Midweek update

Photo by Manasvita S on Unsplash

From Washington, DC

  • Roll Call informs us
    • House Republicans appeared to be moving closer to an agreement Wednesday on an opening bid for stopgap funding legislation that would keep the lights on at federal agencies beyond Sept. 30 and pave the way for their chamber to take up its full-year appropriations bills.
    • At least a handful of conservative holdouts still maintained their opposition as of Wednesday night, which would be enough to sink a revised bill unless GOP leaders are able to change some minds in the next few days. Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is expected to keep the chamber in session on Saturday if necessary.
    • Even if GOP leaders’ new effort is successful, however, it was starting to look more like a bid to reopen the government after a brief shutdown, given the deadline is 10 days away and the Senate is likely to ping-pong a much different bill back to the House.
  • The FEHBlog notes that it would not be unusual for Congress to pass a brief continuing resolution next week to allow for the passage of a longer continuing resolution, thereby side stepping the partial government shutdown.
  • Fierce Healthcare offers details on the House Ways and Means Committee’s No Surprises Act hearing, while Healthcare Dive shares details on the House Oversight and Accountability’s PBM reform hearing. Both hearings were held yesterday.
  • Speaking of the No Surprises Act, the ACA regulators released a proposed rule increasing the government’s NSA arbitration fee from $50 per party to $150 per party next year. The FEHBlog has no idea why the government doesn’t ladder the fee based on the amount in dispute. The government also increased the maximum fee independent dispute resolution entities can charge the parties.
  • MedCity News informs us
    • “FDA Approves GSK Myelofibrosis Med That Has Edge Over Others in Drug Class 
    • “FDA approval of GSK’s Ojjaara in myelofibrosis introduces a new competitor to blockbuster Incyte drug Jakafi. Ojjaara was part of GSK’s $1.9 billion acquisition of Sierra Oncology last year.”
  • and
    • “FDA Rejects ARS Pharma’s Nasal Spray Alternative to Injectable Epinephrine 
    • “ARS Pharmaceuticals frames its intranasal epinephrine spray as a needle-free alternative to products such as EpiPen. Though this spray won the backing of an FDA advisory committee, the agency is now requiring that ARS Pharma run another study to support a regulatory submission.”

From the public health and medical research fronts,

  • STAT News reports,
    • “The federal government is again offering free Covid-19 tests to Americans, providing a fifth round of free tests in part to meet current needs and in part to stimulate a domestic testing industry that has struggled with cratering demand for rapid diagnostics.
    • “The measure, announced Wednesday, will see rapid tests released from the Strategic National Stockpile. In addition, 12 domestic test manufacturers will receive investments totaling $600 million to help “warm-base” the U.S. capacity for rapid test production, both for Covid and future disease threats. * * *
    • “Households will be entitled to receive four free rapid tests apiece, with ordering at COVIDtests.gov opening on Sept. 25. O’Connell said test shipments are expected to start on Oct. 2.”
  • The FEHBlog thinks that the government is fighting the last pandemic. Why not incent the production of the FDA-approved (last February) at-home tests for Covid or the flu, not just Covid?
  • In any event, the Wall Street Journal points out
    • “Don’t throw out that seemingly outdated at-home rapid Covid-19 test just yet. It may still be good. 
    • “The Food and Drug Administration has been extending expiration dates for some authorized at-home, over-the-counter Covid test kits, meaning some unused tests may still be viable. The agency’s updated list of expiration dates may be useful to those reaching for their stash of Covid-19 tests amid new variants and a recent bump in cases and hospitalizations.”
  • The National Institutes of Health announced,
    • “A trial of a preventive HIV vaccine candidate has begun enrollment in the United States and South Africa. The Phase 1 trial will evaluate a novel vaccine known as VIR-1388 for its safety and ability to induce an HIV-specific immune response in people. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has provided scientific and financial support throughout the lifecycle of this HIV vaccine concept and is contributing funding for this study.”
  • Per NBC News,
    • “Is morning the best time of day to exercise? Research published Tuesday in the journal Obesity finds that early morning activity — between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. — could help with weight loss. 
    • “My cautious suggestion from this study is that if we choose to exercise in the early morning before we eat, we can potentially lose more weight compared to exercise at other times of the day,” said lead researcher Tongyu Ma, a research assistant professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Healthcare Dive tells us
    • “Ochsner Health is launching a pilot program this month that will use generative artificial intelligence to draft “simple” messages to patients.
    • “About a hundred clinicians across the New Orleans-based health system will participate in the first phase of the program, where AI will prepare responses to patient questions unrelated to diagnoses or clinical judgments. The messages will be reviewed and edited by providers before being sent to patients, according to a news release. 
    • “Ochsner is part of an early adopter group of Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service, which integrates with the Epic electronic health record. The health system will test the messaging feature over three phases this fall, and Ochsner will collect patient feedback to improve the system.” 
  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “Making sense of mountains of data continues to be an often elusive goal for most of the healthcare system, but Cambia Health Solutions said it hopes its latest effort will allow it to better corral useable information.
    • “Cambia and Abacus Insights, a data management company that tacklesthe challenge of making healthcare networks interoperable, launched a new data aggregating system that processes information for about 3.4 million members across four Blues plans. 
    • “According to an Abacus case study (PDF), “Cambia recognized that to deliver care orchestrated around the unique needs of each individual, data must be actionable. To be actionable, case study data must be understandable, usable, timely, and have clinical utility.”