In this week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog, we look at several top stories from around the world. New evidence shows that the Affordable Care Act improved cardiac patients’ access thanks to Medicaid expansion. Three states plan to import drugs from Canada where costs for prescription medicines are cheaper. And while the recent furor (and lawsuits) about kickbacks were thought to slow them down, new evidence shows that kickbacks have risen rather than decreased. This and more in this week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog.

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National Lung Screening Trial Follow Up Reaffirms that Low Dose Computed Tomography Reduces Lung Cancer Mortality

The Journal of Thoracic Oncology published a follow up on the 2011 NELSON Trial which found a 26% reduction in lung cancer mortality in men and a 39% reduction in women. These findings supported the results of the original large U.S. study. The randomized National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), reported a significant 20% reduction in lung cancer mortality in high-risk current and former smokers screened annually for three years with LDCT as compared to chest x-rays. The NLST study included 26,722 patients in the LDCT arm and 26,730 in the x-ray arm at 33 medical institutions in the United States.

ACA improves coverage and access for cardiovascular patients in Medicaid expansion states

A study conducted with researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Healthcare System and the Boston University School of Medicine found that Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act improved coverage and access for cardiovascular patients. Insurance coverage increased 6.9 percentage points for those in the study, and the rate of not missing a physician visit increased by 3.6 percentage points. In addition, having a regular checkup increased for this demographic by 2.1 percentage points and having a relationship with a personal physician increased by 1 percentage point. In all those surveyed, the changes were doubled for those patients with incomes under $35,000 a year.

Array played with Pfizer’s eagerness to land a deal on time—and got itself a better offer

Array had only one offer from Pfizer, but waiting paid off. The companies announced a $48 per share deal on June 17. The arrangement would bring Array’s MEK-BRAF combo inhibitor Mektovi and Braftovi, as well as its research platform, into Pfizer’s oncology division. Array’s Mektovi and Braftovi fight metastatic colorectal cancer.

Pharma shells out $3B to doctors and hospitals—with Roche, Sanofi leading: CMS

Although the recent furor over kickbacks in the pharmaceutical industry was thought to have quelled payments, instead, it seems to have fueled them. Drug and device makers paid out $3 billion to doctors and teaching hospitals in 2018, a 3.5% increase from the previous year, according to the Open Payments database published Sunday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Those payments include royalties paid to teaching hospitals, physician speaking and consulting fees, and free food and travel. The industry paid out an additional $4.93 billion for research and development. Roche and Sanofi lead the pack, which includes most of the big name companies.

Fujifilm teams up with Bayer on cancer drug development

Japanese company Fujifilm Holdings teamed up with Bayer to develop an immune-based cancer treatment using induced pluripotent stem cells. The companies plan to work on a new method of stem cell treatment that they hope reduces both time and cost of development. The new method utilizes iPS cells from someone other than the patient in contrast with current methods which use a patient’s own stem cells. The project costs are estimated to be $250 million with 90% paid by Bayer.

Trump has blessed states’ exploration of importing drugs. Will it catch on?

Colorado, Florida, and Vermont plan to import drugs from Canada, which provides them at a lower cost. The move is the first of its kind, and underscores how people are frustrated with higher costs under high-deductible health insurance plans. The 2003 Medicare Modernization Act allows states to import cheaper drugs from Canada, but only the Health and Human Services secretary verifies their safety. Previous attempts by states to allow importation failed because the secretary opposed them. The three states plan to work together to import the medications.