Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care.
Moderate Democrats want additional drug pricing votes, STD rates hit a record high, Montana is banning the sale of e-cigarette flavors, and a new report shows the cost of drug price hikes.
We’ll start with the latest on drug prices…
Drug price hikes cost US billions, report finds
Drug companies raised prices on seven popular drugs during 2017 and 2018 without clinical evidence that the drugs had been improved in any way, according to a new report.
The increases cost patients and insurers more than $5 billion, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) found in its report. None of the drugs examined showed evidence of improved safety or effectiveness, the analysis found.
The report looked at the seven top-selling drugs by sales revenue that had price increases of more than two times inflation, as measured by the medical consumer price index.
The culprits, and how much they added to drug spending over two years:
- Humira: $1.9 billion
- Rituxan: $806 million
- Lyrica: $688 million
- Truvada: $550 million
- Neulasta: $489 million
- Cialis: $403 million
- Tecfidera: $313 million
Read more here.
In other drug pricing news…
Blue Dog Dems call for more votes on bipartisan drug pricing bills
The moderate Blue Dog Democrats are calling on House Democratic leaders to hold standalone votes on several smaller, bipartisan drug pricing bills, not just the sweeping measure put forward by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi hits back at Trump over letter: ‘Only the latest attempt to cover up his betrayal of our democracy’ Murkowski warns against rushing to conclusions on Trump impeachment Turkey says it will cross into Syria ‘shortly,’ issues warning to Kurdish fighters MORE (D-Calif.).
The Blue Dogs also want votes on bills to encourage competition from cheaper generic drugs, such as:
- The Creates Act to crack down on brand-name drug companies blocking cheaper generics from coming to market.
- “Pay for delay” legislation to prevent brand-name drug companies from paying generic companies to delay introducing competition.
The bigger picture: The Blue Dogs are not objecting to Pelosi’s signature legislation at this point. But they also want to have some bipartisan wins, and they think smaller measures are more likely to be signed into law.
STD rates hit record high in 2018
Rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) reached a record high in 2018, resulting in more babies born with syphilis, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Combined cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia increased for the fifth consecutive year, partly due to cuts to STD programs at the state and local levels and decreased condom use among young people and gay and bisexual men, the CDC said. STD rates were highest in southern states including Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, and rural areas like Alaska and South Dakota.
More than 1,306 babies were born with syphilis last year, a 40 percent increase from 2017. That parallels with an increase in syphilis among women of childbearing age.
Money issues: The reasons vary, but the most common come down to money.
Many STD clinics that were effective at treating diseases closed during the 2007-2009 recession and never reopened. Local health departments are also increasingly short-staffed. If state governments are strapped for money, public health funds are often the first to be cut.
Push for more funding: Public health groups have sounded the alarm on increasing STD rates for years. The National Coalition of STD Directors is urging Congress to increase funding for STD prevention services by $70 million, calling it the “bare minimum” it will take the CDC to support an effective response to an ongoing public health crisis. The government funding bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House included an increase in funding for STD services, but it’s unclear if the Senate bill will follow suit.
Read more here
Montana to temporarily ban e-cigarette sales
Montana is placing a temporary ban on the sale of e-cigarette flavors in the wake of rising youth vaping addictions and a vaping-related lung disease linked to at least 18 deaths nationwide.
Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockOvernight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Drug price hikes cost US billions, report finds | Blue Dog Dems call for more votes on drug pricing bills | STD rates hit record high in 2018 Montana to temporarily ban e-cigarette sales Trump trails Bullock in Montana but leads other top 2020 Democrats MORE (D), who is also a 2020 presidential candidate, said the ban will take effect Oct. 22, and will last for four months to give officials time to fully investigate the cause of the disease.
“Young Montanans are using e-cigarettes at an alarming rate, while officials investigate the possible causes of a national outbreak of e-cigarette-related injury and death, leaving us at a crossroads,” Bullock said in a statement. “Today, I choose action.”
The ban includes the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products, including flavored nicotine, THC, and CBD vaping products, in stores and online.
Read more here.
CEO of drug industry lobbying group announces retirement
The head of the Biotech Innovation Organization (BIO) will leave the helm of the biotechnology trade group at a critical time for the industry.
BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood announced on Tuesday that he will step down at the end of 2020, Politico first reported.
Greenwood has led the drug industry group for 15 years and leaves at a time of increased pressure on Congress and the White House to act on high prescription prices.
“The pharmaceutical industry is at a reputational bottom,” Greenwood told Politico.
The bigger picture: The departure comes as the pharmaceutical industry faces threats from Congress and from the Trump administration, though what legislation on drug prices can actually make it across the finish line remains unclear.
Read more here.
What we’re reading
What we know about the mysterious vaping-linked illness and deaths (The Washington Post)
Bernie SandersBernie SandersBudowsky: Biden and Warren at POTUS Rubicon Sanders says he’ll slow down pace on campaign trail after heart attack Small-dollar donors reshape Democratic race MORE‘ heart attack likely known days before campaign disclosed it (Bloomberg)
AbbVie, Bristol-Myers among patient advocacy groups’ big backers (Bloomberg Government)
State by state
Michigan wants to save $40 million by cutting PBMs out of Medicaid (Modern Healthcare)
Bronx teen confirmed as first New Yorker to die of vaping-related illness (The New York Post)
From The Hill’s opinion section
The FDA should release its data on youth use of tobacco
California was a paid leave pioneer — now it’s time for Congress to act
The surgeon general is right about marijuana and its risks