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POLITICO New York Health Care: PRI problem; Hoosick settlement

12/19/2016 10:00 AM EDT

Good morning! You are reading a complimentary synopsis of the POLITICO New York Pro Health Care newsletter. Pro subscribers receive a premium version of this newsletter, which includes an enhanced look-ahead and robust analysis of the health care news driving the day, weekdays at 5:45 a.m. Contact us here to learn more.

written by Dan Goldberg

WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY IT MATTERS: There's so much health policy news both in New York and around the nation that it can often be difficult to keep track. So, we're going to tell you some of last week's most important news and why we think it matters.

-MEDICAL MARIJUANA EXPANSION - On Wednesday, we broke the news that the Cuomo administration wants to register new medical marijuana companies in the first half of 2017. ... Why it matters: The state's medical marijuana program is fragile. The five registered organizations are struggling because there aren't enough patients to make the business viable. The patients who are registered often struggle to find a doctor willing to prescribe medical marijuana. With Massachusetts legalizing marijuana, a more conservative administratration in Washington, and five new competitors in New York, there could be real problems ahead for the state's fledgling industry.

-FENTANYL SPIKE - New York City saw an alarming increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths in the first six months of 2016, the latest turn in a long-running battle against opioid addiction that has claimed hundreds of lives in the city and thousands more across the country. ...Why it matters: There are few health challenges facing public officials greater than the opioid epidemic. Its consequences - economic, social and political - are devastating. And at the moment, we don't have very many good answers.

-GOING AFTER GENERICS - On Thursday, we broke the news that nearly two dozen state attorneys general have named New Jersey-based Heritage Pharmaceuticals and other companies in a lawsuit accusing them of conspiring to increase generic drug prices. The officials accused the companies of committing significant harm to the nation's health care system by artificially increasing the price for the antibiotic doxycycline hyclate and glyburide, an oral diabetes medication. ...Why it matters: The U.S. generic drug market is estimated at $74.5 billion, and generics make up 88 percent of all prescriptions. The civil suit followed a criminal probe ( and if the federal government can send a signal to manufacturers that they are watching and will prosecute, then billions could be saved for consumers and taxpayers.

-SIGNED - President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act on Tuesday. Why it matters: The bill provides billions in new funding for research and changes the rules around drug approval. It's the last large piece of legislation Obama will ever sign.

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AND MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW Josefa Velasquez and me on Twitter @J__Velasquez & @DanCGoldberg. And for all New Jersey health news, check out @katiedjennings

WHAT TO DO WITH PRI - Physicians' Reciprocal Insurers, the state's second largest medical malpractice insurer, continues to struggle financially, reporting significant losses through the end of the third quarter and setting up a potential showdown with the Cuomo administration in 2017.

NOW WE KNOW - A researcher at Binghamton University, my esteemed alma mater, wanted to better understand what makes a bad boss so bad. Seth Spain, an assistant professor, writing in Research in Occupational Stress and Well-Being, classified crappy bosses by behavior.

WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU: This roundup is for you, so please tell us how we can make it even better. Send tips, news, ideas, calendar items, releases, promotions, job postings, birthdays, congratulations, criticisms and corrections to

HOOSICK SETTLEMENT - The village of Hoosick Falls would get $850,000 in a proposed settlement to help pay for costs associated with dealing with contaminated water from the companies being held responsible by the state. Read the village's announcement here:

SCHUMER WANTS RECALL - Sen. Chuck Schumer wants the federal government to consider recalling e-cigarette batteries and devices that explode and catch fire, injuring users, according to the Associated Press. "Schumer ... has called e-cigarettes 'ticking time bombs' and said they continue to cause injuries including severe burns."

LYME TIME - The Journal-News reports how Lyme disease language was saved in the 21st Century Cures Act.


-BLACK BOX REMOVED - The Wall Street Journal reports: "Pfizer Inc. said Friday that the Food and Drug Administration will no longer require the company's smoking-cessation pill Chantix carry a stringent warning about a potential link to suicide, depression and hostile behavior, years after fears of such links torpedoed use."

-DAMAGE CONTROL - Reuters reports: "Mylan NV, which has come under fire for its drug pricing, said on Friday it would start selling a generic version of its life-saving EpiPen allergy treatment for $300 per two-pack, a more than 50 percent discount."

-THE MARKET RESPONDS - The Wall Street Journal reports: "U.S. hospitals, reeling from rapidly rising drug prices, are taking aggressive steps to cut pharmaceutical spending. Hospital pharmacy executives say they hope to slow fast-rising costs by pulling supplies from hospital floors, switching to cheaper alternatives and more meticulously dispensing medications."


-WORTH YOUR TIME - Set aside some time this week or during the holidays to read ProPublica's latest on Agent Orange and its effects on the children of veterans. Their team found the odds of having a child born with birth defects were more than a third higher for veterans exposed to Agent Orange than for those who weren't.

...A sidebar introduces you to Linda Kochmar, a state representative in Washington, who had two children after her husband returned from the Vietnam War. One lacks sight in an eye. The other died of cardiomyopathy at age 21.

...Videos by Terry Parris Jr. will make you want to cry."

-OBAMACARE'S BIGGEST DAY - Obama went to the White House press briefing room on Friday and touted the Affordable Care Act, saying that more than 670,000 people signed up for health coverage through Thursday, marking the busiest single enrollment day since the healthcare law's coverage expansion began three years ago.

-ZIKA IS CONFOUNDING SCIENTISTS - STAT writes about how Zika research is providing more questions than answers these days. Take, as an example, the very latest research: "One [study] looked at a group of 125 pregnant Brazilian women from Rio de Janeiro who were known to have been infected with Zika. Scientists found the pregnancies of 46 percent were affected in some way - the pregnancy was lost or the baby had some signs of brain problems."

-SHALOM MARIJUANA - The New York Times reports: "Israeli scientists began their pioneering research to isolate the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana with a 10-pound stash seized by the Tel Aviv police. That effort, in the 1960s, helped propel Israel to the vanguard of research into the plant's medicinal properties and lay the foundations for a medical marijuana industry. Now the nation's burgeoning pot business, backed by an unlikely coalition of farmers, lawyers, scientists, entrepreneurs and the country's ultra-Orthodox health minister, is going mainstream - and eyeing markets abroad."

-THE FINAL RULE - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Friday afternoon released the final 2018 notice of benefit and payment parameters, a major regulation that sets policy for the health care law's exchanges and other insurance programs. The 465-page rule outlines changes to the ACA risk adjustment model, standardized plan benefits and special enrollment periods among other topics. Read the rule here:

-COLLINS' BIGGEST REGRET - STAT interviewed NIH Director Francis Collins. Find out his greatest joy and biggest regret.

-COULD STATE MARKETPLACES SURVIVE REPEAL? -'s Sarah Kliff went to Colorado to ask if the state marketplace could survive an Obamacare repeal.

TODAY'S TIP - Comes from the Mayo Clinic: "Doctor offers practical tips for unwrapping the gift of happiness any time of year."


-DISCOVERY - Researchers from The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, writing in Biomarkers, say they have discovered a molecule that could indicate how long the body is deprived of oxygen during cardiac arrest. That will help providers know whether a patient has a chance of regaining full brain function.

-MISLEADING - Label information on many hookah tobacco products is misleading and may be misinterpreted by consumers, according to researchers from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and University at Buffalo, who published in the journal Tobacco Regulatory Science.

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