Hundreds of furloughed FDA employees are resuming work on some food and drug inspections during the shutdown; Walmart is leaving CVS Caremark's pharmacy benefit management (PBM) networks over a pricing dispute; and this year's flu season is shaping up to be more mild than last year's.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, announced that hundreds of FDA inspectors and other staff resumed work on Tuesday and are focusing on facilities that produce higher-risk foods, drugs, and devices. According to The Washington Post, the furloughed workers remain unpaid during the partial government shutdown. As many as 250 employees will resume work on inspecting drugs and devices.Following a dispute over prices, Walmart is expected to leave CVS Caremark’s pharmacy benefit management (PBM) networks. Bloomberg reported that Walmart has indicated it was resisting efforts by CVS to steer customers to certain pharmacies to have their prescriptions filled and said the issue underscores the problems that can arise from a PBM having too much power. However, CVS has said that Walmart was demanding higher reimbursements from CVS for its pharmacies that would have resulted in patients paying more for their prescriptions.While still early in the season, this year’s flu season will likely be more mild than last winter’s unusually harsh one, reported The Associated Press. Officials at the CDC have said that in most parts of the country, most illnesses are being caused by a flu strain that leads to fewer hospitalizations and deaths compared with last year’s dominant strain. Since the flu season started in the fall, about 6 million to 7 million have become ill, half were sick enough to go to a doctor, and an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 have been hospitalized.