Good morning ... There will be more poignant remembrances of John Dingell, but I also encourage you to take a minute and listen to this voicemail where he gleefully recounts a news story about a guy getting stuck in an ATM. This is definitely the sense of humor I remember from covering the Energy and Commerce Committee years ago. Rest in peace.
The Trump administration's latest drug-pricing plan would have to take effect on a pretty tight timeline. And some people are starting to wonder whether it'll actually happen that fast, my colleagues Caitlin Owens and Bob Herman report this morning.
Why it matters: The new policy would raise Medicare Part D premiums once it takes effect.
Details: The public has 60 days to weigh in, which will be followed by another 60-day period for HHS to evaluate the comments. A final rule should come out around May.
What we're watching: Part D premiums are heavily subsidized, but the politics of raising seniors' health care costs are never good.
The Food and Drug Administration has been approving generic drugs at a record clip, but a whole lot of those drugs aren't actually available to U.S. patients.
"It's a real problem because we’re not getting all the expected competition,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told Kaiser Health News, which analyzed generics' availability using FDA and industry records.
By the numbers: The FDA has approved some 1,600 new generics since the beginning of the Trump administration, per KHN.
How it works: Consolidation in the drug manufacturing business has kept some generics off the market, especially injectable drugs. So have shortages of certain ingredients.
The bottom line: Approving so many generics is one of the most tangible steps the administration has taken to try to lower drug prices. But that only works if the products actually end up coming to market.
The non-profit drug supplier Civica Rx, which aims to supply drugs that are unavailable due to shortage or price, will also try to force transparency about how money flows through the hands of middlemen, Caitlin reports.
What they’re saying: "We will not pay listing fees or rebates to anybody in the middle of the process," CEO Martin VanTrieste said in a briefing on Thursday.
Why it matters: This information isn't available for most drugs, and we don't know how much of a drug's price is absorbed by the supply chain. This model could help answer that question.
The largest health insurers, hospitals and doctors’ groups in Rhode Island have agreed to cap their annual spending growth to 3.2% from 2019 to 2022. That's a somewhat aggressive target that is below recent national spending growth, Bob notes.
Yes, but: Guaranteed increases of 3.2% may be a good deal for the groups if they think their costs will grow at even slower rates. And there doesn’t appear to be any way to enforce this, unlike the state health spending law in Massachusetts.
The bottom line: Rhode Island is a small state, but it's still surprising to see the health care industry voluntarily agree to a spending cap.
Pharmaceutical companies are investing a lot more money in gene therapies, which have the potential to save lives and generate enormous profits, while conditions like diabetes slide further down the priority list, Bloomberg reports.
Driving the news: French drugmaker Sanofi announced yesterday that it's bolstering 17 projects, half of them dealing with cancer, and rolling back a dozen others, including diabetes work.
Flashback: It's been about a year since Pfizer gave up on researching new Alzheimer's treatments.
Between the lines: Alzheimer's and diabetes research are vastly different, but the motivations here are similar.
Correction: The top item in yesterday's Vitals misstated the number of adverse events associated with the Impella RP heart pump. There have been 21 adverse events, not 23, and that includes 3 deaths, not 5, according to a Device Events analysis. We regret the error.