What Happened, What You Missed: June 5-9, 2023


Merck Sues HHS over Drug Pricing Law

Pharmaceutical company Merck filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) over Medicare’s plans to negotiate drug prices in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). According to the lawsuit, Merck says the IRA violates a Fifth Amendment clause that prohibits the government from taking private property for public use without proper compensation. The company also claims that the program violates the First Amendment by forcing them to convey that they agree with the negotiation process. The Biden administration has since expressed that it will win the lawsuit.

CDC: Blood Donations Show Widespread COVID-19 Immunity

Nearly all Americans had some level of COVID-19 immunity, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study looked at blood donations from people ages 16 years and older for COVID-19 antibodies from July through September 2022. CDC researchers found that 96% of blood donors had antibodies, with about 23% from infection alone and 26% from just vaccination. The remaining 48% had hybrid immunity from both infection and vaccination. The study found that vaccinated people had lower levels of infection, which points to the fact that vaccines still provide some level of protection against infection. The study also found that donors ages 65 and older were less likely to have hybrid immunity, which is probably due to the fact that seniors had earlier access to vaccines.

Charity Care Drops in Non-Profit Hospitals

Spending for charity care in non-profit hospitals has dropped despite higher profits, according to a new study in Health Affairs. While the mean operating profits for non-profit hospitals grew from $43 million in 2012 to $58.6 million by 2019, charity care spending dropped slightly during that time period, from $6.7 million to $6.4 million. Non-profit hospitals are required to provide charity care for their tax-exempt status. The study echoes previous analyses that found non-profit facilities spend less on charity care than for-profit facilities. Hospital groups contend that the community benefits that non-profit hospitals provide more than justify their tax-exempt status.

FDA First Rapid COVID-19 Test via Traditional Review Process

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved on Tuesday the first rapid antigen, over-the-counter COVID-19 with the traditional premarket approval process, rather than through emergency use authorization (EUA). Manufactured by Cue Health, the test identified 93% of positive and 99% of negative samples in people with COVID-19, according to clinical trial data. The FDA says the authorization represents a new era of consumer access to COVID-19 tests. In a statement, a top FDA official said the authorization is part of a broader effort to expand the development and availability of over-the-counters tests for a variety of medical conditions.

ICYMI: UK PM Throws First Pitch at Nats Game

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was the guest of honor at Nationals Park on Wednesday night as part of a trip to strengthen economic ties between his nation and the US. He threw the first pitch in a game that saw the Washington Nationals lose to the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-2. The following day, Sunak joined President Joe Biden at the White House to announce the Atlantic Declaration, a new framework for economic co-operation between the two nations. Biden and Sunak also discussed the importance of AI regulation.

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