Some of the latest news of interest

CVS Health said its results this year will be dragged down by rising costs and poor results from a 2015 takeover of pharmacy company Omnicare, raising questions about whether an ambitious $68 billion purchase of insurer Aetna last year was the right move for the health-care giant, according to a February 21 report by Bloomberg Business. A struggling nursing-home industry has created fewer customers for Omnicare, leading to a $6.1 billion in writedowns. Higher wages and employee benefits cut into the gains from the 2017 corporate tax overhaul, and one of CVS’s main businesses, a PBM, is under attack in Washington. CVS reduced its earnings from $7.35 to $6.68 per share.

The Wall Street Journal reports Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline will join their consumer health business into a single joint venture in 2019, which they will spin off into a standalone business. The joint venture creates the world’s largest seller of consumer products like Sensodyne toothpaste and Advil. This will free the companies to focus on their respective Rx business, according to the Journal.

The Associated Press reports West Virginia is a “bellwether” of US life expectancy and health, “portending major problems years before they became severe nationally.” According to the AP, “The drug overdose death rate for all of America today is where West Virginia rate was 10 years ago,” and the “nation’s suicide rate is where West Virginia was nearly 20 years ago.” The article says “after decades of steady increases, US life expectancy has been declining since 2014,” a drop driven by suicides and drug overdoses as well as obesity, which in turn has “worsened the diabetes death rate.”

A recent congressional report blames U.S. prescription drug distributors and the DEA for not doing enough to help mitigate the nation’s opioid addiction and overdose crisis. The report, released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee after 18 months of investigating, focused on distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen and “cited massive pill shipments to West Virginia, which has a population of 1.8 million and has by far the nation’s highest death rate from prescription drugs.” The report found that McKesson, for example, “shipped an average of 9,650 hydrocodone pills per day in 2007 to a now-closed pharmacy in Kermit, which has a population of about 400.”

National Public Radio reports 2019 “might just redefine the way America thinks about and responds to the opioid epidemic” as the nation’s largest drug producers and distributors “face a wave of civil lawsuits that could total tens of billions of dollars in damages.” Numerous state and local governments are pushing to have the companies “compensate them for the costs of responding to the crisis” and release internal documentation showing the extent to which the companies were aware of the risks posed by opioids. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open.

Federal health officials say 101 measles cases had been reported in 10 states this year, many of which have been concentrated in Washington state, where the growing number of cases has driven local demand for vaccines and fueled debate nationwide over vaccine exemptions for non-medical reasons. “A growing band of immunization detractors is driving a surge in measles cases from the Philippines to Washington State that threatens to derail efforts to wipe out the disease,” reports Bloomberg News February 12. The CDC offers information on measles for health care providers on its website. The CDC urges providers to report measles cases to their local health departments within 24 hours.

PLOS Medicine identified specific “anti-vaxx hot spots” and the cities that match closely with a number of recent measles outbreaks. These areas have lower rates of vaccinations among children due to more parents exercising non-medical exemptions, which are available in 18 states.

The West Virginia Pharmacists Association will host its 112th Annual Convention, Saturday, October 19, 2019, at the Marriott Hotel in Charleston.