What We’re Reading: Boosters Slash COVID-19 Deaths; Generic Restasis Cleared; Medicare Advantage and Health Equity

Americans who are boosted are 95 times less likely than unvaccinated people to die of COVID-19, the FDA approved the first generic drug for Restasis to treat dry eye syndrome, and CMS is putting a greater focus on health equity for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.

Boosted Americans 95 Times Less Likely to Die of COVID-19

According to USA Today, Americans who have received their COVID-19 booster are 97 times less likely to die of COVID-19 compared with unvaccinated individuals. Additionally, fully vaccinated Americans are 14 times less likely to experience COVID-19-related death than unvaccinated people. The numbers come as the United States gets close to a 64% vaccination rate for the population, and only 42% of people eligible for a booster dose have gotten 1. According to Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC, for every 100,000 people, 9.7 of those unvaccinated died of COVID-19 compared to 0.7 of those fully vaccinated and 0.1 of those who have been boosted.

FDA Approves First Generic for Restasis

The FDA approved the first generic version of AbbVie’s Restasis (cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion), a drug used to increase tear production in patients with dry-eye syndrome, as reported by Reuters. The approval was granted to Viatris, a company created through the merger of Mylan and Pfizer’s off-patent drug business in 2020. Restasis was approved in the United States almost 20 years ago and was acquired by AbbVie through their $63 billion acquisition of Allergan in 2020. In 2021, Restasis generated $1.29 billion in revenue for AbbVie, a 64% increase from the previous year. The drug acts as an immunosuppressant that allows for more tear production to reduce inflammation associated with dry eye.

CMS Puts Focus on Health Equity in Medicare Plans

The 2023 annual rule for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans is going to have a focus on health equity, according to Fierce Healthcare. In the proposed rule, CMS will update the Medicare Advantage and Part D star ratings to account for how well a plan addresses health equity. The agency will seek comment on a potential quality measure for the star rating that would examine how often plans screen for common social needs, including food insecurity, housing insecurity, and issues acquiring adequate transportation. CMS Deputy Administrator and Center for Medicare Director Meena Seshamani, MD, said that the new rule aims to increase transparency around how Medicare plans are treating vulnerable beneficiaries and what improvements in their care are needed.