Monday Roundup

Photo by Sven Read on Unsplash

From Washington, DC, the Wall Street Journal reports

“President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) opened a high-stakes meeting on Monday evening, as negotiators worked to get back on track on reaching a debt-ceiling deal that could pass both the Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate by the end of the month. 

“Central to the talks is setting a top-line spending level for the next year and deciding how long to lift the debt ceiling until having to raise it again. The two sides are aiming to reach a deal by June 1, when the Treasury Department estimates the U.S. could run out of money to pay all of its bills, leading to a first-ever default. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen repeated that estimate Monday.”

About 90 minutes later, Politico adds, “President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy ended their one-on-one meeting Monday [with a “better tone” yet] still short of a deal to avoid a U.S. debt default that could come as soon as June 1.”

From the Rx coverage front —

  • STAT News informs us,
    • “An oral version of semaglutide, the drug marketed as Ozempic and Wegovy, led to dramatic weight loss in a trial enrolling people with obesity, manufacturer Novo Nordisk said Monday, data that could bolster what is already a blockbuster medicine.
    • “In the study, which enrolled nearly 700 adults classified as overweight or obese, patients treated with a daily semaglutide tablet lost 15.1% of their body weight over the course of 17 months, while those on placebo lost 2.4%, Novo Nordisk said. The result is comparable to weekly injections of Wegovy, which in an earlier study led to 14.9% weight loss over the same period of time. In both studies, the most common side effects were gastrointestinal distress, with the majority of cases graded mild or moderate, the company said.
    • “Novo Nordisk said it plans to submit oral semaglutide for U.S. and E.U. approvals later this year. A lower-dose version of the drug is already approved as a treatment for type 2 diabetes under the brand name Rybelsus.”
  • Reuters tells us,
    • “Taking Novo Nordisk’s new obesity drug may help reduce the risk of heart disease as well as boosting weight loss, according to new research from the United States.
    • “After a year of taking semaglutide, marketed as Wegovy, patients’ risk of suffering from conditions like a heart attack or a stroke over the next ten years dropped to 6.3% from 7.6% when measured by a commonly used calculator, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found.
    • “The results, which were presented this week at the European Congress on Obesity in Dublin, are among the first indication that the weight loss induced by the new GLP-1 agonist drugs like Wegovy also brings heart health benefits – something scientists expected, but do not yet have much comprehensive data to prove.
    • “The study was only done among 93 patients, and the researchers said that more and larger studies were needed to see if the risk reduction score actually meant less illness and death long-term.
    • “Novo is expected to release results from its 5-year SELECT trial looking into the health impact of its injectable drug, particularly around heart disease, later this year. Investors, governments and insurers alike are keenly watching the data.
  • FiercePharma offers a special report about the most expensive drugs in our country.

From the U.S. healthcare business front —

  • Fierce Healthcare relates
    • Found, a company that offers an evidence-based weight loss management program for consumers, is launching a new platform that aims to help employers manage services and cost for workers struggling with weight, including GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy.
    • With medication-assisted obesity care in the headlines, Found for Business offers employers a solution that’s based on clinical best practices and is cost-effective and medication-agnostic. Found’s approach combines virtual clinical care with personalized medication regimens and behavioral health change, according to an announcement
  • Healthcare Dive reports
    • HCA Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health systems, has agreed to acquire 41 urgent care centers in Texas.
    • The deal includes 19 FastMed and 22 MedPost clinics in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston and El Paso, HCA said Thursday.
    • Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the buy is expected to close this summer, according to the operator.

In federal employee benefits news

  • OPM released “the OPM Retirement Quick Guide, a three-page guide to voluntary retirement that walks federal employees through what to expect as a retirement application is processed and benefits are determined, including helping employees estimate when they can expect to receive their interim and first annuity payments. OPM Retirement Services (RS) developed the guide in partnership with the Lab at OPM, using human-centered design principles.” 
  • Federal News Network discusses “OPM’s new approach to modernizing retirement services [which] is all about small bites.”