- At a markup session last week, a House Appropriations subcommittee voted in favor of a draft fiscal 2016 budget for HHS that allocates $71.3 billion for the agency and includes $31.2 billion for the National Institutes of Health. That same budget calls for the elimination of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which provides research support regarding patient-centered outcomes. Critics of AHRQ say the agency duplicates research that can be done within other HHS entities. Supporters argue that AHRQ's work is distinctly different, and contend that asking other agencies to do what AHRQ does would be counterproductive. The bill is scheduled for consideration during a full committee markup session June 24. If passed, the elimination of AHRQ would go into effect Oct. 1.
- Federal officials last week announced the largest coordinated, criminal Medicare fraud takedown—and the first large-scale effort to focus on Medicare Part D fraud—in the history of the U.S. Justice Department. The Justice Department unveiled charges against 243 individuals accused of falsely billing $712 million to Medicare in a number of schemes. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the arrests “demonstrate an expanded federal focus on this important issue.” Some experts said, however, the arrests are not as impressive as they sound, saying civil-fraud cases in healthcare typically involve much larger amounts.
- The first approved generic of the multiple-sclerosis drug Copaxone, expected to cost $1,000 a month less than the name brand, was launched last week after a federal appeals court upheld a ruling that drugmaker Teva Pharmaceuticals' patent on its best-selling drug was invalid. Teva fought for years to delay generic competitors to Copaxone, which generated $4.8 billion in sales worldwide in 2013. The new generic drug, Glatopa, is being developed in the U.S. as part of collaboration between Novartis subsidiary Sandoz and Momenta Pharmaceuticals.
Draft fiscal 2016 budget allocates $71 billion to HHS, and other briefs
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