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Latest Morning Briefing Stories

First Gene-Silencing Drug Approved By FDA — And It Comes With An Eye-Popping Price Tag

KHN Morning Briefing

Slicing genes with drugs is the latest in a wave of hot new treatments geared toward fighting diseases in unique ways. But the price on innovation is steep. In other news, the FDA plans to streamline drug safety evaluations and a super PAC goes after Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) over the money she’s taken from the pharmaceutical industry.

As Baby Boomers Age, Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Needs Are Skyrocketing

KHN Morning Briefing

New companies are trying to fill the demand where taking an Uber or Lyft just won’t cut it. Many patients opt to skip appointments when they can’t find a ride, and those no-shows are costing billions in lost revenue. In other health industry news: Rite Aid has an uncertain future after calling off unpopular merger; the Cigna-Express deal has passions high; and Amazon is considering opening health clinics for its employees.

HHS Cracks Down On Drug Companies Taking Advantage Of Loophole In Medicaid’s Complex Payment Structure

KHN Morning Briefing

The new guidance, which officials say will cut back on the companies’ “abusive behavior,” concerns the rebates that drug makers have to pay back to states when a patient receives one of their medicines. In other pharmaceutical news: the administration is preparing to put action behind its rhetoric on drug pricing; some say Medicare’s new negotiating powers could lead to increased hospitalizations; and more.

Insys To Pay $150M To Settle Criminal, Civil Investigation Into Marketing Techniques For Its Opioids

KHN Morning Briefing

The company has figured prominently in the ongoing federal investigation into drugmakers’ role in the opioid epidemic because several former executives and employees have been arrested in connection with allegations of bribing doctors to boost sales of Subsys, its product that contains fentanyl. News on the crisis comes out of New York and Massachusetts, as well.

CVS Wants Pharma To Stop Pointing Fingers At The Middlemen When It Comes To High Drug Prices

KHN Morning Briefing

“Drug manufacturers want you to believe that increasing drug prices are a result of them happy to pay rebates and that PBMs are retaining these rebates. And this is simply not true,” said Larry Merlo, the CEO of CVS, which owns Caremark, one of the biggest pharmacy-benefit managers. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association speaks out against CVS’ attempts to acquire insurer Aetna. And Rite Aid and Albertsons call off their merger.

Medicare’s Power To Negotiate Drug Prices Will Harm Patients With Chronic Illnesses, Advocates Warn

KHN Morning Briefing

Medicare Advantage’s negotiating tool — requiring patients to try lower-cost treatments before the more expensive ones — is derided as a “fail first” process to those who oppose the strategy. “Consumers may have to go through one or more drugs before they can get a particular treatment they really need,” said Ellen Albritton, a senior policy analyst at Families USA. Meanwhile, there are already signals that implementing the new rules is going to be complicated.

Rep. Chris Collins Indicted On Charges Related To Insider Trading Following Probe Into His Ties To Drugmaker

KHN Morning Briefing

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) is alleged to have passed inside information on the failure of an Innate Immunotherapeutics’ drug trial to his son, who then passed it to another alleged conspirator. Collins describes the charges as “merit-less” and says he will stay in office and run for reelection. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan says that Collins would not serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee “until this matter is settled.”

Administration To ‘Unleash’ Medicare Advantage Plans’ Bargaining Power On Some Drug Prices

KHN Morning Briefing

As a negotiation tool, Medicare Advantage plans will now be able to require patients getting drugs in a doctor’s office or the hospital to try lower-cost medicines before moving up to more expensive ones in a process called step therapy. Insurers already had this option in Part D drug plans — which cover prescriptions such as those purchased by beneficiaries at pharmacies. But the option is now being expanded.

FDA Had ‘Fox Guarding The Henhouse’ When It Came To Regulating Powerful Class Of Fentanyl

KHN Morning Briefing

The agency entrusted enforcement of the drugs to the companies that were making them, documents show. “People were getting hurt — and the FDA sat by and watched this happen,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an opioid policy researcher at Brandeis University, tells The New York Times. Meanwhile, under pressure, another pharmaceutical wholesaler agrees to boost oversight of its opioid distribution.