Health Brief: Scientist Says CDC Has Been Using Wrong Zika Test

Today’s Washington Brief

  • A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist who raised concerns about the effectiveness of a new Zika diagnostic test has caused an intra-agency debate about which of two tests is best. (The Washington Post)
  • Health advocacy groups are looking to get ahead of Congress to make sure lawmakers act again this year to keep out-of-pocket health costs from major increases for some Medicare beneficiaries. (Morning Consult)
  • The Obama administration is targeting young adults ahead of the start of open enrollment in November, with hopes that a higher number of millennial sign-ups this year will improve how insurers fare on the exchanges. Officials are taking new approaches to target young people, though some Republicans have already raised concerns about the efforts. (The Wall Street Journal)

Today’s Business Brief

  • Advocates say prescription drug monitoring programs can’t be considered solutions to the opioid abuse crisis on their own, because while they have helped modestly decrease opioid prescriptions, addicts still look to heroin. The online databases can have varying effectiveness, based on how they’re designed and used. (Politico)
  • Aetna will subsidize Apple watches for its employees and some customers, in an effort to encourage employers and consumers to be healthier. Covering healthier policy holders could ultimately help lower costs for the insurer, while also creating a boon for Apple. (Bloomberg News)
  • Patient advocacy groups have been largely silent in the debate over drug costs, with some critics saying they are failing to advocate for patients by doing so. Others say the companies receive millions from drug companies, and often push drug companies to develop better products. (The New York Times)

Today’s Chart Review

Mark Your Calendars (All Eastern Times)

CAPG Colloquium on MACRA 9 a.m.
Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee hearing on health care fraud investigations 10 a.m.
Cato Institute discussion on Obamacare, religious liberty and executive power 12 p.m.
National Pharmaceutical Council Conference on Drug Value 8:30 a.m.
CAPG Colloquium on MACRA 9 a.m.
CAPG Colloquium on MACRA 9 a.m.
Bipartisan Policy Center discussion on cancer prevention 10 a.m.
ITIF Discussion on the Future of Health Data Sharing 12 p.m.



CDC whistleblower claims agency has been using wrong Zika test
Lena H. Sun, The Washington Post

In the midst of the fight to control Zika, the top public health agency in the United States has been engaged in an intense internal debate about the best way to test whether someone has been infected with the mosquito-borne virus. At the center of the debate at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the leading experts on Zika virus. Robert Lanciotti is chief of the CDC lab responsible for developing tests to diagnose viral diseases such as Zika that are transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas.

House leaders reach deal on Flint aid, potentially averting shutdown
Mike DeBonis, The Washington Post

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi struck a deal late Tuesday to deliver federal aid to address the water crisis in Flint, Mich., potentially removing a major flashpoint in negotiations to keep the government fully operating past Friday. Under the deal, the House will vote Wednesday on an amendment to a pending water projects bill that would authorize up to $170 million in infrastructure funds for communities like Flint whose water systems are blighted by “chemical, physical, or biological” contaminants.

Varying Sick-Leave Laws Vex Some Employers
Rachel Emma Silverman, The Wall Street Journal

Across the country, new laws are requiring paid sick leave for more workers, but some employers are having a hard time keeping up. In the past decade, 36 states, cities and municipalities have adopted new paid sick-time laws that are, or will soon be, in effect.

Deadly Opioid Overwhelms First Responders And Crime Labs in Ohio
Jake Harper, Kaiser Health News

Jamie Landrum has been a police officer for two years in District 3 on the west side of Cincinnati. In late August, the city was hit by 174 overdoses in six days. Landrum says officers were scarce.

FDA Takes Step Toward New ‘Healthy’ Labeling
Annie Gasparro, The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday took the first step toward redefining its decades-old definition of “healthy,” following pressure from food companies that say the current regulations are outdated. Regulators are now seeking opinions from consumers, companies and other members of the public on how the term “healthy” should be used on food packaging.

Stocks Rally as Deutsche Bank Slump Ends, Oil Gains Before Talks
James Regan and Eddie Van Der Walt, Bloomberg News

European stocks advanced as investors took heart from a pickup in shares of beleaguered lender Deutsche Bank AG. Crude oil climbed before a meeting of major producers in Algiers, and the dollar strengthened. A gauge of European banks climbed for the first time in four days as Deutsche Bank agreed to sell its U.K. insurance unit and Chief Executive Officer John Cryan ruled out a capital increase.


Some Medicare Beneficiaries Could Face Premium Increases, Again
Caitlin Owens, Morning Consult

Congress will likely need to take action for the second year in a row to keep out-of-pocket health care costs from significantly rising in 2017 for some seniors. A group of 75 health care and employer groups on Tuesday sent congressional leaders a letter urging them to prevent this from happening.

Obama Administration to Appeal to Young Adults to Sign Up for Health Insurance
Stephanie Armour, The Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration will use targeted, digital messages and use online networks such as Twitter in a sweeping campaign to get young adults to sign up for health insurance during the Affordable Care Act’s fall open enrollment, appealing to a group seen as critical to the law’s success. The administration, which announced the new efforts Tuesday, is betting the aggressive campaign will resonate with uninsured consumers age 35 and under.

House passes bill exempting some from ObamaCare mandate
Peter Sullivan, The Hill

The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow people enrolled in failed health insurance “co-ops” to skip this year’s penalty for not having coverage. The Republican-backed bill passed on a mostly party-line vote of 258-165.


FTC wins appeal to halt Penn State Hershey/PinnacleHealth merger
Erica Teichert, Modern Healthcare

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered Penn State Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System to pause their merger as the Federal Trade Commission reviews antitrust concerns with the deal, reversing the agency’s prior loss in the case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit criticized a lower court’s May ruling that rejected a temporary block on the union.

Pharma, Biotech & Device

Drug databases are no panacea for opioid crisis
Arthur Allen, Politico

In the fight against the opioid epidemic, authorities are increasingly relying on computers — state-run drug databases that can turn up evidence of abuse, like doctors who shovel prescriptions out the door indiscriminately or patients who doctor shop for pills. But while the prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) help police and prosecutors, they haven’t necessarily helped address addiction as disease. In fact, they may be making things worse.

Doctors expect to prescribe Sarepta’s DMD drug despite insurance concerns
Ed Silverman, Stat

Definitive proof may be lacking that the newly approved Duchenne muscular dystrophy actually works, but most neurologists expect to recommend the medicine for their patients, according to a new survey. Specifically, 70 percent of the physicians appear fairly convinced that the drug is sufficiently effective to justify its use, and 82 percent expect their patients to start experiencing a benefit within six months, according to the survey of 101 neurologists who treat Duchenne.

Furor Over Drug Prices Puts Patient Advocacy Groups in Bind
Katie Thomas, The New York Times

Public anger over the cost of drugs has burned hot for a year, coursing through social media, popping up on the presidential campaign, and erupting in a series of congressional hearings, including one last week over the rising price of the allergy treatment EpiPen. But one set of voices has been oddly muted — the nation’s biggest patient advocacy groups.

From FDA expert to biotech insider: The drug industry thrives on the revolving door
Sheila Kaplan, Stat

Critics of the revolving door between government and industry cite the hundreds of lawmakers-turned-lobbyists as case studies in the art of cashing in on one’s years of public service. But less is known about the revolving door between the Food and Drug Administration and the biopharmaceutical industry.

Health IT

Opioid crisis in rural areas may be tackled through telemedicine
Shefali Luthra, Kaiser Health News

Robert Devereaux is a family physician in this southwest corner of Virginia, where problems surrounding prescription opioid use far outstrip the capacity of psychiatrists and addiction specialists to treat them. When he found crushed fragments of painkiller pills inside the nose of an older patient with chronic back pain, the most Devereaux could do was refuse to prescribe more.

Aetna Will Subsidize Apple Watch in First U.S. Insurer Deal
Zachary Tracer and Alex Webb, Bloomberg News

Aetna Inc. will give some customers and employees discounts on Apple Inc.’s smartwatch, offering the potential that incentives from the insurance industry could boost sales of the technology giant’s wearable device. The health insurer, which covers about 23 million people in the U.S., is developing apps for Apple devices that will help consumers remember to take their medicines, get a refill on prescriptions, or contact a doctor.

GAO slams HHS in health IT cybersecurity report
Joseph Conn, Modern Healthcare

The Government Accountability Office on Monday released what’s being called a “scathing” report on cybersecurity preparedness and threats in health information technology. The agency states that HHS’ investigations often result in technical advice that is not pertinent to the problems identified and that the agency doesn’t always follow up to ensure corrective actions have been taken.

A Message from PhRMA:

After six weeks of radiation, seven months of chemotherapy, and 10 surgeries, Ed’s cancer is in remission. And today, thanks to the tireless work of America’s biopharmaceutical researchers, more than 800 medicines in development for cancer offer patients like Ed hope for longer, healthier lives. Each step brings us closer to a cure. Learn more about Ed’s story here.

Opinions, Editorials & Perspectives

Rx for Medicare Transparency, Ending Retroactive Pharmacy Clawbacks
B. Douglas Hoey, Morning Consult

Most businesses offer goods and services that are paid for directly by customers or clients. However, the health care industry operates differently due to the role of third party payers. The complexity of the system can be aggravating for patients and independent community pharmacists alike trying to “follow the money.”

The World Wakes Up to the Danger of Superbugs
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

Tuberculosis. Malaria. Syphilis. Gonorrhea. The microbes that cause these diseases are increasingly resistant, and sometimes even impervious, to antibiotics that worked in the past.

A Message from PhRMA:

After six weeks of radiation, seven months of chemotherapy, and 10 surgeries, Ed’s cancer is in remission. And today, thanks to the tireless work of America’s biopharmaceutical researchers, more than 800 medicines in development for cancer offer patients like Ed hope for longer, healthier lives. Each step brings us closer to a cure. Learn more about Ed’s story here.

Research Reports, Issue Briefs & Case Studies

Defining the Provider Data Dilemma

Provider data drives the most fundamental processes in the healthcare system. The industry relies on it to connect patients with healthcare professionals, license providers, exchange information and pay for services. Inaccurate provider data puts patient care and billions of dollars at risk.

The Gap in Medigap
Tricia Neuman and Juliette Cubanski, Kaiser Family Foundation

Medicare provides coverage for a wide array of medical and drug benefits, but, with its deductibles, cost-sharing requirements, and lack of an annual out-of-pocket spending limit, many people on Medicare purchase Medigap supplemental insurance to help cover their out-of-pocket costs. Roughly 11 million of the 57 million people on Medicare—around 20 percent of all beneficiaries—have a Medigap policy, which helps protect against catastrophic expenses, spreads costs over the course of the year, and simplifies medical bills and paperwork.

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