ACHP Media Report: Pharmacy News – June 30, 2017

Want to subscribe to the Media Monitoring Report? Sign up by emailing us at

Drug cost conversation continues

Senate HELP committee postpones hearing
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate HELP committee has postponed the July hearing on high-priced drugs. Sen. Alexander noted Democrats used the hearing earlier this year to criticize Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare rather than discuss the issue. According to Alexander, the hearing will be rescheduled when fellow Senators can focus more closely on the issue.

FDA takes steps to prevent price gouging
Following through on FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s promise to address drug price gouging, the agency released a list of 200 drugs currently off patent without a generic competitor. It’s a step that could increase competition and prevent price gouging on drugs that seemingly jump in price overnight. By doing so, the FDA intends to make it more difficult for drugs that are off patent to jack up the price of a medication because they don’t face any competition.

Drug approvals outpace 2016
Six months into 2017, the FDA has already surpassed the number of drugs approved in all of 2016. In an effort to get more drugs to market faster and increase competition, the FDA has approved 23 drugs, including blockbusters, Ocrevus, used to treat multiple sclerosis, and Duplixent, used to treat atopic dermatitis.

Possibility of interchangeable biosimilar
During the annual Driving Insights to Action conference earlier this month, the FDA’s lead on biosimilars, Leah Christi, noted interchangeable biosimilars are likely to enter the market in the next two years. Being designated interchangeable allows the drug to be substituted for the reference product without prescriber approval. To date, nine companies have submitted 14 applications for interchangeable biosimilars.

Opioid epidemic

Mental health disorders linked to increased opioid use
In a study by researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the University of Michigan, individuals diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders were more likely prescribed an opioid. The study slated for online publication on July 5 in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine states that nearly 19 percent of the 38.6 million individuals with depression and anxiety have been prescribed two opioids during the year. Researchers concluded more than half of the 115 million opioid prescriptions written annually are for people suffering from anxiety and depression.

Efforts to address the epidemic
As the opioid epidemic continues to rage across the country, community leaders are working to address the issue. STAT has identified 12 potential game changers that could begin to bend the curve of the epidemic. From developing a vaccine to help heroin users stay off the drug to installing naloxone boxes at community organizations and treatment centers to revamping medical school curriculum, the approaches are experimental and innovative but could be a game changer in saving lives.

Opioid deaths to increase significantly
Opioid addiction and overdoses are projected to kill nearly 500,000 Americans over the next decade. Currently, 100 people die from opioid overdoses each day, and that number could grow to nearly 250 deaths. Predictions show the death toll increasing by at least 35 percent between 2015 and 2027. Experts are also concerned about the increased use of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. The sharp increase in use of these drugs has tripled between 2013 and 2015.

HHS pledges funding to treat addiction
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will award grants to community health centers totaling $195 million in an effort to increase access to mental health services, substance abuse and opioid addiction treatment. The grants will assist in increasing access to services, improving technology infrastructure and training needed staff. In addition, the grants will help increase access to medication assisted treatment (MAT), a method for addiction treatment that Dr. Price, HHS Secretary, questioned its effectiveness earlier this year.

Administration happenings

Trump nominates Surgeon General
President Trump has nominated Dr. Jerome Adams, current health commissioner of Indiana, as the next Surgeon General. Dr. Adams is an anesthesiologist and has focused his time on addressing the opioid epidemic and related issues, including the spread of HIV. If confirmed, Adams would be the second top health official in the new Administration with connections to Vice President Pence.

Opioid commission misses deadline
President Trump’s opioid commission has missed the deadline to provide a preliminary report outlining federal strategies to address the issue. Commission members note that they have compiled a list of federal resources and programs available, but there is need for additional time to develop the recommendations. No word on when the preliminary report will be available. The date for the final report, October 1, remains unchanged.