What We're Reading: COVID-19 Vaccine Expansion Halted; PBM Probe; High-Volume Antibiotic Prescribers

The FDA delays its decision on Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine in young children; the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will vote on whether to investigate pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs); nearly half of high-volume antibiotic prescribers are located in Southern states.

FDA Seeks More Data on COVID-19 Vaccines in Children Under 5

The Associated Press reports that efforts to expand COVID-19 vaccines to children younger than 5 years hit a delay, with the FDA announcing Friday it is seeking more data on how well a third dose works in younger populations. With a mass rollout plan having been tentatively planned for Pfizer/BioNTech’s low-dose COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 6 months to 5 years, the FDA’s reversal pushes back the scheduled date its vaccine advisory committee was set to meet to decide on the vaccine’s emergency use designation. Pfizer announced that additional data are expected by early April.

FTC May Investigate PBMs’ Impact on Drug Prices

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will vote Thursday about studying the impact that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) have on drug prices and the businesses of pharmacies. Reported by Axios, the move has been hailed by pharmacies whose independent and specialty operations have been affected by heavily consolidated PBMs. Likely targets of the potential FTC investigation were noted to include contractual provisions and reimbursement adjustments, as well as other practices affecting drug prices.

Study Finds Nearly Half of High-Volume Antibiotic Prescribers in Southern States

The CDC's latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shows that high-volume prescribers are responsible for a disproportionate number of antibiotic prescriptions for Medicare patients in outpatient settings. As reported by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, findings indicated that of the 59 million antibiotic prescriptions written for Medicare Part D beneficiaries in 2019, 41% came from the top 10% of prescribers, in which almost half were located in Southern states. Moreover, this high-volume group was shown to prescribe antibiotics at a rate 60% higher than that of lower-volume prescribers.