FDA Calls Out Juul; Opioid Crackdown; States Tackle Drug Pricing
With more deaths reported from vaping and a forceful U.S. Senate declaration to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acting commissioner to either enact stronger federal provisions restricting e-cigarettes, flavored tobacco, and inhalants or resign, the Trump administration moved quickly to demonstrate a recognition that cessation is a national, bipartisan concern. FDA sent a warning letter to Juul about its marketing and labeling, and the president, Health and Human Services secretary, and FDA commissioner issued very public statements on the matter, making it clear that federal oversight will be enforced on youth tobacco issues.
Health Care in Campaigns; Respiratory Illness From Vaping; Drug Importation Politics
Chicago ONS Chapter member Janice Phillips, RN, CENP, PhD, FAAN, said it all in her op-ed published on Morning Consult. The entire Democratic field of presidential candidates has declared some form of healthcare overhaul, albeit to varying degrees of change. With expanded access and reduced costs for patients and families as a priority, the centerpiece to most presidential hopefuls’ domestic policy program is redesigning a struggling system.
Oncology Formulations Not Affected by Bevacizumab Recall
On September 3, 2019, AmEx Pharmacy issued a voluntary recall of two dosages of injectable bevacizumab. Although injectable bevacizumab is used in cancer treatment, the formulations affected by the recall are for much smaller dosages that are used to treat eye diseases (i.e., macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy).
Azar Remarks on Trump Administration’s Healthcare Vision
Health care is a top domestic issue for U.S. voters, and the president is speaking more and more about his administration’s plans to find accessible, affordable healthcare options for millions of Americans. Speaking this summer at the Better Medicare Alliance in Washington, DC, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar outlined three key points where the Trump administration plans to improve health care.
HHS Awards Nearly $400 Million to Combat Opioid Crisis
From New Hampshire to Arizona, millions of American families are confronted by the impact of opioid addiction. It’s one of the few remaining bipartisan issues on which the U.S. Congress continues to agree. Its reach is pervasive, it’s an international and domestic issue, and it has led politicians to cross the aisle and work together. Finding initiatives and funding programs to enact real solutions has become a national priority, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is earmarking nearly $400 million to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic.
Nurses Advocate for Palliative Care, Drug Parity by Sharing Patient Experiences
With our heads held high, Michelle Santizo, RN, PHN, MSN, and I walked right into Capitol Hill, ready to tackle meetings with important members of the U.S. Congress. On that day in July 2019, we spoke with staff members working for the offices of both Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA).
HHS Announces Safe Importation Action Plan for High Medication Costs
The high cost of prescription medications—often lifesaving drugs—has become an unsustainable burden for many American patients. It’s a central topic in the healthcare conversation and a complex issue with countless moving parts. National opinion polling finds that a majority of people want to see changes in drug pricing.
Medicare Covers CAR T; HPV Vaccine Confusion; Officials Target Drug Makers
The decision to allow Medicare to cover the cost of CAR T-cell therapy—a new and expensive form of immunotherapy—is an important one for patients seeking the treatment, especially after rounds of failed tradition therapies. Educating federal agencies and government representatives about the importance of new treatments like CAR T cells have helped drive coverage decisions, and the patient advocacy community—like ONS’s very own advocates—are to thank.
The Battle Against Drug Pricing Wages On
Few know the power that prescription medications have on the quality of life for patients more than nurses. In more than just physical ways, access to affordable drugs is essential to patient-centered care and emotional, psychological, familial, and even financial stability. For too long, the cost and availability of medicines have been barriers to health care, rather than opportunities for survivorship.
No Health Cost Vote; FDA Youth Tobacco Campaign; Senate Committee Drug Bill
From soaring prescription medication costs to surprise medical bills, the issue of high healthcare costs has dominated headlines for months. Both sides of the aisle have been outspoken about the issue in a rare showing of bipartisanship. But despite the attention paid to the issue, little has been done legislatively to corral rising healthcare costs for patients and consumers. The recent announcement that the Senate wouldn’t vote on its healthcare cost bill prior to the August recess has left many wondering if the issue would be addressed at all.
Surprise Billing Legislation; Drug Pricing Reform Stalls; GOP's ACA Repeal
Surprise medical bills—a long-time problem for patients and consumers—was not on the legislative radar until recently. In short order, the issue has quickly moved through the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill, to offer some hope for consumers. Part of the committee’s mark up added an amendment allowing for arbitration to address specific medical charges if hospitals disagreed with the agreed-upon rate. Some committee members felt that without it, providers would have limited recourse in special circumstances.
PCHETA in the Senate; Armed Forces Tobacco Use; Drug Pricing Executive Order
An ONS priority bill, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) emphasizes how providers are educated and trained in palliative care, enabling them to provide a higher level of care to their patients. PCHETA legislation—and its reception on Capitol Hill—has evolved from being misinterpreted as training providers to hasten death to a true understanding that palliative care is patient-centered care, and it provides patients and their family members with further treatment options, symptom management resources, and quality of life. In a display of bipartisanship, Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) reintroduced PCHETA legislation to the Senate floor for consideration.
Chapters Advocate for Patients and Nurses at Statewide Event in Annapolis
On March 26, 2019, more than 40 nurses came together at the Maryland General Assembly’s Senate President’s Conference Center for the Oncology Nurses Night in Annapolis. This was the Greater Baltimore Chapter of ONS’s (GBCONS’s) third advocacy trip to the statehouse, but it was the first statewide ONS event. All four Maryland chapters were active in planning the night, and many new advocates were inspired to speak out.
President Releases Executive Order on Healthcare Transparency
As challenges mount to find new and innovative ways to provide quality health care at affordable prices for patients, a battle is brewing over what patients can and cannot know about their healthcare costs. On June 24, President Trump released an executive order directing his administration to take steps to improve healthcare prices and transparency to address the pricing woes patients face.
Congress Tackles Youth Smoking; Pelosi Drug Pricing; Biden's Cancer Commitment
Healthcare advocates assembled in the U.S. Congress to hear from panelists about the national epidemic of youth smoking. From those conversations, a common theme emerged: many believe that the rise in youth vaping and smoking is directly related to marketing and sales tactics by large tobacco manufacturers.
CMS Seeks Changes in Telehealth, Palliative Care Payments, and Electronic Health Record Interoperability
In March and April 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued several proposed and final rules that affect patient coverage for cancer-related benefits, payment models, and the paperwork nurses often complete to ensure those benefits are billed correctly.
HHS Secretary Remarks on Pricing in Drug Ads
In the aftermath of the 2018 midterm election, one domestic policy issue shone through as a common ground for most Americans: healthcare costs. In particular, the dramatic rise in prices for prescription medication seems to be a pervasive worry among voters. To address the issue, elected officials in Washington, DC—in a bipartisan fashion not often seen—have consulted and impaneled congressional hearings to understand the economic impact medication costs.
CMS’s Final Medicare Part D Ruling Preserves Patient Access to Certain Cancer Drugs
Medicare Part D will continue to give patients access to certain cancer drugs, according Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS’s) final ruling issued May 16, 2019. The final rule does not allow for utilization controls like step therapy and prior authorizations for patients who are already in an established treatment regimen; does not restrict drugs that have had certain price increases over a specified time period; and does not restrict new formulations of an existing protected class drug.
Washington Healthcare Option; Dems Campaign Complication; States Sue Drug Manufacturers
Washington is the first state in the country to offer a public insurance option to its residents after Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill into law on May 13, 2019. Is it any coincidence that Inslee is also running for president? Coming from a traditionally “blue” state with a strong progressive legislature allowed this Democratic candidate to deliver on a particularly interesting policy.
Bipartisan Drug Legislation; Curbing Youth Smoking; Nurses Back Medicare for All
Trying to find a path forward is a common theme among elected officials in Washington, DC, and drug pricing appears to be a bipartisan initiative. In that vein, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)— working with representatives from both sides of the aisle—announced his plan to release a drug pricing proposal by the beginning of summer 2019.
Government-Led Drug Pricing; CMS Reimbursement Updates; Playing Cards Reaction
As Washington attempts to address the soaring costs of prescription medications, some experts are attempting to shed light on the many complicated aspects of the drug pricing issue. The free-market system has countless moving parts, and perhaps so-called big government ownership isn’t the answer to inflating drug costs. As the author aptly states, “From a public-relations standpoint, drug companies are often their own worst enemies. Occasionally, a breathtakingly awful company taints the image of the whole industry.”
As Drug Pricing Tops Capitol Hill Interest, ONS Advocates for Patient Access to Care
Reducing the high cost of prescription drugs continues to be a priority focus for both the U.S. Congress and Trump administration, and ONS is closely monitoring and providing input on how key proposals could affect patient access to oncology care.
Senators Investigate Juul; Dems Drug Pricing Woes; New Medicare for All
On April 8, 2018, nearly a dozen Democratic senators announced they would investigate the marketing practices of e-cigarette giant Juul along with a new deal to sell a minority stake of the company to Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes. Not long ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Juul—along with others in the smoking cessation community—supported efforts to use electronic tobacco mechanisms to help 60 million Americans quit smoking. However, along the way, the U.S. surgeon general and FDA discovered that youth smoking and vaping have seen a dramatic increase from the advertising, marketing, and distribution of e-cigarettes.
Drug Pricing Discussions Make Headway in Congress
The 116th congressional session is well underway. Committee meetings are being held and policy discussions are taking shape all over Capitol Hill. In January 2019, the U.S. House and Senate held separate public hearings on the biggest healthcare issue from the 2018 midterm election: drug pricing.
Future of Nursing; Adults Ration Medication; Drug Parity Act
It’s been almost a decade since the Institute of Medicine—now the National Academies of Medicine (NAM)—released The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report. Although many aspects of the nursing profession have been enhanced, still others are woefully lacking in change. Healthcare workplace safety incidents are still too high—up to 12 times higher than in the overall workforce—educational opportunities are still too expensive, and scope-of-practice authority is still too limiting in many states—all of which are ONS policy priorities.
Nursing Workplace Violence; Aggressive Drug Pricing Legislation; Gottlieb Steps Down
Although nurses are the number one trusted profession in the United States for the past 18 years in a row, they’re not necessarily the most protected sector. Hostile workforce environments and exposure to hazardous chemicals are still a part of too many nurses’ daily lives. Recently, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee held hearings on workforce safety to better understand the what nurses and other healthcare workers endure.
Trump Administration Proposes Lower Drug Costs
For the past year, President Trump has championed efforts to lower drug prices for Americans to more accessible and affordable medications. Lowering soaring prescription costs is an issue with wide bipartisan support in Congress. To date, several Congressional committees have held hearings in early 2019 with pharmaceutical executives.
Dems' Budget Fight; Pharma CEOs Face Congress; Patient Financial Struggles
Democrats control the majority of the House of Representatives, and it’s their responsibility to provide and pass a U.S. budget. As with any Congress, it’s always easier said than done. With a larger, more progressive freshman class interested in pushing more environmental, health, and welfare policy issues forward, costs will be a concern.
Drug Pricing Talks; Clinical Trial Barriers; Survivorship Challenges
Rising prescription medication costs has been a major focus area for both the Trump administration and the 116th Congress. In January 2019, both the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction held public hearings on soaring drug costs. Despite constant media attention and mounting pressure from government officials, no pharmaceutical company executives chose to testify. Congress threatened to subpoena the industry if it happened again.
Opioid Access; Smoking Age Increase; House Medicare for All
Efforts to curb the national opioid epidemic have taken shape in several ways, including redefined prescription guidelines. However, many insurers are now like the ones commonly prescribed to patients with cancer. For years, ONS has been meeting with congressional offices to advocate that access to prescription opioids for cancer survivors should be exempt from the strict limits assigned to other diagnoses. It’s always been a successful strategy, because related to severe pain management, quality of life, and end-of-life care.
HHS Proposes Policy Changes for Medicare Advantage, Part D Drug Pricing
U.S. drug pricing systems are difficult for patients to understand, cumbersome to maneuver, and limited in access and affordability. In Medicare’s current structure, certain medications are designated as a protected class of drug, and Medicare Part D plans are obligated to cover them.
Bipartisan Drug Debates; Youth Vaping Epidemic; Socioeconomic Disparities and Cancer
Congress has settled in after the shutdown, and new members have taken their place on committees to begin the real work in Washington, DC. This week, the House and Senate convened similar panels to discuss the bipartisan goal to lower soaring drug costs for all Americans. Patients and families provided emotional testimony about lost loved ones because of pricey prescription medications that were out of reach.
Government Shutdown Ends; FDA Threatens E-Cigarettes; New Medicare Part D; Uninsured Rates Rise
After a contentious 35-day-long shutdown, President Trump announced on January 25, 2019, plans for a while talks continue on border security and immigration. Neither party seems optimistic that compromise can happen by the February 15 deadline, and the future is still uncertain.
Pre-Existing Condition Resolution; Teen Vaping; Drug Pricing Talks
Debates like the one facing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are what American democracy is built on. Checks and balances for each branch of government—often with authority undulating back to state governments—provide numerous opportunities for policy issues to change and develop through legislative, regulatory, and judicial review. Recently, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have reintroduced a resolution that authorizes Senate Legal Counsel to defend Americans with preexisting conditions against a Republican Attorneys General lawsuit facing the ACA.
Short-Term Insurance Plans; FDA Curbs Youth Vaping; Drug Cost Legislations
Short-term insurance plans were and the rising costs for its health plans after deep funding cuts to the law. But, in doing so, the Trump administration has allowed new, seemingly unregulated temporary insurance plans to emerge that appear to prey on vulnerable policyholders, offering limited coverage at high prices. On January 8, Democrats on short-term insurance plans.
Pre-Existing Conditions; Overcharging Prescription Drugs; Opposing Medicare for All
Although the Democrats have yet not formally taken control of the House of Representatives, many are primed and passionate about holding the Trump administration accountable after the November midterm elections. Through involvement in committees and as incoming chairs of powerful oversight panels, lawmakers are .
Bipartisan Drug Pricing Bill; Freshman Democrats; Medical Cannabis Concerns
As efforts continue to drive down the soaring costs of prescription medications, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) proposed a bipartisan bill looking to close loopholes used by pharmaceutical companies to drive up profits. The bill would give the Department of Health and Human Services the ability to address companies that misclassify products to pay lower rebates.
Proposed Medicare Payment Model Based on International Drug Prices Would Lower Patient Costs
On October 25, 2018, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) calling for a demonstration project to more closely align Medicare payment for certain Medicare Part B drugs and biologics with international prices, which an HHS analysis showed to be 1.8 times lower on average than in the United States. The proposal is a follow-up to the president’s prescription drug blueprint and HHS request for information to reduce patient out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. HHS estimates a savings of $17.2 billion over five years.
President Trump Signs Opioids Legislation Into Law
Developed to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, a comprehensive opioid addiction bill has finally made its way to the president’s desk. On October 25, 2018, President Trump signed the opioid package into law. The new law allots more than $8 billion to address addiction, drug trafficking, and recovery issues.
Lower Drug Prices; Democrat Dealmakers; Republicans Support Medicare Expansion
Fighting the cost of soaring prescription medications is a winning issue with tremendous bipartisan support. And reigning in exorbitant drug prices means patients will be the real winners. Recently, President Trump lauded his administration’s work to fight against high prescription drug costs, citing new efforts to reduce other countries from taking advantage of drug pricing.
Drug Pricing in Ads; Cancer Fertility Preservation; American Healthcare Panic
Addressing the high cost of prescription medications has been an ongoing focus for the Trump administration. Its latest move, requiring drug companies to list their product’s market price on consumer ads, is an added level of transparency that didn’t exist before. Whether the decree will have an impact remains to be seen, but it may add some trust to the process.
Opioid Package Passes; Cheap Insurance Policies; Drug Patent Laws
For months, bipartisan lawmakers have worked together to build an opioid package aimed to tackle the nation’s abuse epidemic. After rounds of revisions and finally making it through both chambers of the House and Senate, the legislation is on its way to the president’s desk. The bill focuses funding efforts on addiction recovery programs and cracking down on the illegal medication trafficking.
HHS Secretary Directs FDA to Create Drug Importation Working Group
The rising price of prescription drugs is an ongoing priority for the Trump administration. As part of the president’s blueprint to lower drug costs, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, Alex Azar, elevated the prescription cost issue throughout many federal agencies to help determine a new course of action.
If You Are Young and Have Cancer, Help Can Be Hard to Find; Health Secretary Says Agency Has Power to Eliminate Drug Rebates; Trump Administration Needs to Step Up on Obamacare
A cancer diagnosis at a young age can lead to serious hardship after completing treatments and moving into survivorship. Such was the case for Matthew Zachary after his cancer diagnosis at age 21. An interesting component to Zachary’s story—and that of many others like him—is that despite the higher number of insured Americans after the Affordable Care Act, costs and complications still plague patients. Access to health care can be a double-edge sword. It means more people are seeing providers, but it doesn't mean that people can afford those treatments.
Candidates’ Position Will Matter to Voters, Especially Health Care; Senate Confirms Robert Wilkie as Veterans Affairs Secretary; Trump Battle Over Drug Prices Heats Up
The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report stating that coverage for pre-existing conditions ranks highest among healthcare campaign issues for American voters. According to the report, the issue cuts across all parties, including Democrats, Republicans, and voters living in battleground states. Since attempting to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, 58% of those polled say that President Trump’s administration and the Republicans in Congress are responsible for problems with the healthcare law moving forward.
GOP Chairman in Talks With Trump Officials on Restarting Key Obamacare Payments; Oklahoma Medicaid Approved for Drug Pricing Experiment; House Panel Advances Bill That Would Temporarily Halt Obamacare’s Employer Mandate
On July 16, 2018, Kevin Brady (R-TX), House Ways and Means Committee chair, announced that he’s working with the Trump administration to restore funding to key Affordable Care Act (ACA) payments. Previously, the White House suspended more than $10.4 billion in payments to insurers, which brought criticism from Democrats and stern warnings of rising healthcare premiums.
HHS Releases Blueprint for Affordable Prescription Drugs
Health care is arguably the top domestic policy issue and of major concern to most Americans. Coverage, access, and, most importantly, affordability are not abstract political concepts discussed in elite coffeehouse circles but rather are real-world problems that people struggle with daily. Do I need to see a physician for this problem? What impact will a diagnosis have on my life? Can I afford the medication?
Trump Officials Again Slash Funding for Obamacare Outreach Groups; Pfizer Postpones Price Hikes After Trump Criticism; Medicare for All Is New Democratic Mantra in Congressional Races
Previously, reports had emerged that the Trump administration was considering cuts to funding for Affordable Care Act (ACA) outreach groups whose aim has been to educate and assist Americans interested in enrolling in the healthcare program. On July 10, 2018, the administration officially announced funding cuts to the outreach programs, reducing their funding from $36 million to $10 million for 2019.