Weekend update / Miscellany

  • On Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, will replace Robert Kolodner, MD, as National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. This position, which President Bush created by an executive order, was codified by the stimulus act. Dr. Blumenthal is a Harvard medical professor and the director of the Institute for Health Policy at The Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners HealthCare System in Boston. According to a report in Health Information Technology News, Dr. Blumenthal’s nomination was well received by industry representatives, and Dr. Kolodner is expected to return to work at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
  • While on the topic of health information technology, Government HIT.com reports that

    The stimulus law’s incentives for providers to adopt health information technology will double the rate of e-prescribing and result in a $22 billion reduction in drug and medical costs in the next decade, according to a study commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. If the study’s authors at consulting firm Visante are correct, the e-prescribing savings alone will more than pay for the $19 billion in adoption incentives and other health IT promotion activities required under the stimulus law.

  • The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a hearing next week on the President’s nomination of John Berry to serve as OPM Director. The hearing will be held on March 26 at 2:30 pm.
  • First Databank announced that on March 17 that the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts has approved a proposed settlement of the average wholesale price (“AWP”) rigging class action against itself and McKesson. (The court is considering a separate settlement agreement involving McKesson). Prescription benefit managers (“PBMs”) often use the AWP to set prices for its health plan customers. First Databank publishes the AWP schedule. Under the settlement and as a result of separate voluntary action by First Databank, described in the announcement, the company will roll bank the AWPs on thousands of prescription drugs in about six months and stop publishing the AWP schedule in two years. Prescription benefit managers now will seek to renegotiate prices with their customers — both health plans and pharmacies.