This week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog surveys the pharmaceutical world for updates from many different quarters. E-commerce giant Amazon announced it would launch a line of competitively priced over the counter medications while Novartis’ Kyrmiah funding was cut by Medicare/Medicaid after questions arose about influence and payments. This and more in the BioBlog.


Amazon undercuts drugstores on prices for most over-the-counter drugs

Amazon plans to launch Basic Care, its own line of over the counter drugs, in August. The e-commerce giant intends to launch 60 basic drug store items. Perrigo will produce Amazon’s new line. Prices are anticipated to cost less than Walgreens and CVS private label ibuprofen and other basic items. This follows Amazon’s announcement last week that it intends to acquire PillPack. The company is likely to compete on price and delivery, two areas in which it offers a clear competitive advantage.
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Government quit test of pricey cancer treatment amid concerns over industry role

Medicare and Medicaid quietly cut off funding for Novartis’ Kymriah after congressional scrutiny was focused on the product. President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, was paid $1.2 million in early 2017 for health care consulting work. Although there is no indication this influenced the Kymriah deal, lawmakers are being overly cautious to avoid all appearances of influence. In an email obtained by Politico, administration lawyers expressed discomfort over how much Novartis itself was influencing the arrangement, including giving advice on the payment criteria for Kymriah. The deliberations over Kymriah took place before current HHS Secretary Alex Azar was confirmed.
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Trump administration takes another major swipe at the Affordable Care Act

In yet another move to halt the progress of the Affordable Care Act, the Trump Administration stopped payments to insurers to even out the costs of expensive treatments for patients. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it will stop collecting and paying out money under the ACA’s “risk adjustment” program, drawing swift protest from the health insurance industry. Risk adjustment eases the costs so that healthy and sick people can get insurance without insurers charging more to the very sick, which would be a substantial burden.
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New approach to breast cancer screening — tailoring guidelines for each patient — may save lives and money, study says

A new study indicates that women may benefit from an individualized approach to recommendations for breast cancer screening rather than blanket-based recommendations from universities and other organizations. Mammograms can produce false-positive results or overdiagnose benign lumps as problematic. Yet early detection can and does save lives. The study found that 30% of low-risk women did not need mammograms. A look at the study and how it may impact mammogram recommendations.
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Discovery of New Biomarker Could Provide Personalized Treatment Options for Bladder Cancer

A potential new target for treatment has been identified in an aggressive form of bladder cancer, p53-like bladder cancer. Mount Sinai identified two microRNA activity-based biomarkers that can provide insights regarding which patients with p53-like bladder cancer may have better or worse prognosis. MicroRNA is a type of genetic material that regulates gene expression. This particular cancer can be aggressive and resistant to standard chemotherapy treatment.
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Azar says 340B changes are coming in bid to get a handle on drug prices

HHS Secretary Azar says 340B changes are coming in bid to get a handle on drug prices. Azar said that drug prices have risen dramatically in recent years, and stakeholders within the pharmaceutical industry“have little financial incentive to bring list prices down. Critics question whether or not the agency fully understands 340B.
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