Clinical Insights: May 18, 2021

    Welcome to RxStrategies’ Clinical Insights, designed to help pharmacy professionals stay up to date on the ever-changing pharmaceutical and pharmacy marketplace. Contact us to learn more.

    New Drug Approval

    Empaveli™ (pegcetacoplan) Injection – New Drug Approval – May 14, 2021 – Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a global biopharmaceutical company and leader in targeted C3 therapies, announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Empaveli™ (pegcetacoplan), the first and only targeted C3 therapy for treatment of adults with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH). Empaveli™ is approved for use in adults with PNH who are treatment naïve as well as patients switching from the C5 inhibitors Soliris® (eculizumab) and Ultomiris® (ravulizumab). <Read More>

    Zynrelef™ (bupivacaine and meloxicam) Injection – New Drug Approval – May 13, 2021 – Heron Therapeutics, Inc., a commercial-stage biotechnology company focused on improving the lives of patients by developing best-in-class treatments to address some of the most important unmet patient needs, announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Zynrelef™ (bupivacaine and meloxicam) extended-release solution for use in adults for soft tissue or periarticular instillation to produce postsurgical analgesia for up to 72 hours after bunionectomy, open inguinal herniorrhaphy and total knee arthroplasty. Zynrelef™, the first and only extended-release dual-acting local anesthetic (DALA), delivers a fixed-dose combination of the local anesthetic bupivacaine and a low dose of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) meloxicam. The synergy between bupivacaine and meloxicam in Zynrelef™ has resulted in patients experiencing significantly less pain, including severe pain, and significantly more patients requiring no opioids (opioid-free) after surgery as compared to bupivacaine solution, the current standard-of-care. <Read More>

    New Formulation Approval

    No new update.

    New Indication/Dosage Approval

    Keytruda™ (pembrolizumab) for Injection – New Approved Indication – May 5, 2021 – FDA granted accelerated approval to pembrolizumab (brand name Keytruda™) in combination with trastuzumab, fluoropyrimidine- and platinum-containing chemotherapy for the first-line treatment of patients with locally advanced unresectable or metastatic HER2 positive gastric or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma. Approval was based on the prespecified interim analysis of the first 264 patients of the ongoing KEYNOTE-811 trial, a multicenter, randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trial in patients with HER2 positive advanced gastric or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma who had not previously received systemic therapy for metastatic disease. Patients were randomized 1:1 to receive pembrolizumab or placebo every 3 weeks, in combination with trastuzumab and either fluorouracil plus cisplatin or capecitabine plus oxaliplatin. <Read More>

    New/Updated Drug Shortage

    May 17, 2021

    May 14, 2021

    May 11, 2021

    May 10, 2021

    New Drug Recall and Safety Alerts

    No new update.

    New Generic/Biosimilar Approval and Launch

    No new update.

    Clinical and Pharmacy News

    FDA In Brief: FDA Provides Guidance on Master Protocols for Evaluating Prevention, Treatment Options for COVID-19 – May 17, 2021 – “During this global pandemic, the FDA worked to protect the American public by using every tool at its disposal to quickly review and act on new therapies for COVID-19. Conducting clinical trials to see if a drug is safe and effective can be a very time-consuming process. To meet the urgent demand for effective therapies, FDA has worked with clinical trial experts to rapidly advance best practices in the design and execution of clinical trials. Today, we’re providing industry guidance for creating master protocols (an overarching protocol designed to answer multiple questions) when evaluating drugs for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. <Read More>

    Patients in Support Programs for Painful Autoimmune Conditions May Have Reduced Opioid Use – May 17, 2021 – Programs that provide ongoing support to patients with painful conditions and complex medication regimens may also help them avoid using opioid pain medications or reduce the amount that they use, according to a study published in Rheumatology and Therapy. The study examined patients with a range of autoimmune disorders, including arthritis and psoriasis, who were taking an injected biologic medication to treat their symptoms and prevent painful flare-ups. This type of treatment requires frequent self-injections on a strict schedule, special disposal of used supplies, and typically high out-of-pocket costs. This has led to the formation of patient support programs (PSPs) by drug companies, intended to keep patients on track and potentially reduce their costs. <Read More>

    Is the Goal to Eliminate Opioids Altogether? Not So Fast … – May 17, 2021 – Is opioid-free anesthesia/analgesia a desirable endgame? Should providers be striving to eliminate the use of opioids from their practice? For Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan, MD, MBA, MHS, the answer at this point is a clear no, at least until there are more data to support the safety and efficacy of opioid-free anesthetic approaches. “There is a lot of hype regarding opioid-free anesthesia and analgesia today,” Gan, a professor and the chairman of anesthesiology at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, in New York, said. “And it all sounds very sexy, but what about the evidence?” <Read More>

    Using Data Mining to Lessen Opioid-Benzodiazepine Risk – May 17, 2021 – With the concurrent use of benzodiazepines and opioids involved in approximately 16% of fatal overdoses, according to the CDC, management of the medications represents a significant challenge for payors. In response, at least one payor is using data miming to identify members with lengthy opioid and benzodiazepine prescription overlap…“In practice, they should be prescribed for behavioral health conditions while the primary treatment lines are ramping up, then transitioned to as-needed or breakthrough treatment only. But in reality, they continue to be used as a scheduled medication, while the primary treatment is often stopped or used at subclinical doses,” Dr. Lenz said during the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy’s 2021 virtual annual meeting. <Read More>

    Walgreens to Sponsor APhA Institute on Substance Use Disorders – May 17, 2021 – The American Pharmacists Association announced that Walgreens will serve as a lead sponsor of the APhA Institute on Substance Use Disorders. Since its founding in 2015, the Institute’s four-day education program has provided pharmacists and pharmacy students with vital information and resources on the disease of addiction. The APhA Institute provides attendees with the latest methods and techniques for working effectively toward assisting individuals in finding treatment and supporting them in ongoing recovery. Attendees learn ways to recognize and address the misuse and abuse of prescription medications and other addictive substances. The Institute strives to provide a perspective for those who would like to understand addiction even if they have not experienced it themselves. <Read More>

    Lean Thinking for CSTDs – May 17, 2021 – Lean management principles have been used effectively in manufacturing scenarios for decades, particularly in Japan. More recently, the use of Lean concepts in health care1 has caught the interest of regulators, who suggest that the discipline be a guide for training pharmacists who are involved in pharmacy compounding procedures. One of those procedures—the use of closed system drug transfer devices (CSTDs)—may well be an under-recognized area for Lean applications. <Read More>

    Litigation Aims to Overturn HHS Rules Allowing ‘Backdoor’ Pharmacy Fees – May 14, 2021 – The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) recently joined the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) as an equal partner in a federal lawsuit challenging what they call “a confusing scheme of retroactive fees” imposed on pharmacies. These charges, called direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees, refer to the monies that a Medicare Part D plan or pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) can charge to offset member costs. Because the medications dispensed by specialty pharmacies are more expensive, specialty pharmacies tend to pay higher DIR fees. <Read More>

    Access to Overdose-Reversing Drugs Declined During Pandemic, Researchers Find – May 14, 2021 – While overall emergency department visits have decreased during the pandemic, nonfatal opioid overdose visits have more than doubled. However, few patients who overdosed on opioids had received a prescription for naloxone, a medication designed to block the effects of opioids on the brain and rapidly reverse opioid overdose. In a new study, clinician-researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) analyzed naloxone prescription trends during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and compared them to trends in opioid prescriptions and to overall prescriptions. The team’s findings, published in the journal JAMA Health Forum, suggest patents with opioid misuse disorders may be experiencing a dangerous decrease in access to the overdose-reversing drug. <Read More>

    Denial is Not the Best Policy – May 14, 2021 – When patients report pharmacy errors, respond with empathy and transparency to avoid alienating them. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) regularly receives reports of medication errors directly from patients. Often these reports describe errors that occurred in community pharmacies. Although they are concerned about the errors, the patients reporting them are usually more upset about the response, or lack of, from the pharmacist or pharmacy management team. Below is an actual case reported to the ISMP Consumer Medication Errors Reporting Program: When medication errors happen, especially those that result in serious patient harm, practitioners can experience extreme anxiety and stress. Fear of litigation may cause health care organizations and practitioners to view the patient as an adversary or threat. <Read More>

    Conscientious Objection in Pharmacy – May 14, 2021 – It is often assumed that conservative people, either political and/or religious, have a desire to exclude service from various groups. They don’t. They simply do not want to participate in a service or supply a product which they see as immoral—or in plain language, wrong. This comes down to disagreements over right and wrong. Everyone has a sense of right and wrong. The question is, where does one obtain their moral standards from? Are morals absolute or are they subject to change? And is there a higher standard or is societal consensus enough to determine right from wrong? If consensus is enough, how much is required? Is it not possible for consensus to be reached by manipulation? And on this basis it becomes difficult to condemn historic atrocities (e.g. Nazi or Rwandan) as some had reasonably a high level of consensus. <Read More>

    Largest CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness Study in Health Workers Shows mRNA Vaccines 94% Effective – May 14, 2021 – A new CDC study adds to the growing body of real-world evidence (outside of a clinical trial setting) showing that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protect health care personnel (HCP) against COVID-19. mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) reduced the risk of getting sick with COVID-19 by 94% among HCP who were fully vaccinated. This assessment, conducted in a different study network with a larger sample size from across a broader geographic area than in the clinical trials, independently confirms U.S. vaccine effectiveness findings among health care workers that were first reported March 29. <Read More>

    Urban Pharmacy Deserts Characterized by Racial Health Disparities – May 14, 2021 – Black and Latino neighborhoods are disproportionately located in pharmacy deserts, according to a Health Affairs study that highlights care access concerns that may compound racial health disparities. Pharmacy deserts can be dangerous because they impact medication adherence. When a patient lives in an area without convenient access to a pharmacy, it can keep her from filling her medications, putting her chronic disease management and overall wellness at risk. <Read More>

    Masks Off, America! – May 13, 2021 – The CDC updated its recommendations about wearing a mask for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Anyone who is fully vaccinated can remove their masks indoors or outdoors, regardless of the size of the gathering or whether others might not be vaccinated. <Read More>

    Coalition Slams White Bagging Push by Payors – May 13, 2021 – Payor-mandated “white bagging” is jeopardizing patient safety and exacerbating supply chain problems for hospitals and health systems, the ASHP and 61 health systems and group purchasing organizations recently told FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, in a letter requesting a meeting to discuss the practice. White bagging typically involves clinician-administered drugs given to nonhospitalized patients—often infusion-based drugs that patients cannot take safely on their own. Historically, hospitals have purchased these drugs in advance and held them in stock, and when a patient needs the drug, the hospital compounds and administers the medication and is reimbursed by the medical plan. Under white bagging, payors move these drugs from the medical benefit to the pharmacy benefit, barring the hospital from purchasing the drug itself and requiring that a prescription be sent to a payor-designated specialty pharmacy for fulfillment and shipment to the hospital. <Read More>

    APhA Establishes New Fund to Advance Pharmacy’s Interests – May 13, 2021 – The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) announced the formation of a fund that will support legal, legislative, and regulatory actions on behalf of pharmacy and the patients who rely on pharmacists’ care. The fund will accept donations from individuals, institutions and corporations who want to financially support APhA’s efforts to advance the profession of pharmacy. “The APhA Pharmacy Advancement Legal Defense Fund will fuel our advocacy machine,” said APhA Executive Vice President and CEO Scott J. Knoer. “We will stand tall in every arena where decisions that affect pharmacists and their patients are made.” <Read More>

    Experts Say COVID-19 Pandemic Will Have Lasting Impact on CMS Star Ratings – May 13, 2021 – Policy changes impacting the star ratings for 2022 include additional flexibility provided during the COVID-19 pandemic and a revised Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances policy. Because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued temporary waivers and new rules to give health plans flexibility early in the COVID-19 pandemic, these changes will impact the 2022 and 2023 Part D and Part C star ratings, according to an expert panel at the Pharmacy Quality Alliance 2021 Annual Meeting. During the session, speaker Rex Wallace, MBA, outlined some changes for the star ratings and what health plans can anticipate over the next 2 years. He emphasized that the 2022 star ratings are calculated based on plans’ performances in 2020, using data collected during 2021. Similarly, the 2023 rates will represent plans’ performances in 2021 and use data from 2022. <Read More>

    Pharmacists Get Creative Overcoming Barriers to Care by Going the Extra Virtual Mile – May 13, 2021 – Because pharmacists interact with patients more than any other member of the health care team, it is crucial that they continue to help address barriers and gaps in member care impacting plan performance beyond traditional pharmacy measures, according to a session at the Pharmacy Quality Alliance 2021 Online Annual Meeting. Panelist Laurin Dixon, director of Medicare Star Ratings at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said the primary concern when the COVID-19 pandemic first began was making sure patients had the proper medication and adhering to them. However, as care resumed in Q3 and Q4, the care teams focused on solving several challenges, such as limited internal resources, lack of screening availability during telehealth engagement, and incomplete evaluations of care gaps holistically due to limited time/appointments available. <Read More>

    Pharmacist Integration is Essential to Implementing Value-Based Care Models – May 13, 2021 – High engagement and collaboration between health systems and health plans is essential to implementing value-based models, according to a session at the Pharmacy Quality Alliance 2021 Annual Conference. With the rise of value-based care models over the past decade, pharmacists can have a major impact on the total cost of care and success of models in health care systems, according to a session at the Pharmacy Quality Alliance 2021 Annual Conference. Paying for value means paying for results rather than a simple transaction, explained presenter Brendan O’Hara, RPh, BCACP, a clinical pharmacist with Blue Cross North Carolina. Projected national health expenditures anticipate that health care will have a 19.4% share of the national gross domestic product by 2027, with a majority of those expenditures going toward the sickest patients. <Read More>

    Technology Advances Are Needed to Advance the Profession – May 13, 2021 – One day, my wife Denise and I went to our local bank with a plastic card and put it in the machine. We had the option of withdrawing either $25 or $50 out of our checking account. The money dropped down in an envelope with the cash inside. This was amazing technology for 1981. I then went to work and pulled out the Smith Corona typewriter and started typing prescription labels. Yesterday, I went to our warehouse club and pulled up to the gas pumps. I took out my phone and waved it at the QR code on the screen. I began pumping my gas without ever getting my wallet out of my pocket. I checked my email and saw I had spent $28.54 on pump #4 at 7:46 am. I went to the pharmacy, fired up the computer, and began my working day. <Read More>

    Making Pharmacy More ‘Amazon-Like’: Pillpack Founder Details Tech Giant’s Push Into Drug Delivery – May 13, 2021 – Amazon shook up the retail drugstore market when it acquired PillPack in 2018 and then again when it rolled out Amazon Pharmacy last year. The online retail behemoth is again ramping up competition in the pharmacy space by launching new features on Amazon Pharmacy that make it easier for customers to compare prices on prescription drugs. As part of the Amazon Prime prescription savings benefit, Prime members can search for a drug and compare the price of it at Amazon Pharmacy and more than 60,000 pharmacies nationwide that accept the discount benefit. That prescription savings benefit could save members up to 80% off generic and 40% off brand-name medications when paying without insurance, Amazon Pharmacy executives said in a blog post. <Read More>

    Prescription Middlemen Hurt Local Health Care – May 12, 2021 – Three decades ago, there were three independent pharmacies in downtown Naperville. In 2021, Oswald’s Pharmacy is the only one that remains. The others have closed or transformed into specialized pharmacies to survive. What could have caused this? How could Naperville and thousands of similar communities let local pharmacies fall by the wayside? The answer: pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). <Read More>

    Tip of the Week: Pharmacist-Physician Covisits – May 12, 2021 – Pharmacy practice is becoming more integrated into the health system and features more collaborative practice opportunities. Sometimes health care seems to plod along without much change. But that view is often held by cynics whose expectations are that the entire paradigm be completely upended merely by a single demonstration project or innovation. Health care has indeed changed quite rapidly, and that includes the proliferation of various service models that are interdisciplinary in nature. What must be understood is that there is no, single model entirely representative of all the changes. One model described in published research is a pharmacist-physician covisit model in a family medicine practice. <Read More>

    Pharmacists Asked to Complete DMS Competence – May 12, 2021 – Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are being asked to complete a Discharge Medicines Service (DMS) declaration of competence before providing the service. The essential service for community pharmacies has been set up to ensure better communication of changes to a patient’s medication when they leave the hospital and reduce incidences of avoidable harm caused by medicines. Community pharmacy can support patients to improve outcomes, prevent harm and reduce re-admissions once they have been discharged with information about medication changes made in hospitalm. <Read More>

    Pharmacists Are Frontline Educators of Patients During COVID-19 Pandemic – May 12, 2021 – Seeing the vital role of pharmacists during the pandemic has solidified many students’ desire to join the profession. Since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Amy Kallo, a PharmD student at Midwestern University College of Pharmacy (MUCP) in Downers Grove, Illinois, has been a pharmacy intern. According to Kallo, working at a CVS pharmacy in Chicago, Illinois during the pandemic solidified her understanding of pharmacists’ roles as educators in their communities. “We are definitely the front line to educate patients,” Kallo said in an interview with Pharmacy Times. Kallo explained that when she entered the field, she knew retail pharmacists had an important role. They are the most easily reachable health care providers in communities where access may be more challenging. <Read More>

    Which Parkinson’s Symptoms are Most Troubling to Patients? – May 12, 2021 – Individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) face a wide range of symptoms and challenges. A team from Parkinson’s UK surveyed patients to find out which PD symptoms most troubled them and how priorities may change as the condition progresses. Their goal was to identify where improved treatments and strategies are most needed to help maintain independence and quality of life. As PD progresses, the number and severity of symptoms increase, and the amount of medication required to manage symptoms also increases, leading to a greater risk of side effects and fluctuations contributing to increased disability. <Read More>

    Pharmacist Interventions Address Disparities in Pediatric Asthma, Diabetes in Underserved Communities – May 12, 2021 – Pharmacists can play a direct role in addressing social disparities of health in low-income communities by building trust and providing expertise to patients. To address social determinants of health in underserved communities, Walgreens has implemented an operational response in 16 pharmacies in South Side, Chicago with interventions that could be used nationally to address gaps in care in pediatric asthma and diabetes. “This past year has shed light on many injustices and has caused us to re-examine our approach and influence on health equity,” said Michael Taitel, PhD, senior director of health analytics, research, and reporting at Walgreens, during a session at the Pharmacy Quality Alliance 2021 Annual Conference. <Read More>

    Transitions of Care in Patients With Recurrent C. Diff: An Opportunity for Collaboration Among Community, Health System Pharmacists – May 11, 2021 – It is estimated that approximately 450,000 cases of Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) occur each year in the United States and approximately 25% of patients treated for an initial episode will experience recurrence. In patients having 3 or more recurrent episodes, the rate increases to 40%–65% of patients, with a cycle of multiple recurrences in a single patient contributing to the complexity of care…Pharmacists are particularly well positioned and can communicate across the continuum of care to reduce and avoid recurrence and direct those with recurrent CDI (rCDI) to the most appropriate provider. Implementing a well-structured transition of care (ToC) process can ease the burdens on the health care system, as well as on patients and their families, and improve patient outcomes. <Read More>

    Why Several States Are Investigating PBMs – May 11, 2021 – At least seven states and the District of Columbia are investigating pharmacy benefit managers, focusing on whether the companies fully disclose the details of their business and whether they receive overpayments under state contracts, The Wall Street Journal reported May 11. Ohio, Oklahoma, Georgia, New Mexico, Kansas, Arkansas and Mississippi and Washington D.C., are all investigating various PBMs, according to the offices of state attorneys general and auditors and public documents obtained by the Journal. Among the companies being investigated are the PBM units of Centene, UnitedHealth Group and CVS Health. <Read More>

    Experts Predict Increasing Importance of Quality Measures, Team-Based Care in the Future of Pharmacy – May 11, 2021 – Further integration with care teams and using data to demonstrate the value of pharmacists will be essential to maintaining the momentum created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Developing consensus-based quality measures and integrating pharmacists into care teams will be increasingly important for pharmacists in the coming decade, said a panel of experts during a town hall discussion at the Pharmacy Quality Alliance (PQA) 2021 Annual Meeting. PQA CEO Micah Cost, PharmD, MS, spoke with PQA founders Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, and Larry Kocot, JD, about the past 15 years of the alliance and what they predict for the future. Cost said PQA was formed around the idea that pharmacists have a direct influence on value-based care through their connections with patients and their medication optimization expertise. <Read More>

    The Importance of a Pharmacy Compliance Program – May 11, 2021 – As federal agencies and law enforcement investigate pharmacies around the country for health care fraud and kickback schemes, pharmacies should be proactive in understanding their regulatory environment and the importance of setting up strong pharmacy compliance programs. Federal agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are increasing their investigative efforts to scrutinize pharmaceutical companies and their executives for health care fraud. <Read More>

    340B in the News

    HRSA Determines Six Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Are In Violation of the 340B Statute – May 17, 2021 – Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa sent letters to six pharmaceutical manufacturers stating that HRSA has determined that their policies that place restrictions on 340B Program pricing to covered entities that dispense medications through pharmacies under contract have resulted in overcharges and are in direct violation of the 340B statute…”[The drug manufacturer] must immediately begin offering its covered outpatient drugs at the 340B ceiling price to covered entities through their contract pharmacy arrangements…” HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa wrote in the letters. “[The drug manufacturer] must comply with its 340B statutory obligations and the 340B Program’s CMP final rule and credit or refund all covered entities for overcharges that have resulted from [this] policy. . . . Continued failure to provide the 340B price to covered entities utilizing contract pharmacies, and the resultant charges to covered entities of more than the 340B ceiling price, may result in CMPs as described in the CMP final rule.” <Read More>

    HRSA Finds Six Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Violation of 340B Requirements – May 17, 2021 – The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has found 6 drug manufacturers in violation of 340B pricing requirements. According to HRSA, the companies’ policies are placing restrictions on 340B program pricing to entities that are covered for dispensing medications through pharmacies under contract. As a result of the policies, overcharges have occurred, and the 6 companies were found to be in direct violation of the 340B statute. Notification letters were sent Monday to manufacturers found to violate 340B pricing after a review of the manufacturers’ actions and an analysis of complaints received from covered entities. Letters addressing the pricing violations, signed by HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa, were addressed to officials with AstraZeneca,  Eli Lilly & Company, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and United Therapeutics. <Read More>

    Manufacturers’ 340B Restrictions on Contract Pharmacies Draw Ire – May 17, 2021 – Beginning last summer, several drug manufacturers announced they would no longer extend 340B drug pricing to contract pharmacies. The manufacturers said the restrictions are part of a much-needed adjustment to a program that has seen “egregious markups” and other abuses. But the pharmacies caught up in the crossfire say the policy is having unintended consequences, including compromised patient care. Many individuals with diabetes, for example, are having to pay steep price increases for their insulin or switch to less expensive—and potentially less effective—products. Affected 340B facilities say they also are worried about the financial fallout if the restrictions continue. <Read More>

    Secretary Becerra Testifies on FY 2022 HHS Budget Request – May 14, 2021 – Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra testified on May 12 before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on President Joe Biden’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 HHS discretionary budget request, which proposes $131.7 billion in funding, an increase of $25 billion over FY 2021. Throughout the hearing, subcommittee members raised a number of issues in their questions and comments, including the COVID-19 response and preparing for future public health crises, caring for unaccompanied children at the southern border, medical research, access to affordable health coverage, health equity, the 340B Drug Pricing Program, prescription drug pricing, maternal mortality, the opioid epidemic, telehealth coverage, and the Provider Relief Fund. <Read More>