National News
Pharma Cash Rolls Into Congress To Defend An Embattled Industry
In the heat of the most ferocious battle over drug prices in years, pharmaceutical companies are showering U.S. senators with campaign cash as sweeping legislation heads toward the floor.
In the first six months of this year alone, political action committees run by employees of drug companies and their trade groups have given the 30 senators expected to run for reelection nearly $845,000, the latest update to Kaiser Health News' "Pharma Cash to Congress" database shows. That hefty sum stands out with Election Day more than 14 months away.
Most of the biggest donations in the first half of 2019 have gone to Republicans, who control the Senate and tend to be more reluctant to restrict drugmakers. And even those who do not serve on committees that oversee the industry or represent states with significant industry ties have benefited from drugmaker cash this year.
Several senators facing tough reelection campaigns have raked in tens of thousands of dollars this year, with some collecting much more than the industry has given them in the past decade, if ever.
By Emmarie Huetteman and Jay Hancock and Elizabeth Lucas published in Kaiser Health News
The Cost Of Diabetes Drugs Is Causing More Americans To Skip Their Meds
In response to the rising cost of medicines, a growing number of people with diabetes are spurning prescriptions and asking their physicians for lower-cost options, according to newly released government data. To wit, among adults who were prescribed a diabetes medication in the past 12 months, 13.2% skipped dosages, took fewer dosages, or delayed filling a prescription in order to save money. And 24.4% asked their doctor for a lower-cost alternative.
By Silverman, Published by Stat
Doctors Don't Always Know What Patients Will Owe For Meds
It's the No. 1 reason patients don't fill their prescriptions: sticker shock. While the price of almost any good or service can be found online, most Americans don't know what they'll owe for a prescription medication until they get it. Unexpected costs contribute to the estimated 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions that are never filled, which can lead to health problems from untreated medical conditions.
By Perrone, Published by The Associated Press
New Concerns Emerge About Long-Term Antidepressant Use
How long is too long to be on antidepressants? More Americans are taking antidepressant medications like Prozac and Zoloft for extended periods of time: One-quarter of people on the drugs have used them for a decade or more, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. But even the longest rigorous studies of antidepressants' safety and efficacy have followed patients for only a couple of years.
By Petersen, Published in The Wall Street Journal
State News

Over 1 Million Illegally Manufactured Fentanyl Pills Have Been Seized by DEA This Year
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that agents in Arizona have cumulatively seized more than 1 million illicitly manufactured fentanyl pills in Fiscal Year 2018. These pills are designed to resemble oxycodone M-30 tablets, with the same coloring and markings, but have the potential to be much more dangerous. According to DEA, Mexican cartels began manufacturing their own fentanyl and using pill presses to create the pills, which are also being marketed as "Mexican oxy" to those seeking opioids on the black market. Arizona law enforcement seizures of illicit fentanyl have tripled each year since 2016.
Supreme Court Clears Way For Release Of Purdue Records
After a 3 1/2 year legal battle, secret records about Purdue Pharma's marketing of its potent opioid painkiller OxyContin will finally be made public. The Kentucky Supreme Court denied a request from Purdue to review lower courts' decisions to release the documents, according to a one-page order received Monday by the lawyers in the case. The decision is a major victory for STAT, which first filed a motion to unseal the records in March 2016. Purdue has fought to keep the documents out of view, but the Supreme Court's refusal is final and can't be appealed.
Joseph and Ross, Published in Stat
PMP Reduces 'Doctor Shopping' by 89%
The Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS), the prescription monitoring program (PMP) used in Ohio, has had a significant impact on the number of patients resorting to "doctor shopping" for prescription drugs. According to a press release published to the Governor of Ohio's website, OARRS has helped to reduce doctor shopping activity by 89% from 2011 to 2018, as reported by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy. In addition, data indicate that the state saw a 4.6 million decline in opioid prescriptions from 2012 to 2018. The program receives more than 800,000 queries on average during weekdays from roughly 43,000 health care providers, according to Governor Mike DeWine, who spoke on OARRS at a press release on August 2, 2019.
OARRS is one of 51 total PMPs that are currently participating in NABP PMP InterConnect®. PMP InterConnect has been operating since 2011 and provides a solution to facilitate interoperability and secure interstate data sharing between PMPs. More than 53 million requests are being processed through the system each month
Johnson & Johnson Ordered To Pay $572 Million In Landmark Opioid Trial
A judge in Oklahoma on Monday ruled that Johnson & Johnson had intentionally played down the dangers and oversold the benefits of opioids, and ordered it to pay the state $572 million in the first trial of a drug manufacturer for the destruction wrought by prescription painkillers. The amount fell far short of the $17 billion judgment that Oklahoma had sought to pay for addiction treatment, drug courts and other services it said it would need over the next 20 years to repair the damage done by the opioid epidemic.
By Hoffman, Published in The New York Times
Rhode Island
CMS Approves Rhode Island's 1332 Waiver
HHS on Monday approved Rhode Island's 1332 waiver application to create an individual market reinsurance fund supported by federal funding. Rhode Island anticipates the move will lower premiums and expand coverage statewide. The state expects the 1332 waiver will reduce premiums by 5.9% in 2020 compared to what they would be without the waiver, according to HHS. Rhode Island thinks the lower premiums will grow individual market enrollment by about 1% in 2020.
By Brady, Published in Modern Healthcare
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