Trending News Today: Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Drug Manufacturer Responds to Outrage

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

Just last week, the FDA approved deflazacort (Emflaza) for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, but Marathon Pharmaceuticals said it would pause the drug’s launch due to controversy over its high price tag. According to Kaiser Health News, deflazacort was set at an annual cost of $89,000, sparking outrage among patients, advocates, and lawmakers. Although deflazacort was newly approved in the United States, patients have been importing the generic version from overseas for approximately $1200 per year. In a statement, Marathon CEO Jeffrey Aronin said, “Our goal in commercializing [deflazacort] all along has been to make it available to that broader set of patients who prior to the FDA approval have not had access to the therapy … We are pausing our launch, which has not yet taken place. We have not sold any new product and will pause that process.” Marathon will continue to offer an expanded access program that allows approximately 800 patients to receive the drug from the company, KHN reported. Additional patients can join the program for free, and patients can continue to import drugs from overseas.

On Monday, David J. Shulkin was unanimously confirmed to lead the Veterans Affairs Department, making him the 11th high-ranking Trump official to be confirmed by the Senate, reported The Washington Post. The Pennsylvania native will run the agency after serving 18 months as undersecretary for health in charge of the VA’s medical system. Shulkin will be the first secretary who did not serve in the military, according to the Post. Although his lack of service disappointed some veterans groups, it did not disqualify him. Shulkin will oversee 350,000 employees, an $82 billion budget, and nearly 2000 clinics and medical centers. “No senators dissented on Shulkin’s nomination in a rare show of bipartisanship following contentious battles over other Trump Cabinet selections,” the Post wrote.

A new bill that is advancing in the General Assembly would require health insurance companies to cover a 1-year supply of prescription birth control, according to The Washington Post. The measure was approved on Monday by a Senate committee, and has already passed the House of Delegates with only 1 no vote. The bill is sponsored by Del Eileen Filler-Corn, who said that it would help ease the burden for women and prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions, the Post reported. Individuals, including insurance industry representatives, who oppose the bill said it could lead to waste.