Monday Roundup

Photo by Sven Read on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • The Wall Street Journal reports,
    • “House Republicans’ speaker nominee Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) won over some pivotal holdouts Monday as broader GOP opposition to his bid appeared to crumble, moving him closer to winning the gavel in a floor vote as soon as Tuesday afternoon.
    • “I feel real good about the momentum we have. It’s real close,” Jordan told reporters, citing recent endorsements and saying he was ready to move forward on Tuesday at noon. “We’re going to elect a speaker tomorrow; that’s what I think is going to happen.”
  • The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced,
    • “[T]he Biden Administration has exceeded its goal of selecting 5,800 targeted positions helping implement the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), a once-in-a-generation investment in America’s infrastructure and competitiveness. Over the last two years, OPM has served as a strategic workforce partner for seven federal agencies and supported surge hiring for key positions, including engineers, scientists, project managers, IT & HR specialists, construction managers, and many more. 
    • “The agencies included in targeted hiring positions are the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Interior, Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency.”
  • Govexec introduces us to the Partnership for Public Service’s Service to America Medal winners. Mazaal tov to the winners.
  • Thompson Reuters points out that last week, the Internal Revenue Service “released the final versions of the following 2023 Affordable Care Act (ACA) forms:
    • “(1) Form 1094-BTransmittal of Health Coverage Information Returns;
    • “(2) Form 1094-CTransmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns;
    • “(3) Form 1095-BHealth Coverage; and
    • “(4) Form 1095-CEmployer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage.
    • The forms do not contain substantive changes.”

From the public health front,

  • The New York Times reports,
    • “A team of scientists is proposing a new explanation for some cases of long Covid, based on their findings that serotonin levels were lower in people with the complex condition.
    • “In their study, published on Monday in the journal Cell, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania suggest that serotonin reduction is triggered by remnants of the virus lingering in the gut. Depleted serotonin could especially explain memory problems and some neurological and cognitive symptoms of long Covid, they say.
    • “This is one of several new studies documenting distinct biological changes in the bodies of people with long Covid — offering important discoveries for a condition that takes many forms and often does not register on standard diagnostic tools like X-rays.
    • “The research could point the way toward possible treatments, including medications that boost serotonin. And the authors said the biological pathway that their research outlines could unite many of the major theories of what causes long Covid: lingering remnants of the virus, inflammation, increased blood clotting and dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system.
    • “All these different hypotheses might be connected through the serotonin pathway,” said Christoph Thaiss, a lead author of the study and an assistant professor of microbiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
    • “Second of all, even if not everybody experiences difficulties in the serotonin pathway, at least a subset might respond to therapies that activate this pathway,” he said.”
  • Last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced,
    • “[T]he selection of initial next-generation vaccine candidates and more than $500 million in awards for Project NextGen – kick-starting planning for Phase 2b clinical trials and technologies that advance innovative next-generation vaccine and therapeutics platforms.
    • “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to keeping people safe from COVID-19,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “By investing in next-generation vaccines and treatments, we can improve our ability to respond to new variants, reduce transmission, stop infections, and save lives. Through Project NextGen, we are combining research and development expertise at HHS with the lessons learned throughout the pandemic to protect our nation from COVID-19.” 
    • “The over $500 million announced today builds on the over $1.4 billion awarded in August – accelerating products toward clinical trials and potential commercial availability.”
    • “The vaccine selections and funding announced today are important steps forward for Project NextGen – with vaccine and therapeutics candidates moving quickly to clinical trials that will start in the coming months,” said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell. “The technologies that BARDA is investing in, from intranasal vaccines to self-amplifying mRNA, will bolster our protection against COVID-19 for years to come.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Beckers Payer Issues tells us that UnitedHealth Group executives and the FEHBlog are of one mind.
    • “UnitedHealth Group wants to lower the price of GLP-1 drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy, but it needs drug manufacturers to get on board, executives said. 
    • “On an Oct. 13 call with investors, UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty said prices have to come down for more people to access the drugs. 
    • “We’re very positive about the potential for another tool in the toolbox to help folks manage their weight,” Mr. Witty said. “We recognize that has potential benefits, but we’re struggling, and frankly our clients are struggling, with the list prices which have been demanded of these products in the U.S., which are running at about 10 times the level of prices paid in Western Europe.” 
  • Per Biopharma Dive,
    • “Novo Nordisk said Monday it will spend up to $1.3 billion to buy an experimental hypertension drug from Singapore-based KBP Biosciences, adding to a string of acquisitions that builds out its metabolic disease business behind the blockbuster diabetes drug Ozempic.
    • “The pill, called ocedurenone, is in a Phase 3 trial in people with chronic kidney disease and uncontrolled high blood pressure. Results are due next year, and Novo said it plans to begin additional Phase 3 trials in other cardiovascular and kidney disease indications.
    • “Novo is putting its profits from accelerating Ozempic sales to work, having cut late-summer deals to buy a Danish metabolic startup called Embark Biotech and a Canadian metabolic company called Iversago. That followed on the billion-dollar-plus deals to buy rare disease drug developer Forma Therapeutics in 2022 and genetic medicine company Dicerna in 2021.”
  • Fierce Healthcare tells us why Amazon’s chief medical officer believes Amazon can make a big impact in tackling chronic illness.