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Lawsuit: Drugmakers overcharged 340B participants millions

According to a recently unsealed lawsuit from Adventist Health, some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies that participate in the 340B drug discount program overcharged the federal government and numerous hospitals by hundreds of millions of dollars. Among those named: AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Novartis and Sanofi. The case highlights issues with the pharmaceutical pricing system, including non-compliance with regulations and the potential exploitation of government payors, as well as concerns about the 340B program’s management and the pharmaceutical market’s transparency and accountability, STAT notes. (STAT)

Practice Transformation

Is it too easy to get beta blockers?

Your patient may be on beta blockers and you don’t know it. It’s easier than ever to get these prescription medications that mask some physical symptoms of anxiety. Digital startups are connecting patients with doctors for quick virtual visits and then shipping the medication. Dr. Yvette I. Sheline, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, is among those worried. “The first question is: What is going on with this person?…You don’t want to end up prescribing the wrong thing.” And even though beta blockers are generally considered safe, experts say they can carry unpleasant side effects. (

Walgreens CEO: Expand pharmacists’ role

Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Tim Wentworth is among a growing number of pharmacy executives pushing policymakers to expand the pharmacist’s role, including prescribing for certain conditions. He pointed to the UK’s pharmacy-first service, which allows pharmacists to prescribe treatments for seven common health conditions. However, Walgreens and other pharmacies expect opposition as they try to get states to change the rules. For example, the American Medical Association and state medical societies have long opposed such changes. (Forbes–contributer content)

Evidence & Innovation

Insulin caps don’t increase use

State caps on insulin costs lowered privately insured patients’ out-of-pocket spending, but they didn’t appear to increase insulin use, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The research suggests increasingly popular insulin caps (which range from $25-$100/month) aren’t enough to improve insulin uptake among patients with diabetes in commercial insurance. “A proposed national insulin cap of $35 for commercially insured persons might lead to meaningful insulin OOP savings but have a limited effect on insulin use,” the researchers concluded. (AxiosAnnals of Internal Medicine)

Industry payments to doctors remain robust, despite concerns

The financial ties between drug and device makers and some physicians remain pervasive, according to an analysis published in JAMA. From 2013 to 2022, pharmaceutical and device companies made more than 85 million payments totaling $12.1 billion to approximately 826,300 physicians. And 94% of those payments were associated with at least one marketed medical product. The analysis also revealed that 57% of all physicians received a payment during that time. And the median payment was $48 across 39 medical specialties; a handful received over $1 million. (STATJAMA)

Policy Solutions

Oxford develops AI “safety net” for prescribers

DrugGPT, developed by researchers at Oxford University, gives prescribers an instant second opinion when they enter a patient’s conditions into the chatbot. It provides a list of recommended drugs and flags possible adverse effects and interactions, the Guardian reports. “But it’s important not to take the human out of the loop. You don’t want the problem of ‘computer says no.’ It’s always got to be advice to a human like a co-pilot. It’s a safety net: here’s a recommendation to compare your recommendation against,” says Prof. David Clifton, whose team led the project. (The Guardian)

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