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What We're Reading: Cheaper Hepatitis C Drugs; Pharma Discount Rollback; HHS Pulls Fetal Tissue Research

AJMC Staff
Gilead Sciences will sell authorized generics of its blockbuster hepatitis C drugs Epclusa and Harvoni; the pharmaceutical industry inserted a measure into an opioid bill to reverse discounts they would be required to give next year to seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D plans; the Trump administration has terminated a contract with a fetal tissue firm after being criticized by antiabortion groups and Republican lawmakers.

Gilead Sciences to Sell Authorized Generics of Hepatitis C Drugs

Gilead Sciences will sell authorized generics of its blockbuster hepatitis C drugs Epclusa and Harvoni, Bloomberg reported. The brand-name versions sparked widespread debate about US pharmaceutical costs when they were introduced at a price of more than $1000 per pill. The less expensive versions will cost $24,000 for a course of treatment, which compares with a list price for Harvoni of $94,500. The company’s hepatitis C drugs remain among the best-selling pharmaceutical products in history, but they've also made Gilead the subject of congressional hearings and accusations of greed.

 

Pharma Industry Seeks to Reverse Planned Increase in Medicare Drug Discounts 

The pharmaceutical industry inserted a measure into an opioid bill to reverse discounts they would be required to give next year to seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D plans, The New York Times reported. The $4 billion giveback is encountering fierce opposition. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, is calling the measure a “technical correction” to a bipartisan budget law signed by President Donald Trump in February. The law required drug manufacturers to provide deeper discounts to Medicare beneficiaries whose spending on prescription drugs falls within the coverage gap. The 50% discount on brand-name drugs is set to rise 70% next year.

 

HHS Cancels Fetal Tissue Research Contract 

The Trump administration has terminated a contract with a fetal tissue firm after being criticized by antiabortion groups and Republican lawmakers, The Hill reported. The FDA had contracted with Advanced Bioscience Resources for $16,000 to acquire fetal tissue to implant into mice for research purposes. HHS ended the contract because it was not "sufficiently assured" that the contract included appropriate protections and followed requirements for fetal tissue research. Supporters of fetal tissue research say it has led to the development of medical advances, including the polio vaccine. HHS said it is also conducting an audit of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue.

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