KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Perspectives: Expensive Cancer Drugs May Finally Be In For A Little Competition

Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.

Bloomberg: Cancer-Drug Prices Are At A Tipping Point
Cancer drugs generate a great deal of outrage with their six-figure price tags for vulnerable patients. Until now, they've faced little in the way of price competition. That finally might be set to change with a recent wave of FDA approvals. (Max Nisen, 10/10)

Bloomberg: The Hepatitis Drug Market Is Worse Than Wall Street Realizes
And then there were three.Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co. Inc. have both recently halted development of drugs to treat hepatitis C (HCV), with no plans to work on any others. This capitulation leaves the market largely split between Gilead Sciences Inc., AbbVie Inc., and a drug Merck already has on the market. (Max Nisen, 10/4)

Forbes: Reforming The 340B Program Will Lower The Price Of Prescription Drugs
The U.S. health care system needs systemic reforms that comprehensively address the problems of declining quality and rising costs. Alas, beneficial systemic reforms will not be implemented any time soon. There are still opportunities for Congress to implement tailored reforms that can help address these problems in the near term. One such opportunity is reforming the out-of-control 340B drug pricing program (the federal drug discount program created under the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992). (Wayne Winegarden, 10/10)

Detroit News: Drug Prices Need State Review
Back-to-school season can be an exciting and hectic time of year for many of us. As a former teacher, I know our educators are busy making final preparations to ensure our classrooms are safe and productive learning spaces. Parents are working to check off every last item on the school supply list to set their student up for success. But for many Michigan families, this back-to-school list can have some expensive additions. In particular, many families across the state stare wide-eyed at their checking accounts as they prepare to purchase another critical item for their student: the year’s supply of EpiPens. (Darrin Camilleri, 10/10)

The Baltimore Sun: Pharma Balked When Maryland Tried To Regulate Prescription Drug Costs; Now They Have To Contend With California
Generic drug manufacturers suffered a setback in court late last month when a federal judge dismissed one half of their argument against a new Maryland law regulating price gouging and cast doubt on the other. They suffered an even bigger one Monday when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a prescription drug price law that is in some ways even more sweeping than Maryland’s. (10/10)

Bloomberg: Express Scripts' Deal Helps Answer Amazon Threat
Amazon.com Inc. is seemingly on the brink of entering the prescription-drugs market. Express Scripts Holding Co. shareholders should be pleased that the pharmacy-benefits manager isn't taking this development lying down. On Tuesday, Express Scripts said it's buying medical-benefits manager EviCore Healthcare for $3.6 billion, its biggest deal since the nearly $30 billion acquisition of Medco Health Solutions in 2012. While few details have been released, the purchase is expected to be accretive to Express Scripts' adjusted diluted earnings per share in its first full year. (Gillian Tan, 10/10)

Los Angeles Times: Shining A Narrow But Necessary Beam Of Light On Drug Price Hikes
Pharmaceutical companies have so much power over their customers, it’s practically an abusive relationship. Maybe that’s why consumer advocates are heralding what might otherwise seem like a minor legislative win over Big Pharma. SB 17, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed Monday morning, would not stop drug companies from making a brand new drug costlier than a college education, or from driving the price of an existing drug up faster than a hot tech stock. It wouldn’t place anything that even vaguely resembles a price control on pharmaceutical companies. Instead, it tries to discourage big price hikes by shining a light on which drug companies are imposing big price hikes and why. In short, it’s naming and shaming. (Jon Healey, 10/9)

The Wall Street Journal: A Flawed Study Depicts Drug Companies As Profiteers
Are drug companies ripping off cancer patients? Of course they are, suggests a much-hyped study published last month in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The truth is more complicated. Drug companies receive a staggering return on investment “not seen in other sectors of the economy,” write Vinay Prasad of Oregon Health and Science University and Sham Mailankody of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. They estimate that pharmaceutical firms spend $720 million on average to develop a single cancer drug, while the average cancer therapy generates sales of $6.7 billion. The editors at JAMA are brilliant physicians, but they could use a refresher on the economics of drug development. (Peter J. Pitts, 10/9)

US News: Switch And Save On Medicare Part D
In just less than a week, 41 million seniors will have the opportunity to make a choice that might save them hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars in health care costs. Too many of them, however, will fail to take advantage, leaving billions on the table, all to the benefit of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. (Daniel McFadden and Joachim Winter, 10/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Reverse Patent Trolls Are Harming Drug Innovation—and Patients
Allergan ’s agreement with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe has inspired a lot of commentary. Under the deal, my company transferred the patents for Restasis, a prescription eyedrop, to the Native American tribe as a way of protecting the intellectual property from unfair challenges. The agreement was intended to address the disadvantage that “inter partes review” creates for biopharma innovators and the patients they serve. (Brent Saunders, 10/8)

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