What We're Reading: Fentanyl Prescribing; HHS Title X Grants; Symbolic Drug Price Cuts

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents showing the FDA did little to intervene in the wider prescribing of fast-acting fentanyl drugs approved for patients with cancer who have high opioid tolerance; HHS said 96 organizations will get funding under Title X, the federal family planning program; drug companies may have reduced some prices in response to President Trump taking to Twitter to complain about costs, but the moves are largely symbolic and won’t have any real effect, analysts said.

FDA Did Little to Stop Prescribing of Fentanyl for Off-Label Uses, Researchers Say

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, using the Freedom of Information Act, obtained 5000 pages of documents showing the FDA did little to intervene in the wider prescribing of powerful, fast-acting fentanyl drugs approved only for patients with cancer who have high opioid tolerance. The documents, given to The New York Times, show that the FDA had data that so-called off-label prescribing for back pain and migraine was widespread. The FDA established a distribution oversight program in 2011 to curb inappropriate use, but handed over enforcement to a group of pharmaceutical companies that make and sell the drugs.

HHS Releases List of Clinics Getting Title X Funding

Price Cuts by Pharma Aimed at Appeasing Trump, Analysts Say

HHS said 96 organizations will get funding under Title X, the federal family planning program. The Associated Press said 12 will be new. They include community health centers, state agencies, and Planned Parenthood affiliates. The program serves 4 million women a year through local clinics at a total cost of $286 million. The release of the grants comes amid a major battle over the program's future, with women's rights groups and medical societies pushing back on a Trump administration proposal to bar taxpayer-funded clinics from referring women for abortions.Drug companies may have reduced some prices in response to President Trump taking to Twitter to complain about costs, but the moves are largely symbolic and won’t have any real effect, analysts told Politico. Many companies already increased prices this year, some just weeks before publicly pledging to freeze them for the rest of 2018. Many of the cuts are on older drugs that produce little revenue, but the cuts give Trump the headlines he wants, analysts said.