Trending News Today: Patients Square Off with Lawmakers Over Orphan Drug Tax

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

Patient advocacy groups have been meeting with lawmakers to discuss the importance of the corporate tax credit for manufacturers who develop drugs for rare diseases, according to Kaiser Health News. GOP legislators recently proposed to a plan that would reduce the orphan drug tax credit to 27.5% of the cost of research and development and to eliminate the credits for manufacturers repurposing a drug, according to the article. While the provision is projected to save $30 billion over the next 10 years, patient advocates worry this could restrict access to therapy and prevent new drugs from being developed, Kaiser reported.

The number of individuals signing up for health coverage in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces took a sharp decline during the fourth week of open enrollment, according to Reuters. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found that there were 37% fewer sign-ups during the fourth week of enrollment compared with the third week. However, more than 2.78 million Americans signed up for health plans during the 4 weeks of open enrollment, which outpaces the period for 2017, according to the article.

President Donald Trump’s pick for HHS secretary, Alex Azar, recently faced questions from lawmakers during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing, according to the New York Daily News. Azar told legislators that his priorities as secretary would be to lower drug costs, make insurance affordable, continue Medicare’s push towards value, and combatting the opioid epidemic, according to the article. While Azar said he plans to lower drug costs, Democrats are skeptical of his ability to do so because of his ties to the pharmaceutical industry.