In this week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog, we bring you the latest from the world of healthcare. A new head of Health and Human Services was sworn in this week with the Trump Administration promising once again to reduce drug prices. Three global companies joined forces to build their own health insurance plan for over one million of their combined employees in a bid to reduce costs. New drugs, results of various studies and more are all in this week’s BioBlog.

BioBlog Pills Money

Alex Azar sworn in as head of HHS as Trump promises industry relief from high drug prices

Alex Azar was sworn in as the second head of Health and Human Services to serve in the Trump Administration. Azar replaces Tom Price, M.D., who resigned in late September in after controversy emerged over his use of government planes for personal travel. President Trump expressed support for Azar and for lowering drug prices during his remarks.

Report: Medicare Part B payment increases could offset 340B cuts for many hospitals

Consulting firm Avalere Health analyzed hospital-level data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on reimbursements in 2017 and 2018. Their results found that 85% of hospitals would receive higher Part B payouts that would minimize the reductions from cuts to 340B discounts.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase join forces to tackle employees’ health-care costs

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase, announced Tuesday they were partnering to create an independent company aimed at reining in health-care costs for their U.S. employees. No details of the plan were forthcoming, but the three companies employ over 1 million people worldwide, giving them considerable leverage in negotiating healthcare costs.

Multiple-Basket Study of Targeted Therapy for Advanced Solid Tumors

A Phase II multiple-basket study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that agents targeting specific molecular alterations produced responses in tumors outside of current labeling for the agents. High response rates were observed in some tumor types.

MD Anderson study evaluates need for biopsies during follow-up care in women with early breast cancer

Researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center determined the rate of additional breast biopsies needed for these patients during their follow-up care. The researchers looked at data from 120,000 patients.The findings, reported in JAMA Surgery, are the first comprehensive nationwide population-based study regarding the need for breast biopsies performed during follow up after treatment for invasive breast cancer.

Roche unveils data for Tecentriq/Avastin combo in kidney cancer

Pairing Roche’s PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq with Avastin reduces progression-free survival in patients with advanced kidney cancer by 26% compared to widely-used first-line treatment Sutent from Pfizer. The new data from the IMmotion151 trial will be “discussed with global health authorities” including the FDA and EMA according to Roche. Roche first reported that the Tecentriq (atezolizumab) and Avastin (bevacizumab) regimen achieved one of its therapeutic objectives in December 2017.

Early Prostate Cancer Kept at Bay in Two Studies for High-Risk Men

Johnson & Johnson’s experimental medicine apalutamide and Pfizer’s prostate cancer drug Xtandi delayed the worsening of a common, early form of prostate cancer that is prone to spreading. The drugs delayed worsening by more than 70 percent compared with a placebo in two separate studies.