Trending News Today: HHS Finalizes Start Date for 340B Rule

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

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has finalized plans to launch the delayed final rule for the 340B drug discount program, FierceHealthcare reported. According to the article, HHS Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) issued a final rule on Thursday that formally sets the start date of penalties and price ceilings for January 1, 2019. On that date, HRSA will set price ceilings for drugs in the program and punish manufacturers that knowingly overcharge for these medications, the article reported.

On Wednesday, Merck said that it raised US prices in 5 of its drugs earlier in November by between 1.5% and 6%, Reuters reported. According to the article, Merck increased the cost of cancer immunotherapy pembrolizumab (Keytruda) by approximately 1.5%, which follows a similar price increase for the drug earlier in the year. The company also raised the price of its human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil by approximately 6%, as well as 3 other vaccines, the article reported.

A recent study showed that patients with back pain who also experience depression may have significantly higher health care costs than those without depression, Reuters reported. According to the article, 6739 of the approximately 73,000 individuals in the analysis reported having back problems and 1310 with back pain also had been diagnosed with depression. The researchers found that patients with back pain and depression had approximately $13,000 in total health care expenses per year, as compared with $7500 for those without depression.