Amazon, CVS, Epic and Drugmakers in the News, While Congress Halts Efforts to Repeal and Replace the ACA
Amazon makes a move to enter the healthcare industry, possibly as a pharmaceutical benefits manager, while Congress shelves plans to repeal and replace the ACA until after the 2018 election. UCLA is under fire for potentially using taxpayer money to create a prostate cancer drug that is being sold at a price tag too high for the poor to afford, while Epic and CVS are partnering to share research in the hopes of bringing overall drug prices lower. These and other stories in this week’s BioBlog from Innovation Partners.
Global e-commerce giant Amazon recently made the leap into the retail grocery market with its acquisition of Whole Foods. Rumors abound that Amazon is looking to enter the health industry, too, perhaps as a pharmaceutical benefits manager. A look at how such a move might impact drug prices, healthcare costs, and people age 30 to 45, the primary demographic served by Amazon.
Enrolling in Medicare Part B is a confusing tangle of red tape. People don’t know how to enroll, whether they can even if they are working, and a slew of other questions. Now, bipartisan bills in the House and Senate hope to rectify this problem by improving communications as well as adjusting the Medicare enrollment period to put it in line with other benefits. Forbes takes a closer look at the proposed solutions to the Medicare enrollment mess.
CVS Health, which operates 9,700 retail stores and 1,100 walk-in medical clinics nationwide, will use Epics’ Healthy Planet population health and analytics program to glean new information. CVS hopes to use the platform for additional insights into dispensing patterns and behaviors around medication adherence. The ultimate goal is to help doctors, other healthcare providers, and patients reduce costs.
On Aug. 30, the FDA approved Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.’s Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) for the treatment of people up to 25 years old with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that is refractory or has relapsed at least twice. The agency said there is an urgent need to approve a drug for this population, for whom the prognosis is often poor.
Consumer activists are claiming that a move from UCLA to patent its new prostate cancer drug is harming the poor. UCLA researchers developed the chemical compound, enzalutamide, which is sold under the name Xtandi. To date, the drug has been successful, with the royalty rights sold to Royalty Pharma in 2016 for $1.2 billion, $520 million of which went to UCLA itself. Now, activists claim that the university used public funds to develop the drug and should be made available a lower price than the current cost of brand-name Xtandi. Generics could substantially lower the price.
Speakers at the National Business Group on Health’s (NBGH) Business Health Agenda 2017, held March 29-31 in Washington, D.C. discussed the potential benefits of value-based contracts. Value-based contracts offer the potential to counter the increasing spending on specialty drugs. Numerous market changes, including rising spending, complex multi-drug regimens, biosimilars and more are making specialty drugs difficult to manage. Speakers at the National Business Group on Health’s (NBGH) Business Health Agenda 2017, held March 29-31 in Washington, D.C. discussed the potential benefits of value-based contracts. Value-based contracts offer the potential to counter the increasing spending on specialty drugs. Numerous market changes, including rising spending, complex multi-drug regimens, biosimilars and more are making specialty drugs difficult to manage.
A new class of drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors has offered hope for many people with cancer. But they only work for a small number of people, and researchers aren’t sure why, although they suspect that natural safeguards built into human cells to prevent the immune system from attacking its own tissue may be getting in the way. Immune checkpoint inhibitors target and override that safety measure, temporarily allowing immune system T cells to seek out and destroy cancerous tumors. Researchers at Sloan Kettering are working to find ways to help more people benefit from these drugs.
House Speaker Paul Ryan stated that Republicans will not pursue a bipartisan plan to stabilize Obamacare insurance, nor will they seek another repeal this year. This is a strong signal that the GOP plans to hold off on any further attacks on the ACA until after the 2018 congressional elections.