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Health Law Debate Deflects The Heat Away From Pharma

News outlets report on stories related to pharmaceutical pricing.

Morning Consult:
With Spotlight On Obamacare, Public’s Opinion Of Drugmakers Softens

Consumer perceptions of several major pharmaceutical companies have softened in recent months amid an industry push to counter public uproar over high drug prices, Morning Consult Brand Intelligence data show. Large drugmakers this spring have seen a decline in the the percentage of Americans who view them unfavorably, according to weekly national surveys of thousands of U.S. adults. (Reid, 6/5)

This Insulin Maker Is Running Out Of Money. Its Solution? Reality TV

The drug manufacturer MannKind has been burning through millions of dollars each month. It only has 3,000 patients taking its sole product, an inhalable form of insulin. It recently said it doesn’t have enough cash to get to the end of this year. So why, then, is the company sponsoring a reality TV show filmed here in this tropical resort town? … Don’t expect the competitions typical of the genre: No one got voted off the island (though one cast member dramatically quit the show), and no one competed for a prize. Their goal is to turn their health around, with the help of lessons on everything from reading nutritional labels to recognizing a safe range for blood sugar levels. (Robbins, 6/5)

A Drug Quintupled in Price. Now, Drug Industry Players Are Feuding Over the Windfall.

Amid public concern over spiking drug prices, a powerful middleman is suing a tiny drugmaker over unpaid rebates and fees. The maker calls the suit baseless; analysts say the suit offers a window into an opaque world. (Ornstein and Thomas, 6/1)

The Associated Press:
Insider Q&A: Drug Industry Learns To Listen To Patients

Drugmakers are finding they can improve how drug testing is conducted— and help their own bottom lines — by giving patients a voice before testing even begins. Pharmaceutical companies sometimes spend more than a decade trying to win approval for a new medicine, including running multiple rounds of tests on hundreds and even thousands of people. Now they are realizing that treating study participants better and listening to their concerns and insights can make the complicated process cheaper, produce results that are more accurate and help get drugs to market faster. (Johnson, 6/4)

AMA Will Vote On Requiring Drug Prices In Consumer Ads

In its latest bid to restrain pharmaceutical advertising, the American Medical Association will vote on a resolution to demand that drug makers disclose pricing in ads that are aimed at consumers.The proposal, which will be heard at the annual AMA meeting next week in Chicago, was made in response to concerns over rising drug costs and an unsuccessful bid by the medical organization to convince Congress to ban so-called direct-to-consumer advertising altogether. An AMA spokesman wrote us that this appears to be the first time AMA delegates will consider such a resolution. (Silverman, 6/6)

U.S. Could Save $825 Million From A Small Change In Immunotherapy Dosing, Study Says

Aflick of the prescriber’s pen could save $825 million a year on lung cancer care in the U.S. That’s the finding of a new study on the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab, marketed commercially as Keytruda by Merck. By switching to weight-based dosing — instead of a fixed dose of 200 mg — doctors could quickly reduce costs of the intravenous therapy without compromising its effectiveness, the study concludes. The finding could lead to changes in care for thousands of U.S. patients with lung cancer, which kills about 158,000 Americans a year. (Ross, 6/3)

Kaiser Health News:
Daylight On Diabetes Drugs: Nevada Bill Would Track Insulin Makers’ Profits

Patients notched a rare win over the pharmaceutical industry Monday when the Nevada Legislature revived a bill requiring insulin makers to disclose the profits they make on the life-sustaining drug. In a handful of other states, bills addressing drug prices have stalled. Many of the 1.25 million Americans who live with Type 1 diabetes cheered the legislative effort in Nevada as an important first step in their fight against skyrocketing costs of a drug on which their lives depend. The cost of insulin medications has steadily risen over the past decade by nearly 300 percent. (Kopp, 6/7)

The Wall Street Journal:
Study Questions Value Of Costly Cancer-Drug Combinations

A new study is stirring debate about whether the benefits of cancer drugs are worth their cost, particularly as drugmakers develop treatments that combine multiple pricey drugs. The study of about 4,800 women with an aggressive type of breast cancer found that adding Roche Holding AG’s drug Perjeta to the company’s older treatment Herceptin conferred a slight benefit versus Herceptin alone, after the women had undergone surgery to remove tumors. (Loftus, 6/5)

Spending On Cancer Drugs Is Forecast To Rise In The Single Digits

The growth in the price of cancer medicines in the U.S. averaged 3.6 percent last year, a drop from 4.7 percent in 2015, after accounting for rebates and discounts that drug makers paid to health insurers, according to a new report. Meanwhile, the plethora of new cancer drugs is projected to generate increased spending of 6 percent to 9 percent annually through 2021, when global costs are forecast to exceed $147 billion, which is in keeping with the nearly 9 percent compounded annual spending growth rate that was seen over the past five years, according to the market research arm of QuintilesIMS. (Silverman, 6/1)

More Health Plans Eye Deals For Drugs Based On Outcomes

As the cost of prescription drugs remains vexing, a new survey finds that more health plans are increasingly interested in paying for the highest-priced medicines based on patient outcomes. And the findings suggest that insurers are eager to exploit drug makers that are willing to strike such deals in order to win favorable insurance coverage. In these arrangements, a health plan may get an extra discount from a drug maker if a medicine does not help patients as much as expected, or a drug maker may get a credit toward a rebate provided to a health plan. The survey, released last week, found interest was particularly strong for hepatitis C and oncology drugs, although plans have started to use these arrangements for other types of drugs, as well. (Silverman, 6/1)

Roche’s Pricey New Breast-Cancer Combo Barely Beats Old Drug

Roche Holding’s new breast cancer combination therapy barely outperformed a current gold-standard drug for the disease — the company’s own decades-old Herceptin — in its latest study. The results, presented Monday in Chicago at the world’s largest gathering of cancer researchers, are a disappointment and probably won’t justify moving a majority of patients to Roche’s pricey new combo treatment, doctors say. Researchers had warned that it would be tough to top Herceptin, which revolutionized treatment for women with an aggressive type of breast cancer called HER2-positive after Roche introduced it in 1998. (Kresge, 6/6)

Failure To Warn: An Early Warning System For Drug Risks Falls Flat

In 2007, after a number of dangerous medicines were pulled off the market, Congress ordered the Food and Drug Administration to set up an early warning system to detect other harmful drugs before more people died. The FDA responded by creating a system called the Sentinel Initiative, which mines insurance data and medical records to identify possible risks. But a system that was touted as a revolutionary way to glean valuable information from electronic health records and protect patients has had little measurable impact, according to a STAT examination and interviews with drug safety experts. Ten years and $207 million later, critics question whether Sentinel can adequately identify risks involving drugs that are already in consumers’ medicine cabinets. (Kaplan, 6/6)

The Washington Post:
Before Price Gouging Law Takes Effect, Advocates Hunt For Evidence To Enforce It

Months before it takes effect, advocates are collecting ammunition to enforce Maryland’s new law against prescription drug- price gouging. The Maryland Citizens Health Initiative launched a website Sunday to collect examples of price increases that could potentially be used to build future cases against drug companies after the law takes effect in October. (Cox, 6/4)

The Wall Street Journal:
What’s Behind The Biotech Sector’s Rebound

Biotech stocks took a pounding in 2016 but have bounced back since, with a range of exchange-traded funds benefiting from the resurgence. The biotechnology sector harnesses biological processes to create technologies and products for a wide variety of challenges, from expanding crop sizes to treating disease. Pharmaceutical-focused firms are a major component of biotech funds, with names like Celgene Corp. and Gilead Sciences Inc. often among their top 10 holdings. (Cowan, 6/4)

Nevada Governor Is Willing To Sign Revised Diabetes Drug Pricing Bill

In a blow to the pharmaceutical industry, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval says he is willing to support revised legislation that is designed to contain the cost of diabetes drugs. The bill will require drug makers to report pricing histories, disclose costs, notify state officials and insurers in advance of price hikes above inflation, and report rebates paid to pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen that negotiate favorable insurance coverage. In addition, PBMs will also have to disclose rebates paid to health plans. (Silverman, 6/5)

The Associated Press:
Drug Price Cap Fight Intensifies As Issue Heads To Fall Ballot

Debate is heating up over an initiative headed to Ohio’s fall ballot that backers say is aimed at controlling drug prices. The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act is a citizen-initiated statute supported by the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation. It seeks to bar state agencies from buying drugs at prices higher than those paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which receives deep discounts. (6/4)

Kaiser Health News:
Many COPD Patients Struggle To Pay For Each Medicinal Breath

After a lifetime of smoking, Juanita Milton needs help breathing. She’s tethered to an oxygen tank 24/7 and uses two drug inhalers a day, including Spiriva, which she called “the really expensive one.” “If I can’t afford it, I won’t take it,” Milton said. (Tribble, 6/5)

Boston Globe:
Vertex Goes All-In On Its Effort To Conquer Cystic Fibrosis

Now comes the hard part for Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. After launching two drugs aimed at nearly 40 percent of the 75,000 patients worldwide who suffer from cystic fibrosis, the biotech is mounting an assault on a range of mutations causing the obstructive lung disease in the remaining patients. Until the Vertex medicines hit the market, there was no treatment for the life-threatening condition, which causes serious lung infections that can result in respiratory failure. (Wisman, 6/6)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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