Morning Consult Health: Walmart, CVS and Walgreens Boosted Opioid Crisis, Ohio Jury Says
 

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Essential health care industry news & intel to start your day.
November 24, 2021
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Morning Consult Health will be off Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. The weekday newsletter will resume Monday. 

 

3 in 10 Voters Have Never Heard of HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra

A quick data nugget for you this morning: We asked voters what they think of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet, and found that 25 percent have a favorable view of Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, while 22 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him.

 

Keep in mind, though, that voters were almost as likely to say they don’t have any opinion of Becerra at all, at 21 percent. And a full 31 percent of the electorate has apparently never heard of the nation’s top health official.

 

One possible contributor: Becerra has been much less visible in the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response than officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. Check out the crosstabs here.

 

Top Stories

  • An Ohio jury found that pharmacy chains Walmart Inc., CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. fueled the country’s opioid crisis by failing to create legally required systems to monitor painkiller prescriptions, marking the latest loss for the pharmaceutical industry in opioid legislation. The two Ohio counties that brought the lawsuit are seeking $2.4 billion for addiction treatment, social services and police, according to people familiar with the plans, and a judge will hear their arguments in May. (Bloomberg)
  • The Biden administration asked a Cincinnati appeals court to immediately reinstate its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employers, which allows workers to opt out through weekly testing, saying in an emergency court motion that the rules reflect “the grievous harms the virus inflicts on workers” and that they could save more than 6,500 worker lives over the next six months. If the court denies the Biden administration’s request, it could seek intervention from the Supreme Court. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The Biden administration will require essential travelers who aren’t U.S. residents and are crossing U.S. land borders, like truck drivers and emergency response officials, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning on Jan. 22, according to a senior official. The official said the new rule aligns vaccination requirements for this group with rules for nonessential travelers, which took effect earlier this month. (The Associated Press)
  • The Department of Health and Human Services said it will distribute $7.5 billion to more than 40,000 rural health care providers to help offset increased expenses and revenue losses during the pandemic, with an average payment of $170,700. The funding comes from a COVID-19 relief bill passed in March. (The New York Times)
 

Chart Review

 
 

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

 

What Else You Need to Know

Coronavirus
 

In Vaccine IP Waiver Talks, Lawmakers Press Biden to Take Lead

Ian Lopez, Bloomberg Law

The Biden administration is facing increased pressure to fulfill its commitment to a global waiver on Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property protections as countries gear up for a renewed discussion on the proposal at a World Trade Organization meeting next week.

 

What Medicine’s Own COVID Long-Haulers Have Faced

Ed Yong, The Atlantic

Despite their medical qualifications, health professionals with long COVID have been dismissed in the same way as other patients.

 

Covid-19 Antibody Tests in Demand as People Worry About Immunity

Robbie Whelan and Brianna Abbott, The Wall Street Journal

Some people are taking Covid-19 antibody tests to determine whether they might be protected against the virus. Many health officials and doctors wish they wouldn’t.

 

COVID Tests Weren’t Designed for This

Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic

Testing is so complicated because we’re asking it to do too much.

 

COVID vaccines of the future might be pills or nasal sprays

Tina Reed, Axios

As vaccine makers pursue the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines, some are working to develop products that wouldn’t require a shot.

 

CDC moves Germany and Denmark to ‘do not travel’ list

Annabelle Timsit, The Washington Post

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has moved Denmark and Germany to its highest-risk category for travel as Europe continues to grapple with rising numbers of infections and deaths, leading some countries to reintroduce lockdowns and other restrictions they not long ago considered things of the past.

 

U.S. pediatricians say Covid cases in children are on the rise.

Alyssa Lukpat, The New York Times

Coronavirus cases in children in the United States have risen by 32 percent from about two weeks ago, a spike that comes as the country rushes to inoculate children ahead of the winter holiday season, pediatricians said.

 

Pharmacists Try New Tricks to Ease Kids’ Covid Shots: Jugglers, ‘VIP’ Rooms

Jimmy Vielkind, The Wall Street Journal

Drugstore vaccinators tell jokes and dress as superheroes to prevent a chorus of woeful cries breaking out among children now eligible for the jab.

 
General
 

Juul reaches $14.5 million settlement in Arizona vaping suit

Shawna Chen, Axios

E-cigarette giant Juul Labs will pay Arizona $14.5 million as part of a settlement for a lawsuit alleging it illegally targeted young people in its marketing.

 

FDA nomination slips after Biden admin fails to send papers to Congress

Adam Cancryn, Politico

A plan to speed Robert Califf’s nomination for FDA commissioner through the Senate next month is on hold after the Biden administration failed to submit the necessary paperwork to Congress in time, three people with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO.

 

How the $4 Trillion Flood of Covid Relief Is Funding the Future

Charley Locke, The New York Times

From broadband to transportation to high-tech medical manufacturing, benefits from America’s pandemic money infusion will linger.

 
Payers
 

Employers Warn of Health Coverage Risk in Biden Plan Provision

Sara Hansard, Bloomberg Law

A little-noticed provision of the House-passed Build Back Better Act that would lower the share of health-care premiums employees must pay could jeopardize company-sponsored plans, pushing millions of workers into Medicaid or Obamacare coverage, according to employer groups and the Congressional Budget Office.

 
Providers
 

Rural Health Care Providers Get $7.5 Billion in Relief Funds

Mark Walker, The New York Times

The money will help offset the increased expenses and revenue losses that rural hospitals and clinics have experienced during the pandemic.

 

Home-Care Industry Wages Targeted in Early DOL Enforcement Focus

Ben Penn, Bloomberg Law

The U.S. Labor Department is zeroing in on home-care wage standards in one of the Biden administration’s first industry-specific enforcement initiatives.

 

Doctors are becoming a hot commodity

Hope King and Bob Herman, Axios

Pharmacies and insurers are increasingly competing to directly hire doctors and nurse practitioners as they move deeper into primary health care delivery.

 

Anesthesiologists say Blue Cross NC ‘abusing’ surprise billing ban to drive down rates

Rebecca Pifer, Healthcare Dive

An anesthesiologist organization is accusing Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina of using the upcoming surprise billing ban as justification to “strong-arm” in-network clinicians into lower rates.

 

With insurance margins still thin, UPMC’s health services recovery headlines nine-month $1.2B net income

Dave Muoio, Fierce Healthcare

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center saw rising revenues across its business divisions and a nine-month net income of $1.2 billion, well above the $263 million it had recorded by this time last year.

 

A Patient in a Psychiatric Ward Was Seen on Video Possibly Being Sexually Assaulted. No One Reported It.

Duaa Eldeib and Tony Briscoe, ProPublica

Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago kept quiet about a possible sexual assault of one patient by another in its psychiatric unit. Only after ProPublica asked questions did Illinois’ public health officials alert law enforcement.

 
Pharma, Biotech and Devices
 

Califf, Biden’s pick to lead FDA, has millions invested in pharma and tech companies

Nicholas Florko, Stat News

Robert Califf, President Biden’s choice to lead the Food and Drug Administration, earned $2.7 million as an executive at Google’s life science arm Verily, and he holds between $1 million and $5 million in equity in the company, according to a recent financial statement filed with the White House.

 

FDA Head Defends Speedy Process Used to OK Biogen Alzheimer Drug

Jeannie Baumann, Bloomberg Law

High drug costs are driving much of the criticism over the FDA’s decisions to speed up certain approvals by using data that predicts patient benefit instead of demonstrating it, the agency’s acting head said.

 

Antibiotic accountability: how countries and companies perform

Alan Smith and Andrew Jack, Financial Times

Patients in north Africa and the Middle East are using antibiotics in sharply rising quantities far beyond the global average, raising concerns over the escalating risks of resistance to medicines to treat bacterial infections, according to a new analysis.

 

U.S. FDA approves Takeda’s drug for post-transplant CMV infection

Manojna Maddipatla, Reuters

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday it had approved Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd’s drug for a common type of viral infection occurring in patients after organ transplant.

 

Funding Deemed Key Ingredient for Proposed FDA Disease Hubs

Jeannie Baumann, Bloomberg Law

Proposals to create more hubs within the FDA that focus on individual disease drew reservations from the agency’s acting head—unless those expansion plans come with additional funding.

 
Health Technology
 

We asked major health systems to share the promising tech projects they are testing at hospitals. Here are 8 that are taking off.

Mohana Ravindranath, Insider

Hospitals across the country are reevaluating their tech strategies after an unprecedented shift to telehealth during the pandemic.

 

Patient engagement platform Luma Health picks up $130M to automate provider-patient communications

Rebecca Torrence, Fierce Healthcare

The San Francisco-based company aims to simplify patient outreach and reduce administrative burdens by automating aspects of the care experience like appointment reminders, scheduling and patient education. Its platform integrates with over 80 electronic health record systems.

 

Epic’s sepsis algorithm may have caused alert fatigue with 43% alert increase during pandemic

Rebecca Torrence, Fierce Healthcare

Epic’s sepsis early warning system, which notifies clinicians of potential signs of sepsis in their patients, sent out an overload of alerts during the COVID-19 pandemic that may have contributed to alert fatigue, a new study suggests.

 
Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives
 

Health Equity and Innovation Are at Risk for All of Us

Michael W. Hodin (Chief Executive Officer, Global Coalition on Aging), Morning Consult

Rather than build on the lessons of COVID-19, Washington seems to be trying to rewrite them — and our aging population can ill afford the unintended consequences.

 
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