D.C. readers: You're invited to an Infrastructure Week edition of News Shapers, tomorrow morning at 8am.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The U.S. is facing a series of potentially devastating health care threats — some within the next decade, and some that have already manifested as a part of everyday life.
Between the lines: As Washington struggles with staggering hospital bills and prescription drug costs, society also faces even more difficult problems fueled by the aging population, the economics of health care and the rise of drug-resistant infections.
Details: Looming problems run the gamut of affordability issues, access issues and health threats.
The bottom line: It's hard to see how any of these topics become more prominent than the debate over Medicare for All or how to drive down spending on prescription drugs over the next couple of years. But we avoid dealing with them at our peril.
Civica Rx, the hospital-funded generic drug company, has signed an agreement with drugmaker Xellia Pharmaceuticals to make and supply the IV antibiotics vancomycin and daptomycin, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
Why it matters: Civica is taking its first concrete step toward addressing drug shortages and high-priced generics, which will benefit patients within the 900 hospitals that are part of the nonprofit company as well as patients within the VA, which is partnering with Civica.
Details: Xellia has agreed to expand its production of the antibiotics, and Civica will buy them from Xellia at set volumes and prices over the next 5 years — guaranteed money for Xellia.
Yes, but: Xellia is owned by the same conglomerate that owns Novo Nordisk, one of the major global insulin producers. Rod Hochman, CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health, a hospital system that backs Civica, previously told Axios the company had aspirations of making insulin, but that idea appears to be dead for now.
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday released draft legislation to protect patients from surprise hospital bills.
Between the lines: The biggest obstacle to addressing the surprise billing problem is resolving payment issues between insurers and providers if providers can no longer balance bill patients.
What they're saying: This is not providers' preferred approach, to say the least.
Go deeper: An analysis of the measure — including its payment resolution mechanism — was published in Health Affairs.
The U.S. fertility rate has reached a record low, and the total number of births in 2018 was the lowest it has been in more than 30 years, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control.
Why it matters: The long-term economic implications of a shrinking future workforce could be dire, my colleague Stef Kight reports.
By the numbers: While birth rates fell for younger women in 2018, they rose slightly for women in their late 30s and early 40s, according to the newest CDC data. Women waiting longer to start their families has been a growing, global trend.
A lawsuit filed yesterday by AIDS activists and unions alleges that Gilead conspired with other drug companies to block generic competition in the HIV market, Stat News reports.
Why it matters: The lawsuit alleges that this scheme kept prices for HIV drugs "sky-high," even when generic versions of the cocktail components were available.