KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Perspectives: Congressional Investigation Into MS Drugs Is A Pageant We’ve Seen Before

Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.

Bloomberg: Why Pharma May Not Fear The Latest Drug-Price Probe
Things are about to get awkward for makers of drugs targeting multiple sclerosis. On Thursday afternoon, House Democrats sent letters to prominent biopharma companies that sell MS treatments including Biogen Inc., Novartis AG, Roche Holding AG, and Sanofi, demanding a variety of information about the large and, according to the letters, often seemingly concerted price hikes they have taken as part of an "in-depth investigation." As would be expected, the news sparked a decline in the drugmakers' shares. (Max Nisen, 8/18)

Stat: Pharma 'Getting Away With Murder' Abroad Thanks To Trump's Policies
Their price monopolies are likely to be extended under a draft executive order promising “greater intellectual property protection” in multilateral and bilateral trade agreements. The North American Free Trade Agreement, for example, has already been pegged to harmonize foreign intellectual property standards to reflect those found in the United States. Canada, it seems, will be the first target of U.S. indoctrination. (Brook K. Baker and Katrina Geddes, 8/21)

Bloomberg: Remicade And Biosimilar Rivals Are Litmus Test For PBMs
Biosimilars -- the equivalent of generic drugs for complicated and expensive medicines made by living cells -- are supposed to reduce prices and save the health care system billions of dollars by finally bringing competition to blockbuster drugs. But as Bloomberg News has chronicled, they've been slow to gain traction.  Groundwork for an acceleration may come as soon as September. That's when the two biggest pharmacy benefit managers, CVS Health Corp. and Express Scripts Holding Co. -- middlemen that negotiate with drugmakers to lower prices for health plans -- will provide an update about which drugs that treat inflammatory conditions they'll cover and which they'll exclude in favor of competitors. Among those drugs is Remicade, Johnson & Johnson's best-selling medicine, which faces two biosimilar competitors. (Max Nisen, 8/17)

Newsweek: The Dems Are Wrong On Prescription Drug Prices
Congressional Democrats recently released "A Better Deal," their new economic platform. It calls for many reforms, such as expanding vocational programs and strictly enforcing anti-trust laws, that would benefit working-class Americans. But one of the proposals -- letting the government "negotiate" Medicare prescription drug prices -- would be disastrous. If it were implemented, 40 million Americans with Medicare drug coverage could lose access to vital prescriptions. That's not a better deal. (Gary A. Puckrein, 8/22)

The Fiscal Times: What Can Be Done About Rising Drug Prices?
Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare may have collapsed, but as Northern Trust economists Carl R. Tannenbaum and Ankit Mital wrote in a note published Friday, there’s a broader healthcare debate that still needs to happen. “Coverage and care for the roughly 20 million people covered by the ACA are very important,” the economists wrote. “But a total of 330 million Americans are in need of better and more economical health care. Congressional debate needs to ­­take much wider perspective on the topic.” (Yuval Rosenberg, 8/21)

Stat: With Its Silence On Key Questions, Omeros Raises Doubts About Its Drug
The Seattle biotech Omeros (OMER) has long told investors it has a potential blockbuster on its hands in OMS721, an experimental drug aimed at treating patients with rare blood and kidney diseases. So why won’t the company answer questions about its clinical data? I’ve been trying for months to get answers on key points: How many patients have been dosed with the drug in clinical trials? And is there any proof at all that the drug can be administered via subcutaneous injection, rather than intravenous drip — which is a key selling point for Omeros? (Adam Feurstein, 8/22)

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