Health Care — Pfizer plans price hike on its COVID vaccine

Health Care — Pfizer plans price hike on its COVID vaccine

A Massachusetts woman is accused of “weaponizing honeybees” against a group of police officers. She wasn’t even the person the officers had been sent to deal with.

In health news, Pfizer is eyeing a major price hike of its coronavirus vaccine once the government’s pandemic-era contract runs out.

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi.

Pfizer looks to charge $110 a dose for COVID vax

Pfizer expects to roughly quadruple the price of its COVID-19 vaccine to between $110 to $130 per dose once the US government’s purchasing program ends early next year, a company official said.

Angela Lukin, the president of US operations, said during an investor call Thursday the company is still in discussion with insurers but that they are confident the price will ensure equitable access and reimbursement.

Lukin said Pfizer is working on manufacturing a single-dose shot, rather than multi-dose vials currently used, and the increased cost reflects that.

Under the most recent contract, the federal government pays about $30 a dose and then distributes the vaccine to the public for free.

  • The $110 to $130 price tag is the list price without negotiated discounts, meaning people with Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance would most likely pay nothing at all.
  • Pfizer’s contract with the US government runs through the end of the year. Federal health officials have said they anticipate shifting COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to the commercial marketplace sometime next year.
  • The government has already stopped providing free COVID-19 tests.

Drug pricing advocacy groups were outraged, calling the move an effort to price-gouge consumers.

Read more here.

WHITE HOUSE TO BOOST ADDICTION MEDICATION FOR PREGNANT WOMEN

President Biden will move to expand the use of medication to treat addiction in pregnant women through a new initiative as part of the administration’s strategy to improve maternal health.

The initiative will develop training and technical assistance about medications for opioid addiction treatment, like buprenorphine and methadone, for women who are part of government programs through the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services. It also will offer opioid addition education to women’s health providers through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Additionally, the initiative will expand access to medications for opioid addiction for pregnant women and women of reproductive age within Tribal nations and living in Tribal communities, particularly in urban areas.

“Medications to treat opioid use disorder improve birth outcomes, making it less likely newborns will be born too early. Medications to treat opioid use disorder prevent and reduce the risk of maternal overdose and death,” stated a fact sheet released by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The initiative is based off a report conducted by the administration to improve maternal health, which medical professionals, early childhood experts and others contributed to. The use of opioids among pregnant women is considered a significant public health concern by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A growing issue: The number of women with opioid-related diagnoses documented at delivery increased by 131 percent from 2010 to 2017, and 7 percent of women said they used opioids during pregnancy in 2019.

Read more here.

CDC mulling oral polio vax to combat NY outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is discussing the use of an oral polio vaccine for the first time in decades in light of concerns of an outbreak in the New York City metropolitan area, CNBC reported Friday.

Jannell Routh, the CDC’s team leader for domestic polio, told CNBC that the agency is discussing the possibility with New York state and New York City colleagues.

“It will be a process. It’s not something that we can pull the trigger on and have it appear overnight. There will be lots of thought and discussion about the reintroduction of an oral polio vaccine into the United States,” she said.

The novel oral polio vaccine (nOPV), which the CDC is considering turning to, was taken out of circulation in 2000 because it contains a weakened but live strain of the virus that rarely can mutate into a virulent form that can paralyze unvaccinated people, CNBC reported.

  • Officials first detected a case of polio in Rockland County, NY, in July. The 20-year-old man developed symptoms of polio, including paralysis, and was unvaccinated.
  • New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) declared an emergency in the state last month after the health department found poliovirus in stool samples in five counties.

Read more here.

CVS HEALTH PARTNERSHIP AIMS TO END THE ‘TAMPON TAX’

CVS Health announced its support for the elimination of the so-called “tampon tax” and will work to end the sales tax on menstrual products as part of its new partnership with Period Law and PERIOD.

The tampon tax, or period tax, refers to sales tax tacked onto period care products. It’s come under fire as menstruating people need to buy the products and end up paying more for a necessary item.

Earlier this month, CVS Health announced it would lower the cost of regular retail period products by 25 percent, though the reductions only apply to CVS brand tampons, menstrual pads, liners and cups.

Only 22 states continue to impose a tax on period products, and the new partnership will target efforts in these regions.

  • “While all 22 states enjoy a budget surplus, the tax revenue associated with menstrual products in most of these states is less than one one-hundredth of a percent of each state’s total revenue,” a press release from the three organizations reads.
  • “Exempting the tax on menstrual products, deemed health necessities by the American Medication Association, is negligible to overall revenue.”

Read more here.

NIH looking into Boston University’s COVID research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is looking into COVID-19 research that was conducted at Boston University to determine whether the experiment should have been subject to agency guidelines.

Earlier this month, researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine published findings from a preprint study in which they combined the ancestral COVID-19 virus with genetic data from the circulating omicron strain.

This “chimeric” pathogen was found to escape vaccine-induced immunity. The artificial virus was found to induce severe disease with a mortality rate of 80 percent among laboratory mice, even as the naturally occurring omicron strain was noted to cause “mild, non-fatal infection.”

  • “The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, did not review nor issue awards for experiments described in a pre-print article on SARS-CoV-2 research at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL),” NIH said in a statement provided to The Hill.
  • “NIH is examining the matter to determine whether the research conducted was subject to the NIH Grants Policy Statement or met the criteria for review under the HHS [Health and Human Services] Framework for Guiding Funding Decisions about Proposed Research Involving Enhanced Potential Pandemic Pathogens (HHS P3CO Framework),” the statement continued.

A spokesperson for Boston University told The Hill that the school will “cooperate with and assist the NIH as they look into the matter.”

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • ‘No quick fixes’: Walensky’s push for change at CDC meets reality (Politico)
  • They see that it’s really in our hands now’: young women work to get out the vote in the wake of Dobbs (the 19th news)
  • FDA’s vaccines chief sees possibility of more Covid boosters — sooner than he’d like (Stat)

STATE BY STATE

  • Federal prosecutor announces task force to target COVID-19 fraud in Idaho (Idaho Capital Sun)
  • A Vermont town’s water official resigns amid fluoridation confusion (The New York Times)
  • Texas revamps ‘active-shooter’ drills at K-12 schools to minimize trauma (Kaiser Health News)

🧸 Lighter click: The Hill’s photos of the week

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and explore more newsletters here. See you Monday.

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