Apr 29, 2019

Signs of higher drug spending (with a catch)

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Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals 

Gross prescription drug spending appears to be on the rise. Preliminary data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows the amount spent on prescriptions in the first quarter of 2019 increased 7.1% year over year, the highest annualized growth rate since the fourth quarter of 2015.

Yes, but: The data points do not factor in the rebates and discounts that drug manufacturers pass along to industry middlemen. So that higher spending rate doesn't tell the full story, and real spending growth almost certainly is lower.

Details: The BEA will revise these numbers twice by June, but they still won't account for drug rebates.

  • Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which accounts for rebates but takes longer to come out, remains the gold standard for tracking prescription drug spending.
  • CMS found spending growth for retail prescriptions was essentially flat in 2017 and estimates the final growth rate in 2018 will be 3.3%. CMS predicts net drug spending will rise by 4.6% in 2019.

The bottom line: "The rebate issue really makes a mess of these things," said Paul Hughes-Cromwick, a health economist at research firm Altarum. Until the federal government gets real-time rebate data from drugmakers or pharmacy benefit managers, he said, "we're all running around chasing our tails."

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Top Trump ally sounds 2020 election alarm over coronavirus response

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

There is growing concern among top conservative leaders that the Trump administration isn't addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus, several sources tell Axios. One top adviser said if the recovery is bungled it could cost President Trump the election.

What we're hearing: "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets reelected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Federal Reserve board, told Axios. If the administration mishandles its economic recovery efforts, he said, Trump is "in big trouble."

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,596,496 — Total deaths: 95,506 — Total recoveries: 354,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 462,135 — Total deaths: 16,513 — Total recoveries: 25,410Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  6. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  7. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  8. 1 SNL thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return to the air this weekend with a remotely produced episode.
  9. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

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