What We're Reading: Bill Would Speed Up Approval for Zika Virus Drugs

What we're reading, April 14, 2016: House passes bill to speed up approval for Zika virus vaccines; spending on prescription brand name drugs grew just 2.8% in 2015; and Maine Senate passes measure to expand Medicaid.

The president’s requested funds to combat the Zika virus may still be tied up in Congress, but the House took its own step to fight the virus. The House approved a bill that would add Zika to a list of diseases qualifying for a priority review voucher, which would speed up FDA approval process for vaccines, reported The Hill. The bill already passed the Senate. The news came at the right time, as CDC researchers also definitively confirmed that Zika causes birth microcephaly and other severe birth defects, reported The Washington Post.

In 2015, the overall spending on prescription drugs rose 8.5%, but spending on brand name drugs rose only 2.8%. According to STAT, the growth in spending on brand name drugs represents a steady decline compared with the 9.1% growth in prices in 2012, which may suggest that pushback against rising prices may be having some success. More than half of the total spending growth in 2015 can be attributed to brand name drugs that have been available for less than 2 years. While spending is still increasing, it is doing so at a slower rate.

A Republican-sponsored measure to expand Medicaid has narrowly passed the Maine Senate. The expansion would provide insurance to nearly 80,000 residents and would bring in more than $2 billion in federal funds over the next 5 years, according to MPBN News. The governor of Maine has vetoed such Medicaid expansion bills in the past.