The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing today on “Pharmacy Benefit Managers and the Prescription Drug Supply Chain: Impact on Patients and Taxpayers.” Fierce Healthcare reports
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said during the hearing that “this whole area is ripe for gamesmanship.” He then asked Matthew Gibbs, PharmD and Capital Rx President, what Capital Rx’s model would bring to the table that sets it apart from other players like Amazon or Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug that are aiming to shake up the traditional PBM space.
Gibbs emphasized Capital Rx’s focus on transparency, something that sets it apart in the broader market.
“Using a price index like NADAC, which is published by CMS, they actually do the survey of the pharmacies, and getting it more robust so that it’s not voluntary—today it’s a voluntary survey—and getting responses to that will lead us to the actual drug costs,” Gibbs said. “And then you can have your nuances of Costco, Mark Cuban. And the person can actually go in and look and actually be informed about the real prices once and for all. The only way is to level set.”
“We have the tools already,” he said. “We just need to employ them.”
Meanwhile, the National Council of State Legislatures discusses the wide variety of state laws being imposed on PBMs, which only complicates matters.
In Affordable Care Act New, MedPage Today reports, “A federal judge on Thursday struck down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision requiring all insurers to cover certain preventive services free of charge, angering the law’s supporters.” The FEHBlog won’t delve into this case now because he expects the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to promptly stay this decision.
From the Omicron and siblings front, WebMD tells us
The CDC has updated its COVID-19 booster shot guidelines to clarify that only a single dose of the latest bivalent booster is recommended at this time.
“If you have completed your updated booster dose, you are currently up to date. There is not a recommendation to get another updated booster dose,” the CDC website now explains.
16.4% of people in the U.S. have gotten the latest booster that was released in September, CDC data shows.
MedPage Today opines on a World Health Organization “Booster Update: Here’s What They Got Right and Wrong.”
In FDA / drug development news —
- Beckers Hospital Review reports
- On May 9 and May 10, an FDA advisory panel will discuss whether to recommend the agency approve what could be the first over-the-counter birth control pill.
- The pill, a 0.075-milligram norgestrel tablet [manufactured by French drugmaker Laboratoire HRA Pharma], “is proposed for nonprescription use as a once-daily oral contraceptive to prevent pregnancy,” according to a document published March 29 on the Federal Register.
- BioPharma Dive informs us
- “Johnson & Johnson will stop developing its experimental vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus in an unexpected retreat from a high-profile research effort that had put the pharmaceutical giant among the leading companies seeking to win the first approval of a preventive shot.
- “The company said Wednesday it will discontinue a 23,000-person Phase 3 trial, called Evergreen, of its RSV vaccine in adults following a review of its drug pipeline. The company does not plan to develop the shot for pregnant women or infants, a spokesperson confirmed.
- “J&J’s pullback comes amid a restructuring of its infectious disease division, which was reported by Fierce Pharma in February. Its decision also thins the RSV vaccine competition, leaving GSK and Pfizer in the lead with shots that are currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration. Moderna is also developing an RSV vaccine and could file for approval this year.”
From the U.S. healthcare business front —
Healthcare Dive relates
- Walgreens’ growing U.S. healthcare segment is continuing to bolster the retail health chain’s financial performance. The business, which includes value-based provider VillageMD, recorded $1.6 billion in sales in the second quarter, an increase of $1.1 billion from last year.
- VillageMD sales were up 30%, including a boost from its recent acquisition of medical group Summit Health. Specialty pharmacy Shields Health Solutions grew sales 41%, while at-home care provider CareCentrix’s sales were up 25%.
- Thanks in part to a jump in revenue in its healthcare segment, Walgreens’ results beat Wall Street expectations even as profit declined more than 20% amid lower COVID-19 vaccine volumes and test sales, higher salary costs, opioid litigation charges and costs associated with its $3.5 billion investment in its Summit acquisition.
- Oak Street Health disclosed on Thursday that the antitrust waiting period for its planned sale to CVS Health has expired.
- CVS and Oak Street filed the required notification forms under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act with the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission on Feb. 24. The waiting period under the HSR Act ended Monday, according to a new proxy filing from Oak Street.
- The disclosure means the $10.6 billion deal has cleared one regulatory hurdle — companies can’t consummate mergers until the HSR waiting period expires — but regulators could still challenge the acquisition on antitrust grounds in the future.
From the healthcare studies front —
- Bloomberg tells us the story behind a breast cancer scare. Last week, I noticed a breast cancer study report that struck the FEHBlog as overblown, and it turns out that this report is the breast cancer scare that Bloomberg discusses.
- NBC News reports
- “Losing weight — even if some pounds are gained back — may help your heart over the long term, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
- “The findings may be welcome news to those who have found it difficult to keep weight off and feared the risks thought to be associated with gaining weight back.
- “In the new study, researchers analyzed data from 124 clinical trials with a total of more than 50,000 participants. They found that risk factors for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes decreased for people who lost weight through intensive behavioral programs. The diminished risk persisted for years after they were done with the programs, even if some, but not all, of the weight came back.”
- “The whole time your weight is less than it would otherwise have been, your risk factors for heart disease are lower than they would have been,” co-author Susan Jebb, a professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, said in an email.
- The Centers for Disease Control announced
- The expanded availability of opioid use disorder-related telehealth services and medications during the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a lowered likelihood of fatal drug overdose among Medicare beneficiaries, according to a new study.
- “The results of this study add to the growing research documenting the benefits of expanding the use of telehealth services for people with opioid use disorder, as well as the need to improve retention and access to medication treatment for opioid use disorder,” said lead author Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, DrPH, Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC. “The findings from this collaborative study also highlight the importance of working across agencies to identify successful strategies to address and get ahead of the constantly evolving overdose crisis.”
From the healthcare quality front, Beckers Hospital Review relates
CVS and Optum have struggled to integrate behavioral health into their payer-provider models, Behavioral Health Business reported.
For Optum, the challenges lie in integrating all the different IT systems from the providers the company has bought, Trip Hofer, the CEO of Optum Behavioral Health Solutions, said at the news outlet’s VALUE conference. For example, Optum in 2022 acquired Kelsey Seybold Clinic, a medical group in Houston with 500 healthcare professionals.
“Kelsey Seybold says, ‘Trip, here’s my issue. I have access problems for depression, stress and anxiety for adults.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, we have a ton of solutions for you,'” Mr. Hofer said, according to the March 27 story. “Six months later, we still can’t get it implemented because it’s like, ‘Well, how do I get data back to them?'”
Deborah Fernandez-Turner, DO, deputy chief psychiatric officer of CVS payer subsidiary Aetna, said at the conference that it’s time-consuming and complex to build behavioral health into payer-provider companies.
CVS, for instance, has started bringing mental health providers and virtual behavioral health access into its MinuteClinics, according to the story.
Keep on truckin’
The FEHBlog had planned to discuss the OPM-AHIP carrier conference in this post. However, the second day of the conference was postponed today due to a power outage affecting the webinar operations. The second day will be rescheduled, and the FEHBlog will bring readers up to date then.