Weekend Update

Congress is in session this week as the Hill’s Floor Action blog details. The President will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday. Federal News Radio reports that the White House will be delaying the release of its Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal until early March notwithstanding the legal requirement that it be released next Monday February 3.

The New York Times today reported on Medicare’s efforts to crack down on health care provider fraud in the Medicare program.  

In a related action, the Obama administration this month scrapped a policy that broadly prohibited the release of federal data showing how much Medicare paid individual doctors each year. The administration said it would consider releasing payment data in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

This change, which was driven by a successful Wall Street Journal lawsuit, will take effect on March 18, The American Medical Association is not amused.

The FEHBlog remains fascinated by prescription drug pricing. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that drug manufacturers are starting to wade back into the antibiotic development business which certainly is good news. Here’s the catch according to the article:

Unlike a drug to treat a chronic condition, antibiotics are usually taken for a week or two, limiting sales. The most commonly prescribed ones, including azithromycin and amoxicillin, are now available as low-cost generics.
Charging higher prices could help spur development. In a recent paper in Nature, Drs. Spellberg and Rex argue a hypothetical new drug to treat Acinetobacter baumannii, a cause of hospital-acquired infections, could offer value for health-care providers even if priced at as much as $30,000 a course.
U.S. health insurers Aetna and Cigna declined to comment on the hypothetical price, but the U.K.’s pricing-advisory body NICE already recommends the use of two cancer drugs that cost more relative to the additional lifespan they offer patients.
While most big drug makers continue to invest elsewhere, some smaller companies are stepping into the antibiotics breach. Small and medium-size companies are now responsible for 73% of antibiotics in development, according to BioPharma statistics.