- The Food and Drug Administration has approved Praluent, the first in an experimental class of biotechnology drugs, which is shown to lower bad cholesterol more significantly than older medicines that have been prescribed for decades. The drug is expected to generate billions in sales for Sanofi and Regeneron Pharamaceuticals. Praluent is considered the first major advancement in heart-disease medication since the introduction of statin drugs more than 20 years ago. Still, some experts question the long-term benefits of the medication. Its price tag is also likely to become an issue, as more scrutiny is placed on the growing costs of drug therapies.
FDA approves Praluent to lower cholesterol, and other briefs
- Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald late last week said he's confident Congress will act soon to address a looming budget crisis that could force his agency to shut down some VA hospitals, freeze hiring and take other belt-tightening steps. Members of Congress told McDonald earlier in the week that closing hospitals would be unacceptable, despite the agency's $2.5 billion shortfall. VA officials say that has been caused by a sharp increase in demand for healthcare, including costly treatments for hepatitis C. But lawmakers say the VA is mismanaged and failed to identify the budget crisis in due time.
- Medicare's hospital trust fund remains on track to cover all obligations until 2030, the Social Security and Medicare boards of trustees said in their annual report released last week. In 2030, Medicare would be able to pay 86% of costs, according to the report. Medicare is adding 10,000 new beneficiaries a day as baby boomers reach age 65. But so far, the demographic shift has not overwhelmed the program with costs because for the most part boomers are healthier than older generations of Medicare beneficiaries. That has had a positive effect on the bottom line, helping to hold down per-beneficiary costs. Still, the trustees, some of whom were appointed by President Barack Obama, are pushing for lawmakers to adequately fund the programs.
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