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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.
Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) announced over the weekend that he would not be seeking reelection. Collins faces insider-trading charges following his involvement with Innate Immunotherapeutics, a tiny biotech firm. The New York Times looks at the actions that landed the three-term congressman in legal trouble.
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.
The study is the first to examine hospital data about opioid-addicted women delivering babies, and the numbers mirror well-known trends in opioid-exposed newborns.
The letters were sent to doctors of patients who came through the coroner’s office because of a fatal overdose. Though the effects were modest, researchers say it does show that small steps can make a difference in the battle against opioids.
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.
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.
The state would pay a fixed amount of money for the drugs for a certain amount of time. While some are praising the effort, other experts say that because costs are coming down already, that it’s unclear whether that type of deal would really save the state money.
“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 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 (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.”
Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.
News outlets report on stories related to pharmaceutical pricing.
Carl Icahn is urging fellow shareholders to vote against the deal between the health insurer and the pharmacy-benefits firm.
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.
Currently, just three drugs exist to treat opioid use disorder: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Adherence to the drugs is typically low, and addiction treatment experts have long said medication assisted treatment is vastly underutilized.
The ruling essentially tightens the rules for what kind of testimony could be used against pharmaceutical companies being sued over allegations that their medications harm patients.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee wants Purdue Pharma, Mallinckrodt, and Insys Therapeutics to provide documents about their relationships with doctors and sales reps, among other things. Meanwhile, singer Demi Lovato speaks out about her addiction after being hospitalized for an overdose.
There has been a lot of fine print in all the price cutting talk from the pharmaceutical industry in recent weeks. For example, most targeted old products that no longer produce much revenue.
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.