What Happened, What You Missed: May 22-26, 2023


CMS Proposes Greater Drug Price Transparency in Medicaid

A newly proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would require pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that contract with Medicaid to disclose the prices they pay for prescription drugs. The proposed rule is part of a Biden administration effort to boost price transparency by tamping down on spread pricing, which refers to the practice of charging health plans for prescription drugs more than what they pay the pharmacy and pocketing the difference. The proposed rule comes as House and Senate committees advanced legislation this month that would ban the practice. Another key provision of the proposed rule would provide CMS and states with a drug price verification survey to help federal and state officials better negotiate what Medicare pays for expensive drugs. The deadline for stakeholders to comment on the proposed rule is July 25, 2023.

Debt Default Looms as Lawmakers Depart for Memorial Day

Despite recent progress on debt ceiling talks in Washington, lawmakers left the Capitol for Memorial Day weekend without a deal being reached. Assuming members are provided 24 hours’ notice before a final vote, the soonest the House can take a vote on a debt ceiling measure is Tuesday night. According to Republican negotiator Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), major progress has been made on spending caps and energy permitting, while discussions remain underway on work requirements and unspent COVID-19 aid. Even if the House approves a debt ceiling bill early next week, Congress may not be able to completely raise the debt limit until June 3-4, which runs rather close to the estimated default date.

Surgeon General’s Warning on Kids’ Social Media Use

Overuse of social media can harm the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents, according to a new advisory from US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. While the advisory acknowledges that social media provides some benefits to kids, such as helping kids feel more accepted and providing an outlet for creativity, survey data shows that social media use is attributed to body dysmorphia, poor eating behaviors, social comparison, and low self-esteem. To help protect kids from the harmful effects of social media, the Surgeon General recommends that policymakers create age-appropriate safety standards, support digital literacy education in schools, require more data privacy protections, and require social media companies to share health-related data.

CDC: HIV Cases Drop among Young People

New HIV infections among people ages 13-24 dropped 34% between 2017 and 2021, according to data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Public health officials attribute the decline to new medications that prevent infections and improvements in HIV testing. However, the decline in infections was not equally reflected among all racial or ethnic groups, as Black/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos ages 13-24 saw a much smaller decline in infections compared to White people in the same age range. To address these disparities, the CDC recommends increasing investment in HIV prevention programs, expanding access to HIV self-testing, and addressing social determinants of health.

FDA Approves Synthetic Opioid Reversal Drug

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Opvee, a prescription nasal spray that can reverse overdoses of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The Indivior-produced drug is the first nasal spray to treat opioid overdoses in adults and children over 12 years of age. According to the FDA, Opvee can reduce the effects of opioid overdoses, such as respiratory depression, sedation, and low blood pressure if administered quickly. Opvee is similar to Narcan, which the FDA approved for over-the-counter use in March 2023. While it remains unclear how the new nasal spray will be used differently from Narcan, an advantage of Opvee is that it is better suited to address fentanyl, which stays in the body longer than heroin and other opioids. Indivior expects to launch Opvee in October at the earliest.

ICYMI: Memorial Day Travelers Can Expect Lower Gas Prices

If you’re hitting the road for Memorial Day weekend, rejoice: the average price of a gallon of gasoline is $3.53, which is about a dollar lower than last year’s national average of $4.60. However, gas prices are still higher than they were pre-pandemic, and travel experts warn that a busy road travel season this summer could bump gas prices up higher.

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