Good afternoon, readers.
President Donald Trump is slated to deliver the State of the Union address this evening at 9 PM Eastern time. The contents are anyone’s guess, although the White House has attempted to preface the speech by saying it will contain “a policy agenda both parties can rally behind.”
Hot button issues such as immigration, trade, and the economy at large are likely to serve as focus areas. But what might we expect of the health care discussion?
It seems unlikely that the Affordable Care Act will take much in the way of premium air time, especially that the individual mandate has been repealed and the administration has essentially declared regulatory victory through its various oblique cuts to the health law. (There may well be victory laps along those lines, though.)
Two items to definitely keep an eye out for? Drug pricing and HIV/AIDS.
On the former, the Trump administration recently announced some major proposed overhauls to Medicare’s prescription drug program that would target the middlemen known as pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs). The pharmaceutical industry is largely supportive of these measures; it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the president proposes additional ideas that take aim at drug makers themselves (Trump has previously endorsed direct Medicare price negotiations, which is heavily opposed by the sector).
And then there’s the public health front. Trump may well bring up the opioid crisis, as he has in the past, and the Right to Try law he signed that allows terminal patients to access experimental treatments while largely bypassing the FDA. But a number of outlets have also reported that the president will call for a total eradication of HIV in the United States by 2030—a goal which sounds fanciful but, given the current state of innovation in HIV prevention and treatment, is far from impossible.
We’ll find out how much heft health gets in the SOTU soon enough.
The latest, inevitable ‘smart’ thing. Verily, the life sciences and techno-holic branch of Google parent Alphabet, reportedly wants to make yet another “smart device”—a shoe! These pair of smart shoes would ostensibly be used to track your weight and other biometrics, according to CNBC, a sort of smart scale-wearable-clothing item hybrid. And it’s just one of the numerous rumored sci-fi projects in the works at Verily (it would be appropriate to note we haven’t really seen much in the way of actual products from the secretive firm). (Fortune)
Glaxo continues its all-in cancer bid. GlaxoSmithKline has been on a tear in the cancer treatment space, a critical therapeutic area where the company has often lagged its competitors. It acquired the oncology-focused biotech in late 2018, and CEO Emma Walmsley has staked out a hardline position on building Glaxo’s cancer pipeline. GSK kept on that march Tuesday, striking an oncology immunotherapy deal with Germany’s Merck KGaA (not to be confused with the U.S.-based Merck) that could be worth up to $4 billion (the upfront deal worth north of $342 million).
A legal smoking age of 21? Why not 100? Over the past decade, a number of states have moved to raise the legal smoking age to 21, matching the legal drinking age. One Hawaiian lawmaker is now asking, why stop there? State rep Richard Creagan is proposing raising the age to 100 by the year 2024, arguing that existing taxes and regulations don’t go far enough. “In my view, you are taking people who are enslaved from a horrific addiction, and freeing people from horrific enslavement,” Creagan told the Tribune-Herald. (Fortune)