Trending News Today: Pharma Companies Scrutinized by Legislators for Price Hikes

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

The spike in prices for decades-old medications by 4 pharmaceutical companies—–2 of which were headed by Martin Shkreli––has received widespread criticism, according to USA Today. A report by the Senate Special on Aging, which focused on a 2016 investigation into these companies, confirmed the monopoly business models and the injustices of the drug price increases, according to the article. Senator Susan Collins, (R-ME), who chairs the committee, criticized what she called “the predatory hedge fund model of drug pricing,” calling it “immoral for the patients and taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill—–especially for generic drugs that can be made for pennies a dose,” As reported by USA Today. Shkreli had directed the drug price increases at Retrophin and Turing, which included a more than 5000% hike for Daraprim. Retrophin responded to the Senate report, stating that it focused on Shkreli’s tenure, and concluded the firm appeared to have renounced the business model, according to USA Today. Turing reiterated that it has taken numerous steps to ensure access to Daraprim for every patient who needs it.

Medicare will shell out more than $100,000 for a patient to receive a kidney transplant but after 3 years, the government will often stop paying for the medications needed to keep the transplanted kidney alive, according to NPR. Medicare’s federal kidney program currently pays for a large share of expensive drugs needed to prevent the body from rejecting a transplanted kidney. But federal rules allow the coverage to end 3 years after the date of transplant. Dr Matthew Cooper, who runs the kidney transplant program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC, said that the 3-year cutoff for Medicare payments is a common issue. What is worse, is that many individuals with serious kidney disease have low incomes in the first place, NPR reported. According to Dr Cooper, 30% of patients find themselves in financial trouble at the 36-month mark, and end up stretching out their drug supplies by not taking the medication as often as they need to. This poses a substantial risk for patients, who will experience organ rejection if their medication is not taken religiously, NPR reported.

The use of statins, a widely used cholesterol-lowering drug that helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, may make surgery safer for patients, according to The New York Times. In a new study, investigators examined the results in 96,486 surgeries in a Department of Veterans Affairs database. The study included a wide range of operations, but excluded heart surgeries. Almost all of the patients were men with an average age of 65 years. Approximately half of patients were taking statins the day before and the day after their surgeries, according to the study.