ACHP Media Report: Pharmacy News – July 21, 2017

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ACHP in the News: A lack of competition plays a central role in soaring drug costs, even among generic treatments. ACHP President and CEO Ceci Connolly explains that a lack of competition has led to arbitrary price increases and emphasizes that the generics market must be competitive in order to curb rising costs.


Drug cost conversation continues

Proposed $900 million 340B cuts worry hospitals
Hospital officials are concerned CMS won’t distribute $900 million in savings from cuts to the 340B drug discount program fairly. Last week, CMS proposed to pay hospitals 22.5 percent less than the average sales price for drugs in the federal program and redistribute the savings through increased Medicare payments to participating hospitals. However, 340B hospitals service a disproportionate share of low-income patients and fear the diverted funds will not help the intended population.

Sanofi denies rejecting Army’s request for fair Zika vaccine price
In a series of letters to select Senators and the U.S. Army, drugmaker Sanofi pushed back against claims that it rejected fair pricing for a Zika vaccine that the company is developing with taxpayer dollars. Past reports claimed Sanofi refused a fair pricing commitment when discussing licensure with the Army, who provided a $43 million grant to develop the vaccine. Sanofi asserts it never rejected a fair pricing proposal, but simply believes it is premature to discuss such a provision since the drug is still in development. Some worry the vaccine could become too expensive for many Americans if the Army awards Sanofi a license without a guaranteed fair price.

Tobacco industry criticized for shift to pharmaceutical-like products
Health researchers are accusing the tobacco industry of trying to hook consumers on alternative but dangerous nicotine products. A research team at the University of California, San Francisco calls the tobacco industry’s focus on smoking-cessation and long-term nicotine maintenance products the “pharmaceuticalization” of the industry. The team says the tobacco industry’s new efforts confuse consumers, complicate the regulatory process and legitimize the industry as a health care partner.


Opioid epidemic

Missouri joins all other states with new drug-monitoring program
Via executive order, Gov. Eric Greitens has implemented a prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri. Prior to the order, Missouri was been the last state without such a program. Prescription drug monitoring is used to help prevent prescription drug abuse by identifying doctor shopping. The Missouri state legislature had previously considered passing a bill authorizing such a program, but lawmakers voted down the legislation due to privacy concerns about medical record storage.

Doctors reevaluate treatment in wave of opioid-dependent newborns
The number of drug-dependent newborns grew almost fivefold from 2003 to 2012, causing doctors to come up with a new approach for treatment. Infants born with a drug dependency are often separated from their mothers and transported to specialized medical centers in order for treatment. Many new mothers struggling with addiction cannot afford travel or housing to visit their children. Research shows babies in withdrawal need less medicine and time in intensive care when mothers are nearby. As a result, some hospitals are moving to a model where mothers and their babies stay in the same room outside of the NICU.


FDA Happenings

New hiring program at FDA
The FDA will be launching  a hiring pilot program designed to help the agency fill vacancies, including 500 drug center positions. The goal is to give the agency’s scientific leadership more authority to hire so it’s easier to recruit employees with specialized expertise.

FDA addresses high drug costs at open stakeholder meeting
At a FDA open stakeholder meeting, health policy specialists pushed regulators to close loops that allow drugmakers to hamper competition. Health care experts recommended: scaling back the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies program, a patent system often used by brand name developers to lock out generic competition; ending pay-for-delay settlements; and limiting petitions that delay generics development. The move follows recent steps by the FDA to address the drug pricing crisis, including posting a list of branded drugs that are not patent protected and a pledge to end the backlog of orphan drug requests.