What we're reading, April 21, 2016: Congress keeps things moving on the fight against the opioid epidemic; new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds Medicaid expansion has a broader societal impact; and Novartis faces stiff competition from generic version of Gleevec.
A congressional subcommittee has kept the ball rolling on several bills that have been drawn to combat the growing opioid epidemic in the country, including measures to increase access to medication-assisted care, make overdose reversal drugs more available, and develop best practices for pain management, according to Modern Healthcare. However, members of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee expressed disappointment that Congress has failed to support these bills with necessary funding. Early last month, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced $94 million in grants to 271 health centers to fight opioid abuse.
A new paper, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, evaluating the personal financial impact of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), has found a significant reduction in the number of unpaid bills and the amount of debts sent to third-party collection agencies. The authors included some of the most financially-vulnerable populations for their study: people living in zip codes with the highest percentage of low income, uninsured individuals. The authors point to the financial ripples associated with the impact of the ACA—a lower debt burden for the newly insured means more healthcare, utility, and other bills outside of healthcare being paid, and a lesser strain on the society as a whole.
Meanwhile, generic competition seems to have penetrated the net sales of Novartis’ sales of its anticancer agent Gleevec. The Swiss company has blamed a generic version of the drug, being marketed by Sun Pharmaceuticals, for a decline of their net income in the first quarter of 2016: from $2.31 billion in 2015 to $2.01 billion this year. Sales of the drug dipped 3%. The Washington Post reports that Novartis cited the generic competition as well as investments in new ventures as reasons for the drop in its core operating margin.