What We're Reading: FDA Wants to Expand MAT; Azar, Idaho Talk; CDC Seeks New Lab

The FDA is expected to release guidance to phamarceutical companies about expanding medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help combat substance use disorder; the National Governors Association meeting featured a number of healthcare discussions, including HHS Secretary Azar meeting with Idaho officials about their plan to sell insurance not compliant with the Affordable Care Act; the CDC has requested $350 million for a new laboratory to work on dangerous pathogens.

FDA May Widen Range of MAT Options to Curb Opioid Crisis

The FDA plans to allow pharmaceutical companies to sell medications that help reduce drug cravings, even if they don’t fully stop addiction, The New York Times reported. HHS secretary Alex Azar spoke to the National Governors Association (NGA) about medication-assisted treatment (MAT) this weekend, saying the agency intended “to correct a misconception that patients must achieve total abstinence in order for MAT to be considered effective.” The new recommendations will encourage the development of new, longer-acting formulations of existing drugs for opioid treatment (buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone). The other recommendation will address approving drugs that don’t end addiction but help with aspects of it, such as cravings or overdoses.

Healthcare Discussions Front and Center at NGA Meeting

The NGA winter meeting featured a number of healthcare discussions of interest to payers. HHS Secretary Azar was set to meet for the first time with Idaho officials to discuss the state’s move to allow insurance plans to be sold that don't meet Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements, The Hill reported. They would allow people with preexisting conditions to be charged more, for example. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that a bipartisan group of governors from Ohio, Colorado, Alaska, Nevada, and Pennsylvania met to discuss ideas about improving affordability, restoring stability, and promoting flexibility in state insurance regulations.

CDC Requests New Lab in Funding Request to Congress

The CDC is asking Congress for $350 million in the fiscal year 2018 budget for new laboratories to work on deadly pathogens like Ebola and smallpox. The existing building began operating in 2005 and will need to be replaced by 2023 or so to avoid major disruptions, STAT reported.