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Tuesday, Jan. 31

A meeting on price

Pharma executives met with President Trump this morning to talk drug pricing, and he vowed to make it easier for smaller companies to compete. Trump also said he would streamline the drug approval process and said he’d have his FDA pick nailed down soon. The drug pricing war is well-documented: Three big companies are being sued for collusion and jacking up the price of insulin, and drugs like EpiPen, Enbrel, and Gleevec have also seen steep price curves.

Another meeting on another Price

Representative Tom Price was scheduled to be confirmed today as the head of HHS. But now, it’s been postponed, because Dems say they want more answers after the Wall Street Journal reported that Price was one of 20 investors invited to buy an Australian biotech stock in a private placement after learning about it from Representative Chris Collins. Price has denied he received any favorable treatment. Collins thanked the company in private for defending Price against the article, but then accidentally hit “reply all.”

Last call for health insurance

After the Trump administration pulled ads and emails advertising the signup deadline (and then backtracked), pundits are curious how many people will sign up for what may be the last year of Obamacare as we know it. Who else is curious about signups? Elizabeth Warren. The senator is calling for an investigation into why the ads and alerts were pulled in the first place. In the meantime, people, famous and otherwise, are putting out their own signup reminders.

Clarifying one-in-two-out

The folks who deal with hospital regulation are happy about President Trump’s executive order saying that for every new regulation that is enacted, two have to be thrown out the door. But the order, which needs some clarification, could cause headaches for the FDA and enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act, a bipartisan piece of health care legislation. Experts told STAT’s Sheila Kaplan that there aren’t too many regulations, but that some are unnecessary. Also of concern to the FDA and Dems in Congress? How the hiring freeze will affect the agency.

Read on

  • Medical students are protesting the end of the ACA and reduced access to health care
  • Medical students are protesting Dana-Farber and its ties to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort
  • American health care and research depends on international workers. Here are the visas that make it happen

Monday, Jan. 30

An executive order, a frenzy in health care

The president’s order on immigration is expected to have huge impact on health care in America. From doctors being denied entry into the US to exceptional foreign applicants for US residencies concerned about being denied over immigration fears to people in research, health IT, biotech and pharma speaking out, the first few days of the order have sparked significant backlash.

Notably, thousands of scientists, including several Nobel laureates, have spoken out against the ban, calling it “un-American.” And the Cleveland Clinic has come under fire for its plans to host a fundraiser next month at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, while one of its doctors was turned away over the weekend because of the ban.

People protested in Cleveland on behalf of the doctor, Suha Abushamma. STAT’s Meghana Keshavan was there.

Meghana Keshavan/STAT

In the meantime, hospitals are trying to figure out what to do about patients who need to come to the US for treatment from those countries subject to the executive order. At Johns Hopkins, STAT reports, there are nearly a dozen patients from the countries affected who are scheduled for care in the next 90 days.

What’s going on in Trump’s head?

Our president’s mental health is a source of much conversation. Is he narcissistic or compulsive, or does have a personality disorder? We talked to 10 psychologists and psychiatrists to get their takes. Some say there’s nothing there — all political leaders have narcissistic tendencies. Others say he enjoys abusing and hurting people. What do you think?

He said this

“This is not going to be a footnote in American history. We could slip into a very dark place very quickly if people just decide to be indifferent.”

— Ubadah Sabbagh, a Virginia Tech doctoral student in neuroscience who came to the US from Syria when he was 16 to go to college, on President Trump’s immigration ban

Read on

  • The Obamacare sign up deadline is Tuesday. Here’s what experts are saying about signing up (New York Times)
  • Conservatives have based their calls for an Obamacare repeal on rising out-of-pocket costs and high deductibles, but their replacement plans rely on the same ideas (Axios)
  • #sciencemarch takes on new meaning for this young scientist, who will march for transparency, but also for her immigrant colleagues (STAT)
  • Why aren’t pharma and biotech speaking out more forcefully about the ban? (TheStreet)

Friday, Jan. 27

Follow Friday

As health care and policy issues ramp up, we at STAT want you to be informed. Here are a few folks on Twitter worth following. Send your favorites to meghas@statnews.com or @meghas.

What’s my deadline again?

ACA open enrollment for 2017 ends on Tuesday and the Obama administration had planned reminder ads and emails encouraging people to sign up to run through then. The Trump administration canceled them. The last five days are important, experts tell Politico, because that’s when stragglers and procrastinators finish their enrollment. The healthcare.gov Twitter account has slowed down in promoting signups.

She said this

“Donald Trump has shown in his first days in office that he is either ignorant in not understanding science or too beholden to special interests. Or both.”

— California Senator Barbara Boxer to STAT reporter Usha Lee McFarling, during a recent telephone interview

Gaining and losing ground

Anti-abortion activists are hopeful that for the first time in a decade, they will be heard in Washington. Today is the 2017 March for Life, and Vice President Mike Pence is expected to speak. In the meantime, President Trump and Congress have made a lot of decisions that affect women’s health, and while some people marching today may be pleased, many of the people who marched last weekend might not be.

Read on

  • OPINION: The global gag rule steps in between women and their doctors in developing nations (STAT)
  • What may be coming down the pike in health care policy under Trump (Managed Healthcare Executive)
  • What President Trump and Representative Elijah Cummings have in common (CBS Baltimore)
  • “Right-to-try” efforts could have allies in the Trump administration (STAT Plus)
  • Heather Bresch, CEO of EpiPen maker Mylan, seems to agree with Trump that drug prices need to come down (CBS)

Thursday, Jan. 26

Doctors and repealing Obamacare

Be careful about a full repeal. That’s what primary care doctors said in this small survey by Johns Hopkins. About 15 percent of doctors in the survey said they would support a full repeal of the law, and 38 percent of doctors who said they voted for Trump wanted a full repeal. About 26 percent of the general public wants a complete repeal of the law.

21st Century Cures on ice?

The 90-day federal hiring freeze may slow down the implementation of parts of the 21st Century Cures Act, says Bloomberg Law. Hiring at the FDA is a key part of the plan to speed drugs through approvals — there are 600 open positions at this time — and part of the act is to develop a workforce plan within 18 months.

He said this

“By and large, our goal is by the end of 2017, we have made good on so many of the promises that we made to the people and the policies we ran on.”

— Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, at the GOP retreat in Philadelphia, on plans to repeal Obamacare, reduce taxes, and install immigration measures by the end of 2017.

Read on

  • With Trump pulling US dollars from international agencies offering abortion-related services, these countries are vowing to fill the gap (Washington Post)
  • Scientists want to plan a march on Washington, and hundreds of thousands of them seem to be interested (STAT)
  • Insurers are making sure they are heard in the repeal and replacement of ACA (Reuters)

Wednesday, Jan. 25

Republicans retreat in Philly

On the agenda at the GOP retreat that starts today: Obamacare (and Peyton Manning). Individual legislators have proposed all manner of replacements for the ACA (see here and here), but this two-day retreat is where a lot of hope is riding on consensus on how to move forward. But analysts are saying the big question is President Trump — where his ideas will fall and what plan(s) he’ll eventually support. The first hearings on replacing Obamacare start next week.

Nerves of steel

Yesterday, we told you how investors are buying up certain health care stocks, thinking Trumpcare, or GOPcare, or whatever it ends up being called, won’t be too different from Obamacare. The companies behind those stocks, though, are nervous, says the Wall Street Journal. They like the idea of corporate tax cuts, but bristle at the thought of pricing controls. So, for now, pharma, biotech, medical device makers, etc. are waiting to see who gets named to what position, so they can plead their cases.

Quote of the day

“The US is again in danger of becoming a country where torturous barbarity is publicly endorsed as official policy.”

— Stephen Soldz, psychologist and director of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis Social Justice and Human Rights Program, on President Trump’s vows to bring back harsh interrogation techniques.

Pharma’s stake in TPP

While unions were celebrating Trump’s toodle-oo to the TPP, pharma isn’t as pleased. Meghana Keshavan talks to an intellectual property expert for STAT Plus on what the loss of TPP means for drugs, market share, and, potentially, drug safety. CDs, movies, and drugs can all be pirated. TPP had plans to slow that down.

Read on

  • A primer on block grants, the GOP plan for Medicaid in a post-ACA America (Kaiser Health News)
  • More on Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire doctor who wants a piece of the health policy pie in Washington (STAT)
  • Obama asks Trump in the traditional letter from outgoing to incoming president to salvage health care (The Hill)

Tuesday, Jan. 24

Price on science

Congressman Tom Price’s Senate confirmation hearing is underway, and while he was predictably grilled on issues related to ethics, Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, asked Price about his ability to lead a trillion-dollar agency using science to make decisions about public health. He asked Price if HIV causes AIDS, if immigrants carry leprosy to the US, if vaccines cause autism and if abortion causes breast cancer. Price asked for clarification on the leprosy question, but for all others, he said the scientific evidence was pretty clear — HIV causes AIDS, vaccines do not cause autism, and abortion does not cause breast cancer. President Trump has linked vaccines and autism, and anti-abortion advocates have suggested that abortions cause breast cancer. When Menendez asked if Price, who is anti-abortion, would lead HHS using, “factual information … dictated by science,” Price responded, “Without a doubt.”

A replacement is released

Just as many of us were heading home for the day Monday, Senators Bill Cassidy and Susan Collins released their replacement for Obamacare, the Patient Freedom Act. The 73-page act will, among other things, end the individual mandate and the employer mandate, but will keep insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions and will preserve mental health coverage. The act will give states broad leeway in ensuring people are insured.

A new guy for the FDA

Trump has entertained different people to run the Food and Drug Administration, but STAT reports on someone new: Dr. Joseph Gulfo. He has worked with both progressive and conservative think tanks, he believes in a four-category drug approvals system, and thinks FDA needs to be treated with more of this.

Obamacare won’t change (that much)

That’s what these investment groups think about efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. As a result, they are buying up hospital, medical device, insurance, and biotech stocks. As we’ve mentioned in previous editions of Trump in 30 Seconds, biotech is banking on the end of taxes companies have to pay on profits they earn outside the US, because it will free up money for mergers and acquisitions. But, we’re only a couple of days, a couple of replacement plans, and one executive order into the process. Things might change.

Read on

  • OPINION: The mandate is the “stupidest part of Obamacare” (CNBC)
  • This billionaire wants a health care role in the Trump’s government (STAT)
  • Seema Verma’s work in Iowa has hit some bumps along the way (STAT)

Monday, Jan. 23

Public health or private wealth?

On Tuesday, Representative Tom Price gets grilled once more in his quest to lead HHS. In the meantime, Kaiser Health News takes a look at boxes of paperwork and finds a nominee who has quickly gone to bat against CMS for medical device companies, drug firms, and doctor payments over reigning in health care costs and evidence-based medicine. Given that CMS is an agency he will oversee, who will he represent — the people who benefit from Medicaid and Medicare or the companies and people trying to get payments from the agency?

He said this

“I spent two years trying to create stability and predictability for the market — and we did. But markets are only as good as people’s belief in them.”

— Former CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, on Obamacare and his future in Washington, D.C., fighting for the ACA’s principles

Insurers take stock amid chaos

Within a couple of hours of taking the oath of office, President Trump signed a vague executive order that signaled the beginning of the end of Obamacare. When he said pharma was “getting away with murder,” stocks tanked. Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that the mandate was on the chopping block. She also said Medicaid block grants would be part of the replacement plan. So what does this mean for health care stocks, particularly those insurers who administer Medicaid plans? Reuters takes a look.

Broad strokes, sharp pen

So, why was the executive order so vague? It gives agencies broad leeway in halting actions that have fiscal or regulatory burdens, whether on people or entities. Modern Healthcare takes a look at the order. Is it buying time for a replacement to be solidified? Is it paving the path for ACA to fail quickly, making for good political theater in hawking a replacement? As with many things Trump, we’ll have to wait and see.

Read on

  • Trump brings back the Mexico City Policy, affecting international family planning efforts (STAT)
  • Under the ACA, insurers can’t make policy decisions based on an applicant’s gun ownership. That might change. (Kaiser Health News)
  • The contraception mandate may be on the chopping block with the ACA repeal (STAT)
  • Energy secretary nominee Rick Perry is no stranger to health care investments or (dubious) science (Dallas Morning News)
  • Betsy DeVos says she’s not going to give up her financial stake in a biofeedback company (New York Times)
  • PhRMA, the industry lobby group, launches a $10 million-plus ad campaign to do damage control over drug prices (STAT)

Friday, Jan. 20

In Donald Trump’s inauguration address today, he focused mostly on jobs and national security, but at one point, he did say he wanted to “free the earth from the miseries of disease.” Here’s what else you need to know today. 

Follow Friday

As we go forward, here are a few people to follow on Twitter to keep you in the loop.

Meghana Keshavan (STAT): @megkesh

Damian Garde (STAT): @damiangarde

Austin Frakt (The Incidental Economist): @afrakt

Aaron E. Carroll (The Incidental Economist): @aaronecarroll

Avik Roy (The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity): @Avik

Michael F. Cannon (Cato Institute): @mfcannon

What we’re looking for

As President Trump takes office, here’s what we at STAT are keeping an eye out for. What will happen to the opioid epidemic? Medicaid? Women’s health? Data? Bookmark this story and come back to it over the next few years. In the meantime, we’ll be working to bring you balanced and comprehensive news in health and medicine.

They said this

“Nobody’s going to lose coverage. Obviously, people covered today will continue to be covered. And, the hope is we’ll expand access. Right now 30 million people are not covered under Obamacare.”

— Texas Senator John Cornyn, on the prospect of people who benefitted from the Medicaid expansion under ACA losing that coverage. It’s a bold promise, but it remains to be seen what coverage will look like, as the budget reconciliation process Congress just went through could effectively eliminate it.

“Never forget that for millions of Americans, you are what stands between them and access to better care; to security; and between them and freedom from injuries, sickness, and mental illness. With these patients and consumers in mind, there was nothing, as Acting Administrator, I wouldn’t do, no one I wouldn’t speak up to, no fight I wouldn’t enter.”

— Outgoing CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, in his final remarks to staff. He talks about successes at the agency in providing health care and implementing policy and says he’s met with nominee Seema Verma, who if confirmed, will become the new chief of the agency.

Health in the Ag Department

It may not seem obvious, but the person heading the US Department of Agriculture has a lot to do with health. Trump has nominated Sonny Perdue, the former governor of Georgia, to oversee a department that handles many aspects of rural medicine, health education and nutrition.

Read on

  • When a heart disease pill targeted toward African-Americans showed dubious efficacy, its maker, after a campaign donation, turned to Representative Tom Price for help (ProPublica)
  • A look at the charged language of the ACA repeal, from a goat run amok to making America sick again. (STAT)
  • Who’s paying for all the inaugural parties? Some familiar faces in health care (STAT)
  • The health insurance startup co-owned by Trump’s son-in-law tells its customers that ACA-covered birth control is safe in 2017, for now (Oscar)

Thursday, Jan. 19

Price on prices

In a four-hour hearing Wednesday, Congressman Tom Price of Georgia played defense, denying any ethics issues with stocks he owns, evaded pointed questions on drug pricing and giving up very few details on what he would replace Obamacare with. He did stick to the idea of access for all, prompting Senator Bernie Sanders to tell him, “I have access to buying a $10 million home. I don’t have the money to do that.”

More carrot, less stick

The investment firm Eaton Vance’s health care team put together a pretty comprehensive list of what they think will change and what they think will stay the same with an ACA repeal. In the change bucket? Taxes, mandates, and the greater use of incentives (carrots) to draw people into insurance, versus fines (sticks). In the stays-the-same bucket? The continued movement toward value-based health care, all talk and no action on drug prices, and high-deductible health plans.

He said this

“Sure, Obamacare isn’t perfect, but it’s better. Obamacare is like a fireman who carried you from a burning building, but on the way out he banged your head into a doorframe. Sure you have a headache now, but at least you’re not on [expletive] fire.”

— Seth Meyers, late night television host, during a recent Obamacare segment

The ‘world’s greatest health care plan’

While the US prepares for the Affordable Care Act to be repealed, the work of replacing it falls to Congress, and guys like freshman Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a doctor who once tended to low-income patients. Cassidy’s state-centric plan? He calls it the “world’s greatest.”

Five drugs to watch

After saying that pharmaceutical companies are getting away with murder in terms of drug pricing, stocks dipped, and within the industry, there was as much nervousness as there was brushing off of the comment. But for five rather costly drugs, including four cancer drugs and one that treats genetic cholesterol problems, if drug pricing talk becomes drug pricing action, there could be a lot to worry about.

Phood and Drug Administration?

Trump is turning to a pharma lobbyist to help man the fort at the FDA while he and his team sort through the candidates to run it. Sheila Kaplan writes for STAT Plus that Jack Kalavritinos was the longtime lobbyist for Covidien, a medical device company bought by Medtronic, and then moved to Ireland to take advantage of low corporate taxes. Remember when Trump said that pharma was getting away with murder? One of the next things he said was, “Our drug industry has been disastrous. They’re leaving left and right.”

Read on

  • These six senators who are part of Price’s confirmation hearings also own health care stocks (Kaiser Health News)
  • Andy Slavitt, head of CMS, isn’t taking the repeal of Obamacare lying down (Kaiser Health News)
  • A war of words? Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan don’t see eye-to-eye on the “replace” part of “repeal and replace” (Fortune)
  • Fishermen are worried about losing insurance they’ve purchased through ACA (Portland Press Herald)

Wednesday, Jan. 18

Confirmation begins

This morning, a courtesy confirmation hearing with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is scheduled for Congressman Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS is a massive entity that oversees everything from Head Start programs to emergency preparedness to Medicare and Medicaid. He’ll get grilled on his alternative to Obamacare and his investments, but is expected to fight back hard. His full confirmation hearing is scheduled for next week.

Vaccine support from HELP

STAT contacted all 23 members of the Senate HELP committee, to garner their views on vaccine safety after last week’s announcement from RFK Jr. that he would leading a vaccine safety panel under Trump. HELP is the committee that oversees public health, and which held a hearing in 2015 about reemerging diseases that are vaccine-preventable. For the most part, senators told us they reject Trump’s vaccine safety skepticism. This includes the majority of Republicans who sit on the committee. But there were a few senators who refused to comment, and a few who refused to talk to us.

His most urgent domestic issue

This is how Trump feels about health care in his interview with Axios, a new journalism startup. He said he’s talked to President Obama about it as recently as Monday, he’s walking back from his promise of insurance for everybody, and like the vice president-elect, he thinks well of Medicaid block grants.

Our oldest president

Trump takes office as the oldest president in US history. He likes burgers, and doesn’t like booze. But, he’s healthy, wealthy, and has had access to the best possible health care his entire life. There’s no doubt he’s healthy enough to do the job, experts say, but presidents age rapidly in office. The question is how he’ll handle stress.

In the tweet of the moment

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota is one of a handful of legislators who are calling for Tom Price’s confirmation hearings to be postponed until ethics issues are cleared up. Price has come under fire for stock trades he’s made in companies for which he has proposed or supported benefitting legislation. Republicans are not likely to grant the request.

Quote of the day

“If there is any attempt to change the mission of the FDA — in other words, to prove both safety and efficacy — then America’s primacy in drug discoveries will suffer.”

— Ovid Therapeutics CEO Jeremy Levin, on two of Trump’s candidates to run the FDA, Jim O’Neill and Balaji Srinivasan, neither of whom have medical experience or an understanding of clinical trials. This knowledge is something Levin and others say is essential.

Don’t touch Medicare

AARP chief Jo Ann C. Jenkins released a letter to the president-elect, asking him to leave Medicare and Medicaid (it pays for nursing homes) alone, but supporting him in his claims of wanting to lower drug prices. Jenkins said the organization is looking forward to working with Trump and his administration.

Read on

  • A high-priced leukemia drug may be a test case for Trump’s vows to tackle drug pricing and a big risk for investors (Motley Fool)
  • In response to Trump’s criticism, Pfizer CEO Ian Read tells a crowd at the World Economic Forum in  Davos that high drug prices are how we (eventually) get to lower drug prices (CNBC)
  • It’s not just individual pharma and biotech stocks that are taking hits with Trump’s drug pricing thoughts — funds are having a tough time, too (Barron’s)
  • Tom Price wants to cut Medicaid and turn Medicare into a voucher program. Some doctors in his home state of Georgia say this would hurt patients (Los Angeles Times)
  • OPINION: Why allowing cross-state insurance sales is a bad idea and how the VA and Medicare already negotiate drugs prices (Los Angeles Times)

Tuesday, Jan. 17

Price in the hot seat

When Representative Tom Price appears Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, what has been called a “courtesy hearing” might get a little heated. Price is an orthopedic surgeon, and some of his recent investments have been called into question, including new claims that he bought a bunch of stock in a medical device company just a few days before introducing legislation that would delay a regulation that could have hurt the company. One of his big-time donors appears to have pressured his employees to donate to a sympathetic PAC. Here are six questions, posed by STAT, that we’d like the HHS nominee to answer.

A promise, clarified

One day after the Washington Post published its interview with President-elect Donald Trump promising everyone would have health insurance, his incoming press secretary said not exactly. Sean Spicer tells CBS that Trump’s plan is about providing “greater accessibility” to the marketplace and more choice.

Price has a plan

Tom Price, Trump’s pick for HHS secretary, has a plan to replace Obamacare. Highlights include tax credits for American citizens buying individual market policies for up to $3,000 for people age 50 and older, health savings accounts for people to squirrel away money for health costs, and ways to offset doctors’ losses for uncompensated care. Many of Price’s ideas are popular with conservatives who want more free-market access, no mandates, and more consumer “skin in the game.”

Defending health care

Over the weekend, there were several rallies across the US, sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders, in defense of Obamacare. Here’s a Facebook 360 photo (links to the Facebook page) of the line at the rally in Macomb County, Michigan, near Detroit.

The FDA does this, not that

With all the talk over who will lead FDA under Trump, the agency updated a blog post outlining what it approves for safety (new drugs, food additives) and what products it doesn’t, but keeps an eye on (infant formula, dietary supplements). There is fear that FDA’s drug approvals standards will loosen under the person Trump picks to lead the agency.

The CBO speaks

The Congressional Budget Office released its report on what a partial repeal of ACA and enactment of a replacement would cost. In the first year, the report says, about 18 million people would become uninsured and individual policies would increase in cost by up to 25 percent. By 2026, those numbers go up to 32 million people becoming uninsured and a doubling of individual policy costs.

Drug prices in a (not so) free market

The American Enterprise Institute takes a look at drug pricing, Trump’s vow to hold pharma’s feet to the fire on price, and how our high prices came to be. For one, our prices are high because of regulations and because drug prices in other countries are low, says health economist Roger Bate. One imperfect way to fix this, he says? Encourage foreign imports of drugs. Which is basically the opposite of what Trump says he wants to happen.

Read on

  • Benefits that people with workplace-sponsored health insurance have gained under ACA could be in jeopardy (Kaiser Health News)
  • A public health professor at Harvard who worked on ACA talks about a repeal and what it might do to public health (Harvard University)
  • About two-thirds of small business owners in this survey said they would be happy to see Obamacare go (CNBC)
  • Trump may use Twitter to force drug prices down in the same way he’s pressured other companies to make changes (FiercePharma)

Monday, Jan. 16

Quote of the day

“I think we will get approval. I won’t tell you how, but we will get approval.”

— President-elect Donald Trump, on plans in the works to replace Obamacare. He told the Washington Post that his plan will have “insurance for everybody,” while Republicans have been talking about “universal access” to insurance. Trump also said that controlling drug prices is key to controlling health care costs — he said drug companies had political protection, but that he would end it.

The convener

When Donald Trump met with a band of hospital executives at his Florida home in December, there was one attendee who didn’t have C-suite in his title: Dr. Bruce Moskowitz. The doctor says he knows Trump, and the CEOs, and he was asked to convene the meeting. What happened in the meeting is still being kept under wraps, but puzzling to Moskowitz is why he was tapped to be the convener — he didn’t donate to Trump’s campaign, and has given to Dems in the past.

In the tweet of the moment

Venture capitalist Balaji Srinivasan talked to Trump about a role in the FDA, and then scrubbed his Twitter feed of criticism of the agency. This is all that’s left.

Repeal and reduce (taxes)

The left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities highlights a little-discussed issue at stake with the Obamacare repeal — the end of special taxes on the wealthiest Americans that helped pay for parts of the act. For the 400 wealthiest taxpayers, they say, whose incomes average about $300 million per year, this would put about $7 million back in their pockets. In turn, says CBPP, the 7 million or so families who will lose their tax credit for their insurance premiums will no longer have those savings. Of course, without details of the replacement, it’s unclear if these scenarios will come to pass.

More on America’s (possible) top scientist

Who will Trump pick to be the top scientist in the US? The person who already has the job? A scientist-turned-congressman who is opposed to embryonic stem cell research? A billionaire biotech investor? The former head of DARPA’s biotech department? A scientist who has pushed for reproducibility? Francis Collins, the current director, and Andy Harris, the Maryland legislator who has done NIH-funded research, are the top contenders to head the NIH, says Nature News, but the other names in the mix are all interesting as well.

Read on

  • Rand Paul is drafting a replacement for Obamacare (Bloomberg)
  • What the Obamacare repeal might do to mental health care (Wired)
  • A multi-million dollar ad campaign is being launched by senior citizens and the insurance industry to protect Medicare (Forbes)
  • With talk of RFK Jr. chairing a vaccine safety committee, here’s a little about the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, the one the US already has (Washington Post)
  • Five of the best performing stocks in the NASDAQ 100 are health care stocks, making analysts wonder if NASDAQ will continue to perform well under Trump (USA Today)

Friday, Jan. 13

Follow Friday

As we head into Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the presidential inauguration, and the repeal and replace battle over Obamacare, Trump in 30 seconds wants you to be informed. Here are a few accounts to follow on Twitter for information about the Trump administration, Congress, and the Affordable Care Act. Feel free to share your favorites.

Sheila Kaplan (STAT): @bysheilakaplan

Dylan Scott (STAT): @dylanlscott

Repeal&Replace Watch (Kaiser Health News): @repeal_replace

Dan Diamond (Politico): @ddiamond

Sahil Kapur (Bloomberg): @sahilkapur

Margot Sanger-Katz (New York Times): @sangerkatz

Philip Klein (Washington Examiner): @philipaklein

Loren Adler (Brookings Institution): @lorenadler

Conflict of interest

Trump’s pick to head HHS, Congressman Tom Price of Georgia, reportedly got a sweetheart deal on stock from an Australian biotechnology company hoping to break into the US market. Price has said he will divest from the company, but Kaiser Health News reports that Innate Immuno is hoping to get preliminary approval of a multiple sclerosis drug from the FDA. And what agency oversees FDA? HHS.

Hostile to science

As she starts her graduate career in the life sciences, STAT columnist Sara Whitlock looks at Donald Trump’s bent toward leaders who dismiss science in promoting their positions. She wonders how her career will unfold in an atmosphere that’s hostile to science.

Read on

  • The opioid crisis is strong in states that voted for Trump. Advocates are trying to make sure substance abuse treatment coverage survives repeal and replace (Wall Street Journal)
  • Some of Trump’s thinking, as spoken at his press conference, diverges from the GOP and its party line (New York Magazine)
  • The issue of drug prices may have the power to unite Democrats and the GOP (Bloomberg)

Thursday, Jan. 12

On the midnight train to repeal

While most of you were sleeping, the Senate voted on a budget resolution that effectively started the repeal process for the Affordable Care Act and set a soft deadline for a replacement. Megan Thielking explains for STAT how the contentious vote that Democrats tried to hold up makes the repeal essentially filibuster-proof. This is, of course, the same tactic Democrats used to pass ACA in the first place. The House votes Friday.

He said this

“Does anyone really believe that story? I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.”

— President-elect Donald Trump, dismissing unverified reports of a salacious night in a Russian hotel room by saying he’s too much of a mysophobe (the official word) to have committed what was in the dossier. Mysophobia was first described with excessive handwashing as part of a description of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Word of the day: festinate

It means to move quickly, and it’s The Economist’s word for efforts to quickly repeal and replace the ACA. Congress has until around Jan. 27 to draft a replacement for legislation that took months to write and months to get through Congress.

America’s top (life) scientist

In the midst of confirmation hearings and a press conference Wednesday, Donald Trump met with Dr. Francis Collins and Maryland Representative Andy Harris, presumably to talk about leading the National Institutes of Health. Collins, who is the current director, is a favorite of some Republicans, but Harris has a unique resume bullet: He’s the only member of Congress to have done NIH-funded research. Change may be afoot for an agency Trump once referred to as “terrible.”

Number of the day: 25 billion

That’s what the U.K. Independent says was the estimated loss in value in 20 minutes for the top nine pharma companies in the S&P 500 after PEOTUS railed against them during his press conference Wednesday. Nasdaq’s biotech index ended the day down 3 percent.

Symbolic hope for pharma

While Trump may have lambasted the drug industry during his press conference Wednesday, the Senate sent a couple of small symbolic signals that they may not agree. Two bills, one on lowering drug prices and one on drug imports from Canada, failed. The votes were procedural, but after a day that saw pharma stocks tank after Trump’s “getting away with murder” comment, even symbolic votes might have felt good.

Required reading

  • All the mentions of science in the past couple of days of confirmation hearings (Science Magazine)
  • These are a few of the surprising things the repeal of ACA may affect (Kaiser Health Network)
  • Trump wants Medicare to be able to negotiate drug prices. But negotiating means having the ability to walk away (Los Angeles Times)
  • President Jimmy Carter wants to meet with Trump to talk about the US efforts in funding disease eradication programs overseas (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Correction: Wednesday’s Trump in 30 seconds extra incorrectly characterized Dr. Toby Cosgrove’s consideration for secretary of the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Cosgrove was among those being considered, but withdrew.


Wednesday, Jan. 11

We’re coming to you with a Trump in 30 Extra, recapping the fallout after the president-elect, in his first news conference since last summer, blasted drug companies for high drug prices and overseas production.

Unlikely bedfellows

Pharma took a beating during Trump’s press conference, but an unlikely convergence emerged: Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders, agreeing that the pharmaceutical industry is “getting away with murder.” As Damian Garde reports, this could set up a nightmare scenario in which the industry is the villain that united a divided America.

An unorthodox position

For Trump to weigh in as he does on drug pricing diverges somewhat from Republican thought. But, in keeping with his America-first mantra, he also went after the industry for its ties to overseas drug development. He’s talked about high import taxes for American companies wanting to ship their products back into the country. Pharma may end up being thrown into that pot as well. But Trump’s pick for SEC chief could make life easier for pharma, as they navigate their overseas operations. Jay Clayton may soften the agency’s efforts to go after pharma companies and their overseas bribes.

Changing clinical trials

In an opinion for STAT, Dr. Tim Shannon, a venture capitalist, challenges the president-elect to look at the cost of clinical trials as a driver of overall drug costs. He suggests what others have before him – release a drug into the market once we know it’s safe, and let the efficacy data come in after and inform changes. This would spell a major change in the way FDA does business, and based on some of the people Trump has considered to run the agency, it might be right up the administration’s alley.

A VA insider rises

On Wednesday, Trump nominated Dr. David Shulkin, the current undersecretary of health for the Department of Veterans Affairs, for the top role of VA secretary. It’s a job he offered to Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove, but was refused. Shulkin is an experienced hospital administrator who once entertained the idea of a voucher system for the VA. He says he wants to increase access to health care at the VA, and reduce wait times.

The market tanks

A Trump tweet can cause a stock to soar or fall, but what about remarks at a press conference? Biotech stocks tanked at news that Trump would go after drug pricing, and at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, the industry’s big shindig in San Francisco, the mood has resembled the ubiquitous fog that rolls over the city. Attendees aren’t just worried about portfolios, but about a repeal of Obamacare and a promised federal hiring freeze that could cripple the FDA, the industry’s line to the public. Will the gloom last? Meghana Keshavan chats with an investor to ask, how will biotech and pharma respond? The answer may not surprise: It all depends on whether Trump’s bite is as big as his bark.


Wednesday, Jan. 11

A meeting, a claim, a walk-back

Tuesday was a confusing day for Trump and health care. It started with news that vaccine critic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was meeting with Trump. Trump has made a number of remarks questioning the link between vaccines and autism. Kennedy emerged from the meeting and said that Trump had asked him to chair a panel on vaccine safety. Hours passed. The internet went beserk (see below).

Then, Trump’s team released a statement, saying Trump and Kennedy did meet about autism (not vaccines), but that no decisions had been made. STAT reports on all of it, including what we know about the safety of vaccines and how hard it would be to change vaccine policy in our country.

The unraveling begins

Efforts to repeal Obamacare could start as early as Thursday, with the Senate taking a vote to effectively prevent a Democratic filibuster, the New York Times reports. Trump has said he wants the repeal to happen immediately, but what immediate means is anyone’s guess.

A Bern-ing amendment

Senator Bernie Sanders, who’s been outspoken about holding Trump’s feet to the fire on promises to preserve Medicare and Medicaid in any ACA repeal effort, has taken it one step further. A few days ago, he sponsored a budget amendment that would keep Congress from breaking Trump’s vow on these entitlements. On Tuesday, though, it was ruled out of order.

She said this

“It is still challenging to have to travel even 20 miles to get your care. It could take you all day to get to a one-hour appointment.”

—  Lisa Davis, director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Rural Health, on the challenges of accessing health care outside cities. Rural hospitals are bracing for changes to the ACA and Medicaid expansions.

Read on

  • Last year was a record year for Chinese health care takeovers, says Bloomberg. Whatever Trump may think of China (see: trade war), Chinese investors are hot on US biotech, and they have the cash to spend.
  • Typically, the week before the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is when biotechs offer IPOs, says SF Gate. This year? Nada. Why? In part, curiosity about what Trump will do with taxes.
  • Trump talked about a federal hiring freeze as soon as he got into office. This Washington Post opinion piece talks about what it might do to the VA and wait times.

Talk to us

What does a Trump administration mean for you? We want to know. Are you a regulator, a policy person, a patient, a scientist? Talk to us. Tell us what’s happening. We protect the identity of our sources.


Tuesday, Jan. 10

A meeting with a vaccine critic

President-elect Donald Trump is meeting with vaccine critic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Wednesday, STAT reports, raising alarms that the meeting will give ammunition to childhood vaccine skeptics. Kennedy, the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, was the editor of a book about thimerosal in vaccines. PEOTUS met last summer as a candidate with Andrew Wakefield, a former medical doctor who spurred the anti-vaccination movement. Today, he’s meeting with HHS nominee Tom Price, CMS nominee Seema Verma, and biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

Truthiness in health

Stephen Colbert made that word mainstream more than a decade ago — the feeling that something must be true, even if it isn’t. Truthiness has been part of health care for decades. Here’s how disregard for science, evidence, and truth in health may have paved the way for the election of Donald Trump.

A go-to congressman

This is how Kaiser Health Network describes HHS nominee Representative Tom Price in an investigative report into his conduct while in Congress. The report finds that while Price has long lobbied on budget-cutting in government, he’s instead let dollars flow freely to certain donors and medical special interests.

He said this

“It’s my hope the new administration will continue this work, and I stand ready to help them in any way I can.”

— Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to attendees at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco Monday night, on his signature cancer moonshot and expanding access to health care. In one of his final talks as VP, Biden rattled off a laundry list of things he hopes to see continue into the next administration, including getting more patients into research, cutting the time and costs of clinical trials, and making sure that promising treatments reach people, regardless of their ZIP code.

She said this

“The fact that these trades were made and in many cases timed to achieve significant earnings or avoid losses would lead a reasonable person to question whether the transactions were triggered by insider knowledge.”

— Representative Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., on Tom Price and concerns about his stock portfolio. Slaughter was the coauthor of the STOCK Act, which effectively bars members of Congress from acting on information they gain as lawmakers to profit. Slaughter is calling for an SEC investigation, as confirmation hearings get underway in Washington.

Read on

  • Repeal and replace: After internal pressure, GOP leader Paul Ryan says parts of it will happen concurrently (The Hill)
  • A Trump administration and drug pricing is the talk of the town at J.P. Morgan this week (Washington Post)
  • Top brass at Johnson & Johnson met with PEOTUS recently about improving health care (CNBC)
  • Here’s how you repeal the ACA, step-by-step (Associated Press)

Monday, Jan. 9

Head-to-head

When it comes to the ACA, drug prices, the opioid epidemic, and other aspects of health care, it’s hard to know whether under a President Trump we’ll see big changes, more of the same, or something else entirely. STAT’s Dylan Scott takes a look at some of these issues, and asks, how did President Obama handle it? How might PEOTUS tackle the same issue?

Happening today

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is slated to give a talk today about Obamacare at the Press Club, highlighting its successes. This is what she tells the Washington Post that her successor needs to do: focus on outcomes and listen to those we serve. Congressman Tom Price has been nominated for the job.

A reason to celebrate

Biotech had a bad 2016, and Trump’s talk on drug prices has many skittish. But the president-elect will be a hot topic of conversation at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. Why? A possible change in tax code could free up big pharma bucks to buy up the little biotechs that could. Damian Garde reports for STAT.

Job hunts on the horizon?

The talk of an ACA repeal and replace (with what?) continues. This CNN story puts the cost of the repeal in terms of job numbers — up to 3 million lost by 2021. And many of these jobs will be in the health care sector. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget puts a complete repeal as costing $350 billion over a decade, but a repeal of only the insurance mandate would save about $300 billion over the same period.

He said this

“I’ve never seen a Republican or Democrat heart attack in my life.”

— Tennessee Representative Phil Roe, a Republican doctor, on the congressional battles over installing, and now repealing, the ACA. The ACA was installed without GOP support, and now the repeal runs the risk of being pushed through without Democratic support.

REIN-ing in regulation

The House recently approved the REINS Act, legislation that would give Congress the ability to say yea or nay to rules that an agency puts forth that have an estimated economic impact of $100 million or more. The act could impact the way FDA does it work in a Trump administration.


Friday, Jan. 6

Breaking your uterus

That’s how Katy Talento, the woman who Trump wants to lead health care policy for the White House Domestic Policy Council, described the possible effects of birth control in a column she wrote for The Federalist. STAT takes a quick look at Talento, an epidemiologist with strong views on birth control and abortion. She was most recently working for Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, a Republican who is staunchly anti-abortion.

Having dessert without eating your vegetables

In a column for the Washington Post, that’s how Democratic Representative Jim McDermott of Washington described what he thinks is the incompatibility of removing the health insurance mandate while still promising to keep everyone covered, including those people with preexisting conditions. He said when they tried it in his home state of Washington in the 1990s, insurers suffered catastrophic losses and soon there were virtually no options for individual coverage.

He said this

“I’ve stopped underestimating our ability to screw up good things. We’ve never been able to settle on one bill over all these years. Having a president in the party helps a lot.”

— Representative Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, on replacing the ACA after its repeal. This Bloomberg report says he’s signaling that Republicans will turn to Trump to help finish the job.

Read on


Thursday, Jan. 5

Plenty of questions, full disclosure

That’s what Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is promising, then demanding, as he and two other leading Senate Democrats took to the podium today to say that no confirmation hearings should start for Representative Tom Price, Trump’s pick to lead HHS, without first an independent ethics investigation into his finances and stock trades.

Why are they calling for this? This WSJ story that outlines hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock trades Price has made in recent history, all while pushing for legislation that could have benefitted those stocks. Here’s STAT’s take from earlier in December. One act the trio mentions? The 21st Century Cures Act, which could speed the path for new drugs through FDA.

Why does it matter? Congressional members aren’t supposed to use non-public information they get from their jobs for personal benefit.

Trump, for his part, called Schumer earlier this morning a “clown.” He then urged bipartisanship in crafting a new health plan.

He said this

“Look, we’re talking about peoples’ lives, we’re talking about families.”

— VP-elect Mike Pence on overhauling health care. He spoke with House Republicans Wednesday about developing plans for a repeal, while President Obama met with Democrats to try and save his signature legislation.

Health care convergence

The massive JP Morgan Healthcare Conference starts Monday, and hundreds of companies will reveal their plans for 2017. But with the ACA in flux, and 21st Century Cures on the horizon, how health care, biotech, and pharma will play out under Trump is still anyone’s guess.

Worth reading

  • President Obama: Don’t “rescue” the GOP on the Obamacare repeal; start calling their plan “Trumpcare.”
  • A health care stock selloff may be looming. In the last week of December, short-interest exposure, “or bets that health-care stock prices will fall” was up about $2 billion.
  • Happy. Concerned. Sure Trump will “do the right thing,” even if they don’t know what that is. The head of the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals results of its focus groups with Trump supporters on Obamacare.

Wednesday, Jan. 4

The big news right now

  • Republicans, including Tom Price, have vowed to make tort reform part of their ACA replacement. But researchers say that is unnecessary: medical malpractice insurance premiums aren’t rising and claims are down. (Kaiser Health News)
  • George Karavetsos, director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, will step down as Trump takes office. (Reuters)

On people’s lips

“Healthcare has never been faced with the prospect of such across-the-board changes to virtually every aspect of how we manage the cost and delivery of care. If this isn’t keeping you and the rest of your executive team up at night, it should be.” — Don Hall, principal of DeltaSigma LLC (Managed Healthcare Executive)

Today’s must-read

  • Why health insurers worry about Trump’s HHS pick, Tom Price (Forbes)

Tuesday, Jan. 3

Repeal and then what?

Behavioral science has a term for large-scale enrollments in Obamacare in advance of its probable dismantling — loss aversion. In this opinion piece for STAT, researchers look at what repeal would look like, and find that what the GOP comes up with, based on economics, might end up looking a lot like the program they are trying to get rid of.

The way Obamacare might be repealed could take many different paths, says this report from Managed Healthcare Executive. Democrats might filibuster one path to repeal, and reconciliation bills could help another. The bottom line is that whether the day after Trump’s inauguration, or later down the road, getting rid of the Affordable Care Act will be a massive undertaking by Congress.

While the most well-known effect of the Affordable Care Act is some 20 million people with insurance, there are multiple subtle things that have happened that have changed the way medicine is being delivered, the New York Times reports. Will these changes stick in a new administration? Doctors and administrators are bracing for what may come next.

In the tweet of the moment

The president’s assessment of the Affordable Care Act in JAMA beats out research on medical error, sugar, and space as the most discussed scientific article of the year, according to Pew Research Center.

A tough pill to swallow

Patients want access to drugs faster; insurers want more evidence they’ll work before covering them. Under a Trump administration, the way FDA determines a drug’s efficacy could change. This contributor at Forbes looks at two drugs, Sarepta’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug, Exondys 51, and Biogen’s Spinraza for spinal muscular atrophy, as examples.

Will they/won’t they rebound? Biotech stocks had a rough 2016, fueled in part by what Bloomberg says is slowed mergers and acquisitions. Bloomberg takes a look at the pipeline, and predicts that even with a “wildcard” PEOTUS, biotech is the coal that fuels the pharma furnaces. Things might turn around.


Friday, Dec. 30

The big news right now

Politico reported today that Obama is heading to Capitol Hill for a Wednesday meeting to try to save Obamacare. The GOP is itching to repeal it. Pundits on both sides are worried about the impact on the health care industry if “repeal and delay” carries the day. And millions of people who have signed up for insurance during Obamacare’s open enrollment are wondering how long they will have it.

Many Americans work in the “gig economy” — making ends meet through Uber, Lyft, one-off jobs in art, technology, construction and more. If Obamacare goes away, asks the Los Angeles Times, what will happen to these working people, who no longer are tied to employer-based insurance?

Fake news isn’t just in the political sphere — health and medicine saw its share in 2016, including what our Watchdogs point out was a softball interview between Donald Trump and Dr. Oz before the election. They call it the “Cage Match of Credulity.”  

A market in flux

Pharma, biotech, and health care sector stocks have responded differently to the election and statements Trump has made. This analyst talks on the markets, tying health care/hospital stock performance to the ACA. He calls Obamacare a failure, but asks, what if the replacement is worse?

For years, biotech stocks have been on a tear. But 2016 was a bust, says the Wall Street Journal. It’s calling 2016 the “black cloud” — the worst year in performance in more than a decade. Will the cloud float over 2017? Trump’s talk of curbing drug prices has everyone nervous. Some say, get out the umbrella, just in case.

Rhyme Time

It’s been a busy year in health. STAT took a look at some of the biggest stories — via limerick. Here’s what we wrote on PEOTUS.

On Trump

It seems our president-to-be
Wants to privatize new hips and knees
Medicare could see big changes
After Congress rearranges
It’s a new era in health for the GOP

Read on

OPINION: Why must Obamacare die? It’s evidence that government programs work, says this New York Times columnist, and the GOP doesn’t want that information out there.


Thursday, Dec. 29

The big news right now

PEOTUS met with hospital executives and physicians yesterday at his Florida home where they discussed a variety of healthcare issues, including the Department of Veterans Affairs. Trump discussed the possibility letting veterans opt out of the system or privatizing it entirely. Such ideas have previously drawn criticism from mainstream veterans groups.

On people’s lips

I think President-elect Trump made it very clear in the course of the campaign that, as president, we’re going to keep our promises in Social Security and Medicare. With regard to Medicaid, though, I will tell you, there’s a real opportunity…to do exactly what the president-elect also said on the campaign, and that is block granting Medicaid back to the states.”

— Vice President-elect Mike Pence, on the GOP’s plan to overhaul Medicaid with block grants, which could put limits on what states have to work with.

“Millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump after he promised not to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He must be held to his promises and should veto any legislation which cuts these vital and necessary health programs.”

— From a letter written by Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Representative Nancy Pelosi to congressional colleagues. Sanders and others are calling for a “day of action” against possible health care cuts on January 15.

Read on

  • Trump has proposed a one-time tax on drug sales overseas. What would it mean?
  • Health care VC Bruce Booth on what Trump could mean for the social contract between the industry and its customers.

Talk to us

What does a Trump administration mean for you? We want to know. Are you a regulator, a policy person, a patient, a scientist? Talk to us. Tell us what’s happening. We protect the identity of our sources.


Wednesday, Dec. 28

The big news right now

What’s at stake with a rapid repeal of Obamacare? About $350 billion in taxes that come from the wealthiest Americans, according to this analysis of the Republican plan to undo the Affordable Care Act. Ending that tax would put money back in the pockets of many of these people, possibly including, says reporter Jonathan Cohn, PEOTUS Donald Trump.

The New York Times looks at two hospitals bracing for an end to Obamacare. One hospital that serves many poor people is expecting major losses as it returns to absorbing costs from their uninsured patients. Another hospital that serves mostly affluent patients worries about wasted dollars invested to prepare for new pay models that may not come to pass.

An overlooked success of the ACA is its impact on hospital readmissions. Researchers, writing in STAT, said the number of people who end up back in the hospital within 30 days of discharge drastically changed under Obamacare, which financially penalizes hospitals that lag on that benchmark. It’s unclear what will happen to these penalties under Trump.

On People’s Lips

“We are deeply concerned about the appointment of Tom Price to Secretary of Health and Human Services. The implications for embryonic stem-cell research could be devastating.”

— Mary Bass, director of public policy for Americans for Cures. Her group advocates for stem-cell research, and like others who look to embryonic stem cells and fetal tissue as rich sources of scientific and medical knowledge, there is fear under a Trump administration that these branches of research will be stifled.

ICYMI

A Senate report looks at drug prices, something Trump has said he wants to tackle in office.

Read on

This pundit has a plan for Trump’s FDA that goes back to its roots.

Talk to us

What does a Trump administration mean for you? We want to know. Are you a regulator, a policy person, a patient, a scientist? Talk to us. Tell us what’s happening. We protect the identity of our sources.


Tuesday, Dec. 27

The big news right now

The President-elect has vowed to fill vacancies in the federal court system with Antonin Scalia-like adherents of conservative ideology, the Washington Post reports. With more than 100 openings in the federal judiciary, his picks could influence abortion and other health care issues.

These three precision medicine stocks could do very well, Motley Fool says, especially if Trump is guided by advisor Newt Gingrich, a strong proponent of increased NIH funding.

A throwaway comment: How one fund manager describes Donald Trump’s recent take on lowering drug prices. Barron’s talks to Ethan Lovell, co-manager of the Janus Global Life Sciences Fund, who also thinks that Amgen is his best current stock pick.

On people’s lips

“There’s absolutely no benefit to anyone to not let these current 65 students finish their education and serve as physicians. It does not help the American people because we won’t have those 65 physicians out in the field to serve a variety of communities that need those physicians.”

— Linda Brubaker, dean of the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University in Chicago, on medical students in American medical schools under the auspices of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gives some undocumented people temporary relief from deportation. Brubaker worries that their educations will be in jeopardy under a Trump administration.

“Republicans need a fancy Rose Garden repeal ceremony … and I expect them to have one. On the other hand, there’s 20 million people with health insurance under the ACA, and they don’t want to dump them. There’s no clear path for how to square that conflict.”

— Dan Mendelson, CEO of the consulting firm Avalere Health, on the challenges faced by members of the GOP, whether part of the “pragmatists” or the “rip-it-up society,” in their efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Talk to us

What does a Trump administration mean for you? We want to know. Are you a regulator, a policy person, a patient, a scientist? Talk to us. Tell us what’s happening. We protect the identity of our sources.

In their opinions

With all the talk of privatizing Medicare comes quiet whispers of how Medicaid might be dismantled by a Trump administration (New York Times)

This conservative columnist warns that Congress may not know what it is up against in what she calls the “repeal and dawdle” of the Affordable Care Act (Washington Post)

The editorial board of the Los Angeles Times says an Obama rule that goes into effect in January with ramifications for family planning should be allowed to stand (LA Times)

This columnist writes a letter to Donald Trump, urging him to be careful with an Obamacare repeal and delay tactic: “If you’re an insurer, you’re likely to head for the hills.” (New York Times)


Friday, Dec. 23

The big news right now

Over the last four years Rep. Tom Price has traded in health care stocks while sponsoring and advocating legislation that could affect those companies’ share prices, a Wall Street Journal investigation found — actions that weren’t technically illegal but could be problematic at his Senate confirmation hearings. (Wall Street Journal)

Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was once on the board of a dubious company purporting to use “brain fingerprinting” to assess an interrogation subject’s honesty through a brain scan. (Bloomberg)

In a study of drugs imported from other countries, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, found no fake medicines — which lends credence to Trump’s plan to encourage such imports. (AEI)

Eric Trump is suspending the operations of his charitable foundation — which primarily supports the St Jude pediatric cancer center — after facing questions about whether donors might get special access to the first family. (Washington Post)

VA potential?

Trump is considering Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, CEO of Cleveland Clinic, to run the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. Here, from STAT hospitals correspondent Casey Ross, are four things to know:

  • Cosgrove is a former cardiac surgeon who has led a major international expansion at the clinic
  • He himself is a veteran, having served in Vietnam as chief of the US Air Force Casualty Staging Flight
  • He has said that only private industry can solve the nation’s runaway health care costs
  • Cosgrove turned down the VA job when it was offered to him by President Obama in 2014

Thursday, Dec. 22

The big news right now

At one time, 75 percent of US doctors were in the American Medical Association. Now’s it 25 percent. After the AMA voiced its support for one member, Trump’s HHS pick Representative Tom Price, many physicians protested the AMA’s decision. STAT reports on turmoil in the AMA, the largest professional group for doctors in the United States.

One criticism of Price is that he favors the well-being of the doctor over the well-being of the patient. In the New England Journal of Medicine, two former HHS administrators lay out those concerns and several others through an analysis of, among other things, Price’s voting record in Congress.

Trump wants another doctor for his leadership team. This time, it’s the CEO of Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, who he wants to helm the VA, even though Cosgrove didn’t want the job under President Obama, STAT reports.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar says she hopes Congress will put aside partisanship in tackling the growing problem of runaway drug pricing. She’s optimistic, she tells STAT, because the president-elect seems to be on board with the issue.

On people’s lips

“Good judgment would be to stay out of health care stocks if you are on a health-care related committee. Stay out of energy stocks if you are on an energy committee. Stay out of defense stocks if you are on Armed Services.”

— Richard W. Painter, a former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, talking to CQ Roll Call about Representative Tom Price, and the ethics of investing in industries he might oversee as the head of HHS. Price has owned stock in Gilead Sciences, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer, among others.

Talk to us

What does a Trump administration mean for you? We want to know. Are you a regulator, a policy person, a patient, a scientist? Talk to us. Tell us what’s happening. We protect the identity of our sources.

Read more

  • What does Trump’s pick for interior secretary think about climate change? It’s variable (Washington Post)
  • Does torture work? Trump thinks so. This psychologist dissects the practice (Independent)

Wednesday, Dec. 21

The big news right now (and there’s a lot)

There’s a ton happening today in the Trump health-o-sphere. Maybe more than 30 seconds. Probably a minute, at least. 

Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley iconoclast, has already proposed a Trump pick to run FDA. Turns out, he may be influencing other health and science decisions for the president-elect. STAT reports that his views on science and potential portfolio conflicts are leaving some people on edge.

Generalist investors may be shying away from biotech stocks in the first year of a Trump presidency because other sectors stand to see immediate policy change, says this blog post from Barron’s.

What Trump has planned for the Affordable Care Act is creating “crushing uncertainty across the health care sector” according to this video from Market Watch. Insurers may face fewer regulations, but could still see lots of changes if they insure Medicaid and Medicare patients.

Uncertainty in the public domain seems to have boosted Obamacare enrollment to record numbers for 2017, with The Hill pointing out one comforting thing: Even if the act is repealed, anyone insured under it will still be covered throughout 2017, and possibly 2018.

For a lot of folks who need health insurance, there’s more data showing their support of Donald Trump, even in the face of losing what coverage they have. But the Wall Street Journal notes that by the time anything changes, we could be in another election cycle.

But in the meantime, researchers are not taking any chances. With the White House’s support, they are trying to save Obamacare data out of concerns that Trump and his administration will get rid of it all, Politico says.

He said this

“If something happens to him, then it happens to him. It’s like all the rest of us, no? That’s why we have a vice president and a speaker of the House and a whole line of people. They can just keep dying.”

— Dr. Harold Bornstein, Donald Trump’s doctor, on his health, as part of a three-hour interview with STAT’s Ike Swetlitz

Crystal ball

The biopharma folks at investment bank Piper Jaffray released their provocative 2017 predictions. Among them? Donald Trump tweets (to some stock market effect?) about an investigational drug called SPINRAZA for later-onset spinal muscular atrophy in children, and he picks Jim O’Neill to lead FDA.

Word of 2017: Trumpocene

It’s used to introduce this conversation from The Atlantic with David Biello, science writer and author of “The Unnatural World.” The word is a take on how scientists classify geological eras (see: Pleistocene, Anthropocene) and is presumably a nod to the Trump’s tenure in office. “The Unnatural World” is billed as an optimistic look at climate change. What the president-elect thinks and might do about it are peppered throughout the interview.

Also optimistic is John Holdren, White House science advisor. He tells Scientific American he doesn’t think progress in climate change action will be undone, because much of it is being done outside of government policy.

In the meantime, scientists are racing to download climate data, and the Union of Concerned Scientists has set up a hotline for climate change scientists “to report political meddling,” on fears of who Trump might pick to helm NOAA.

Read more

  • Democratic Senators ask Trump to help rein in drug prices (Reuters)
  • OPINION: What can Democrats do to save health care as they see it? (New York Times)

Tuesday, Dec. 20

The big news right now

Obamacare hasn’t worked for everyone. The Atlantic reports on people who voted for Trump with the idea that he’d tear it down and start over, including people who like the idea of expanding health insurance, but not how it’s come to pass.

The president-elect has rarely discussed global health aid, although the US is a major player in preventing global HIV and tuberculosis spread, for example. The vice president-elect has supported certain global health programs, but his beliefs on family planning worry some experts. What will happen to global health efforts under a Trump administration? The New York Times reports.

On people’s lips

“… ad-libbing, rambling, or flying off the handle can be very dangerous in an epidemic.”

— Elizabeth Radin, public health researcher and expert on health inequality in resource-poor situations at Columbia University, on a pandemic and how Donald Trump — and his administration — might respond.

Must-reads

Mick Mulvaney, who Trump wants to lead the Office of Management and Budget, wonders whether the federal government should be funding scientific research at all (Mother Jones)

Sometimes, it’s fast, sometimes it’s slow — is Trump really behind on making picks for science positions? (Science magazine)

Opinions

This key climate change scientist has been threatened in the past. He worries about life under Trump (Washington Post)

Populism does not bode well for public health (STAT)

Correction: An item in yesterday’s newsletter about health benefits for coal miners should have attributed the potential loss of these benefits to coal company bankruptcy proceedings instead of changes to the Affordable Care Act.


Monday, Dec. 19

The big news right now

The fight over Medicare may become a case study for how Democrats weather a Trump presidency. Trump said while campaigning that he wouldn’t touch Medicare. But other Republicans have been itching to privatize the health care program. (Newsweek)

Coal miners in West Virginia are bracing for cuts to health care they were promised would last a lifetime. The Affordable Care Act made these benefits possible. Congress has until April to act, and it’s unclear what will happen to the benefits under President-elect Trump. (STAT)

Tune in

The Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School is hosting a webinar today at noon about the ACA and what might happen under Trump.

Analyze this

A new report from PwC examines what’s coming for value-based health care, the Affordable Care Act, health technology, and other health issues in 2017 and under a Trump administration.

Number of the day: 20

The minimum prison term for charges of conducting in a continuing criminal enterprise. Two medical marijuana growers in California in federal prison are hoping for clemency from an Obama administration. Their advocates fear a Trump administration won’t consider it. They were arrested in 2008. (Sacramento Bee)


Friday, Dec. 16

The big news right now

More than a third of Rep. Tom Price’s $15 million in campaign donations over the past 13 years have come from health care interests, which he would be responsible for regulating as head of HHS. (Miami Herald)

If Trump were to pioneer a more transparent bioethics commission, one scholar says, it could bring more public discourse about advances like cloning and stem cells, and would be in keeping with Trump’s promised populism. (The Weekly Standard)

On people’s lips

“As I got ready for work the day after the election, I knew I had to be armed with some kind of philosophy to lend my clients, and I relied on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief, which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I did this because Trump’s election was a death of a sort to me and my clients — certainly a loss.” — Michel Horvat, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles (Science of Us)

Today’s must-read

  • If medical groups care about LGBTQ patients’ health, they must resist Trump’s HHS pick (Slate)

Thursday, Dec. 15

The big news right now

Today is the deadline for open enrollment in Obamacare and so far, about 4 million people have signed up in its first six weeks. In a blog post, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt shares that if the ACA is to be changed, which is the prevailing idea under a Trump administration, these should be the key components:

  • It should cover more people — about 9 percent of Americans are uninsured, he says
  • It should preserve coverage for pre-existing conditions and no caps on benefits, he says
  • It should be affordable — he says 70 percent of Americans can get coverage for $75 per month after credits
  • It should be fiscally responsible — he says the ACA has extended the life of Medicare by a decade

He also has good news for investors in health care indexes — you’ve had good returns —  and stresses a bipartisan effort in amending the ACA.

On people’s lips

“He’s going to meet with all sorts of people that he agrees and disagrees with, but if they have ideas that can make the country better, and in this case our healthcare system better in terms of affordability and accessibility, he’s going to want to hear their ideas.”

— RNC spokesman Sean Spicer, on the President-elect’s meeting with Obamacare architect Ezekiel Emanuel. While Trump has repeatedly said he will repeal Obamacare, he has said he would consider keeping parts of the law intact (The Hill)

Today’s must-reads

  • The Obama administration is trying to push through revisions to biomedical research rules, including a hotly debated patient consent issue, despite congressional warnings not to do so before Trump takes office (STAT)
  • Another take on candidate for FDA chief Jim O’Neill and the idea of approving drugs after safety has been established but not before efficacy (Fortune)

Wednesday, Dec. 14

The big news right now

A call is out to Donald Trump to “drain the swamp” at the NIH by replacing Dr. Francis Collins, who’s overseen the nation’s chief biomedical sciences agency for eight years and has said he’d like to stay on. In a letter on his blog, a UC Berkeley scientist says Collins’s tenure has hurt the US’s science effort.

Number of the day: 11,000,000

The estimated number of people Medicaid expansions via the ACA have covered. With the architect of Indiana’s program being considered to run CMS, STAT’s Andrew Joseph headed to the Hoosier state to see how Seema Verma’s plan has been received. The reviews are mixed, but have one thing in common: People are happy to be insured.

Today’s must-reads

  • Repealing ACA the day after Trump takes office won’t be that easy (Kaiser Health News)
  • How Trump’s picks for HUD and USDA affect health (Fortune)
  • Who Trump picks to run the Patent and Trademark Office will matter to pharma and biotech (Corporate Counsel)

Tuesday, Dec. 13

The big news right now

  • With the 21st Century Cures Act about to be signed into law, McClatchy DC reports some conservative lawmakers pledge to support increased funding for NIH, despite concerns it will be an uphill battle with an incoming president who has said, “I hear so much about the NIH, and it’s terrible.”
  • Pharma research and development isn’t paying off the way it used to. Returns from R&D are at a six-year low, says Financial Times, and executives are saying that while at first they thought Donald Trump would be lenient on price controls, that may be changing.

Survey says

In a small poll of 316 medical professionals by a company called Aprima Medical Software, participants mostly think a Trump presidency will be great for their bottom lines, but maybe not so good for their patients.

  • Close to 50 percent said a Trump presidency would benefit them financially.
  • A combined 70 percent, roughly, said that a Trump presidency would not affect or worsen access to health care for patients.

On people’s lips

“I guess I thought that, you know, he would not do this, he would not take health insurance away knowing it would affect so many people’s lives. I mean, what are you to do then if you cannot pay for insurance?”

— Debbie Mills, a Kentucky resident who, like many in her area, believes that Congress and a Trump administration will repeal Obamacare, but still leave the ranks of the newly insured intact. Sarah Kliff reports that Mills lives in an area where Obamacare has whittled the uninsured rate to about 10 percent, but in an area that also voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. (Vox)

Science in the balance

  • Earth scientists are at a big annual meeting in San Francisco. They’re wondering if the next four years under Donald Trump will be a hostile climate for climate change research. In a rare move for scientists, some are organizing a demonstration (National Public Radio)
  • Trump’s leading choice for secretary of agriculture is a Democrat known for supporting ag-biotech and others in efforts to pass voluntary GMO labelling laws. As agriculture secretary, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota would also have influence on SNAP, the federal food assistance program. (CNBC)

Monday, Dec. 12

The big news right now

  • The World Health Organization says Obamacare needs to be expanded, not repealed (Reuters)
  • The people who represent America’s medical schools speak out against an all-out repeal of Obamacare (Fortune)
  • Will science have a weaker voice under Donald Trump? (Nature)

Legal briefs

From Kaiser Health News, a legal look at Representative Tom Price, nominated by Trump to lead HHS.

“Instead of having a secretary for the people, you have a secretary for the medical profession.”

— Max Mehlman, a law professor and medical malpractice specialist at Case Western Reserve University

“… as someone with deep inside knowledge of health care he understands how overpriced health care delivery is and how disorganized and often ineffective it is.”

— William Sage, a law professor who studies medical malpractice and health care costs at the University of Texas at Austin

Thoughts and opinions

  • With promises of an Obamacare repeal, this psychiatrist worries that some 44 million people with mental health concerns in the US will suffer (NYT)
  • Candidate Jim O’Neill is not the right person to helm FDA (STAT)

Friday, Dec. 9

The big news right now

From pushes for “fetal tax credits” to employer exemptions in health insurance in several states, fetal “personhood” advocates are celebrating a Trump presidency in the hopes their congressional efforts to grant “personhood” to fertilized eggs will finally bear fruit. Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Trump’s pick for HHS secretary, Tom Price, as congressmen, both promoted such legislation, which would effectively make abortion and perhaps birth control illegal.

Health care stocks are responding positively to Trump’s election. At market close on Thursday night, both NASDAQ and the S&P 500 were at record highs, with health stocks leading the S&P rally. The question is, how long will the gains last? NASDAQ contributor Martin Tiller weighs in on how drug price controls might change the playing field.

On people’s lips

“At the time it was suspended, we were told by people in Washington that in all probability it will not be reinstituted. But still, we’ll all sleep better at night knowing that it’s gone.”

— OrthoPediatrics CEO Mark Throdahl on hopes for a permanent repeal under Donald Trump of a tax on certain medical devices. The tax was first levied as part of the Affordable Care Act, and was temporarily repealed earlier this year. In line with the president-elect’s promises of domestic job creation, medical device makers have been framing their fight to end the tax as something that will promote hiring. (Reuters)

Today’s must-reads

  • Will a Trump administration end pay for performance in Medicare? (Forbes)
  • With health care mergers happening left and right, Trump’s antitrust appointments matter (US News & World Report)

Thursday, Dec. 8

The big news right now

Donald Trump just made one cabinet pick that could have implications for health care, and is weighing another that could shake up the health world in an even bigger way.

Jim O’Neill, an investor, is being considered to run FDA. He has said that establishing the efficacy of a drug is not necessary before it goes to market (STAT)

Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, was picked to head EPA. He filed the first lawsuit to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Bloomberg)

What’s being analyzed

The promises have been made — the Affordable Care Act will undergo tremendous change under President Trump.

The Urban Institute estimates the cost of uncompensated care to be upward of $1.1 trillion if ACA is partially repealed (ending Medicaid expansion and financial assistance to buy insurance, for example) and not replaced. The estimate of uncompensated costs is based on projections that close to 59 million people would become uninsured.

Read more

  • President Obama’s science advisor talks the importance of a science-savvy president (STAT)
  • Keeping promises: This list lays out what Trump could easily change, including the appointment of a Supreme Court justice, a pick that could have implications for access to health care (NYT)

Correction: Donald Trump has not finalized his choice to run FDA. Candidates are still being reviewed.


Wednesday, Dec. 7

The big news right now

In Donald Trump’s “Person of the Year” interview he was typically vague on his intentions around drug pricing, saying just “I’m going to bring down drug prices. I don’t like what’s happened with drug prices.” (TIME)

Still, those words were enough to sink some biotech funds this morning. (Marketwatch)

In light of similar statements by Trump in the past, pharma companies’ recent pledges to limit price hikes — most recently by Novo Nordisk — could be more than goodwill. They could also help keep lawmakers and regulators off the drug industry’s back. (STAT Plus)

A group calling itself the Healthcare Transformation Task Force — made up of 43 insurers, providers, others — sent a letter to Trump yesterday asking him to continue the health system’s transition from fee-for-service to payment models that take outcomes into account, aka value-based care. (Press release)

Today’s must-reads

  • Trump can jumpstart the economy by fixing health problems of old age (Forbes)
  • Why Ben Carson’s medical experience matters at HUD (STAT)

Tuesday, Dec. 6

The big news right now

Dr. Douglas Lowy, acting director of the National Cancer Institute, told STAT in an exclusive interview that he has “no intention of submitting a resignation” when Trump takes office. (STAT Plus)

It’s expected that Trump will bring back the Reagan-era rule banning federal funding for overseas charities that “promote” abortion, including providing patients with information about the procedure or referrals to providers who perform it. (NPR)

The Trump transition team has met with the Department of Health and Human Services — but so far, no visits to the FDA. (STAT Plus)

Biotechs working on cannabis-based drugs are anxious about the possibility of new restrictions under Donald Trump’s presidency. (Forbes)

The unconventional views of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, of which Tom Price is a member, are likely to be an issue in his confirmation hearings next year. (McClatchy)

Merger mania

Many in pharma are closely watching Trump’s planned tax holiday for companies to repatriate overseas cash. That freed up money may spur new mergers and acquisitions. Among the companies rumored to be candidates are Pfizer, which told investors in private meetings that its M&A appetite would grow if it could bring home its more than $70 billion in overseas cash, and Gilead, which has been under pressure to find a new blockbuster drug. The five US pharma companies with most overseas cash are Pfizer, Merck & Co, Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, and Eli Lilly. (Reuters)

Today’s must-read

  • Markets were wary of a Trump presidency. What changed? (PBS Newshour)

Monday, Dec. 5

The big news right now

AAAS head Rush Holt is optimistic that the BRAIN Initiative will carry on since it’s underway now and since Congress backs it. (Motherboard)

Trump’s plan to reform the FDA could affect not just drugs but also cosmetics and dietary supplements, “gray areas” of enforcement that require the agency to be proactive about patrolling. (Washington Examiner)

Trump owns stock and bonds in 12 different pharma and biotech companies. (Axios)

Once he takes office Trump could kill past regulations in one fell swoop, as well as stop future regulations from ever becoming law at all. (the Atlantic)

Today’s must-reads

  • Will President Trump quash scientific progress in America? (the Week)
  • Study: Trump succeeded in regions hit hardest by the drug epidemic (WNYC)

Friday, Dec. 2

The big news right now

A new advisory panel of business leaders Trump announced this morning includes Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. (CNBC)

Biotech’s “Trump bump” is already starting to peter out — the Nasdaq Biotech Index is down nearly 7 percent from its post-election highs. (Bloomberg)

Merck CEO Ken Frazier cast doubt on Trump’s campaign proposal to allow the importation of cheaper drugs from other countries, saying, “I don’t think it’s going to be made possible. … Every time we’ve tried to do that no FDA commissioner has ever been willing to certify the safety of those drugs.” (Reuters)

More than 100 medical students at UC Davis held a rally on Thursday to protest Donald Trump as a “code blue” medical emergency. (the Sacramento Bee)

Man in the news

Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s HHS nominee, continues to be scrutinized. A remark he made in 2012, that no woman he knew of had ever had trouble getting contraception when she needed it, has received fresh attention — and activist organizations and individual women are answering his “bring me one” challenge by bringing him their stories. And Price’s stock portfolio includes investments in pharmaceutical, medical device, and health insurance companies, the heart of the industries he would be overseeing as secretary. But federal ethics rules do not require that Price automatically divest himself of stock.

Today’s must-read

  • The drug industry’s stake in Trumpcare is bigger than you think (STAT)
  • Trump’s election threatens medical cooperation between US and Cuba (STAT)

Thursday, Dec. 1

The big news right now

More than two thousand scientists from across the US, including 22 Nobel Prize recipients, have signed a letter urging respect for science in a Trump administration, adequate research funding, and independence for federal scientists. (Union of Concerned Scientists)

Jumping on the letter bandwagon, the American Hospital Association wrote a four-page letter to Trump on Wednesday urging drug price controls, fewer regulations on hospitals, and a swift replacement once the ACA is repealed. (Forbes)

Brent Saunders, CEO of Allergan, has a message for his fellow pharma execs: “Limit your price increases before we all face the impact of government regulation that stifles innovation and patient care.” (Forbes)

On people’s lips

“No [health secretary] nominee in recent memory has been such a threat for basic health care for our patients.” — Dr. Manan Trivedi, president of the National Physicians Alliance, rebutting the American Medical Association’s endorsement of Tom Price (STAT)

Today’s must-reads

  • How will Trump use science to further his political agenda? (the Atlantic)
  • The controversial biotech billionaire who dined with Trump (Fast Company)
  • Tracking the Trump transition, agency by agency (Nature)

Wednesday, Nov. 30

The big news right now

Trump’s HHS and CMS picks yesterday have comforted some hospitals and health insurers with a degree of clarity about the post-Obamacare landscape. (Reuters)

The American Medical Association in a statement said it “strongly supports” the nomination of Dr. Tom Price as head of HHS, but that statement was swiftly condemned by many doctors on Twitter. (Twitter)

A number of other physicians’ groups also applauded Price’s nomination — with the exception of reproductive health doctors, who called it “alarming.” (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Public health experts say it’s unlikely Trump’s administration would change vaccination policy, but they worry more about the cultural impact of having an anti-vaccine president. (STAT)

On people’s lips

“[Price is] a physician — a very smart guy — and understands the value of research, but I question his commitment to invest in it.” — Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (Nature)

Today’s must-reads

  • Might healthcare undergo a ‘Trump revolution?’ (MedPage Today)
  • The market’s newest risk: Trump venting ‘frustrations through his Twitter account’ (CNBC)

Tuesday, Nov. 29

The big news right now

Georgia Congressman Tom Price has been tapped to be the next secretary of HHS. Price has made his name in Washington for his vicious opposition to Obamacare; he’s also been active in passing tort reform laws and has spoken out against human embryo research. (STAT)

Trump’s pick to lead Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, is the architect of Republican-led efforts to cut the program’s costs and require some beneficiaries to pay for a portion of their care. (STAT)

Leaders of 29 research and academic institutions urged Trump to quickly name a senior science adviser in a letter released Monday. (Huffington Post)

On people’s lips

“It’s obvious to me that this highly contested election is already having real mental health consequences. Several people who had not demonstrated overt distress prior to election night began wrestling with the question: what does this mean for me?” — Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler, clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Northwestern University (Time)

Today’s must-read


Monday, Nov. 28

The big news right now

Trump’s promise to get rid of the Affordable Care Act could make it much harder for the voters he embraced in coal country to access benefits in cases of black lung. (STAT)

In taking on Obamacare, Trump says he wants to give insurance companies cross-state access to customers. He’ll have a tough road ahead (PBS Newshour)

Women’s health advocates are worried about the president-elect and what he might do to international reproductive health programs. The US is the number one funding source of birth control globally. (NBC)

The New York Times editorial board weighs in on keeping pre-existing condition coverage as the GOP and Trump consider scrapping other parts of ACA. (NYT)

Number of the day: 1,700,000

The number of Floridians who have bought insurance from the ACA marketplace. Florida has been a health care battleground, as the governor has rejected efforts to expand Medicaid. (Naples Daily News)

On people’s lips

“We’re in the here and now, and nothing has changed at the moment.” — Karen Egozi, the chief executive of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, on the group’s focus on open enrollment in the wake of possible changes to ACA under Trump. Since Nov. 1, the group has enrolled 277 people in insurance plans, compared with 193 during the same period last year (NYT)


Wednesday, Nov. 23

The big news right now

On Monday Trump met with Dr. Jerome Adams, the health commissioner in Indiana, who was appointed to that post by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and who helped oversee a response to a major HIV outbreak that later drew criticism from national health experts. (STAT)

Trump’s plans on withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership could hurt pharma, as the plan would have exported US drug pricing schemes to the rest of the world. (Motley Fool)

The FDA is crucially different from other agencies, one analyst writes, primarily because industry typically welcomes guidance and reasonable regulation from the agency — which Donald Trump may not have accounted for in his anti-regulation stance. (Clinical Leader)

Today’s must-reads


Tuesday, Nov. 22

The big news right now

Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer “moonshot” is in serious jeopardy following Donald Trump’s election, but there may be hope for it yet. (STAT)

Trump hasn’t said much about public health but Mike Pence has had a less than encouraging record, including saying that “smoking doesn’t kill” and opposing needle exchanges in Indiana. (Washington Post)

Public health advocates are bracing for a seismic shift at the FDA: a surrender of the agency’s rules for off-label promotion of drugs; the importation of more drugs from other countries; and fewer requirements for clinical trials. (STAT)

Biotech stocks have been unable to sustain a rally for any length of time this year, and the “Trump bump” might be no different. (Bloomberg)

Name to know

Bombastic, entrepreneurial, and a political outsider, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has some parallels to Trump himself and may have the president-elect’s ear in matters of medicine and science. (STAT)

On people’s lips

“[In a Trump presidency] you could see a further de-emphasis on basic science, which is critical to support translational research… [But] if I’m speaking from my world of translational medicine, I’m not too worried.” — Joel Dudley, director of biomedical informatics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (CNBC)


Monday, Nov. 21

The big news right now

More than 5,700 female scientists have signed an open letter pledging to push for equality and cooperation under a Trump administration. (Scientific American)

Though his name hasn’t been floated, Dr. Jeffrey Flier, who recently stepped down as Dean of Harvard Medical School, would be an asset to the Trump administration, one columnist writes, because of his experience bridging academia and industry. (Forbes)

Researchers in rural states are hoping to attract more federal funding under the new administration, potentially at the expense of research powerhouses like Boston. (Boston Globe)

On people’s lips

“Incredible honor dining w/Pres-elect @realDonaldTrump last night. He truly wants to advance #healthcare for all.” — Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, billionaire entrepreneur and prominent transplant surgeon (Twitter)

Today’s must-read


Friday, Nov. 18

The big news right now

A less-talked-about arena where Trump could make changes is to the US patent office, writes one patent expert. Clarifying patent laws around biomedical inventions could spark more startup businesses. (Forbes)

The chair of industry group BIO says Trump should re-appoint Robert Califf as head of the FDA. (RAPS)

Health care is the top issue Americans want Donald Trump to address during his first 100 days in the White House, according to a poll released on Thursday. (Reuters)

Hedge funds dumped shares of Allergan in advance of the election, presumably based on predictions that Hillary Clinton would win and would crack down on drug prices. (Barron’s)

Trump will have an Office of Science and Technology Policy — the office was established by Congress — but whether he’ll make use of it, or even convene the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology or the National Science and Technology Council, is an open question. (the Atlantic)

On people’s lips

“There’s always a concern about any funding, NIH or otherwise. … You can only prepare for things that you have some certainty will happen. With the new administration, we don’t know.” — Dr. Anne Klibanski, chief academic officer of Boston-based medical giant Partners HealthCare, one of the country’s top recipients of NIH funding (Boston Herald)

Today’s must-reads

  • Trump win looks like a loss for the Knowledge Economy (Boston Globe)
  • Faculty uneasy about federal funding under Trump (Yale Daily News)

Thursday, Nov. 17

The big news right now

A group of scientists including two former directors of the National Institutes of Health have weighed in to urge Trump to appoint “a wise and bold Director” of the NIH within 100 days of taking office. The group plans to provide Trump a list of suggestions, even though current director Dr. Francis Collins hasn’t officially said he’ll be leaving. (Science)

Some investors have speculated that under Trump’s proposed tax laws, pharma companies will more readily gobble up smaller biotechs, and are putting their money in the latter — but they may be betting on the wrong side. Rather than acquisitions, pharma companies may more likely spend the cash on dividends and share buybacks — making them the real investment opportunity. (Wall Street Journal)

Glimmer of hope

Amid anxiety and uncertainty about what President Donald Trump will mean for medical science, researchers are looking to one man for hope: Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich, the former House speaker and Trump confidant, is a longtime booster of medical research who helped double NIH’s budget during his tenure. So in conversations in Washington since the election, scientists and others with a stake in research constantly cite Gingrich, rumored to have a role in the Trump administration, as reason to be optimistic about the new president. (STAT)

Today’s must-reads

  • He’s a Trump in-law who has bet big on Obamacare. What now? (STAT)
  • Which way for Trump and progressives on pharmaceutical reform? (The Hill)
  • What the Trump administration could mean for pharma (WBUR)

Wednesday, Nov. 16

The big news right now

As part of the ongoing shakeup, all lobbyists have been removed from Trump’s transition team, reports the Wall Street Journal. If true, that would include Michael Torrey, a food industry lobbyist who was heading the USDA transition team. (Wall Street Journal)

Ben Carson removed himself from consideration as HHS secretary, leaving a few rumored contenders. (Fortune)

In disassembling Obamacare, Trump has a tailor-made opportunity early in his tenure: His administration could give up in the House v. Burwell case, on the legality of insurance subsidies, which would “come close to destroying the market,” one expert says. (AP)

Climate scientists aren’t the only ones worried about research funding under the Trump presidency — politicized fields like stem cells, antibiotic resistance, and reproductive technologies are other possible targets for cuts. (Wired)

Two sides

Leadership at GlaxoSmithKline sees various outcomes for health research in Trump’s presidency, NPR reports.

On the one hand, “The fact that he did not take an ideological position may be a positive thing,” said Tanisha Carino, vice president for US public policy at UK-based GlaxoSmithKline, indicating Trump is something of a blank slate.

On the other hand, “she noted that science is an international endeavor (her company alone operates in 150 countries), and it could be harmed if isolationism were to hit medical research and related industries.”

Today’s must-reads

  • Big pharma warns drug price pressure not over under Trump (Financial Times)
  • Biotech takes Trump presidency as a green light — and end to drug price worries (MarketWatch)
  • Here’s why a Trump presidency is good for physicians and patients (Medical Economics)

Tuesday, Nov. 15

The big news right now

Even if Trump ends up being a friend to pharma, the private sector — and particularly pharmacy benefit managers — are set to put increasing pressure on drug prices. (Bloomberg)

Some politicos predict significant staff turnover at FDA under a Trump administration, likely including Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf, which could rattle the drug industry. (Bloomberg BNA)

Trump’s health care policy webpage includes no mention of either Medicare negotiations or drug prices, both of which he occasionally talked about on the campaign trail. (Politico)

Trump’s tax reform plans could free up money for mergers and acquisitions, which can be a preferred growth strategy rather than investing more in research and development. (STAT)

People to watch

People and organizations in health care and science who are likely to have influence with a Trump presidency include former Representative Mike Ferguson and Tennessee Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn, who has led an investigation into the stem cell industry that Democrats call a “witch hunt.” (STAT)

Today’s must-reads

  • Why the Trump drug rally won’t last (Fortune)
  • Trump should be good medicine for the pharmaceutical industry. Here’s why (STAT)

Monday, Nov. 14

The big news right now

Last night on “60 Minutes” Trump confirmed that he wants to keep two key parts of the ACA: coverage for pre-existing conditions and letting young adults stay on parents’ plans for longer. (Forbes)

A survey of biotech leaders found that nearly half were worried that Trump’s presidency would lead to a “brain drain” in the sector. (Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News)

Though it’s early days, here are four possible contenders for head of HHS that are being bandied about. (STAT)

Point, counterpoint

Trump’s plans for reforming the FDA are still vague, and it’s not clear whether they’ll include the accelerated drug approval process that many in pharma would like to see.

On the one hand, Trump’s stated plan “to speed the approval of life-saving medications” might be a rare bit of common ground among lawmakers, points out Mark McClellan, director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy.

On the other hand, “Some members of Congress owe pharma a favor; we don’t know the Trump campaign is in that position, and they might not be — and that might give them a certain amount of flexibility” in how they approach FDA reforms, said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research. (Washington Post)

Today’s must-reads

  • Health of the nation (The New Yorker)
  • Drug addiction is overwhelming Trump’s America. What’s he going to do? (STAT)
  • How Donald Trump may impact the FDA (Forbes)

Friday, Nov. 11

The big news right now

Biotech and pharma companies could see a wave of mergers and acquisitions thanks to repatriation of foreign cash and improved stock valuations. Many of those deals have been put on hold in the current business environment. (Reuters)

Meanwhile, European biotech is also seeing a boost, especially those companies that do a lot of business with the US. (Business Insider)

Obamacare by a different name? Journalist Caitlin Owens says GOP aides intend to keep ACA’s Medicaid expansion, allowance for children up to age 26 to stay on parents’ plans, and coverage of pre-existing conditions in the health law that will succeed it. (LinkedIn)

In Trump’s election, Indian pharma company Sun Pharmaceuticals got its first piece of good news in a while. The company has been under investigation by the Department of Justice for collusion on prices with other companies, but Trump’s election boosted the stock this week for the first time since May. (Irish Times)

People to watch

The New York Times breaks down what we know about members of Trump’s transition team:

  • Heading the transition team for HHS is Andrew Bremberg, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has worked in HHS and also for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  • Heading the transition team for USDA is Michael Torrey, who the New York Times reports is a food industry lobbyist
  • Heading the transition team for health care reform is Paula Stannard, a former deputy general counsel and acting general counsel at HHS and now a Washington lawyer for Alston & Bird LLP
  • Heading the transition team for VA reform is William A. Chatfield, who oversaw Selective Service in the George W. Bush administration and is a veteran of the Marine Corps

Today’s must-read


Thursday, Nov. 10

The big news right now

One analyst sees mixed effects for biotech in the repeal of the ACA. On the plus side, companies might benefit from the abolition of the law’s Branded Prescription Drug Fee; but on the minus side, biotech companies could see prescription volume shrink as Americans lose their insurance coverage. (The Motley Fool)

Whither 21st Century Cures Act? Lawmakers have spent months negotiating a package of bills meant to help spur innovation in health care, and a version has been passed by the House. But with Trump’s election, lobbyists and congressional aides say the deal will likely unravel — and what replaces it is a big question mark. (STAT)

Those FDA vacancies aren’t getting filled. One of Trump’s first promised actions in office will be to freeze federal hiring, meaning the 700 job vacancies in the division of the FDA that approves new drugs are likely to stay open for some time.

Trump’s opposition of the Trans-Pacific Partnership may hurt big pharma companies like Pfizer and Gilead, which do a lot of international business. (The Motley Fool)

On people’s lips

“I think what the [insurance] industry is concerned about is a partial repeal [of Obamacare] that takes away customers and doesn’t replace them with anyone.” — Benjamin Isgur, a leader in the PwC Health Research Institute (Washington Post)

Today’s must-read

  • Six thoughts on President Trump and the durability of the biotech stock rally (The Street)

 

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