Tuesday Tidbits

Here’s a link to the testimony from today’s Senate Finance Committee hearing on prescription drug prices at which HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified.

Tomorrow morning at 10 am, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing at which OMB Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert will testify about the President’s reorganization plan. Last week, the FEHBlog linked to a commentary from Federal News Radio about how that plan handles OPM. The author of that piece had a follow up article which you can read at this link.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday offered an interview with the new Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Dr. Robert Redfield. Dr. Redfield plans to “address two of the most common ways people take their lives: substance abuse and firearms,” in addition to his agency’s other public health responsibilities.

Noting that the most common means of suicide is firearms, he said the CDC recently expanded the number of states in which it tracks violent deaths, and would conduct research into gun violence if Congress funds it. “We’re authorized to do it,” he said. “We just need a funding mechanism.” 

Dr. Redfield said the CDC is also stepping up its efforts to combat opioid abuse, another common factor behind suicide and one of his top priorities for the agency. “We’re going to continue to expand our efforts,” he said, including developing guidelines for prescribing opioids for acute pain and using a new system that can track opioid overdoses in a timely way using emergency-department data. 

The freshest opioid data used to be months old, Dr. Redfield said. Now, “we’re going to be able to track this epidemic in real time, which I think is really important to be able to respond.”

In another interesting development, Fortune Magazine reports on a venture capital fund called the Dementia Discovery Fund which “makes early stage venture capital investments to develop novel disease-modifying therapeutics for all forms of dementia.”  The DDF completed its initial investor fund raising  of $350 million this week.  AARP, United Healthcare, Quest Diagnostics invested $75 million and Bill Gates invested $50 million. Other initial investors included the NFL Players Association and many prescription drug manufacturers. Hopes springs eternal.