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Today's Vitals is 983 words, or a <4-minute read.
Hey, have you noticed that, even though everyone in Washington talks a big game about cracking down on the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmaceutical industry actually keeps winning all the time? Just like it always has?
Details: Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins and John Cornyn have all introduced bills lately to weaken drugmakers' patent protections or their ability to use those protections as a shield against competition.
At the same time, the industry persuaded Medicare to drop a proposal that would have cut into protections for certain classes of drugs, and won the first stage of a legal battle against HHS rules requiring them to include their prices in their TV ads.
How do they do it? Money helps — both in the form of campaign contributions and talented lobbyists.
Yes, but: There's still plenty of anti-pharma noise on Capitol Hill and in the administration, and there are still proposals on the table that the industry strongly opposes.
The bottom line: Sure, pharma may be playing defense right now, but preserving the status quo is still a very good outcome for this incredibly profitable industry.
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
The opioid crisis seems to finally be slowing down, but some treatment centers say that fragile progress could slip away if Congress doesn't step in to renew a critical funding stream that's quickly running dry.
The big picture: Congress and the Trump administration signed off in 2017 on a $3.3 billion grant program to helped bolster access to treatment. But that money is beginning to run out, The New York Times' Abby Goodnough reports.
What they're saying: "When we first heard the money was coming, I remember thinking, 'Wow, that's a lot,’” Nora Bock, who helps run treatment programs for Missouri's state government, told the Times. "Now it's like, 'Oh my God, it's nowhere near enough.'"
What's next: Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told NYT he's concerned that because the rate of overdose deaths nationwide is beginning to level off, Congress could get distracted and turn to other priorities, letting another round of funding wither.
My thought bubble: I'd be less concerned about this next round of funding falling through than the one after that, or the one after that.
We've reported before that there's not much evidence employee wellness programs actually do much to reduce health care costs. Now, AARP is taking the opposition up a notch, alleging that Yale University's wellness program is illegal.
How it works: Yale's wellness program requires employees (and their spouses, if they're also on Yale's plan) to undergo a series of screenings, and if those tests reveal certain health conditions, employees have to complete a coaching program.
What they're saying: The requirement to participate — and the fact that Yale shares the results with multiple vendors, who run the program — violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, AARP alleges in a lawsuit filed yesterday.
The Health and Human Services Department hasn't reported medical malpractice payments to a federal database, despite its legal obligation to do so, according to the liberal advocacy group Public Citizen.
HHS employs a lot of doctors, who treat patients — at the National Institutes of Health, the Indian Health Service and other agencies. And those doctors sometimes lose or settle malpractice claims, just like privately employed physicians.
Why it matters: The point of these disclosures is largely to help patients choose providers they feel comfortable with — but that doesn't work if patients have to FOIA their doctors' payments.
Americans don't particularly trust anyone to keep health care costs under control, but they really don't trust the industry — including insurers — according to polling from Morning Consult.
By the numbers:
Between the lines: Mistrust outweighed trust for every entity Morning Consult polled, so this isn't necessarily a resounding win for the Democrats who want to see a bigger federal role in regulating health costs.