Jan 7, 2020

Controversial antidepressant Spravato isn't widely used by the VA

President Trump said that he'd directed the Veterans Affairs system to buy "a lot" of a new antidepressant, but so far the agency has treated only 15 veterans with it, STAT reports.

The intrigue: The drug — Spravato, a nasal spray developed by Janssen — has been cautiously rolled out, partially because of questions surrounding the data used for the drug's approval and, thus, its effectiveness.

  • The VA's medical advisory board declined to approve coverage of Spravato for all veterans over the summer, and restricted its use to limited scenarios.
  • The drug's rollout in private clinics and hospitals has also been slow, as providers have struggled to get preauthorization from insurers to administer the drug or reimbursement for monitoring patients after they take it.

The bottom line: Although Trump touted the drug as having "incredible" results, it's available in only seven VA facilities out of 1,200.

Go deeper: Concerns mount over depression drug Spravato as VA approval looms

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Zolgensma's lucrative Q4

Novartis said yesterday that Zolgensma — the gene therapy that's the most expensive drug in the world — brought in $186 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, STAT reports.

Why it matters: It suggests that the drug's enormous price tag isn't blocking patients from accessing it, although the costs are ultimately borne through premiums and by taxpayers.

Go deeperArrowJan 30, 2020

A venture capitalist wants to mimic blockbuster drugs at a lower price

A venture capitalist is launching a company today to create new drugs that mimic the effects of blockbuster drugs, and then sell them to insurers and hospital systems at a lower price, STAT reports.

Between the lines: The key question is whether insurers and hospitals will buy these new drugs over their competitors.

Go deeperArrowJan 13, 2020

Insulin prices loom large on the 2020 campaign trail for Democrats

Photo: John Fredricks/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It's well known that drug prices matter a lot heading into the 2020 election, but Democratic candidates are making an especially big deal about insulin, STAT reports.

Between the lines: In some cases, there is arguably a justification for why a drug is very expensive. Insulin — which is a very old drug — is not one of those cases. That makes it easy political fodder.

Go deeperArrowJan 29, 2020