KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medical Advisory Panel Recommends New Pneumonia Vaccine For Seniors

The experts expressed concern, however, that Medicare rules may hamper some people from getting the new vaccine if they have already had an older version. Also in drug issues, some patient advocates report that insurers are balking at paying for a costly drug to treat hepatitis C if the patients are in drug treatment programs.

Reuters: U.S. Advisory Panel Recommends Prevnar 13 Vaccine For Elderly
An influential U.S. medical advisory panel on Wednesday recommended that people 65 and older be given Pfizer Inc's blockbuster Prevnar 13 vaccine to protect against pneumococcal bacteria that can cause pneumonia and other infections. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), in a 13-2 vote, recommended that elderly patients take Pfizer's vaccine, even if they had previously been vaccinated with Merck & Co's leading Pneumovax vaccine. ... A Medicare official, speaking to the panel in Atlanta, said his agency would have to change its rules in order to qualify such patients for reimbursement, and that its evaluation would likely extend until January 2016 (Pierson, 8/13).

The Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot: Sovaldi Debate Hurts Access For Opioid Treatment Patients
The tussle over the cost of the Sovaldi hepatitis C medication may prevent yet another segment of the population from being treated – people who are enrolled in opioid treatment programs. Although the drug has shown evidence of curing nine of 10 sufferers and the product labeling does not suggest Sovaldi is not safe for these patients, payers are balking at covering the medicine for people with a history of a substance use disorder, according to Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly (Silverman, 8/13).

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