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Growing Number of States Enact Drug Pricing Transparency Laws

January 23, 2020 | Blog | By Rachel Yount

Drug prices continue to be a hot button issue in American politics.  While many of the Trump Administration’s efforts to curb increasing drug prices stalled in 2019, a number of state legislatures have adopted drug price transparency laws in recent years.  Since 2015, Vermont, Nevada, California, Maryland, Louisiana, New York, Oregon, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Texas, and Washington have all adopted drug pricing transparency laws.  These laws are designed to incentivize manufactures to lower drug prices by requiring them to report information about drug price increases and their justification for how drug prices are set.  We have been tracking and summarizing these laws, and you can find our summary here. 
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Health Care Enforcement Year-in-Review and 2020 Outlook: Criminal Case Developments

January 22, 2020 | Blog | By Eoin Beirne, Nicole Henry, Jason Burrell, Jane Haviland

As discussed in our article recently published by Law360, criminal health care enforcement in 2019 was in many ways a continuation of 2018, with opioid-related enforcement continuing to be the clear top priority for the Department of Justice (DOJ), in addition to DOJ's sustained focus on prosecuting individuals and data-driven identification of health care fraud.  This post provides an overview of our article, which covers these issues and our expectations for 2020 in detail.
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Health Care Enforcement Year-in-Review and 2020 Outlook: Civil Fraud Enforcement Developments and Trends

January 21, 2020 | Blog | By Brian Dunphy, Laurence Freedman, Karen Lovitch, Julianna Hanlon, Nicole Henry, Clare Prober

As discussed in our article recently published by Law360, 2019 brought yet another year of robust health care enforcement activity, and the False Claims Act (FCA) remains the government’s most powerful civil health care enforcement tool.  This post will give an overview of our article, which covers these issues and more in great detail.
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In a coordinated effort, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation on January 9, 2020. The website serves to streamline information regarding agriculture biotechnology products, which are regulated by FDA, USDA, and EPA. The implementation of the website is in response to the June 2019 Executive Order issued by President Donald Trump on Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products. The Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation complements prior joint actions such as the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, an Obama administration effort to reform the biotechnology regulatory process by enhancing transparency, predictability, and efficacy.
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Health Care: A Clearer Vision in 2020? Don’t Bet On It

January 15, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson, Tara E. Dwyer

As we noted in our previous blog post, there are several legislative priorities in the health care space that could see action this year. There are also a variety of activities beginning this year that could set the stage for later action. Here’s what we’re tracking for a 2020 health care legislative package.
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Since the 21st Century Cures Act became law in December 2016, we have been keeping track of the Food and Drug Administration’s actions to carry out its obligations under the relatively new law. One particular provision of the Act: (i) emphasized the agency's responsibility to identify class II devices that may be exempted from premarket notification (or 510(k)) requirements, and (ii) required the agency to publish a list of each type of class II device that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines no longer requires a 510(k) submission to provide reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness at least every five years, or as appropriate. On December 30, 2019, FDA published a final notice of its amendments to each classification regulation for the newly exempted devices.
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Health Care Provisions in 2020 Spending Package

January 9, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson

On December 20, 2019, the President signed into law a bill to fund the federal government through September 30, 2020. The bill included several important health care provisions but left some longstanding policy challenges unresolved. Most notable changes to law are the elimination of three Affordable Care Act taxes and the passage of the CREATES Act. Noticeably absent is legislation related to surprise billing and prescription drug pricing. A summary of key health care provisions included in the 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 116-94) follows. We will address the legislative outlook for 2020 in a separate ML Strategies blog post next week.
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On December 31, 2019, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Department of Health & Human Services’ Affordable Care Act (ACA) risk adjustment methodology in New Mexico Health Connections v. HHS, No. 18-2186 (10th Cir. 2019), reversing a federal district court's 2018 decision that certain aspects of the administration and risk management formulas used by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) were arbitrary and capricious.  It was a fitting end to a decade so defined by health care and, in particular, legal and political challenges to the ACA.  However, whether or not the decision marks the end of serious challenges to the ACA’s risk adjustment program remains unclear.  
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On December 16, 2019, a nationwide coalition of hospitals sued HHS to block implementation of the 340B rate cuts contained in the 2020 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (“OPPS”) Final Rule. As detailed in our prior blog post, the 2020 OPPS Final Rule reduces by nearly 30% the Medicare Part B reimbursement for certain drugs provided by hospitals to outpatient beneficiaries that are acquired through the 340B Program. The final rule purports to continue the reimbursement cuts for 340B drugs first implemented in 2018, despite the fact that those cuts (and the 2019 OPPS rule continuing those cuts) are the subject of ongoing litigation in which the cuts were determined to be unlawful. For a detailed walk-through of the 2020 OPPS Final Rule and litigation up to this point, please see our prior three blog posts here, here, and here. 
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This Mintz health care post covers HHS’s investigation into the practices of Korunda Medical, LLC, after the Florida-based health care provider failed to comply with HIPAA regulations relating to the Right of Access Initiative.
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At the end of July 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly published the Safe Importation Action Plan, which outlined the Trump Administration’s two-part plan to allow foreign prescription drugs to be imported into the United States in an effort to reduce drug prices. We wrote about the release of the Safe Importation Action Plan here, and the detailed proposals made public by the Administration on December 18, 2019, follow the framework that the agencies sketched out earlier this year. Specifically, HHS and FDA have proposed two different pathways: one that is being implemented via notice-and-comment rulemaking, and one that is being implemented via an FDA guidance document. HHS Secretary Alex Azar touted the two pathways together in a same-day FDA press release as “historic actions…[that] represent the bold nature of President Trump’s agenda for lowering drug costs.”
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A New Decade of HIPAA: What Can We Expect?

December 23, 2019 | Blog | By Sarah Beth Kuyers, Dianne Bourque, Ellen Janos

As the decade winds down, it’s hard to believe that the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules are almost twenty years old.  It has been ten years since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published the first breach notification rule – the one based on the harm standard.   And the Omnibus Rule’s “low probability of compromise” standard is almost seven years old!   Regulators and regulated entities are heading into the new year and decade with a lot of momentum on some important issues.  As we prepare to welcome 2020, we’d like to indulge in a bit of hindsight – as well as speculation – about what the new decade might hold for HIPAA-regulated entities. 
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This is our third year-end post for 2019 related to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), focusing on the agency’s activities in the widely divergent area of “consumer products.” (You can find our two prior posts on medical devices and prescription therapeutic products here and here, respectively.) In taking a wide-lens view of the past year, we see it as having presented a huge number of opportunities for the FDA to educate the public about its role in regulating non-prescription products sold directly to consumers. Most of the educational opportunities we highlight below came in concert with some other agency actions, like the issuance of Warning Letters to specific firms, but we’ve decided to cover only the key issues in the interest of keeping this post from turning into a long list of hyperlinks given the post’s already broad scope. Consumer products that fall within FDA’s jurisdiction include over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and OTC homeopathic drug products; tobacco and other nicotine delivery products; dietary supplements; foods and beverages for both humans and animals (technically, there is no such thing as an animal “dietary supplement”); cosmetics (sort of); and a wide variety of cannabis-derived consumer products that exploded onto the national landscape during 2019 and essentially cross into all of the aforementioned product categories.
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As reported previously, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently published two proposed rules that seek to implement wholesale changes to the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Physician Self-Referral Law (commonly known as the Stark Law). This final post in our blog series focuses on a proposed new safe harbor that would protect patient engagement and support arrangements designed to improve quality, efficiency of care, and health outcomes. The OIG is also proposing modifications to the existing safe harbor for local transportation and a new safe harbor for remuneration provided in connection with certain payment and care delivery models developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation Center or by the Medicare Shared Savings Program. Lastly, the OIG is codifying an existing statutory safe harbor for Accountable Care Organization (ACO) beneficiary incentives and an existing statutory exception to the Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) rules on beneficiary inducement for telehealth technology related to in-home dialysis services.
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2020 Medicine Wrap Up Viewpoint Mintz
In many ways, the past year could be called a “business as usual” year for the FDA’s drugs and biologics centers in that they continued to make progress all of large-scale programs and priorities initiated by former-Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who left the agency in April. At the same time, however, the final months of 2019 have exposed several challenges for various FDA programs that operate under the extensive drug and biologic authorities contained in the Food Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act), respectively.
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FCC Simplifies Evaluations of Certain Wireless Medical Devices

December 11, 2019 | Blog | By Laura Stefani

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates wireless medical devices in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the FCC’s role related to certain technical concerns such as the successful sharing of wireless frequency bands. Another area that FCC regulates is radio frequency (RF) safety – the possible harmful effects to human health from RF energy created by wireless devices. The FCC looks to health and safety agencies such as the FDA, EPA, and OSHA, to provide guidance and recommendations on what level of RF emissions are deemed “safe,” and then sets rules for how responsible parties must evaluate compliance with these limits. These rules on safe emission levels apply generally to devices that produce RF signals. The FCC proposed modifications to its RF safety rules in 2013, and finally on December 4, 2019, issued a decision that adopts many of its proposals.
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Evolution & Revolution: Device Policy Priorities at FDA in 2019

December 5, 2019 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana, Aaron Josephson, Benjamin Zegarelli

This post is the first in a series of three in which we recap the Food and Drug Administration’s somewhat difficult year, having spent the majority of it without a permanent Commissioner and facing a slew of political and practical challenges. Today our topic is “medical devices” writ large, which is a product class that is becoming more complex by the day as it grows to encompass software, diagnostics, laboratory tests, and new medical technologies that resemble nothing that Congress had in mind when it first gave FDA authority to regulate medical devices in 1976. In the coming days, we’ll also take a broad look at FDA’s year from the standpoint of therapeutic medical products, including drugs and biologics, as well as the more commonly used category of consumer products.
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The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is set to vote on Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Trump administration’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on December 3, 2019. Hahn faced a flurry of questions at the confirmation hearing before the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday, November 20, 2019, most of which spoke to the youth vaping crisis with little emphasis on other hot topics such as prescription drug shortages or drug pricing. Despite the barrage of questions, many of his responses were non-specific in nature and avoided committing to any set platform. Instead, Hahn focused on his pledge as a doctor to put patient care first and rely on science and data as a basis for decision-making.
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We have previously blogged about the Food and Drug Administration’s year of listening and information-gathering related to products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds since the 2018 Farm Bill removed “hemp” from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Among other things, the Agency issued a call for scientific information on a variety of topics identified in this April 3, 2019 notice; opened a public docket to receive written comments in response to those questions (docket no. FDA-2019-N-1482); and convened a public hearing in May 2019 to hear from stakeholders directly. Our summary of that May 31st hearing, which also provides an overview of the legal and regulatory landscape post-2018 Farm Bill, is available here. This intensive period of evaluation was led by an internal working group charged with making recommendations for the open scientific, technical, and policy questions created by the new legal status of hemp.
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As we previously reported, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recently issued two proposed rules intended to reduce the regulatory burden associated with the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Physician Self-Referral Law (commonly known as the Stark Law). Although the rules’ main focus is on value-based arrangements, the proposed rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also includes a number of provider-friendly changes and clarifications to the Stark Law. As discussed below, CMS is proposing several changes to key Stark Law requirements as well as modifications to existing Stark Law exceptions.
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