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What We're Reading: US Birth Rates Rise; Plant Closure Foretells Drug Shortages; No Surprises Act Showing Effect


United States birth rate rises from last year but is still lower than pre-pandemic; a drug plant closure in California could affect availability of 5 essential medications; the No Surprises Act prevented 2 million potential surprise bills in first 2 months of 2022, report says.

US Birth Rate Rises From 2020

According to The Associated Press, there was a 1% increase in births in 2021, from 3.6 million in 2020 to 3.7 million 2021. However, even with this increase, US births were still approximately 86,000 births less than in 2019. Officials believe that the increase in births last year was a result of pregnancies put off due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, with an increase in births coming from older moms in particular. The United States has seen a decline in birth rates for more than a decade.

A Plant Closure Could Forecast Shortages of Vital Drugs

The recent closure of a plant in Irvine, California, from Teva Pharmaceuticals could spell trouble for 24 generic sterile injectable drugs and 5 essential medications that the company has a 15% share of. The plant was closed due to warning letters from the FDA about contamination, dirty changing rooms and scrubs, and a lack of sterilization and testing of equipment. The injectable drugs that are most vulnerable to a shortage are vasodilator alprostadil, amikacin, bleomycin, dacarbazine, idarubicin, ifosfamide, mitoxantrone, streptozocin, topotecan, and octreotide. The report from the End Drug Shortages Alliance listed suppliers that could increase production.

The No Surprises Act Prevents Unexpected Bills

According to a report from AHIP and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the No Surprises Act prevented more than 2 million surprise medical bills in commercially insured patients in the first 2 months of 2022. Should the trend hold, more than 12 million surprise bills will be avoided in 2022. The No Surprises Act established a process for resolving disagreements on what health plans will pay an out-of-network provider or facility, which has brought up the question of how many claims could be disputed each year and whether that will affect affordability of health care.

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