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What We’re Reading: COVID-19 ED Visits Up for Adolescents; First 10 Drugs for Price Negotiation; Rite Aid's Plans for Bankruptcy

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COVID-19 hospital visits by adolescents nearly doubled; government to release list of drugs Medicare will be able to negotiate prices for; Rite Aid gears up for bankruptcy while facing lawsuits over alleged opioid involvement.

Sharp Increase in COVID-19 ED Visits Among Adolescents

Data from the CDC reveals a sharp increase in COVID-19 emergency department (ED) visits among adolescents ages 12 to 15 years, according to CBS News. Over the past week, the rate of ED visits for COVID-19 in this age group has nearly doubled to 2.43%, up from 1.33% the previous week. This surge in ED visits comes as schools and businesses consider reinstating COVID-19 precautions, including mask mandates, amid a rise in new hospitalizations nationwide. The increase in cases is attributed to factors such as the start of the school year, high temperatures pushing people indoors, and the circulation of new variants, including the BA.2.86 variant.

Medicare to Negotiate Prices for Widely Used Drugs, Squeezing Pharma

The US government is poised to release a list of 10 widely used drugs that Medicare will be able to negotiate prices for, marking a significant change in drug pricing policy, according to Bloomberg. Among the drugs expected to be included in the list are Johnson & Johnson’s blood thinner rivaroxaban and Eli Lilly’s empagliflozin for diabetes. Analysts anticipate that this move could lead to substantial savings for taxpayers but could also impact pharmaceutical companies' profits. It is estimated that these negotiations could save the United States approximately $36.5 billion from 2026 to 2028. However, pharmaceutical firms are pushing back against this policy shift, with several lawsuits filed to prevent negotiations.

Rite Aid Plans to File for Bankruptcy Amid Opioid Lawsuits

Drugstore corporation Rite Aid is said to be gearing up for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing to address numerous lawsuits concerning its alleged role in the opioid crisis, according to The Wall Street Journal. These lawsuits claim that the drugstore chain oversupplied prescription painkillers, contributing to the opioid epidemic. The bankruptcy filing would encompass Rite Aid's substantial debt load of over $3.3 billion and the pending legal allegations. While the company hasn't reached a settlement with the various plaintiffs, it's planning to treat these claims as general unsecured claims.

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