Pharmacists at companies like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens described in interviews with The New York Times understaffed and chaotic workplaces where they said it had become difficult to perform their jobs safely, putting the public at risk of medication errors. In other pharmaceutical news: Novartis to pay for travel and other expensed for patients getting pricey gene therapy; critics get vocal about the Trump administration’s plan to tie drugs’ price tags to international standards; the timing gets squishy over a new Alzheimer’s drug; and more.
The New York Times: How Chaos At Chain Pharmacies Is Putting Patients At Risk
For Alyssa Watrous, the medication mix-up meant a pounding headache, nausea and dizziness. In September, Ms. Watrous, a 17-year-old from Connecticut, was about to take another asthma pill when she realized CVS had mistakenly given her blood pressure medication intended for someone else. Edward Walker, 38, landed in an emergency room, his eyes swollen and burning after he put drops in them for five days in November 2018 to treat a mild irritation. A Walgreens in Illinois had accidentally supplied him with ear drops — not eye drops. (Gabler, 1/31)
The New York Times: Pharmacists Make Mistakes. You Can Protect Yourself.
Lynne Calloway had been taking a newly refilled arthritis prescription for a few days when she mentioned she wasn’t feeling well. So her husband, Joseph Calloway, did some investigating. When he looked up her medication in a book detailing prescription drugs, he said, he discovered that she had been given the wrong one. A CVS in New Jersey had mistakenly dispensed a chemotherapy drug, he said, that could be used to treat arthritis, but only when taken at limited frequencies — commonly a single dose a week. (Gabler, 1/31)
Stat: U.S. Officials Will Let Novartis Pay Expenses For Some Kymriah Patients
In an unexpected move, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will allow Novartis (NVS) to pay for travel, lodging, and meal expenses for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries who must leave home to be administered the Kymriah gene therapy. The HHS OIG issued a so-called advisory opinion in response to a request from the drug maker, which wanted to avoid sanctions that would normally be levied against a pharmaceutical company that sought to reimburse Medicare and Medicaid patients. Under federal law, such payments would normally be considered the equivalent of a kickback. (Silverman, 1/30)
The Hill: Conservative Groups Call On Trump Administration To Scrap Looming Drug Price Move
Opponents of a controversial Trump administration move to lower drug prices are ramping up their messaging efforts against the proposal as they brace for its possible release. Sources told The Hill that the administration is ramping up efforts to release a proposal for an International Price Index in an executive action that would lower certain Medicare drug prices to be more in line with prices in other countries. (Sullivan, 1/30)
Stat: As Biogen Gets Squishy On Timing For Aducanumab Filing, The Clock Is Ticking
There are few things in this world more squishy than Wonder Bread. Exception: Biogen’s answers to the question of when it will submit aducanumab to the Food and Drug Administration. On Thursday, Biogen said a filing for the controversial Alzheimer’s drug would be completed “as soon as possible.” That’s slightly different but no more definitive than the company’s previous guidance for an aducanumab submission in “early 2020.” (Feuerstein, 1/30)
Stat: Most Innovative Cancer Drugs Take Too Long To Reach Patients In The U.K.
Despite giddy advances in treating cancer, a new analysis finds needed medicines have been reaching patients in the U.K. more slowly, and that both drug makers and government agencies are to blame. After reviewing 97 cancer drugs authorized by the European Medicines Agency from 2000 to 2016, the researchers found that drug makers generated an insufficient number of new treatments for cancers with the highest unmet medical need and that clinical trials took longer before regulatory approval was sought, according to the analysis published in Drug Discovery Today. (Silverman, 1/30)
WBUR: Biogen Seeks FDA Approval For Alzheimer’s Treatment ‘As Soon As Possible’
Local biotech giant Biogen says it plans to seek FDA approval for its Alzheimer’s treatment “as soon as possible.”That was the word from Biogen’s CEO, Michel Vounatsos, in a statement on Thursday announcing the company’s financial results for 2019. The drug, aducanumab, has shown promise in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s, though its effectiveness came into question last year when the company abruptly stopped trials. (Ma, 1/31)
Kaiser Health News: Warren Is Right. Presidents Have The Power To Bypass Congress On Drug Pricing.
On the presidential primary campaign trail in Iowa, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) brought out a favorite talking point: ways the president can bring down drug prices without waiting for Congress. It’s not the first time Warren and other candidates have referenced this alleged power. In this case, she pointed to insulin, EpiPens and HIV/AIDS drugs as possible targets. (Luthra and Knight, 1/31)
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