Latest Morning Briefing Stories
Opinion writers weigh in on health care reform issues and other health topics.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) wants to direct his state to sell its own brand of certain generic prescription drugs, with the theory that increased competition will drive down prices. Experts, however, say that while the strategy is a good step, generics aren’t the primary problem.
Apart from prescription drug struggles, for the first time, Walgreens executives also seemed to acknowledge fallout from the acquisition of health insurer Aetna by rival CVS Health Corp. Other pharmaceutical news focuses on congressional drug pricing efforts, the ghosts of J.P. Morgan’s past, and a look ahead to 2020.
“The pharmacist is not supposed to be second guessing the medical necessity of the doctor’s prescription,” said Timothy Johnson, an attorney for Discount Drug Mart. Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart and others who have found themselves in the cross hairs over who was responsible for curbing the opioid crisis filed their own suit against providers.
The American Action Network, which received $2.5 million from PhRMA in 2018, derided House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug pricing plan as socialism. The group is trying to build support for the House Republicans’ plan, which would not allow price negotiation but does cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors on Medicare.
Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.
Read about the biggest pharmaceutical development and pricing stories from the past week in KHN’s Prescription Drug Watch roundup.
Advocates say the number of substance abuse programs serving teens afflicted by problems brought on by marijuana is insufficient to deal with the growing problem. Other public health news reports on the benefits of complaining, research on female athletes and dementia, a mysterious pneumonia in Asia, alcohol’s effect on AFib, the best milk for children, aging well, detecting cancer early, HIV outreach at church, new calorie labeling, and brain trauma studies.
The VA model involves a combination of regulation, negotiation, and a national formulary. The combined effect makes it possible for veterans to obtain medicines with either a low or, in some cases, no copayment. In other pharmaceutical news: “guided-missile” cancer treatments, psychedelic mushrooms, and distribution permits.
Two big issues — addressing surprise medical bills and high drug prices — have the chance to draw bipartisan deals even in this divided Congress. But as the 2020 election season ramps up into high gear, neither side wants the other to be able to claim a victory. “If we couldn’t come to a consensus in 2019, it’s hard to imagine for 2020,” Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) told Politico.
In an Eastern Kentucky region where opioid overdoses are twice the national average, a form of therapy comes from focusing on making and repairing dulcimers and guitars with skilled artisans. News on the crisis is from Georgia, as well.
Doctors are prescribing the drugs sparingly and patients only need to take them a week or two at a time. In a world where pricey million-dollar cancer drugs are king, drugmakers producing modest antibiotics are crashing just when the country needs them the most. In other pharmaceutical news: pay-to-delay deals, blockbuster treatments and a failed promise.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Raymond wrote in a note to investors, pointing out that the timing and impact are “literally identical to the increases taken last year.”
Other coverage of the opioid crisis reports on a Washington state lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, nationwide safe disposal instructions, addiction medicine training, overdoses spiking during the holidays, and treatment funds rising for 2020.
In the upcoming new year, states’ outside-the-box experiments to control drug prices will be put to the test. In other pharmaceutical news: an antibiotics crisis, price hikes from the past year, an uncommon form of dementia, the biopharma flops from 2019, and more.
In 2011, the FDA asked opioid-makers to pay for safety training for more than half the physicians prescribing the drugs, and to track the effectiveness of that training, as well as other measures, to reduce addiction, overdoses and deaths. But even when deficiencies in these efforts became obvious through the agency’s own review process, it failed to fix the flaws. Meanwhile, a new study finds opioid deaths rise when auto plants close.
It’s a congressional letdown that highlights the difficulty of legislating in a divided Washington and in taking on the powerful pharmaceutical industry. In other pharmaceutical news: doctors’ financial links to pharma, Medicaid approval for a sickle cell treatment, the Ebola vaccine, and electronic records.
The sweeping spending measure passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last week contains lots of wins for an industry that has publicly been under attack for the past year. The success shows how formidable the health care industry remains.
According to a report produced for Senate Democrats, the Consumer Product Safety Commission approved recalls in a way that actually generated more business for the company at fault. That’s because rather than getting new, safe products or refunds following a recall, consumers are often offered discount coupons for new products.
The North American trade pact is moving swiftly through Congress. The legislation is noticeably missing a provision that would have granted market exclusivity for biologics for 10 years. The removal of the protection was a big win for Democrats and a huge loss for the pharmaceutical industry. In other news: an Ebola vaccine, nerve drugs, biotech stocks, a subscription model for medication, and more.