3/15)

Stat: Winding Back The Clock, Scientists Hunt New Uses For Old Drugs
Headache, nausea, diarrhea: Side effects can be nasty. But a laundry list of adverse reactions can actually give scientists an important clue: It means the drug is potent in many different ways — and could, perhaps, be used to treat a different disease than the manufacturer intended. (Keshavan, 3/10)

Bloomberg: Drug CEO Has Problem With U.S. Patients Paying His Prices
Too many diabetics in the U.S. are inadvertently getting stuck with a big bill, making it imperative that drugmakers and middlemen at the heart of the country’s complex pricing system fix the issue before regulators step in, the world’s biggest maker of insulin said. “It was never the intention that individual patients should end up paying the list price,” Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, who took over as chief executive officer at Novo Nordisk A/S at the start of the year, said in an interview Tuesday. “I have a big problem with that.” (Paton, 3/14)

Stat: Despite Discounts For Hep C Drugs, Coverage Denials Keep Rising
After pricey new hepatitis C treatments emerged a few years ago, public and private payers restricted coverage in order to ease the financial strain on budgets. But even as more competition among drug makers has prompted discounting, payers continue to deny coverage, including to patients who suffer from the most advanced forms of the disease, according to a new analysis. (Silverman, 3/8)

Stat: Regeneron CEO On Drug Prices: 'Bad Actors Not The Problem'
Len Schleifer made something of a splash at an industry conference last December. The Regeneron Pharmaceuticals chief executive chastised Pfizer chief executive Ian Read over drug prices while participating in a panel discussion. Not surprisingly, their exchange received notice, since pricing is such a hot-button issue. Schleifer remains adamant, though, that brand-name drug makers can do better and he hopes to prove the point when his company launches a medicine for severe eczema. We recently spoke with him about drug pricing and the FDA, too. (Silverman, 3/9)

The New York Times: William Ackman Sells Pershing Fund’s Stake In Valeant
William A. Ackman, a billionaire investor, staked his reputation as a savvy stock picker on his ability to oversee a turnaround at Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. When other hedge funds began to leave Valeant in 2015 as questions about its practices for pricing drugs and its accounting procedures mounted, Mr. Ackman bravely — some might say stubbornly — stood his ground. (Goldstein, 3/13)

The Hill: Sanders: Trump Must Stop French Company’s Exclusive Zika Vaccine Deal 
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is pressuring President Trump to stop the Army from giving a French company the exclusive license to a vaccine against the Zika virus. In a New York Times op-ed published Saturday, Sanders criticized French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, noting the firm has already gotten $43 million from the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a vaccine with the Army and is expected to receive $130 million more in federal funding. (Smilowitz, 3/11)

Pioneer Press: Republican MN Lawmaker With MS Lashes Out At Fellow GOPers For Blocking Prescription Drug Bill 
It is personal for Rod Hamilton. The Minnesota state representative, a multiple sclerosis patient for 20 years, cannot get a committee chairman to consider a bill he says will help people like him who depend on prescription medicine...The person he talked about, but did not specifically name, is House Commerce Chairman Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, who says he will not take up Hamilton’s bill written to allow patients to generally continue receiving prescription medicine throughout an insurance policy’s term. Hoppe said that Hamilton’s bill would increase the cost of health care, while Republicans who control the House want to cut the cost. (Davis, 3/14)

Stat: India's Pharma Industry Frets Over Exports To Trump's US
For India’s biggest drug makers, the Trump administration offers a mix of promise and peril. On one hand, these companies supply many lower-cost generics to the United States, a key advantage as President Trump accuses most brand-name drug makers of “getting away with murder” when it comes to pricing. But Indian drug makers also fret the Trump administration will place them at a disadvantage with any policies that favor domestic jobs stemming from products made in the US. (Silverman, 3/14)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.