KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Medicare’s Policy On Compounded Drugs Under Scrutiny

The Associated Press reports on the role Medicare plays in national drug purchasing and The Washington Post finds the "race is on" to sign up clients for lawsuits.

The Associated Press: Questions For Medicare In Meningitis Outbreak
Medicare is coming under scrutiny in the meningitis outbreak that has rekindled doubts about the safety of the nation's drug supply. The giant health insurance program for seniors long ago flagged compounded drugs produced for the mass market without oversight from the Food and Drug Administration as safety risks. In 2007, Medicare revoked coverage of compounded inhaler drugs for lung disease. But Medicare doesn't seem to have consistently used its own legal power to deny payment, and critics say that has enabled the compounding business to flourish (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/20).

The Washington Post: Lawsuits Piling Up Against New England Compounding Over Meningitis Deaths
As the number of people sickened with meningitis after receiving contaminated steroid injections continues to rise, lawsuits are starting to pile up. At least 12 people have filed separate complaints in federal and state courts seeking damages from the compounding pharmacy that produced the steroids, New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass. ... The race to sign up clients is palpable, even in states where the outbreak has been relatively contained (Aizenman, 10/21).

Medpage Today: Meningitis Outbreak Slows, CDC Still Vigilant
The CDC is reporting only a single new case of fungal meningitis Sunday after days of double-digit increases in the nationwide outbreak. The new case is in Indiana, bringing that state's total to 38 and the total in the 16 affected states to 285 since the outbreak began in late September, the agency reported. Twenty-three people have died. Because the incubation period of the fungus is unknown, the agency has warned that patients at risk should continue to be vigilant for new or worsening symptoms (Smith, 10/21).

NPR: CDC: Meningitis Mold In Tainted Drug Can Incubate For Months
[E]xperts are learning more about this human-made epidemic. The signs indicate that cases could still be emerging until Thanksgiving or beyond. ... But there are encouraging signs. For both the 2002 episode and the current one so far, the "attack rate" is apparently low. ... That's an inference from the fact that public health authorities estimate 14,000 people got the tainted injections since May 21. While no one can say how many people ultimately will get sick, at least it's not in the thousands so far (Knox, 10/20).

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