(Reuters) – The Trump administration has proposed a rule that would scale back protections currently in place that allow rebates between drug manufacturers and insurers and pharmacy benefits managers, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website.
Bloomberg first reported the existence of the proposed rule, which comes as the administration works to implement a wide-ranging plan to lower prescription medicine prices. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday night sent the proposed rule to the OMB.
Details of the proposed rule have not yet been made public, but its title on the OMB site refers to removing the safe harbor protection for rebates from the anti-kickback law.
The move is the first concrete sign that the Trump administration has started to review the legal status of these rebates since Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb raised the idea early this year that they should not be exempted from anti-kickback law.
The anti-kickback law makes it illegal to pay an incentive for drugs or services that Medicare, Medicaid or other federal healthcare programs cover.
Shares of drug wholesalers such as AmerisourceBergen Corp and McKesson Corp , and pharmacy benefit managers, including CVS Health Corp and Express Scripts , fell slightly on Thursday on the move.
The administration has placed blame on “middlemen” such as pharmacy benefits managers – which administer drug benefits for employers and health plans – and health insurers for driving up drug prices by demanding hefty rebates in exchange for the broadest access to patients. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Gottlieb have questioned whether rebates provided by drug manufacturers should remain protected by federal law.
Health and Human Services and OMB did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
U.S. President Donald Trump made lowering prescription drug prices a top priority during his 2016 presidential campaign. In May, his administration unveiled a drug pricing blueprint that included broad proposals for lowering prices that largely spared pharmaceutical manufacturers and instead went after pharmacy benefits managers. Pharmaceutical stocks rose after the blueprint’s release.
JP Morgan analyst Lisa Gill said Wall Street overreacted to the proposal submitted on Wednesday because rebates are only one component of pharmacy benefits managers’ profit streams.
“If there are any changes around rebates they can adjust other aspects of the pricing model to ensure they are being paid fairly for the value they are adding,” Gill wrote.
This article was from Reuters
Nashville Music Producer Fred Foster Dies At Age 87
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville producer Fred Foster, who produced some of Roy Orbison’s most popular records and was the first to produce records from Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton, has died. He was 87.
His publicist, Martha Moore, said Foster died Wednesday in Nashville, and that a memorial service will be held later.
Born in 1931 in North Carolina, Foster helped launch the careers of many hit country artists and was a major supporter of some of Nashville’s biggest songwriters.
In the 1960s, he moved his record label, Monument Records, from Washington, D.C., to Nashville. Foster was the first to see the potential in a young singer-songwriter from East Tennessee named Dolly and got her songs cut by other artists, as well as recording and releasing her own material. But it wasn’t until she started appearing on Porter Wagoner’s TV show that she became popular.
“It’s a gift, being able to sense something unique in somebody, and that’s what I aimed for, always,” said Foster in 2007. “Anybody that dropped a needle on a groove of a Monument record, I wanted them to immediately know, ‘Oh, that’s Dolly Parton,’ or ‘That’s Roy Orbison.’ It had to be unique.”
Foster also owned a publishing company, Combine Music, and Kristofferson was one of his hires, a Texas-born athlete and Army veteran who loved William Blake. He had been trying to break through as a songwriter, even working as a janitor in a Music Row recording studio. After hearing some of his songs, Foster said he would only hire Kristofferson as a songwriter if he also signed a record deal.
“He was so intelligent, so gifted, so talented and he didn’t sound like anybody I had ever heard,” Foster told The Associated Press in 2016.
Foster is credited as co-writer on Kristofferson’s hit song, “Me and Bobby McGee.” Foster came up with the idea to name a song after a female secretary in his building, whose name was Bobbie McKee. Kristofferson told the magazine “Performing Songwriter” that he was inspired to write the lyrics about a man and woman on the road together after watching the Frederico Fellini film, “La Strada.”
Janis Joplin, who had a close relationship with Kristofferson, changed the lyrics to make Bobby McGee a man and cut her version just days before she died in 1970 from a drug overdose. The recording became a posthumous No. 1 hit for Joplin.
In the early 1960s, Foster helped Roy Orbison become an international star with his recordings on Monument. Orbison was an unlikely star with his falsetto and penchant for wearing dark sunglasses. His singles on Monument were dark and emotional, backed by soaring strings and doo-wop backing vocals. Some of the classic Orbison songs released by Monument include “Only the Lonely,” ″Oh, Pretty Woman,” and “Crying.”
Foster continued to work as a producer throughout his life, never really slowing down. At 85, he worked on a Ray Price tribute album for Willie Nelson, called “For the Good Times,” that was released in 2016.
“If I don’t know more at 85 than I did at 75, I am not learning very fast, am I?” Foster said then. “I think I’m probably a better producer today than I have ever been.”
Oakland Teachers Go On Strike Over Classroom Conditions, Pay, and Other Issues
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Teachers in Oakland, California, went on strike Thursday, part of a national wave of discontent by educators over classroom conditions, pay and other issues. Recent walkouts have taken place in West Virginia, Los Angeles and Denver.
The city’s 3,000 teachers want a 12-percent retroactive raise covering 2017 to 2020 to compensate for what they say are the among the lowest salaries for public school teachers in the expensive San Francisco Bay Area. They also want the district to hire more counselors to support students and more full-time nurses.
Kindergarten teacher Kaki Blackburn, 30, was among dozens picketing outside Manzanita Community School with signs saying “On strike For a Living Wage.”
Blackburn, who has 29 kids in her class, said her main concerns were class size and wages. She said her salary makes it impossible to afford an apartment on her own.
“There’s no way I’d be able to live here without a roommate,” she said. “This is not what I went to Brown University to get a master’s for.”
The union leader said the educators were forced to strike because administrators did not listen to their demands for two years.
“For two years we have been negotiating with the Oakland Unified School District to make our students a priority over outside consultants and central office administrators,” said Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown.
The district initially offered a 5 percent raise covering 2017 to 2020, saying it is squeezed by rising costs and a budget crisis.
In negotiations Wednesday aimed at averting a strike, the district increased its proposal to a 7 percent raise over four years and a one-time 1.5 percent bonus. The offer went higher than the recommendation of an independent fact-finding report that suggested a compromise 6 percent retroactive raise.
But union officials rejected the offer.
Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki said school administrators hope to get a counter proposal from the union when negotiations resume Friday.
“We haven’t heard any proposal since last May so we’re hoping they have something for us when we meet tomorrow,” Sasaki said.
Teachers have been working without a contract since 2017 and have said their salaries have not kept up with the cost of living.
A starting salary in the district is $46,500 a year and the average salary is $63,000, according to the union. In neighboring Berkeley, a starting teacher makes $51,000 a year and the average salary is $75,000, the union said.
The walkout affects 36,000 students at 86 schools.
The district said schools would remain open, staffed by non-union employees and substitute teachers. However, parents should not expect teaching as usual, it said.
Manzanita Principal Eyana Spencer said 14 of the school’s 450 students turned up for school Thursday and were placed in one classroom to play games.
Nearly 600 teachers left their jobs at Oakland public schools last year, according to the union, which has said the district cannot retain teachers or attract experienced new teachers.
The union has also called for the district to scrap plans to close as many as 24 schools that serve primarily African-American and Latino students. The union fears further students will be lost to charter schools that drain more than $57 million a year from the district.
Recent strikes across the nation have built on a wave of teacher activism that began last spring. Unions for West Virginia teachers, who staged a nine-day walkout last year, ended another two-day strike Wednesday. Last week, teachers in Denver ended a three-day walkout after reaching a tentative deal raising their wages.
Teachers in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, staged a six-day strike last month that ended when they settled on a 6-percent raise with promises of smaller class sizes and the addition of nurses and counselors.
Peter Tork, Lovable Bass Guitarist/Co-Founder For The Monkees, Dies At Age 77
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Peter Tork, who rose to teen-idol fame in 1966 playing the lovably clueless bass guitarist in the made-for-television rock band The Monkees, has died.
He was 77.
Jane Blumkell of fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz’s production company tells The Associated Press Tork died Thursday morning.
The accomplished multi-instrumentalist was performing in Los Angeles clubs when he learned of a casting call for “four insane boys,” who would star in a TV show about a struggling rock band.
He, Dolenz, David Jones and Michael Nesmith became overnight sensations when the show took off in 1966.
He left the group in 1968 amid creative differences but reunited for tours with the others every few years. His last was in 2016.
Tork also recorded blues and folk music and made several TV appearances.
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