Thursday Miscellany

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

From the COVID-19 front —

  • Politico reports that “Johnson & Johnson filed Thursday for emergency use authorization [“EUA”] of its single-dose coronavirus vaccine, readying for a pivotal third option in the battle to immunize hundreds of millions of Americans.” This is the single dose vaccine that can be stored in regular pharmacy refrigerators. Following the same pattern as the first two EUA applications for COVID-19 vaccines, the Food and Drug Administration has set an advisory committee hearing on the Johnson & Johnson EUA for February 26. This indicates that the FDA will approve the application on February 28 / this month. That is very good news.
  • Healthcare coaching service TrestleTree has made available its useful “State-by-State COVID-19 Vaccination Access Guide.” Muchos gracias.
  • The American Hospital Association (AHA), American Medical Association (AMA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) released a [joint] public service announcement (PSA) today urging the American public to get the COVID-19 vaccination when it is their turn. 
  • Reuters reports that “Almost all people previously infected with COVID-19 have high levels of antibodies for at least six months that are likely to protect them from reinfection with the disease, results of a major UK study showed on Wednesday. Scientists said the study, which measured levels of previous COVID-19 infection in populations across Britain, as well as how long antibodies persisted in those infected, should provide some reassurance that swift cases of reinfection will be rare.”

From Capitol Hill, CBS News informs us that “The Senate is expected to vote on a budget resolution sometime before the weekend, an important step to passing President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal through the process of reconciliation, which allows legislation to pass with only a simple majority instead of the typical 60-vote threshold.  But before there can be a final vote on the resolution, Republicans are forcing Democrats to go on the record with a series of votes on a slew of amendments in a politically painful process known as a “vote-a-rama.” Bloomberg adds that this afternoon, “[t]he Senate backed by 99-1 a non-binding call to oppose stimulus checks going to “upper-income taxpayers” — one of a series of messaging votes the chamber is taking in a complex process of preparing President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan for passage through Congress.”

Health Payer Intelligence tells us about health plan trade association efforts to convince the Biden Administration to undo certain Trump Administration actions.

In healthcare corporate news, Healthcare Dive reports

  • Cigna’s net income for the fourth quarter of 2020 was $4.1 billion, a huge increase from the $977 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, partly because of the $6.2 billion sale of its life insurance business, which was completed on Dec. 31. The payer’s medical cost ratio in the fourth quarter was 85.8%, up from 82.3% the prior year because of COVID-19 treatment and testing costs and above Wall Street expectations. In a call with investors Thursday morning, CFO Brian Evanko said deferred care increased in the latter part of the quarter but was outweighed by COVID-19 costs.


  • UnitedHealth CEO Dave Wichmann is retiring and will be replaced as chief executive by Andrew Witty, currently the CEO of health services unit Optum. Witty will continue running Optum and become CEO immediately, with Wichmann assisting in a transition period through March, UnitedHealth announced Thursday. Dirk McMahon, CEO of payer business UnitedHealthcare, will become president and chief operating officer, and joins CFO John Rex to round out the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based healthcare behemoth’s C-suite.

From the opioid front

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that “State attorneys general intensified pressure on drug companies to settle claims over the opioid crisis, following consulting firm McKinsey & Co.’s agreement to pay nearly $600 million over its advice to pharmaceutical companies to rev up sales. * * * States have been negotiating since 2019 with the nation’s three largest drug distributors, McKesson Corp. , AmerisourceBergen Corp. , Cardinal Health Inc., as well as drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. The companies have publicly disclosed that they have set aside a collective $26 billion for the deal, most of it to be paid over 18 years, but no final agreement has been reached. In news conferences Thursday, attorneys general said they hoped the McKinsey deal would provide momentum for a bigger settlement, if others facing litigation follow the consulting company’s lead.”
  • Late last month, the Bloomberg School of Public Health announced that “A coalition of 31 professional and advocacy organizations has released a set of principles aimed at guiding state and local spending of the forthcoming opioid litigation settlement funds. The coalition, coordinated by faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is urging state and local officials to avoid the mistakes of the 1998 tobacco settlement and use the expected settlement funds to support evidence-based strategies that save lives. The need for evidence-based funding strategies is especially urgent now, as deaths due to opioid drug overdoses have significantly increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with some states reporting increases of 30%.”
  • The Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General today released a report on opioid use in Medicare Part D during the first phase of the COVID-19 public health emergency. “As the pandemic took hold, about 5,000 Medicare beneficiaries per month suffered an opioid overdose during the first 8 months of 2020.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.