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On June 13, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of the Treasury (Treasury Department) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) (collectively, the “Departments”) issued a coordinated set of final regulations (“final rules”). Entitled, “Health Reimbursement Arrangements and Other Account-Based Group Health Plans,” the final rules expand employers’ ability to offer health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to their employees to be used in conjunction with individual market coverage and recognize a new type of excepted benefit HRA that allows employees to pay for HIPAA excepted benefits and short-term coverage. This post summarizes the final rules.
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Case-Study Hero Bio Pharma Named Defendant in Medicaid Overpayment Case Mintz
In follow-up to our previous post, the pharmaceutical industry gained a win on July 8th when a federal judge struck down the Trump administration’s rule that would have required drugmakers to include list prices for drugs in TV ads.
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This week, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is back in the news with oral arguments set to begin before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The court will decide whether to uphold a federal district court's ruling that struck down the ACA. This case has the potential to reshape the political landscape in 2020 if it reaches the Supreme Court. On Capitol Hill, policymakers are working hard to bring forth a drug pricing package before the August recess. They will also have to balance the Administration's efforts, which is expected to issue an executive order this month on lowering drug costs. We cover this and more in this week's preview. 
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On June 26, 2019, a divided Supreme Court in Kisor v. Wilkie issued one of its most important administrative law decisions in decades. The Supreme Court decided to uphold, but dramatically narrow, the doctrine of judicial deference to agency regulations, known as Auer deference, but at the same time unanimously found for petitioner James Kisor in overturning the Federal Circuit’s affirmance of the Board of Veteran’s Appeals decision to deny part of his claim for Vietnam War disability benefits.  We discuss below the majority and minority opinions on Auer deference, the narrow unanimous holding of reversal, and the importance of this decision.
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Last week, President Trump signed an “Executive Order on Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare to Put Patients First.” The order, which “seeks to enhance the ability of patients to choose the healthcare that is best for them,” includes a number of provisions requiring the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Treasury and others to pass regulations to increase transparency for patients. The following is a summary of the executive order and a brief overview of what providers and others in the healthcare industry can anticipate going forward.
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Several parties from the pharmaceutical industry have teamed up with an advertising association to file a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prevent a new drug pricing disclosure rule from going into effect. The legal challenge was filed on June 14, 2019 and takes issue with a final rule adopted by HHS on May 8, 2019 (which we previously blogged about here) that purports to provide consumers with information regarding the price of prescription drugs. However, opponents to the HHS rule counter that the opposite will occur and that it will actually mislead patients about the price of prescription drugs. This point may not be difficult for the plaintiffs to demonstrate in support of their request for a declaratory judgment that the rule is unlawful, since even HHS has admitted in the final rule preamble that the new requirement may “discourage patients from using beneficial medications, reduce access, and potentially increase total cost of care.”
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Over the last two years, much of the healthcare world has been watching the government’s prosecution of Insys Therapeutics for its sales and marketing practices related to its Subsys spray.  Subsys is powerful and highly addictive fentanyl spray (administered under the tongue) that was approved by the FDA in 2012 for the treatment of persistent breakthrough pain in adult cancer patients who were already receiving, and tolerant to, regular opioid therapy.  On June 5, 2019, DOJ announced a global resolution with Insys, including criminal pleas, a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), a civil settlement agreement, and a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA).  Then, on June 10, 2019, Insys filed for bankruptcy protection, which triggered DOJ and HHS’s ability to upend these agreements and impose powerful criminal, civil, and exclusion remedies against Insys. While much of the coverage of this case over the last few years has focused on the high-profile prosecution and conviction of company executives (including Insys’s founder) and other employees who were accused of paying kickbacks to prescribers in exchange for increased prescriptions and increased doses of Subsys, the resolution of this case on the corporate side has proven to be equally fascinating. 
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On June 6, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that found among a sample U.S. hospitals that obtained non-patient-specific (NPS) compounded drugs from outside compounders, 89% of hospitals obtained them only from compounders that were registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as outsourcing facilities. The OIG study was conducted to provide the FDA with insights to improve its oversight of compounders and enhance patient safety. According to the study, “factors associated with quality, including registration with FDA as an outsourcing facility, are among the most important factors considered when hospitals decide where to obtain their non-patient-specific compounded drugs.” Although use of compounded drugs is widespread in hospitals, the OIG also found that it is rare for hospitals to consider registering their own pharmacies as outsourcing facilities.
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In the latest development in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation into the generic pharmaceutical industry, Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with DOJ. The terms of the DPA require Heritage to pay a $225,000 criminal penalty and provide full cooperation with the ongoing investigation. The one-count felony charge, filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 30, alleges that Heritage violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by conspiring with multiple unnamed parties to divide up the domestic market and fix prices for glyburide, a diabetes medication, from April 2014 through December 2015. According to DOJ, the DPA provides that the United States will not prosecute Heritage for three years.
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The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a new guidance document regarding which HIPAA violations business associates (BAs) can and cannot be held directly liable for.  In the guidance, OCR states that BAs can be held directly liable for a list of 10 violations but notes that certain other violations, like the reasonable cost requirement for a patient’s access to their PHI, cannot be enforced directly by OCR against a BA.  The covered entity (CE) is still on the hook for violations of this type, however, so CEs should carefully review their BAAs to ensure that it covers requirements that don’t directly apply to BAs but are still enforceable against CEs.  Large data breaches also continue to dominate the press.
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Medical Informatics Engineering, Inc. (Medical Informatics) and its wholly-owned subsidiary, NoMoreClipboard, LLC, an electronic medical record and software services provider is now liable for a combined total of $1 million to both the federal and state governments after hackers accessed approximately 3.5 million patients’ health records in 2015. The breach, reported to OCR on July 23, 2015, occurred through a compromised user ID and password. Compromised patient information included social security numbers, names, email addresses, health insurance policy information, addresses, dates of birth, and clinical information.
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Earlier this week the OIG took the somewhat unusual step of issuing a fraud alert directed to Medicare beneficiaries (rather than to Medicare providers) regarding “fraud schemes” that involve genetic testing. According to the OIG, beneficiaries are being offered genetic tests in order to obtain their Medicare information, which is then used to commit identity theft or to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare. Beneficiaries are being targeted through telemarketing calls, booths at public events, health fairs, and door-to-door visits.
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On June 3, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Azar v. Allina Health Services. The case involved a challenge by hospitals over whether the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) was required to proceed through notice-and-comment rulemaking before promulgating a retroactive Medicare rate calculation methodology for Disproportionate Share (DSH) payments to hospitals. In a 7-1 decision by Justice Gorsuch, the Court ruled in favor of the hospitals, holding that the new rate calculation established a substantive legal standard, and therefore notice-and-comment was required under the Medicare Act.
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As most folks with any interest in the burgeoning cannabidiol (CBD) industry likely know, on May 31, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration held a public hearing “to obtain scientific data and information about the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and sale of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds.” Stakeholders who attended the hearing presented many diverse viewpoints and the FDA panelists – who were in listening mode – received extensive information from across that spectrum of perspective.
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In the ongoing public dialogue about prescription drug affordability, Maryland seems poised to lead the way for states considering a new way to rein in drug spending: drug affordability boards.
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Earlier this month, CMS issued a final rule aimed at lowering drug prices and reducing out-of-pocket expenses in Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D. This rule is the Administration’s latest effort to address prescription drug prices and builds off the Administration’s Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs and arrive on the heels of CMS publishing a rule requiring the disclosure of drug prices in TV ads. Below we’ve provided a brief overview of the major provisions in the final rule, noting changes from the proposed rule that was issued in November 2018.
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On May 14, FDA announced that it issued five Warning Letters to companies that manufacture and market homeopathic drugs for human use. The letters all cite cGMP deficiencies relating to inspectional observations and conclude that the products are misbranded prescription drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because “in light of their toxicity or other potentiality for harmful effect, or the method of their use, or the collateral measures necessary to their use, they are not safe for use except under the supervision of a practitioner licensed by law to administer such drugs” and they are not labeled for prescription use only.

In 2019 so far, FDA has issued Warning Letters to eleven separate homeopathic drug manufacturers, including the five letters referenced above. All of the Warning Letters, except one, cite observations from inspections and focus on cGMP and quality violations at the manufacturing facilities, including contamination and varying amounts of active ingredients, that could lead to consumer harm.
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This week, the House Energy & Commerce Committee is voting on seven more drug pricing bills. The Senate is going to be unveiling its cost-containment package in the coming weeks (if not days) and should include most, if not all, of the House-passed drug pricing bills. This action will set the stage for the summer work period, which is expected to focus heavily on drug pricing and other cost-containment measures, such as surprise medical bills. At CMS, the agency published a final rule last week that touched on several noteworthy drug pricing issues. We cover this and more in this week's preview, which you can find by clicking here. 
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On May 10, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration issued highly anticipated final guidance that gives drug-makers more clarity on how to demonstrate that a proposed biosimilar product meets the statutory interchangeability standard under the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act or the Act). According to the Act, an interchangeable biosimilar may be substituted for the original biological product without the involvement of a prescriber, similar to the way generic drugs are routinely substituted for brand name drugs at the pharmacy level. The Final Guidance, entitled “Considerations in Demonstrating Interchangeability with a Reference Product,” is shorter than the draft version released over two years ago, in response to industry feedback, but generally tracks the original policy positions proposed in the draft, with a few notable exceptions summarized below.
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Health Privacy
The adoption of connected medical devices and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) has both enhanced the quality of patient care and increased the vulnerability of health care organizations. Sophisticated cyberattacks on hospitals and health systems threaten patient safety and impose substantial financial costs.
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