Healthcare – Walgreens, CVS pays billions to settle opioid lawsuits
On Tuesday, DC was snubbed for Taylor Swift’s US stadium tour. On Wednesday, the embattled owner of NFL team Washington Commanders said he was considering a possible sale of the team. Do you believe in coincidences?
Today in the healthcare space, major pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens agreed to pay billions to settle opioid lawsuits
Welcome to overnight health care, where we follow the latest developments in policies and news affecting your health. For The Hill we are Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi.
CVS and Walgreens to settle opioid lawsuits for $10 billion
CVS and Walgreens have agreed in principle to pay a combined $10 billion to settle opioid lawsuits, the pharmacy chains announced Wednesday.
According to a company statement, starting next year, CVS would pay $4.9 billion over 10 years to states and political subdivisions such as cities and counties, and about $130 million to tribes.
CVS’ interim settlement would resolve lawsuits and claims related to the addictive painkillers that date back a decade or more, though the company says the non-monetary terms have yet to be finalized.
Walgreens also announced Wednesday that it has agreed in principle to pay approximately $4.95 billion to states, subdivisions and tribes and settle all opioid claims against them, according to a press release. The funds would be disbursed over a period of 15 years.
- “We are pleased to resolve these long-standing claims and it is in the best interests of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders, to put them behind us,” said Thomas Moriarty, Chief Policy Officer of CVS Health.
- “As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the country, we remain committed to being part of the solution, and this benchmark will allow us to remain focused on the health and well-being of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to addressing the opioid crisis ‘ Walgreens said in a statement.
Both companies stressed that the payments were not an admission of liability or wrongdoing. But if the deals go through, the settlements could be among the biggest related to the opioid crisis.
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the companies, who are accused of downplaying the risks associated with opioid painkillers and failing to detect incorrect prescriptions, thereby worsening the opioid epidemic.
Read more here.
HHS extends public health emergency for monkeypox
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday renewed the national public health emergency for the monkeypox outbreak, with officials saying the virus is still very present in the United States even as cases continue to fall.
Still not over: Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra cited the “ongoing fallout from an outbreak of monkeypox cases in multiple states” and a “consultation with public health officials” for his decision to renew the public health emergency.
LGBTQ public health experts who spoke to The Hill shortly before announcing Becerra’s decision expressed their support for a renewal of the public health emergency.
- “One of the biggest things we keep hearing about is really disproportionate access to vaccine distribution, which is particularly affecting our Black, Hispanic and people living with HIV,” Vanessa Castro, associate director for HIV and Health Equity for Human Rights Campaign said.
- An HHS spokesman told The Hill that the decision to extend it was due to the need to keep the flow of data from states and jurisdictions and to allow studies on vaccine efficacy to be conducted.
The public health emergency for monkeypox was first signed on August 4th. HHS public health emergencies expire after 90 days unless renewed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September expressed “moderate confidence” that monkeypox cases would remain flat or continue to decline going forward, although the agency said it was unlikely that monkeypox would be completely eliminated in the United States
Read more here.
TOXIC METALS AIR POLLUTION WORSE IN SEGREGATED COMMUNITIES
Residents of the most racially segregated communities tend to breathe higher concentrations of toxic metals in air pollution compared to residents of more integrated areas.
That’s according to new research from Colorado State University evaluating air levels of toxic metals like lead, cadmium and nickel in various communities across the country. The values were recorded between 2010 and 2019.
“While concentrations of total particulate matter are twice as high in racially segregated communities, concentrations of metals from anthropogenic sources are nearly 10 times higher,” the authors write, adding that these pollutants are toxic and can cause cancer.
- The results showed that industrial regions in the Midwest and shipping ports in coastal cities tend to have higher concentrations of human-emitted metallic pollutants such as lead. These areas also had high levels of racial segregation.
- These health inequalities are largely due to systemic racism, including historical redlining. In the 1930s, laws allowed discriminatory lending to residents based on the desirability of their neighborhood. This practice was banned in 1968 but perpetuates today’s inequalities as it forced populations of color to live closer to pollution sources.
Read more here.
OFFICIALS PAY 13 BILLION USD READY TO HELP LOWER ENERGY BILLS
The Biden administration on Wednesday announced $13 billion in funding to provide low-income Americans with winter heating bills, including $4.5 billion through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
In addition to LIHEAP funding provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House announced $9 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funding for energy efficiency upgrades for low-income homes.
“As energy prices remain high, this administration is working to bring down costs for working families and businesses through historic investments in consumer rebates for more efficient home improvement and energy-efficient appliances across the country,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.
What is paid: The funds are enough to install 500,000 heat pumps and modernize 500,000 homes, according to a White House call with reporters Tuesday night.
The White House said this would include separate discount programs for upgrades and appliances across the House. White House officials said the initiatives are part of a broader goal of deploying at least 12 million heat pumps by the end of the decade.
Read more here.
Panel finds pulse oximeters less accurate on darker skin
A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel said Tuesday it’s clear that pulse oximeter devices don’t provide accurate readings for people with “darker skin pigmentations.”
In a day-long session, the panel reviewed the published literature, medical device reporting (MDR) data and clinical evidence from studies of the accuracy of blood oxygen measurements from pulse oximeters in people with darker skin pigmentation.
Accuracy concerns have long existed, but the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the issue into the mainstream
The panel discussed the concerns about the devices and made recommendations for healthcare providers, labeling for patients, and study design and analysis.
- Inaccurate readings pose a clinical risk in hospitals; For example, a patient may not be transferred to intensive care units when necessary.
- However, the panel disagreed on recommendations on how to limit the inaccuracies in the future.
- The panel recommended further studies to understand the issue and that device manufacturers include skin pigmentation as a potential factor affecting labeling accuracy.
Pulse oximeters, designed to detect low blood oxygen levels, work by shining a light source through a fingertip and analyzing the light that passes through.
Read more here.
WHAT WE READ
- Hospital investigated for allegedly refusing emergency abortion after patient’s waters ruptured (Kaiser Health News)
- CDC wants to change “antiquated” rules that impede the agency’s ability to fight Covid, polio and other diseases (CNN).
- A flood of overseas abortion pills dampened the impact of government abortion bans (The New York Times)
STATE BY STATE
- Nebraska was an unlikely safe haven for abortion rights — that could all change in the midterms (Vanity Fair)
- Missouri Senate Race Shows How Difficult It Is To Promote Abortion In The Heartland (Statistics)
- Drug overdose deaths in New York rose 68% during COVID pandemic (ABC News)
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Visit The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and reports. See you tomorrow.