News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Fountain of Youth? Drug Trial Has Seniors Scrambling to Prove They’re Worthy
The Wall Street Journal

What if there were a way to stave off the creaks and calamities of old age? Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is working on it.

With word leaking out, seniors from all over the globe have been hounding Dr. Barzilai and his colleagues to get in on the action—with many writing to prove their worthiness. Never mind that formal patient recruitment is still perhaps a year away.

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Health-care alliance calls for action to lower prescription-drug costs
Washington Post

A broad coalition including health-care providers, insurers and seniors will propose major changes Monday designed to rein in prescription-drug costs, including a shorter exclusivity period for biotech medications and a requirement that manufacturers disclose more information about pricing.

The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, whose members include AARP, Walmart and several health plans, is trying to stoke interest in the fall elections with an eye toward winning policy changes in 2017.

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Liquidation begins for failed Obamacare insurer
Modern Healthcare

After months of uncertainty surrounding Health Republic Insurance of New York’s liquidation process, new court documents released April 22 provide clarity on what creditors can expect to receive. That is a welcome development for doctors and other providers who say are owed more than $200 million.

The state Department of Financial Services, now led by Acting Superintendent Maria Vullo, began the liquidation proceeding last week by filing a verified petition and order to show cause in New York State Supreme Court.

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Why is CMS examining Medicare coverage for depression treatments?
Modern Healthcare

The Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee on Wednesday will discuss and vote on the definition of treatment-resistant depression and advise the CMS on coverage.But mental health trade groups and Medicare beneficiary advocates don’t know why the CMS felt the need to convene MEDCAC to discuss the issue. None could point to any major-related concerns. A CMS spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. What is clear is that antidepressants accounted for some of the most costly drugs covered by Medicare Part D.

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Medi-Cal AIDS Program Is Underfunded, Advocates Say
California Healthline

Andy Martin’s body had rejected another HIV medication, and now his viral load was spiking.

Sitting in his living room, Martin told a nurse and a social worker that he’d recently spent three days in the hospital with a high fever. The social worker, Scott Blackburn, told him that if his viral load didn’t drop, he could end up there again.

“The most important thing, regardless of what treatment regimen you are on, is that you are under a doctor’s care,” Blackburn said.

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Sarepta scientists, FDA clash over efficacy of experimental drug
Boston Globe

Scientists from Sarepta Therapeutics Inc. and the Food and Drug Administration clashed Monday morning over their conflicting interpretations of findings from Sarepta’s clinical trial of an experimental drug to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Their differences, laid bare at an overflow meeting of an FDA advisory committee, puts the onus on the influential panel of outside medical experts to determine if the Cambridge biotech company’s drug candidate is effective enough for them to recommend approval in the United States.

The meeting is the most closely watched FDA hearing on a proposed therapy in years, with advocates arguing that failure to approved the drug could not only worsen the quality of life for Duchenne patients but also discourage biotechs from developing drugs to treat other rare diseases.

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Drug makers spend big to fight California price control referendum
POLITICO

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton give drug makers the jitters when they talk about Medicare negotiating the prices of prescription drugs. But the biggest near-term threat to the industry comes from a California ballot initiative that would test a version of that idea in the most populous state. That ballot initiative “is a grenade being rolled into the conversation, and it is being taken very seriously,” says a Republican drug lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

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Big Pharma Gets Solace From Europe
The Wall Street Journal

Are the transatlantic tables turning in pharma?

Switzerland’s Novartis said this past week that it was seeing faster uptake of heart-failure drug Entresto in Europe than in the U.S. The potential blockbuster has struggled: It sold just $17 million in the first quarter, with Novartis guiding to $200 million for the year, well below forecasts.

With heightened focus on the burden of high U.S. drug prices, Novartis said it got a better reception in Europe’s single-payer system than in the U.S. for its value-for-money pitch for Entresto, which helps to reduce hospitalizations.

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Novartis could refuel M&A machine with $14 billion Roche stake sale
Reuters

Novartis (NOVN.S) is discussing options with banks for selling its near $14 billion stake in rival Roche (ROG.S), potentially providing cash for new deals, though a sale is not imminent, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Novartis built up its one-third stake in Roche’s voting stock (RO.S) between 2001 and 2003 under former chairman and CEO Daniel Vasella, as a basis for a possible merger that never happened.

Ever since Vasella’s departure in 2013 there has been speculation Novartis would sell its holding, equivalent to around 6 percent of all Roche shares, ending

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A new alternative to an MRI?
Modern Healthcare

Medical technology can spot disease, but often only when a patient already is in imminent danger. What if a simple handheld device could scan the body to detect disease much sooner? That’s what Dr. Stephen Boppart at the University of Illinois is developing using light imagery. His work may help doctors uncover early signs of deadly maladies like cancer and even enable researchers to track how molecules and cells react to medication in real time.“I like to think of these as optical biopsies,” he says. “We are essentially designing a new microscope to take to the patient.”

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