Tuesday Tidbits

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • Govexec lets us know,
    • “The U.S. Postal Service is pausing some of the most controversial reforms to its mailing network as its leadership has agreed to the demands of a growing, bipartisan chorus in Congress. 
    • “The mailing agency has halted its plans to consolidate dozens of processing facilities until at least Jan. 1, 2025, ensuring the network overhaul is paused until after the upcoming presidential election in which millions of Americans will be voting by mail. A large swath of lawmakers across the ideological spectrum have called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to delay or cease the changes, some of which would shift the bulk of mail processing across state lines. 
    • “The decision marks a reversal for DeJoy, who just last week remained resolute in defending his vision as the only viable path forward for his agency. He called the issue an existential one, saying his reforms were “what we must continue to do to survive.” 
  • HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality posted its March 2024 “NATIONAL HEALTHCARE QUALITY AND DISPARITIES REPORT CHARTBOOK ON PATIENT SAFETY.”
  • Per an FDA press release, “[o]n Monday [May 13], the FDA issued a safety communication to warn patients, caregivers, and health care providers not to use Cue Health’s COVID-19 Tests due to an increased risk of false results. The FDA had also issued a Warning Letter to Cue Health after an inspection revealed that the company made changes to these tests and that the changes reduced the reliability of the test to detect SARS-CoV-2 virus.” 

From the public health and medical research front,

  • The Washington Post reports,
    • “The coronavirus has once again evolved, in a familiar echo of past years. Unlike earlier iterations of the virus, this new variant is not sparking widespread havoc.
    • “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is monitoring a variant called KP.2 and does not see evidence it causes more severe illness than other strains. Laboratory tests have shown that KP.2 is not causing a surge in infections or transmission, the agency said.
    • “The CDC has identified a second emergent variant, KP.1.1. But it is KP.2 that is leading the pack. Both new variants belong to a group of coronavirus variants dubbed “FLiRT” by scientists. The acronym was coined to describe a combination of mutations found in the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. * * *
    • “KP.2 has symptoms similar to earlier versions of the virus, including fever, chills, cough and muscle or body aches.”
    • The current vaccines are effective against KP.2. [“H]ealth experts predict that the new formulation of the coronavirus expected for the fall could offer even stronger protection because it will probably be tailored to thwart the new variant.”
  • Beckers Hospital News informs us,
    • “On average, people taking Novo Nordisk’s weight loss drug Wegovy see a 10% reduction in weight, which is sustained for four years, according to findings from a major trial published May 13.  * * *
    • “Wegovy is tied to a 20% reduced risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events — a benefit that was seen across the board, irrespective of how much weight people lost.” 
  • STAT News adds,
    • “Novo Nordisk will test whether its GLP-1 drugs can help people with alcohol-associated liver disease, and, as part of that, will study if the treatments will change the amount of alcohol people drink.
    • “This appears to be the first time the company is getting involved in research to see if the booming class of GLP-1 diabetes and obesity drugs can affect substance consumption, a question that academic researchers have been probing but the pharmaceutical industry has so far avoided.
    • “The nine-month study will try three drugs alone and in combinations against placebo. The primary outcome being tested is change in liver scarring, or fibrosis, and one of the secondary outcomes is changes in alcohol consumption. The news of the study was first reported by Bloomberg.
    • “The medications that will be tested include the blockbuster semaglutide, sold as the diabetes drug Ozempic and obesity drug Wegovy, as well as CagriSema, a drug Novo is developing that combines semaglutide with the dual amylin and calcitonin receptor agonist cagrilintide. A third drug, NNC0194-0499, targets FGF-21, a hormone produced by the liver that plays a role in inflammation.”
  • NIH’s All of Us Program posted its latest newsletter.
  • Per an Institute for Clinical and Economic Research press release,
    • “The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) today posted its revised Evidence Report assessing the comparative clinical effectiveness and value of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine-assisted psychotherapy (MDMA-AP; Lykos Therapeutics) for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). * * *
    • Key Clinical Findings
    • “Although ICER attempted to explore the concerns raised about MDMA-AP and the MAPP trials, ICER was not able to assess the extent that bias influenced reporting of benefits or the frequency with which there may have been misreporting of harms. As such, ICER concluded that the current publicly available evidence is insufficient (“I”) to assess the overall net benefit of MDMA-AP. 
    • Key Cost-Effectiveness Findings
    • “Given the “I” rating, the economic analyses of MDMA-AP in this Evidence Report are only exploratory analyses that provide insights into costs and benefits if it is assumed that the results of the MAPP trials are accurate. ICER did not calculate a health-benefit price benchmark for MDMA-AP.”
  • Benefitfocus released an “Employee Benefits Strategy Playbook for Mental Healthcare.

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Healthcare Dive lets us know,
    • “The majority of the nation’s leading for-profit hospital systems by revenue reported net gains during the first quarter led by stronger than expected inpatient volumes.
    • “The boost in inpatient volumes and associated revenue comes just a quarter after providers said they would be betting more heavily on outpatient services to drive growth
    • “Increases in inpatient revenues is an area to watch as providers weigh whether and how to adjust their portfolios. Community Health Systems, for example, has been on a selling spree recently in an attempt to deleverage its balance sheets, while HCA Healthcare, Tenet Healthcare and Universal Health Services are expanding services in key markets. 
    • “Should inpatient care utilization continue to rise over multiple quarters, it could influence hospitals’ capital spending, according to research notes from analysts.”
  • BioPharma Dive tells us,
    • “Biosimilars are gaining ground. The IRA could push them further next year.
    • “As commercial momentum builds, coverage incentives for the Medicare market are expected to favor biosimilars in 2025.”
  • Modern Healthcare reports,
    • Behavioral health provider Talkspace rolled out services Tuesday to 13 million Medicare members across 11 states and will expand to 33 million members nationwide by the end of the year.
    • Talkspace services are available to those with traditional Medicare in California, Florida, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, Missouri, Maryland, South Carolina, New Mexico and Idaho. The company plans to offer services to Medicare Advantage members later on, as well.