What We're Reading: Orphan Drugs, ACA Ads Canceled, and Burwell to Lead American University

A roundup of top healthcare news stories: January 27, 2017.

Requests for Orphan Drug Designations Rise Sharply

The number of requests from pharmaceutical companies for an orphan drug designation from the FDA rose 23% from 2015 to 2016. According to STAT, with orphan drugs meant for small populations, drug makers can charge higher prices and insurers won’t fight the high costs too much. The orphan drug designation was created to incentivize drug makers to create medicines for rare diseases, but there has been recent concern that the companies are distorting the Orphan Drug Act’s original purpose with some drugs being submitted actually intended to be used more broadly.

Trump Cancels Obamacare Ads While GOP Struggles With a Replacement

Annual open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ends on January 31, but the Trump administration has pulled advertisements encouraging people to sign up for coverage, reported The New York Times. With President Donald Trump and Republicans set on repealing the law, the administration is looking to save money by not promoting a healthcare law that might not exist in a few months. Meanwhile, the GOP is meeting in Philadelphia for a retreat. According to Kaiser Health News, Republicans are having trouble agreeing on how to repeal and replace the ACA. One strategy may be to makes changes to the law instead of a single replacement.

Former HHS Secretary to Lead American University

Sylvia Mathews Burwell has already found a new job after leaving her post as secretary of HHS under the Obama administration. Burwell has been named the next president of American University, and she will assume responsibilities on June 1, 2017, according to a press release from the university. During her tenure at HHS, Burwell oversaw the implementation of the ACA, and led efforts to combat Ebola and Zika virus outbreaks.