KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Author Of New Drug Transparency Law Hopes Rest Of Country Will Follow In California’s Footsteps

News outlets report on stories related to pharmaceutical pricing.

Stat: Q&A: Can California's New Drug Price Transparency Law Make A Difference?
On Monday, California adopted a law that requires drug makers to explain and justify price hikes, making it only the third state in the country to demand some transparency in response to rising medicine prices. Although the law does not actually allow the state to control pricing, the pharmaceutical industry fought the effort over concerns other states will now pursue similar legislation, since California is often seen as a bellwether. We spoke with state Sen. Ed Hernandez, the Democratic legislator who shepherded the bill — and who believes it can force a change in the national conversation about drug pricing. (Silverman, 10/10)

Stat: Biotech Execs Are Fretting A Bit Less These Days About Lowering Drug Prices
Biotech executives appear slightly less concerned about drug pricing than in the recent past, according to a new analysis, but the continued pressure from payers and lawmakers to bring down costs does still weigh on them. A review of risk factors cited by the 100 largest companies listed in the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index found 84 percent cited worries over pricing pressures, according to the BDO advisory and consulting firm, which examined the most recent crop of annual filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. (Silverman, 10/5)

Bloomberg: Trump’s Fastest Moving Agency Is Approving Drugs And Pleasing Wall Street 
Gridlock under the Trump administration, particularly the repeated failures to repeal and replace Obamacare, is riveting the nation’s attention. Yet at least one government agency is running smoothly -- and even accelerating its operations. The U.S Food and Drug Administration, under Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, is taking advantage of policy groundwork laid in past years to speed drug approvals. Thirty-four new drugs -- treating everything from cancer to rare genetic diseases -- have been approved so far this year. That’s on pace to nearly double last year’s approvals. So far, at least nine decisions came more then 20 days ahead of the FDA’s scheduled action date. (Chen and Paton, 10/6)

Stat: California Bans Drug Coupons When Cheaper Alternatives Are Available
Call it a one-two punch. At the same time California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law requiring drug makers explain and justify price hikes, he also signed another law prohibiting the use of prescription drug coupons when a lower-priced medicine is available. The law reflects controversy over the role that coupons play in the debate over rising health care costs, and also arrives as state and federal authorities examine other forms of financial assistance that the pharmaceutical industry provides patients. (Silverman, 10/10)

Healthline: Drug Price Gouging Laws May Become A New Trend
Maryland has permission to go after prescription drug price gouging.A federal judge gave the go-ahead last week. Drug makers had attempted to block the state’s first-in-the-nation law targeting extreme increases in generic drug prices. The ruling adds Maryland to a growing number of states taking action against high drug prices, as Congress lags behind with similar proposed legislation. (Radcliffe, 10/10)

The New York Times: Price Matters, In Patients’ Minds
When people believe a medicine is expensive, they may show a greater response to it. Researchers told 49 volunteers that they were testing two anti-itch creams — one that was costly, and one cheap — that contained the same ingredient known to reduce itch, but that the ingredient sometimes increased sensitivity to heat. (Bakalar, 10/5)

Bloomberg: Amazon Is Headed For The Prescription-Drug Market, Analysts Say
Amazon.com Inc. is almost certain to enter the business of selling prescription drugs by 2019, said two analysts at Leerink Partners, posing a direct threat to the U.S.’s biggest brick-and-mortar drugstore chains. “It’s a matter of when, not if,” Leerink Partners analyst David Larsen said in a report to clients late Thursday. “We expect an announcement within the next 1-2 years.” (Langreth and Soper, 10/6)

Forbes: One Of Biotech's Hottest Names Embraces Pharma's Bygone Era
Susan Waite, 48, still remembers hearing her disease's name, myelofibrosis, for the first time five years ago. "You Google," she says. "I know you're not supposed to, but everybody does. And at the time the average life expectancy was two and a half years." This rare cancer was turning her bone marrow, which produces blood cells, into scar tissue, leaving her anemic. She had one child in high school and two more in college, and was so tired she'd gone from being a social butterfly to a person who goes to bed right after dinner. Her spleen was so enlarged with blood cells that it hurt and prevented her from eating. (Herper, 10/10)

Stat: Spark's Gene Therapy For Blindness Is Racing To A Historic Date With The FDA
The $1 million medicine is coming. On Thursday, a committee of experts invited by the FDA will meet outside Washington D.C. to review an experimental gene therapy from Spark Therapeutics (ONCE). Barring unexpected surprises, the experts will advise the FDA to approve the one-time shot, which will be used to treat a rare, inherited form of childhood blindness. (Feuerstein, 10/9)

CBS News: Time To Review Your Medicare Rx Coverage
With Medicare's open-enrollment period approaching -- Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 -- you should be getting ready to review your Medicare prescription drug coverage. Your goal is to minimize your total out-of-pocket spending for prescription drugs, including your premiums, co-payments and deductibles. Let's first look at some basic information about prescription drug coverage under Medicare. (Vernon, 10/10)

Bloomberg: Big Pharma Gets Boost As China Speeds Up New Drug Approvals
For decades, Chinese patients have struggled to gain access to cutting-edge medicines thanks to bureaucratic delays that have hamstrung drug development. Now a sweeping government overhaul of drug approvals is poised to change that.  Beijing on Sunday announced new rules that will speed up approvals of medicines and medical devices, easing bottlenecks in introducing new treatments. The move is also a growth opportunity for international and local drugmakers in the world’s second biggest pharmaceutical market. It also parallels the acceleration of approvals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (10/8)

Stat: A Drug With The Power To Mute Defective Genes Raises Hopes — Cautiously
The experimental drug has startling powers: It can turn down a mutant gene in a patient’s body, stopping the production of proteins that cause a terribly painful rare disease. A crucial, late-stage clinical trial showed that the drug works — and that it’s safe. And now the biotech company behind it, Alnylam, is poised to bring this first-of-its-kind therapy to market. (Keshavan, 10/5)

Nashville Tennessean: How United Way Helped Families Save Millions On Rx
Pricey prescriptions can easily sink family budgets but United Way of Metropolitan Nashville has helped connect more than 52,000 people to a discount program that's saved them millions of dollars in prescription costs. Families around Nashville have saved about $7 million at the pharmacy through United Way's decade-long partnership with FamilyWize, a for-profit company that offers prescription discount cards. People using the program in Rutherford and Cannon counties have saved an additional $836,146, according to an estimate from United Way officials. (Fletcher, 10/4)

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