Friday Factoids

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • The American Hospital Association News tells us,
    • “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Oct. 6 reopened the No Surprises Act’s Independent Dispute Resolution [IDR] portal to out-of-network providers and group health plans initiating new single payment disputes under the No Surprises Act’s independent dispute resolution process, including single disputes involving bundled payment arrangements. The agency also released new guidance for processing these disputes.
    • “New and in-progress batched disputes and new air ambulance disputes remain temporarily suspended while the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury update their guidance and operations to align with recent court orders, including an Aug. 24 ruling that set aside certain regulations implementing the IDR process and an Aug. 3 ruling that vacated nationwide a federal fee increase and batching rule for the process.”
  • In that regard, the federal regulators issued ACA FAQ 62 today, which focuses on No Surprises Act issues.
  • What’s more, a No Surprises Act IDR operations proposed rule is still undergoing review at OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
  • BioPharma Dive informs us,
    • “The National Institutes of Health on Thursday said it will provide funding for three clinical trials of experimental ALS drugs, part of a broader push by the federal government to support the development of treatments for rare neurodegenerative diseases. * * *
    • “Until recently, the FDA had approved just two main medicines for the disease. Clinical testing had shown the drugs respectively offered modest benefits on function and survival.
    • “But in the last year or so, two more treatment options received nods from the FDA. Amylyx Pharmaceuticals’ Relyvrio is now cleared for the broad ALS population, while Biogen’s Qalsody is specifically for the small portion of patients who have mutations in a gene called SOD1.”
  • Per Pharmaceutical Technology,
    • “The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a draft guidance to aid sponsors in developing biologics and drugs for stimulant use disorders. * * *
    • “FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Substance Use and Behavioral Health deputy center director Marta Sokolowska said: “Currently there is no FDA-approved medication for stimulant use disorder. When finalized, we hope that the guidance will support the development of novel therapies that are critically needed to address treatment gaps. 
    • “The guidance is one of the actions within the agency’s Overdose Prevention Framework, which includes appropriate prescribing of prescription stimulants as well as the development of evidence-based treatments for stimulant use disorder.”
  • Federal News Network points out,
    • “The Office of Personnel Management’s retirement claims backlog saw some improvement in September. OPM cut its backlog by 2,111 claims, hitting a new six-year low point in its overall inventory. OPM received 6,768 claims in September, and managed to process 8,879, shrinking the backlog to the lowest it has been in six years: 15,852.”
  • The Wall Street Journal reports,
    • “The U.S. Postal Service wants to raise the price of a stamp in what would be the third increase in a year.
    • “The postal service proposed a price of 68 cents, up 3% from the current price of 66 cents. If approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, the price increase would go into effect on Jan. 21. 
    • “The agency raised stamp prices to 63 cents from 60 cents in January 2023. Six months later, the price of a stamp went up again, by 3 cents.”

From the public health and research front,

  • Medscape notes,
    • “Around 4 million Americans received the updated COVID-19 shots in September, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), even as some people have found it difficult to book vaccination appointments or find the vaccines at no cost.”
  • NBC News reports,
    • “People who take popular drugs for weight loss, such as Ozempic or Wegovy, may be at an increased risk of severe stomach problems, research published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds.
    • “The brief report is the first study of its kind, the researchers say, to establish a link between the use of such drugs, called GLP-1 agonists, for weight loss and the risk of such gastrointestinal conditions. GLP-1 agonists include semaglutide — the drug found in Ozempic and Wegovy — and liraglutide, the drug used in Saxenda. Both drugs are made by Novo Nordisk. 
    • “Although rare, the incidence of these adverse events can happen. I’ve seen it happen,” said lead author Mohit Sodhi, a medical student at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine in Vancouver. “People should know what they’re getting into.” 
  • Get a load of this good news. Per ALM Benefits Pro,
    • “World Mental Health Day is right around the corner and this year, there’s good news to share. The mental health of U.S. employees is finally on the rise nearly three years after the pandemic. A new study shared by Leapsome, a people enablement platform based in Germany, found that 88% of U.S. employees rate their mental health as being good or very good. 
    • “The massive improvements in mental health took place largely over the past year, with 47% of U.S. workers reporting that their mental health had improved within the last 12 months, according to the study.”
  • STAT News notes,
    • “The grand plan for Moderna’s future in respiratory viruses is to market a single shot that would protect against Covid-19, influenza, and RSV, using the scalability of mRNA to craft a first-of-its-kind product. And the first step — establishing the promise of its combination flu and Covid vaccine — is moving on as planned.
    • “Yesterday Moderna said its combo shot measured up to established flu and Covid vaccines in generating immune responses against each virus. The next step is to take that combination to Phase 3, which could lead to approval by 2025. At the same time, Moderna is awaiting FDA approval for its RSV vaccine and testing a combination that would protect against all three viruses.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • BioPharma Dive reports,
    • “Amgen on Friday closed its $27.8 billion acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics, about one month after securing clearance from U.S. antitrust regulators who had challenged the deal.
    • “With the acquisition’s completion, Amgen gains access to 12 drugs that had combined sales of $1.8 billion over the first six months of 2023. The company said it will update its sales guidance for the rest of the year when it reports third-quarter earnings.
    • “The deal is the largest in Amgen’s history, surpassing in dollar terms the 2001 buyout of Immunex. That acquisition gave Amgen Enbrel, a long-lasting blockbuster that, like several of its other major drugs, could lose market exclusivity in the coming years. That looming patent cliff has pushed the company to restock its pipeline via dealmaking.”
  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “UnitedHealthcare’s Surest, which axes deductibles and provides upfront pricing data to members, is the fastest growing product among its commercial plan lineup. And a new analysis offers a look as to why.
    • “The insurance giant released Thursday an Impact Study examining some of the results Surest has seen to date and notes that members enrolled in these plans had 6% fewer emergency department visits and 13% fewer inpatient hospital admissions compared to those who were not enrolled in a Surest plan at the same employer.
    • “In addition, members enrolled in Surest plans had a 20% increase in visits to a physician and a 9% jump in preventive physical exams compared to those in other commercial plans.”
  • and
    • “Cigna’s Evernorth is launching a new, value-based care management program for its behavioral health network.
    • “The company said in an announcement that this marks a key step in collaboration with providers as the industry pushes for standardized benchmarks in behavioral health. About 44,000 providers will participate in the program at launch, according to Evernorth.
    • “Ultimately, if payers and providers align on how to measure success in treatment, it will drive better care, lower costs, and lead to improvements in collaboration. It should also ease administrative burdens for providers, according to the announcement, as at present they use a wide array of measures across multiple payers.”