Major news this week as President Trump launches “American Patients First” to bring down healthcare costs. California advanced a bill to socialize healthcare prices, while Oregon looks to reinstate its own state-based insurance exchange as ACA fees and other issue force them to seek alternatives. This and more in this week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog.


California Legislature Advances Bill to Socialize Healthcare Prices

California’s State Assembly Health Committee passed a bill last week that would create a commission to socialize the price of all healthcare service costs. The Health Care Price Relief Act, AB 3087, passed on strict partisan lines 11-4. If finalized, the legislation would create a California Health Care Cost, Quality and Equity Commission that would act as an independent state agency to control healthcare costs. The committee would also set the amounts accepted as payment by hospitals, physicians and physician groups, other healthcare providers and health plans in the commercial market. The bill is opposed by the California Hospital Association (CHA) and several faith-based healthcare organizations.

Trump unveils ‘American Patients First’ plan to bring down drug costs

President Trump announced a new “American Patients First” plan to bring down drug costs. The plan focuses on four key areas: increasing competition, easing negotiation, creating incentives to lower prices, and lowering out-of-pocket spending on drugs. It also encourages the FDA to bring more generics and biosimilars to market. This and more in the full article.

Oregon could relaunch state insurance exchange

Oregon state officials are considering reviving the long-shelves state insurance exchange in lieu of the government exchange to help people find insurance coverage. Oregon launched its own health insurance exchange in 2013. “Cover Oregon” was a $300 million boondoggle that failed miserably, forcing the state to guide citizens to the federal site to find coverage. However, with rising fees to use the ACA exchange and other issues, Oregon is considering bringing back Cover Oregon.

FDA expands use of Novartis MS drug to pediatric patients

Gilenya, made by Novartis, was recently approved for use in pediatric MS patients. The FDA approved Gilenya for use in adolescents and pediatric patients with relapsing MS. Clinical trials showed that 86% of patients receiving Gilenya were relapse-free in 24 months compared to 46% who used another drug.

Opioid crisis spurs sometimes-deadly abuse of popular diarrhea medicine

The opioid crisis is much in the news, but the ramifications now extend to a popular, over-the-counter diarrhea treatment. Loperamide, sold under the brand name Immodium, is now being abused by those tapering off opioids or as a way to get high. At normal doses, the medication acts locally in the intestinal tract but at doses 100 times the recommended amount it can cross the gut lining and produce a temporary high. This effect has been dubbed the ‘poor man’s methadone’ as it helps addicts taper off opioids. Packaging changes, recommended by the FDA, are in the works to warn people of the potential side effects of high doses such as heart arrhythmias and even death.

Perrigo Drops After Saying FDA to Reject Inhaler, Delaying Start

Perrigo expects the FDA to reject its application for a generic version of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ ProAir inhaler. The Dublin-based company stated on May 11 that it learned it would receive a Complete Response Letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This would delay the company’s plans to start selling the inhaler in the fourth quarter of this year.

UnitedHealth: Bundled payments led to $18M savings, major drops in readmissions

UnitedHealth’s bundled payment system for spinals surgeries, knee and hip replacements has demonstrated both growth as well as cost savings. The company expanded bundled payment systems to 37 markets from 28. The company also stated it achieved $18 million in savings from 115 employers in the program. The program gives providers more incentive to focus on outcomes and costs, rather than individual procedures.

May 11: COA Statement on President’s Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices

The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) responded to President Trump’s blueprint to lower drug prices with a statement released on May 11. The organization offered strong support for the president’s efforts to put patients first, lower drug prices, and make care more affordable for all. The organization expressed cautious optimism, citing several areas where the president’s statement could be improved, and urging continued discussion around the cost of care.