Monday Roundup

Photo by Sven Read on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • The American Medical Association News tells us,
    • “President Biden, Oct. 30, directed federal agencies to take certain actions to protect Americans from the potential risks of artificial intelligence systems while promoting innovation and competition. The executive order calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a safety program to regulate healthcare AI practices and for developers of high-risk AI systems to share their safety testing results and other relevant information with the federal government. Among other actions, the order urges Congress to enact data privacy safeguards for Americans, and requires federal agencies to develop best practices to investigate and prosecute AI-related discrimination and guidelines to prevent fraudulent and deceptive AI-generated content.”
  • Federal News Network adds
    • “The Biden administration is calling for a “governmentwide AI talent surge” across the federal workforce to build up its capacity to lead on this emerging technology.
    • “President Joe Biden, in an executive order Monday, is requiring agencies to set comprehensive policies for how they will use AI tools internally to further the business of government.
    • “The White House, in a fact sheet, said the executive order also “directs the rapid hiring of AI professionals, as part of a governmentwide AI talent search.”
    • “Biden, speaking at the White House, said that “without the right safeguards in place, AI can lead to discrimination, bias and other abuses.”
  • MeriTalk points out,
    • “The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is getting close to releasing a proposal that would offer “equity around pay and flexibilities in the workplace” for Federal government tech and cybersecurity personnel, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said today.
    • “Speaking at ACT-IAC’s Imagine Nation conference in Hershey, Pa., the OPM director talked about the soon-to-be-issued proposal as part of a reply to a question about what she’s most proud of accomplishing at the agency since taking the helm at OPM in 2021.
    • “One of those points of pride, she said, was “that we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about cyber and tech talent,” including OPM’s efforts to recruit private sector tech and cyber personnel into service with the government.”
  • On a related note, the AHA News reports,
    • “The Department of Health and Human Services, Oct. 30, released a proposed rule intended to create disincentives for health care providers to interfere with the access, exchange or use of electronic health information. Under the rule, which implements a provision of the 21st Century Cures Act, healthcare providers that HHS’ Office of Inspector General determines have committed information blocking and refer that determination to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would be ineligible for certain incentives under the Medicare Promoting Interoperability Program and Shared Savings Program, HHS said. The agency will publish the proposed rule in the Nov. 1 Federal Register with comments accepted through Jan. 2.”  
  • The Food and Drug Administration announced the recall of certain eye drop products due to the risk of serious infection.
  • AHA News calls attention to the fact that
    • “The Food and Drug Administration, the week of Oct. 23, cleared for marketing the first over-the-counter test to detect fentanyl in urine. The five-minute test provides only preliminary results and includes a pre-addressed mailing box for shipping samples to the manufacturer’s laboratory for confirmation testing using an alternative chemical method. The agency expedited its review of the Alltest Fentanyl Urine Test Cassette, clearing it only 16 days after the submission was received.
    • “Opioid abuse, misuse and addiction is one of the most profound public health crises facing the U.S. today,” said Jeff Shuren, M.D., director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “…This test is an example of the FDA’s continued commitment to authorize tools that can reduce deaths associated with overdoses.”
  • On a related note, the Wall Street Journal calls our attention to effective over-the-counter treatments for congestion.

In FEHB news,

  • Govexec discusses the availability of Medicare Part D PDPs in nine “first out of the gate” FEHB plans (seventeen options) for 2024.

From the public health front,

  • The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review released a “Final Evidence Report on Gene Therapy for Metachromatic Leukodystrophy
    • The Independent appraisal committee voted that across all patient subpopulations, arsa-cel demonstrated a net health benefit when compared to usual care; arsa-cel would achieve common thresholds for cost-effectiveness if priced between $2.3M and $3.9M.
  • The New York Times reports on a new surgical technique called component separation to resolve hernia conditions. A surgeon must undergo specialized training before operating on a living patient. Apparently, some surgeons jumped the gun, no doubt leading to malpractice lawsuits.
  • The American Health Association announced,
    • “Cardiovascular deaths from extreme heat in the United States are projected to increase by 162% by the middle of the century, based on a hypothetical scenario where currently proposed U.S. policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been successfully implemented.
    • “A more dire scenario forecasts cardiovascular deaths from extreme heat could increase by 233% in the next 13-47 years if there are only minimal efforts to reduce emissions.
    • “The percentage increase in deaths will be greater among elderly people and non-Hispanic Black adults in either scenario.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Per Healthcare Dive,
    • “Prices negotiated by health insurers vary widely between geographies — even for the same insurer, according to a new study that authors said is the first of its kind relying on federally mandated price transparency data.
    • Humana members paid more for medical care in the Upper Midwest and Southeast than in the Central U.S. and Florida, according to the research published in JAMA Health Forum last week.
    • “More than half of Americans are covered by private insurers, which negotiate rates in local markets. The variability in cost between markets could be due to a number of factors, including imbalances in market power and negotiation leverage, anti-competitive practices and actual variation in clinical quality, study authors said.”
  • BioPharma Dive tells us,
    • “An experimental kidney disease drug Novartis acquired via a $3 billion deal earlier this year succeeded in a late-stage trial, the Swiss pharmaceutical company said Monday.
    • “The drug, called atrasentan, reduced protein in the urine of people with IgA nephropathy by significantly more than placebo, meeting the Phase 3 trial’s goal. IgA nephropathy is a leading cause of chronic kidney disease and often causes persistently high urine protein, or proteinuria.
    • “With the positive data in hand, Novartis plans to submit an application to U.S. regulators for accelerated approval of the drug. The company’s trial will continue to run for another two years to assess changes in kidney function over time.”
  • Fierce Healthcare explains how “Amazon Pharmacy’s focus on making it faster and more convenient for patients to get prescription medications comes as brick-and-mortar drugstores are limiting pharmacy hours and even closing locations across the country.”