Trending News Today: Specialty Drugs Cause Payments to Surge for Medicare Part D Catastrophic Coverage

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

Since 2010, federal payments for Medicare Part D catastrophic coverage has tripled, largely due to the high cost of specialty drugs, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Medicare program pays for 80% of drug costs after a beneficiary has reached its annual amount spent. In a new government report, federal payments surpassed $33 billion in 2015.

Outgoing Vice President Joe Biden will head a nonprofit organization to help address cancer challenges, The Washington Post reported. The group will focus on several different issues, including knocking out silos in cancer research to improve sharing of research data and medical records; boost clinical trial participation; reduce high-priced cancer drugs; improve treatment by community oncologists; and reduce racial disparities in diagnosis and treatment. The organization is currently being referred to as the Biden Cancer Initiative, but the final name may differ, according to the Post. The organization will not be affiliated with any particular cancer center, nor will it make grants. However, it will raise funds to support its own activities. More details regarding the group are expected in early February, the Post reported.

Controversy over prisons restricting inmates from gaining access to the new life-saving hepatitis C virus (HCV) drugs is ongoing. In the latest instance, Pennsylvania’s corrections department has been ordered by a federal judge to provide antiviral medications to an inmate with HCV, reported The Wall Street Journal. Despite the HCV epidemic in prisons, state corrections departments have treated relatively few prisoners due to the high cost of the drugs. According to the Journal, the drugs cost approximately $54,000 to $94,000 per patient.