What Happened, What You Missed: February 13-17, 2023


Administration Proposes New Medicare Drug Pricing Reforms

On Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a trio of drug pricing proposals that would standardize how much Medicare beneficiaries pay for certain generic drugs, explore new ways for Medicaid to pay for expensive cell and gene therapies, and test ways to pay for drugs approved without a proven clinical benefit.  The proposals stem from an executive order President Biden signed last year directing the administration to develop demonstrations that would complement the drug pricing provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act. Beyond the three proposals, CMS also called for more research to encourage adoption of biosimilars, data access to support price transparency, and access to cell and gene therapies under Medicare.

Administration Proposes Nursing Homes Disclose Connections to Private Equity

Nursing homes would have to disclose whether private equity firms or real estate investment trusts own or help operate facilities under a proposed CMS rule released on Monday.  The rule would require nursing homes to report such relationships during the Medicare and Medicaid enrollment process, which would enable government agencies and the public to more easily determine whether nursing home owners are private equity investors or real estate investment trusts.  In response, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (ACHA/NCAL) called the rule a “distraction from the real issues” facing nursing homes, like the underfunding of Medicaid and workforce shortages.

Feinstein Announces Retirement

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Senate’s oldest member, announced her retirement on Tuesday.  A former mayor of San Francisco, Feinstein announcement came amid concerns regarding her age and mental acuity.  She is the first woman to have chaired the Senate Rules Committee and the only woman to have chaired the Select Committee on Intelligence. Since the announcement, Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) have both announced their plans to run for Feinstein’s Senate seat, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is widely expected to announce her own Senate run.

FDA Issues New Warnings on Aduhelm

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently updated the label of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm following the death of a 75-year-old woman who experienced brain bleeding and swelling while taking the drug.  The new label calls on physicians to “inform patients that events of intracerebral hemorrhage” can happen infrequently when taking Aduhelm.  According to clinical trial data, 41% of Aduhelm-treated patients experienced brain bleeding and/or swelling, compared to 10% of patients on placebo.  Aduhelm received a controversial accelerated approval from the FDA in June 2021, despite mixed data on the drug’s clinical benefit for Alzheimer’s patients.  Aduhelm sales have remained low due to the drug’s high price tag and a decision from some major university hospital systems to not prescribe the drug.

ICYMI: UFO Fever Hits Washington…Again

Members of Congress and the general public has once again become enamored with unidentified flying objects (UFOs) after the Pentagon admitted to shooting down three such UFOs last weekend.  Details about the recent incidents remain sparse as earlier this week, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) said the craft was “smaller than a car,” and that one carried “a payload.”  However, other senators have been quick to clarify that the objects are not extraterrestrial in origin.  In recent years, UFO fascination in Congress has centered around reports of unidentified ariel phenomena (UAP) from US Navy personnel.

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