What Happened, What You Missed: October 2-6, 2023


Makers of 10 Drugs Agree to Participate in Medicare Price Negotiations

The manufacturers of all 10 drugs selected for Medicare drug price negotiations have agreed to participate in the program, according to a White House announcement.  The announcement comes as several drugmakers have filed lawsuits against the Biden administration to stop the drug price negotiation program, including one that has already committed to participate in the negotiations.  The administration named its first 10 drugs to participate in the program over a month ago, which includes two diabetes drugs, a blood thinner, and a rheumatoid arthritis treatment.  Initial price offerings on the drugs will be announced on February 1, 2024, although Medicare beneficiaries won’t be able to access drugs with the negotiated prices until 2026.

75K Kaiser Permanente Workers Kick Off Largest Health Care Strike

More than 75,000 unionized employees of Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest health care providers, started the largest health care strike in US history this week.  Union leaders say they’re hitting the picket lines for outsourcing protections, safe staffing, and better wages to reduce turnover.  The strike comes amid an uptick in organized labor across the country, with unions representing auto workers and actors calling for higher pay.  While Kaiser’s hospitals and emergency departments will stay open during the strike, the company has warned that elective and non-emergency services may be rescheduled.

Moderna’s Combination COVID-Flu Shot Shows Promise

Moderna is moving on to late-stage clinical trials for its combination COVID-19 and influenza vaccine after early-stage trials found the shot to be effective against both viruses.  The combined vaccine has been shown to have a similar safety profile to existing mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, and no new safety concerns have been reported.  The company’s efforts to create a two-in-one COVID-19 and flu shot mirror similar efforts at Pfizer and Novavax.  Health experts say a combination vaccine has many logistical benefits, such as a reduced need for storage space and fewer injections for patients.  Known as mRNA-1083, Moderna’s experimental vaccine could become available to the public in time for the 2025 flu season.

Study: “Good” Cholesterol Linked to Dementia

“Good” cholesterol may not be as good as previously thought, according to a new study.  The researchers found a correlation between high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and dementia in older adults, although they did not conclude if high or low levels can directly cause dementia.  The study, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), included more than 180,000 California residents who now have an average age of 70 years old.  The average HDL cholesterol level in the study was 53.7 mg/dL, which is within the recommended range of 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women.  People whose cholesterol levels deviated too far from these numbers were more likely to develop dementia, according to the study.  Too much HDL cholesterol in the brain can cause inflammation that causes the production of amyloid plaques, which are attributed to dementia.

ICYMI: Biting Incidents Prompt Ouster of Biden’s Dog

Commander, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden’s German shepherd, has been removed from the White House following a string of biting incidents involving White House residence staff and Secret Service personnel.  Commander’s departure from DC is similar to Major, the Bidens’ other German shepherd, who was sent to live with family friends in Delaware in 2021 after biting people at the White House.  According to emails published by Judicial Watch, Commander bit several Secret Service agents a total of 10 times.

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