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Latest Morning Briefing Stories

UnitedHealth Reverses Course, Approves Coverage For $2.1 Million Gene Therapy For Family Racing Against Clock

KHN Morning Briefing

Lauren Sullivan had been trying to appeal UnitedHealth’s initial refusal of the drug for her 21-month-old daughter, Daryn. The girl was running out of time to receive the treatment before her second birthday in October, when the drug has to be administered. The company also approved claims for three other patients. In other news, UnitedHealth beats expectations for the quarter, prompting company to boost earnings guidance.

People Keep Using Car Sticker Analogy To Argue For Drug Price Transparency. Here’s Why The Comparison Doesn’t Work.

KHN Morning Briefing

The common comparison of having increased transparency in drug pricing to forcing car companies to add sticker prices is flawed because it overstates the usefulness of the knowledge by implying that patients have much more power to act — to shop around or negotiate — than they actually do. In other pharmaceutical news: lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, money for a biotech firm, and a CBO projection on the Senate’s drug pricing bill.

Sanders Calls On Candidates To Reject Donations From Health Industry: ‘You Can’t Change A Corrupt System By Taking Its Money’

KHN Morning Briefing

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) invited his fellow presidential candidates to join him in refusing to accept contributions over $200 from political action committees, lobbyists and executives of health insurance and drug companies. But an ABC News review of FEC records identified at least three contributions of more than $200 from two individual donors who could be considered executives at companies in those fields.

‘If You Like Your Plan … You Can Keep It’: Biden’s Blast-From-The-Past Promise Highlights Pros, Pitfalls Of His Health Strategy

KHN Morning Briefing

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a similar vow to voters at an AARP/Des Moines Register forum that then-President Barack Obama made as he was touting the health law. The echo from years past highlights Biden’s strategy of building upon the system already in place that has only grown in popularity in recent years. But it could put him out of step with the mood of the party. “Politically, Biden is trapped by his old job,” said Scott Jennings, an appointee in former President George W. Bush’s administration.

In Plan To Help America’s Seniors, Amy Klobuchar Addresses Alzheimer’s, Drug Costs And Long-Term Care

KHN Morning Briefing

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a 2020 hopeful, announced her proposal ahead of an AARP/Des Moines Register forum in Des Moines. “I believe we owe it to our seniors to make sure they have the care and support they need as they get older, and as president, I will prioritize tackling Alzheimer’s, strengthening health care and retirement security, and reducing prescription drug costs,” Klobuchar said.

Advocates Worry Trump Will Use Drop In Opioid Deaths As Winning Talking Point When Reality Is More Nuanced

KHN Morning Briefing

“They’re going to make the political argument that they’re winning,” said Regina LaBelle, the former chief of staff for the Office of National Drug Control Policy during the Obama administration. “Which they can say, since deaths are down. But I get concerned that we’re going to take our eye off the ball on the broader issue of addiction.” Meanwhile, in a battle over Philadelphia’s safe injection sites, supporters of the facilities get a boost from other states.

PBMs Breathe Sigh Of Relief As Trump Kills Drug Rebate Proposal And Pharma Companies Become Next Likely Target

KHN Morning Briefing

President Donald Trump’s drug pricing strategy received its second major blow this week on the announcement that the proposal to eliminate drug rebates in Medicare and Medicaid plans will be withdrawn. In January, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said that the proposal had “the potential to be the most significant change in how Americans’ drugs are priced at the pharmacy counter, ever.” But the changes met significant pushback from insurers and hospitals who worried the proposal wouldn’t force drugmakers to lower prices and would likely see higher profit margins from it. Looking forward, Trump will be left considering ideas that are more popular with progressives than his party.

Family Races Against Ticking Clock To Get Coverage Approval For $2.1M Gene Therapy

KHN Morning Briefing

A pricey treatment offered hope to a family with a daughter with a rare defective gene that causes spinal muscular atrophy. The therapy must be administered before the age of 2, but the family is locked in a fight with its insurance company over coverage. In other pharmaceutical news: the use of PrEP in the fight against AIDS, Massachusetts’ governor’s drug plan, clinical trial data, and more.

Trump Administration Lacks Legal Authority To Force Drugmakers To Include Prices In Ads, Judge Rules

KHN Morning Briefing

“That policy very well could be an effective tool in halting the rising cost of prescription drugs,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta wrote. “But no matter how vexing the problem of spiraling drug costs may be, HHS cannot do more than what Congress has authorized. The responsibility rests with Congress to act in the first instance.” The rule was one of the administration’s signature proposals to tackle high drug prices, and comes as a blow to President Donald Trump.