Good morning ... Let's start with what's obviously the biggest news of the past 24 hours: "OK" is officially a permissible two-letter word in Scrabble now. Total game-changer. 🚨
A woman who is homeless and addicted to heroin in Philadelphia. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Congress' final opioids legislation will expand Medicaid coverage for addiction treatment and will not include a Medicare provision the pharmaceutical industry has lobbied for, according to Modern Healthcare's Susannah Luthi.
The details: Per Modern Healthcare, the House and Senate have agreed to lift the so-called "IMD exclusion" in their final opioids package, which will allow federal Medicaid money to flow to more treatment centers.
The pharmaceutical industry lost its push to include changes to the Medicare program, perhaps as part of a compromise on drug prices.
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Drug prices are still climbing higher, despite President Trump’s promises of big and immediate discounts.
By the numbers: At the end of July, drugmakers had raised the price of brand-name products more than 4,400 times this year, compared with 46 price cuts, according to an Associated Press analysis. That works out to 96 increases for every reduction.
Eternal caveat: Few patients pay the full sticker price for drugs. Discounts and rebates can hold insured patients’ costs flat even as list prices rise.
Flashback: The illusion of lower drug prices
Starting next year, patients who have hepatitis C can get generic versions of Harvoni and Epclusa at a list price of $24,000, drug giant Gilead Sciences said yesterday. Both drugs still hold their patents until at least 2030.
Yes, but: Health insurers and government programs are already paying about $24,000 for the brand-name versions after rebates and discounts. So this won’t really affect how much the system as a whole will pay for hepatitis C drugs, Axios’ Bob Herman notes.
Publicly traded Medicaid insurer WellCare Health Plans is paying former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal $240,000 a year in cash and stock to sit on its board, Bob reports.
The big irony: Jindal, who refused to expand Medicaid in Louisiana, now stands to benefit from a company that operates in six states that expanded Medicaid.
Looking ahead: WellCare does not operate in Louisiana, which has since expanded Medicaid eligibility under Jindal’s successor, Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Axios' Caitlin Owens flags a new JAMA study that says the median cost for key drug trials is $19 million — less than 1% of the average total cost of developing a new drug.
Why it matters: Pharmaceutical companies often justify high prescription drug prices by saying that developing these drugs is expensive. And clinical trials, which are the basis for FDA approval, are part of that process.
The details: Unsurprisingly, costs are higher for trials that last longer or include more patients. They also tend to be higher for trials that compare a drug to an existing standard of care, rather than to a placebo.