ACHP Media Monitoring Report: March 17, 2017

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Trump selects leader for FDA
President Trump has selected Scott Gottlieb to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Gottlieb has experience as a practicing physician, government health policy advisor, fellow at a conservative think tank and health information technology advisor for HHS in the Obama administration. According to Eric Sagonowsky of FiercePharma, both the pharmaceutical industry and analysts support Trump’s choice.

Wyden takes on PBMs
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced legislation requiring pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to disclose the rebate and discount amounts they receive from drug companies. The legislation aims to reveal what portion of savings health plans actually receive from PBM negotiated savings. It also requires that the Department of Health and Human Services establish a minimum percentage of rebates and discounts. Jon Reid of the Morning Consult notes the legislation currently lacks bipartisan support.

Role of law enforcement changes in opioid epidemic
More than 33,000 deaths were attributed to opioid overdose in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than those killed in car accidents. Deaths from heroin overdoses also increased, exceeding the number of deaths from gun violence. As drug-related deaths rise, law enforcement officials in many communities are shifting their focus from arresting individuals to getting them into treatment. Katie Zezima of the Washington Post reports.

Hospitals forced to choose between drugs
Pharmacy costs continue to increase at an annual rate of 10 to 20 percent, forcing hospitals to make decisions on whether to allow clinicians to prescribe newer, more expensive therapies. In an effort to rein in costs, hospitals are restricting formularies and reviewing coverage requests to determine if there is clinical justification for using the drug rather than a less expensive medication that is already covered. While waiting for legislation to address drug pricing, Casey Ross of STAT News+ explains that hospital pharmacies are working to obtain better drug prices through leveraging group purchasing and encouraging physicians to change their prescribing patterns.

Study: Promising results for Repatha
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine finds that Repatha, a drug used to treat high cholesterol, drastically lowers LDL cholesterol when paired with a statin. The drug also reduces the risk of death from a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular-related condition by 20 percent. Given the $14,000 per year price for the drug, critics have said the outcomes ought to be greater. While results are promising, Liz Szabo of Kaiser Health News points out physicians are likely to only prescribe Repatha to a handful of high-risk patients.

California lawmakers take on drug transparency, again
State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Wes Covina, CA) has introduced legislation that will require pharmaceutical companies to provide 90-day notice before significant drug price increases and health plans to release information on drug purchasing trends. Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times has the story.