Brainstorm Health Daily: April 14, 2017

April 14, 2017, 4:39 PM UTC

Greetings on this Good Friday, readers. This is Sy.

Here’s some of what’s going on in the health care world as we head into Easter weekend: payers are pushing back against PTC Therapeutcics’ controversial Duchenne muscular dystropy drug; insurers are cautiously lauding new rules for Obamacare’s marketplaces; a fascinating lawsuit in Arkansas explores the ethics of drug making; and a new test for Zika virus can produce results within an hour.

Read on for the details, and enjoy your weekend.


A new on-site Zika testing system gets FDA blessing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to digital health firm Nanobiosym's on-site Zika virus testing platform. The company's Gene-RADAR system can be used at the actual hospitals where patients go; it's portable, making it an especially convenient system for Zika virus testing since blood samples don't have to be shipped off to diagnostic labs. Rather than waiting for days and even weeks for a result, Nanobiosym's Zika test can spit out a result within an hour. (MobiHealthNews)


Two drug makers are suing to stop their products from being used in serial executions in Arkansas. Fresenius and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals are taking legal action to try and stop their drugs from being used to execute seven Arkansas death row inmates in less than two weeks. "The use of the medicines in lethal injections runs counter to the manufacturers’ mission to save and enhance patients’ lives, and carries with it not only a public-health risk, but also reputational, fiscal and legal risks," wrote the companies in a friend of the court filing. (Huffington Post)

PTC Therapeutics is getting massive pushback on Emflaza. PTC Therapeutics recently made the curious decision to buy Emflaza, a decades-old steroid that previous owner Marathon Pharmaceuticals was able to get approved as a treatment for symptoms of the rare genetic movement disorder Duchenne muscular dystrophy. I say "curious" because Marathon came under intense scrutiny for its initial plans to hike the drug's price to $89,000 per year even though it's available for a mere pittance in other countries (and doesn't actually address the root causes of Duchenne, but rather just some of its muscle-wasting symptoms). Now PTC is facing its own challenges as it figures out the proper way to price the treatment—health care payers are questioning why they should buy the treatment when the commonly available and cheap steroid prednisone is just as effective. The price of that drug? About $55 per year. (FiercePharma)


Trump administration makes its first changes to Obamacare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued new rules that will make it more difficult for consumers to purchase insurance on Obamacare's marketplaces outside of its set enrollment period (Obamacare allows "special" enrollment periods for people who have experienced a major life event). Furthermore, the final rule could also let insurance companies cover a smaller share of plan holders' medical costs and drop coverage for people who don't pay premiums, among other changes. This is the first major administrative crack that the Trump administration has taken at the health law. And while the insurance lobby is lauding the rule, it's also expressed deep concerns about the uncertainty still swirling around the health law, which is making it difficult for insurers to effectively set their rates for next year. (Modern Healthcare)


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