Welcome to Overnight Health Care, sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.
It’s the TGIF edition. Today, we had some big Title X news and the House couldn’t pass the farm bill after a conservative revolt over immigration. The stunner left Democrats feeling pretty good about preventing conservatives from enacting part of their welfare reform agenda and left centrist Republicans seeing new momentum for a bill to protect Dreamers.
But first up, today’s big health care news.
The Trump administration on Friday announced plans to put new abortion restrictions on federally funded family planning clinics. The changes, which administration officials announced in a call with anti-abortion groups Friday, are aimed at chipping away at Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.
Under the regs, which were sent to the Office of Management and Budget Thursday, Title X Family Planning clinics will:
- No longer be able to refer patients for abortions
- No longer be required to tell patients that abortion is an option
- No longer be co-located with abortion clinics
Why it matters: Planned Parenthood told reporters in a press call Friday it wouldn’t follow the new rules, meaning it won’t be able to participate in the program in the future. The organization receives about $50 million per year through the $286 million program, which providers birth control and other services to low-income women and men.
What’s next: After a review by the OMB, the regs will be published in the Federal Register, and the public will have 60 days to comment before they take effect.
The bigger picture: Defunding Planned Parenthood is one of the Trump administration’s biggest priorities, and it’s looking for ways to do it since Congress doesn’t have enough votes to do it legislatively. However, Planned Parenthood still gets millions of dollars every year from Medicaid.
We break it all down here.
Sponsored content – Pharmaceutical Care Management Association
Where PBM tools are used, a new report shows net spending – including the combined impact of drug prices, generic vs. brand drug use, and the overall number of prescriptions – declined by 2.1% last year. Spending increased in 2017 through channels not managed by PBMs. Learn how PBMs are part of the solution to reducing Rx costs at DrugBenefitSolutions.com.
A quick look at what’s on tap next week:
President Trump’s choice for Veterans Affairs Secretary: none of the above. Despite a handful of names floated from the White House in recent weeks, Trump today said he will tap Robert Wilkie, the current interim VA Secretary, to be the permanent head of the department.
In typical Trump fashion, the announcement came during a speech about another topic, prison reform, and was a complete surprise to Wilkie, who was in the audience.
“He doesn’t know this yet,” Trump said. “Sorry to ruin the surprise.”
Wilkie will face the challenge of taking over a sprawling agency that has struggled to move past a scandal surrounding wait times for patients at VA medical centers. The agency also just signed a massive contract with Cerner to modernize its electronic health records.
He must also grapple with a fierce partisan battle over whether to privatize VA health-care services that resulted in the ouster of the previous secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinTrump donates quarterly salary to Department of Veterans Affairs New Yorker cover shows Trump playing golf in ‘the swamp’ Gates on Trump’s treatment of Cabinet: ‘That’s not the way I would deal with people’ MORE.
One of the buzzier aspects of Trump’s drug pricing plan: Let the FDA decide if list prices of drugs should be included in advertisements.
A group of five senators sent a letter to eight pharmaceutical companies urging them to make that move quickly and voluntarily.
Key quote: “As an honest first step to the American public, we urge you to immediately and voluntarily commit to transparency and disclose the price of your prescription drugs in direct-to-consumer advertisements,” their letter to drug companies says.
Context: While pharmaceutical companies have to include warnings and side effects for drugs in television advertisements, they currently do not have to include prices.
Transparency is intrinsic in the debate over drug pricing, but not everyone believes this move to let the public know a drug’s list price is beneficial.
Some have voiced concerns that including the list price of drugs could confuse consumers or deter them from purchasing the product, since the price at a pharmacy is often much lower if the individual has health insurance.
At an event with reporters Tuesday, Lori Reilly, an executive vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), raised the issue of forcing companies to include the price of drugs in ads, arguing “it’s an open question about whether or not it’s constitutional.”
Democrats are pressing Trump to help lower the cost of an opioid reversal drug.
A group of House Democrats wants the Trump administration to use federal authority to lower the price of naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses.
In a letter to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, the Democrats, led by Reps. Lloyd Doggett (Texas) and Peter Welch (Vt.), said manufacturers of naloxone are raising prices simply because there’s high demand for the lifesaving drug.
“Federal agencies have the authority to use patented inventions … when in the interest of the public good,” the lawmakers wrote. “The current opioid crisis requires invoking this provision.”
The timing: The letter comes as the Trump administration is embarking on a push to reduce the prices of prescription drugs, which includes publicly calling out companies that raise prices without justification.
The CDC is going to join the fight against Ebola in Africa.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is preparing to deploy staffers to several cities and towns deep in the Congolese jungle amid a new Ebola outbreak that has claimed at least two dozen lives.
The CDC maintains an office in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo, about 350 miles from the epicenter of the outbreak. The dozen or so staffers who work in that office are likely to deploy to the hot zone once they receive a formal invite from Congo’s health ministry.
New worries: The news comes one day after health officials reported the first Ebola case in a major Congolese city, a troubling shift for the outbreak.
Sponsored content – Pharmaceutical Care Management Association
Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) have outlined several policy solutions to ensure patients receive opioid prescriptions when safe and medically appropriate. One important solution would be requiring e-prescribing of controlled substances in Medicare (S. 2460 / H.R. 3528, the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act). A new study by the Opioid Safety Alliance finds this could save taxpayers $13 billion over 10 years.
What we’re reading
Amgen’s new migraine drug will cost 30 percent less than Wall Street expected (Stat)
The health care industry is awash in cash (Axios)
WHO raises Ebola health risk to ‘very high’ in DR Congo, not yet international emergency (CNN)
State by state
CMS rejects Ohio’s individual mandate waiver (Modern Healthcare)
All Children’s Hospital now under federal review (Tampa Bay Times)
At St. Luke’s in Houston, patients suffer as a renowned heart transplant program loses its luster (ProPublica and The Houston Chronicle)