What We're Reading: Google, Ascension Plan Draws Scrutiny; Vascepa Goes Before FDA; Verma Defends Medicaid Changes

Regulators and lawmakers have expressed concern over possible privacy breaches as Google and Ascension collect healthcare data; Amarin’s Vascepa goes before an FDA committee this week; CMS Administrator Seema Verma defends Medicaid work requirements.

Federal Regulators Express Concern Over Google, Ascension Healthcare Data Partnership

Regulators and lawmakers have expressed concern over possible privacy breaches, according to The Wall Street Journal, as Google works with Ascension to collect health information on 50 million American patients. They are calling for both additional government oversight and a temporary halt to the program. Meanwhile, Google and Ascension claim the data collection is meant to improve healthcare, and a Google spokeswoman says nothing the company gathers will be used to sell ads.

Amarin’s Vascepa Gets Mostly Positive Nod Ahead of Committee Meeting

With potential sales of $3.2 billion by 2030 on the line, an FDA report gave a largely positive review to Amarin’s Vascepa ahead of its advisory committee meeting Thursday. However, as Amarin tries to expand the label for its fish oil—derived drug—first approved for use in the United States in 2012 to lower high triglyceride levels—to include that it reduces heart attacks and strokes in patients with cardiovascular disease, some experts claim trial results are skewed, Reuters reported. They believe that using mineral oil as the drug trial’s placebo worsened cholesterol levels in patients or affected the absorption of the statins they were on, tilting results in Vascepa’s favor.

Verma Fights Back Against Critics of Medicaid Work Rules, Issues Proposed Rule on Supplemental Payments

On the same day CMS Administrator Seema Verma sharply defended the administration’s controversial work requirement rules forcing some Medicaid beneficiaries to work—a policy that led to thousands losing health insurance in Arkansas—the department also announced it would tighten the so-called supplemental payments to states for extra Medicaid funding for hospitals, nursing homes, and doctors. The US government spent about $48.5 billion on these payments in 2016, Kaiser Health News reported. Speaking before the National Association of Medicaid Directors in Washington, DC, Verma said that states and providers must be more transparent in how they spend the funds.