Life Science Compliance Update

November 15, 2016

Post-Election Decompression: Where Do We Go from Here?

Donald_trump_flag

After almost fifteen months of campaigning, polls, and 24/7 election coverage of “he-said-she-said,” we finally have our answer: President-Elect Donald Trump. Regardless of where you fall politically, or who you voted for, the top question on everyone’s mind is what is next for industry once Mr. Trump is in the Oval Office. Even still, knowing who the next president is, and which party will be in control of each chamber of Congress, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty.

The rhetoric on the campaign trail often does not fully come to fruition once the candidate is elected; it is either tampered down a bit, or ramped up a bit, depending on what kind of platform the candidate ran on and where the candidate’s party wants the direction to go.

Mr. Trump’s major policy priorities have been: trade, immigration, infrastructure, and the Federal Reserve. One of the centerpieces of Trump’s economic platform was to reverse free trade, including declaring some countries as currency manipulators; putting tariffs on Mexico and China; renegotiating, or withdrawing from, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); and exiting from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

As far as other campaign centerpieces, Mr. Trump promised to “build a wall” along the Mexican border and deport some or all undocumented workers, as well as pledging to invest heavily in infrastructure.

Lame Duck

The outlook for the lame duck session remains uncertain: Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are surveying their caucuses, working with the Trump transition team to determine the scope and length of the lame duck session. However, there are several “must pass” pieces of legislation for the lame duck session, including fiscal year 2017 spending bills and the National Defense Authorization Act. Additionally, the 21st Century Cures and Mental Health Reform legislation are likely on a “want to pass” column.

One vote certainly taken off the table with the election of Mr. Trump is the vote on whether or not to confirm President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Merrick Garland. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has already confirmed that confirming Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court will not be on the Senate’s lame duck agenda.

Passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is also unlikely during the lame duck session. While Senator McConnell has said that the Senate will not vote on the TPP this year, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch has continued to negotiate with the White House. As alluded to above, Mr. Trump rejected the trade package during the campaign, and so we may see an increased pressure from the White House and pro-trade lawmakers for Congress to at least consider TPP before Trump takes office in January.

Trump’s First 100 Days

The first 100 days has been seen as the most important period of time for a new president to lay out their primary policy priorities. Again, Trump was a very unconventional candidate, and as such, his first 100 days may very well be unconventional as well. It is estimated that during his first 100 days, Trump will focus on repealing Obama Executive actions; legislation on building a wall on the southern border; Supreme Court nomination to replace Justice Scalia; Dodd-Frank reforms; and implementing a $550 billion (or larger) infrastructure plan.

21st Century Cures

Both Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan have expressed a shared interest in passing a version of the 21st Century Cures Act during the lame duck session. However, a key sticking point for Democrats to pass the overarching legislation has been finding how to pay for additional funding for NIH. There is a group of unions and liberal organizations that are urging Congress to hold off on passing the legislation until after Trump is inaugurated, because they feel as though it would give lawmakers time to include provisions to address prescription drug pricing.

Drug Pricing

There have been numerous high profile oversight and investigation hearings in Congress, leading to criticism of the pharmaceutical industry acting as perhaps one of the few things legislators in both parties can agree on. If any movement is to be made legislatively, it would likely be focused on areas that have seen great bipartisan interest, such as expediting the approval of generic drugs in instances of steep price hikes.

However, once again, Trump ran an unconventional campaign as an unconventional candidate. While some believe that Trump will govern as a traditional conservative, there is no prior government experience of Mr. Trump to look to, to make an educated guess as to how he will govern. Trump has been known to embrace policies such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, price transparency across the field, and importing foreign drugs

Medicare and Medicaid Reform

Republicans have long hoped to reform the nation’s entitlement programs, with full control of the legislative and executive branches. While any major overhaul of Medicare or Medicaid will always have political pitfalls, the odds are more likely than in recent history that there are major changes that could be made. One such suggestion made by House Republicans is changing the Medicare program from a system where recipients are entitled to defined benefits to one that works more like a defined-contribution system, where beneficiaries receive a set amount of federal subsidy dollars to help them purchase coverage.

Conclusion

While it is still too soon to be sure how the election will affect the industry, what is sure is that Pharma stocks immediately benefitted from the election results. Short-term success does not confirm that the gains will continue, but as of November 9, 2016, the NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index jumped 8.9%, Allergan shares rose 8%, Celgene Corp. rose 8.6%, and Pfizer Inc. rose 7%. Drug wholesalers and other industry middlemen also got a boost, with McKesson up 6.4% and Express Scripts up 3.4%.

With a fully-Republican federal government, it is possible that we finally see the stalemate in Washington break. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and the ability of the Republican-led government to govern will be tested over the next two years and has the potential to result in major legislative reforms being implemented during this period, circa 2008-2010, when Democrats controlled the executive and legislative branches.

June 06, 2016

Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Asks for Input

The Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria ("Advisory Council") has issued a Request for Information, seeking responses from industry stakeholders and the general public on five questions related to efforts and strategies to combat antibiotic-resistance.

The Advisory Council provides advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding programs and policies that are intended to support the implementation of the National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

The Advisory Council recently published their first report, Initial Assessments of the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, at their second public meeting March 30-31, 2016. The purpose of this RFI is to gain additional information from the public on the subject matter in several areas that are addressed in the Action Plan. The responses that are gathered from the RFI will be reviewed by the Advisory Council and will be taken under advisement as the Advisory Council continues their work.

The five questions the Advisory Council would like to start reviewing in more detail are as follows:

  1. Describe how organizations are influencing curricula regarding primary prevention (antibiotic stewardship, infection prevention, and control). Please include information about certification examinations, requirements, and continuing education, if relevant.
  2. Describe how healthcare organizations can best: (a) educate and provide feedback to providers in clinics/facilities about infectious diseases diagnostic testing, optimal antibiotic prescribing, and infection prevention; where relevant, please include information about what incentives and disincentives these organizations have in place with the goal of improving antibiotic prescribing (e.g., using clinical decision support) and prevent spread of resistant infections; and, (b) encourage and/or incentivize providers to report antibiotic use and resistance data for all patient populations.
  3. Please provide examples of successful behavior change models that can be applied to preventive strategies, such as infection control and antibiotic stewardship.
  4. Please provide information on the best ways to collect data on antibiotic use [and resistance] in animal agriculture through public-private collaborations. Your response can include information on the types of data to be collected, including the method of collection, and the metrics for reporting the data. If helpful, please cite sample models as examples to depict your answer.
  5. Please provide information on the different resources that exist to promote the understanding of how antibiotics are being used in humans and animals in different parts of the world. Your response can include information on the types of support to connect with such resources, as appropriate (examples include public-private partnerships, strategic resourcing, or other means).

The RFI is expected to be published in the Federal Register on May 23, 2016, and responses to the questions must be received by 11:59 p.m. thirty days thereafter, putting the deadline on June 22, 2016. The questions are available for answering through an online form here. Alternatively, individuals who wish to send their response via email can do so by emailing CARB@hhs.gov, indicating the question number(s) for which they are responding.

The next public meeting of the Advisory Council will be June 21-22, 2016, and will focus on incentives for the development of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, in addition to the environment and anti-biotic resistance.

March 16, 2016

Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Proposes Rule on Information Blocking

The United States Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule last week that would permit the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to review certified health IT products for information blocking, in addition to potential risks to patient safety and public health. The proposed rule also gives ONC increased power to regulate authorized certification-testing bodies.

Background

The ONC Health IT Certification Program was established as a Temporary Certification Program in June 2010, and was later transitioned into a Permanent Certification Program in January 2011. In September 2012, certification criteria were established to provide a clear implementation direction to ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies for certifying Health IT Modules.

In October 2015, HHS published a final rule that identified how health IT certification can support the establishment of an interoperable nationwide health information infrastructure through the certification and use of adopted new and updated vocabulary and content standards for structured recording and exchange of health information. This final rule also included provisions to increase the transparency of information related to health IT certified under the program.

The impetus behind this proposed rule is that as certified capabilities interact with other capabilities in certified health IT and with other products, it is important to ensure that concerns within the scope of the Program can be appropriately addressed.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act amended the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) in an attempt to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care through the promotion of health IT and electronic health information exchange. The HITECH Act also required the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology perform specific statutory duties, including keeping or recognizing a program for the voluntary certification of health information technology.

This proposed rule proposes to expand the ONC's role in the Program to encompass the ability to directly review health IT certified under the Program and address non-conformities found in certified Health IT, as well as propose processes for ONC to timely and directly address testing issues. According to the drafters of the Rule, increased transparency and publication of identifiable surveillance results would support further accountability of health IT developers to their customers and users of certified health IT.

The Proposed Rule

The proposed rule asks to expand the ONC's role to encompass the ability to directly review health IT certified under the Program, independently of reviews conducted by ONC-ACBs. These reviews would extend beyond the continued conformance of the certified health IT's capabilities with specific certification criteria, test procedures, and certification requirements and would also extend to the interaction of certified and uncertified capabilities within the certified health IT.

ONC would also have broad discretion to review certified health, though the drafters of the rule anticipate that such a review would be relatively infrequent and would focus on situations that pose a risk to public health or safety.

The proposed rule also gives authority to ONC to initiate a direct review whenever it becomes aware of information, whether from the general public, interested stakeholders, ONC'ACBs, or by any other means, that certified health IT may not conform to the requirements of its certification.

The rule also proposes to require ONC-ACBs to make identifiable surveillance results publicly available on their websites on a quarterly basis. The rule drafters believe that by publishing "positive" surveillance results, as well as "negative" ones, will provide a more complete context of surveillance.

Analysis and Conclusion

According to Sherilyn Pruitt, director of ONC's Office of Programs and Engagement, "our goal is to work with developers. Our goal is not to get to decertification." Ms. Pruitt expects the office to work with noncompliant vendors to develop action plans to fix their products and practices.

The proposed rule follows announcements by dozens of health IT vendors, major health systems, and other industry organizations, that they will provide wider consumer access to health data, avoid information blocking, and adopt federally recognized interoperability standards. In announcing the interoperability pledge, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell stated, "we must demand interoperability. We have to work together to unblock data."

The proposed rule also comes after the Precision Medicine Initiative Summit at the White House, where data liquidity was in focus. According to national health IT coordinator Dr. Karen DeSalvo, "the president of the United States has a keen interest in seeing that data moves. We would like to see change [to interoperability] as rapidly as possible, but as safely and securely as possible."

Comments will be accepted on the proposed rule through May 2, 2016, and can be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal or the mail.

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