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Latest Morning Briefing Stories

Hundreds Of Alzheimer’s Drugs Targeting Amyloids Have Crashed And Burned. Why Is Pharma Still Obsessed With Them?

KHN Morning Briefing

Drug after drug after drug that targeted a brain compound called beta amyloid have failed over the years. “We are running out of excuses” for why beta-amyloid treatments aren’t working, said Zaven Khachaturian, editor-in-chief of the medical journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. But drugmakers “keep trying, hoping that the path they are on is going to give blockbuster drugs.”

Transparency At Heart Of Recent Efforts To Curb High Drug Costs, But Economists Say That’s ‘Missing The Mark’

KHN Morning Briefing

Economists say that part of the reason price transparency won’t do much to the market is not only because consumers don’t pay list prices but they also don’t really choose which medication they’re buying. And, unlike with toothpaste or soda, it’s not easy for a consumer to switch brands of medicine. In other pharmaceutical news: pharmacy benefits managers will have their day getting grilled by lawmakers, how the NAFTA deal may hinge on intellectual property protections for pharma products, and more.

Curtain Pulled Back On Group Behind Deluge Of Public Comments Over HHS’ Proposal To End Rebate System

KHN Morning Briefing

More than 5,000 of the current 18,000 comments were made public this week, and nearly all of them support the proposal with very similar wording that matches a RetireSafe-sponsored form letter available at the website SubmitForChange.org. In other pharmaceutical news: Pfizer makes a gene-therapy deal, AbbVie is sued over its patent deals, and the FDA is taking steps to cut down on blood pressure medication recalls.

Catholic Church Has Given Green Light To Using Vaccines Derived From Aborted Fetal Cells, But One Family Is Still Suing Over Beliefs

KHN Morning Briefing

Experts offer an in-depth look at the belief system behind the Kentucky lawsuit filed by a family who didn’t vaccinate their son because of their religious beliefs. The Varicella vaccine, specifically, is derived from the cell lines of two fetuses that were electively aborted in the 1960s. “There are no further abortions that have occurred to continue these cell lines,” said Josh Williams, an assistant professor. Meanwhile, antivaccination activists are targeting parents on Facebook who recently lost a child with cruel taunts.

When Drug Costs Get Too High, Patients Are Skipping Doses Or Just Not Taking Medication

KHN Morning Briefing

Experts are worried this behavior could be extremely dangerous for the patients. “We have lots of treatments where if you don’t take them exactly as prescribed, you might be doing more harm than good,” said Stacie Dusetzina, a health policy researcher at Vanderbilt University. Other ways patients are trying to control costs are by asking for cheaper drugs from doctors or seeking out alternative therapies. Meanwhile, Ohio’s attorney general is suing UnitedHealth’s OptumRx unit alleging it overcharged the state for prescription drugs.

Senator Seeks Information On Patient Advocacy Group’s Financial Link To Opioid Makers

KHN Morning Briefing

“I remain concerned about the appearance of conflicts of interest by individuals associated with AAPM, including yourself, on committees and panels related to pain treatment and opioid prescribing that are convened throughout the federal government,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote to the American Academy of Pain Medicine’s president, Dr. Jainguo Cheng. In other news on the opioid epidemic: drugmaker face bankruptcy; investigation into Ohio hospital continues; doctors skeptical about marijuana’s role in curbing epidemic; and more.

Some Rough Waters May Upend Hopes For Smooth Sailing On Bipartisan Push To Lower Drug Prices

KHN Morning Briefing

Combating high drug costs has been universally looked at as one of the few bipartisan issues that might get through the divided Congress. But the cracks are already starting to show even when it comes to relatively small-scale bills. Meanwhile, lawmakers are calling pharmaceutical benefit manager executives to appear in Congress next month.

Questions Over Retrieving A Deceased Person’s Sperm Pit Grief-Stricken Families Against Medical Ethicists

KHN Morning Briefing

Families say the decision to retrieve the sperm of a loved one should be left to them, while doctors and ethicisits worry about the wide-ranging moral complications of starting a life that would otherwise not exist if not for medical technology. In other public health news: eating out while being overweight, medical devices, mental health, parenting, the immune system, infant tongue-ties, exercising, and more.

Insurance Giant UnitedHealthcare Will Require All New Employer-Sponsored Health Plans To Pass Drug Discounts To Consumers

KHN Morning Briefing

Pharmacy benefit managers typically negotiate rebates from pharmaceutical companies to help offset the high initial prices set for many drugs. But those discounts rarely flow directly to consumers. The rebate system has come under intense scrutiny as of late as lawmakers take aim at high drug prices and pharma companies point the blame elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee plans to call executives from five pharmacy benefit managers–the middlemen who operate within the rebate system–to testify in front of Congress next month.

Director Of NIH’s Cancer Center Tapped As Acting FDA Chief Following Gottlieb’s Surprise Resignation

KHN Morning Briefing

Dr. Norman E. (Ned) Sharpless’ work as the director of the National Cancer Institute has focused on the relationship between aging and cancer, and the development of new treatments for melanoma, lung cancer and breast cancer. Although Sharpless has been mentioned as a possible successor to departing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said this is a temporary appointment and the search for a permanent commissioner is underway.

Inside Trump’s $4.75 Trillion Budget: Inflated Economic Expectations, Sharp Cuts To Safety Net Programs, Red Meat For His Base

KHN Morning Briefing

President Donald Trump released his $4.75 trillion budget, which included a big increase in military spending and deep cuts to other domestic spending. The presidential budget is all but dead-on-arrival on Capitol Hill and can be viewed more as a symbolic roadmap for priorities than a realistic spending plan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s cuts “cruel and shortsighted … a roadmap to a sicker, weaker America,” while other Democrats were also quick to condemn the proposal.

‘The Wheels Of Justice Will Continue To Grind’ Forward: Okla. Judge Declines Request To Postpone Major Opioid Trial

KHN Morning Briefing

Oklahoma is seeking payments that could exceed $1 billion from drugmakers to cover the costs of coping with the drug crisis. While much of the nation’s attention has been focused on the massive, consolidated Ohio trial, the Oklahoma case will actually be the first one to see its day in court. Meanwhile, Purdue Pharma defends the timing on its possible decision to file for bankruptcy.

Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli Is Diligently At Work On A Big Second Act From His Prison Cell

KHN Morning Briefing

With the help of a contraband smartphone, disgraced pharma executive Martin Shkreli is still calling the shots at Phoenixus AG, the drug company that used to be called Turing Pharmaceuticals AG. The Wall Street Journal goes inside the prison walls to see just what kind of life Shkreli is leading. In other pharmaceutical news: in a drug pricing hearing, Republicans warn against lawmakers undermining innovation; FDA issues a draft on naming features for biosimilar medicines; Anthem promises more transparency with its new PBM; and more.

At Meeting Of Key Medicare Advisers, Attendees Ponder: What Can Medicare Learn From Major League Baseball?

KHN Morning Briefing

Members of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met to discuss ways to curb high drug prices in Medicare Part B, the portion of Medicare that pays for drugs administered in a doctor’s office. The commission, which is made up of economists, doctors, and various other health policy experts, is not well-known outside of D.C., but their suggestions carry a lot of weight with lawmakers who are looking to improve Medicare.