Trending News Today: Pharmacists Could Hold Key to Lowering Drug Prices

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

A Medicaid scorecard released on Monday with the goal of showing how the federal-state health program for low-income individuals is performing drew mixed reviews from stakeholders, according to Kaiser Health News. Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the report would bring transparency and accountability to the program, but declined to discuss the results or any state’s individual performance, according to KHN. “I will let you look at the data and make your own conclusions,” she said, as reported by KHN. The National Association of Medicaid Directors told KHN its members are concerned about the report’s accuracy and usefulness since not all states provided data for each service. “There are significant methodological issues with the underlying data, including completeness, timeliness, and quality,” the association said in a statement, as reported by KHN.

Medicare officials are warning insurers that “gag rules” preventing pharmacists from alerting consumers when they could save money by paying cash instead of using insurance are unacceptable and run contrary to the agency’s stated goal of transparency, according to KHN. However, Medicare has stopped short of mandating insurers to lift the restrictions altogether.

“If they bring it up, then we can inform them of those prices,” Nick Newman, a pharmacist and manager at Essentra Pharmacy, told KHN. “It’s a moral dilemma for the pharmacist, knowing what would be best for the patient but not being able to help them and hoping they will ask you about the comparison.”

Researchers at the University of Georgia are working diligently to create a universal vaccine for dengue fever, according to Georgia Health News. Dengue is viral infection spread by mosquitos and primarily occurs in tropical and subtropical regions, according to the article. The virus causes flu-like symptoms that can lead to lethal complications. The CDC said that more than one-third of the world’s population resides in areas that are at-risk of infection. Treatments or vaccines for dengue are limited and avoiding mosquito bites are the main way to evade infection, the article notes. UGA is currently using a technique dubbed COBRA (computationally optimized broadly reactive antigen) to create the best possible consensus of Dengue sequences to generate a vaccine, according to the article.