TGIF

Greetings from Amtrak.

Following up on Wednesday’s post, Senators Lankford and Heitkamp yesterday announced a hearing to be held on Thursday July 26 to discuss “The Challenges and Opportunities of the Proposed Government Reorganization on OPM and GSA.”  The FEHBlog will be tuning in.

A lot has been happening on the prescription drug front

  • Per the Wall Street Journal, two major manufacturers Merck and Novartis have joined Pfizer in heeding the Administration’s request that they better control their pricing. Good for them.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) is encouraging drug manufacturers to make efforts to convert appropriate generic prescription drugs to over the counter drugs. The difference between the two is that prescription drugs requires a doctor’s supervision usually for safety reasons. 
  • The FDA also has released a Biosimilars Action Plan.  Biosimilars are generic, lower cost versions of specialty drugs. The Plan explains that to date the FDA has approved 11 biosimilars, including five in 2017 and one of those was to treat cancer.  “As the U.S. market continues to expand and evolve, economies of scale should allow biosimilars to pass on more savings to payors and, in turn, patients. Prices should continue to fall as markets become more competitive.” The Plan explains the steps that the agency is taking to assist biosimilar development and approval. 
  • The FDA also announced yesterday the formation of a workgroup to consider importing prescription drugs into the United States for the purpose of improving price competition on sole source prescription and generic drugs. 
  • Healthcare Finance reports on public comments, particularly from the AMA and AHIP, on the President’s blueprint to better control drug prices. 
  • Finally Reuters reports that the Office of Management and Budget is reviewing a proposed HHS rule that likely would impact the use of prescription drug manufacturer rebates with the Medicare, Medicaid, Indian Health Service and other public federal health care programs, but not the FEHBP. 
Healthcare Informatics discusses a recent Cryptonite report on health care directed cyberattacks in the first half of 2018. 

The report finds ransomware attacks actually reversed course in 2018 and trends lower in the first half of this year. While ransomware attacks rose in 2017, with an 89 percent increase in the frequency of reported attacks, these attacks as major IT/hacking data breach events impacting over 500 patient records dropped from 19 major data breaches in the first half of 2017 (the comparison period) to 8 major data breaches in the first half of 2018, marking a decrease of 57 percent.

Ransomware attacks reported as a percent of major IT/hacking data breach events impacting over 500 patient records dropped to 13.56 percent in the first six months of 2018, the report states. This metric peaked in the first half of 2017, at 30 percent, and then has declined in the two subsequent periods, dropping to 22 percent in the second half of 2017.

The report authors credit this drop to healthcare organizations adding micro-segmentation to networks, as well as specialized software to address ransomware threats. In the largest hospitals, new Zero Trust technologies have been added to the existing mix of defense in depth technologies to expand and harden the defensive perimeters, the report states.

The report authors also note that this data appears to be consistent with other sources. Kaspersky Lab recently found that the total number of ransomware events decreased by approximately 30 percent from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018, the report notes. “The Kaspersky report notes that ransomware attackers are searching for more profitable activities such as cryptojacking. Per Kaspersky, they have found that ransomware is ‘rapidly vanishing,’ and that cryptocurrency mining is starting to take its place,” the Cryptonite report authors wrote.

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