What We’re Reading: VA Health Care Fight; High Court Sides With States on PBMs; Ezogabine and ALS

A funding dispute over how to account for a Veterans Affairs (VA) health care program is stalling deal to fund the government for another year; the Supreme Court rules in a case involving states and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs); the antiepileptic drug ezogabine lowered the pathologic excitability of cortical and spinal motor neuron cells, which have a role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

VA Health Care Funding Dispute Stalling Government Funding Deal

A dispute over veterans’ health care is the final big hurdle to an agreement on a mammoth omnibus funding the government until October 1, 2021, The Hill reported. The issue has to do with how to account for about $12.5 billion in funding for a Veterans Affairs (VA) program that gives veterans wider access to private doctors. If the money is counted as “emergency” funds, the spending wouldn’t be counted under limits set as part of a 2-year budget deal.

Supreme Court Rules States Can Regulate PBMs

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states can regulate pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Arkansas led the 45-state suit, USA Today reported, which was also spurred by independent pharmacies, which have said that PBM practices have forced their closure across the country. The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit agreed with the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 preempts state laws. The high court justices, however, agreed that the states seek to regulate drug prices, not insurance plans.

Ezogabine May Have Role in ALS-Related Neuron Activity

A recent study, reported in JAMA Neurology, found that the antiepileptic drug ezogabine reduced pathologic excitability of cortical and spinal motor neuron cells, which are increased in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 randomized multicenter study, with 65 patients, was also the first clinical investigation of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, using a drug identified through an induced pluripotent stem cell model. The results suggest that the neurophysiological metrics could be used as future biomarkers.