What We're Reading: Drug Approval Spooks Patients; Bloomberg Targets Opioids; GOP Doctors Express Concerns

Patients with a rare neuromuscular disease called Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome are now terrified the cost for their treatment could soar to $100,000 without insurance because of a quirk in pharmaceutical approvals and pricing; Bloomberg Philanthropies will donate $50 million to 10 states fighting the opioid epidemic; Republican lawmakers in the GOP Doctors Caucus expressed their concerns about President Trump's controversial proposal to lower drug prices in a meeting this week with HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

Patients With Rare Neuromuscular Disease Fearful of Newly Appproved Drug That Could End Free Treatment

Patients with a rare neuromuscular disease called Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome have long survived on an inexpensive, sometimes free chemical called 3,4-DAP thanks to the generosity of a tiny, family-run drug maker. But they are now terrified the cost for their treatment could soar to $100,000 without insurance because of a quirk in pharmaceutical approvals and pricing, STAT News reported. The old compound was never formally approved by the FDA, but the agency recently cleared a nearly identical formulation from Catalyst Pharmaceuticals, which now has the ability to charge what could be hundreds of thousands of dollars for a medicine it did not invent and that costs almost nothing to make. Catalyst could also block older forms of the drugs from being given to patients.

Bloomberg Philanthropies to Donate $50 Million to 10 States Fiighting Opioids

Bloomberg Philanthropies will donate $50 million to 10 states fighting the opioid epidemic. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is scheduled to announce the 3-year program Friday morning during the second day of a health conference in Washington hosted by another of his ventures, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, The Washington Post reported. The effort will support current programs and encourage new approaches. The CDC, the Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins, and a publid health nonprofit called Vital Strategies will also take part in the Bloomberg program.

GOP Doctors Caucus Meets With Azar to Express Concerns With Drug Pricing Proposals

Republican lawmakers in the GOP Doctors Caucus expressed their concerns about President Trump's controversial proposal to lower drug prices in a meeting this week with HHS Secretary Alex Azar, The Hill reported. At issue is the proposal to lower certain Medicare drug prices by tying them to lower prices paid in other countries. The administration has argued that Medicare Part B currently essentially pays drug companies whatever price they want for their products, and that the system needs to change. In another sign of GOP concerns, 55 conservative groups wrote a letter on Wednesday calling for the proposal to be withdrawn, warning of “price controls.”