August 3, 2021
Newsletter | Tea Leaves

D.C. News:

  • The White House said it has exported more than 110 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 65 countries, after grappling with logistical issues that slowed the initial shipments in June. Natalie Quillian, deputy coordinator of the White House’s COVID-19 response, said that later this month the White House will begin shipping the first tranche of the 500 million doses of Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE’s vaccine that it plans to deliver to low- and middle-income countries over the next year. (Articles here and here)                          

Life Sciences:

  • Eli Lilly and Co and partner Incyte Corp said additional results from a late-stage study showed their COVID-19 drug baricitinib reduced the risk of death in patients on mechanical ventilation. Of the 101 patients studied, those who received baricitinib plus standard of care were 46 percent less likely to die, compared with patients who received placebo plus standard of care. Last month, the FDA expanded baricitinib’s authorization to treat COVID-19 patients with or without Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir. (Article here)
  • The FDA authorized Regeneron Pharmaceutical Inc.’s COVID-19 antibody cocktail as a preventative treatment for people who have been or could be exposed to the virus and have a high risk of developing severe illness, including those with compromised immune systems. It’s the first time the FDA has greenlit an injectable antibody treatment as a preventative measure against COVID-19, though the agency said it should not be a substitute for vaccines. (Article here)
  • French drugmaker Sanofi SA will spend $3.2 billion to buy Translate Bio Inc., its mRNA development partner, as it looks to expand its capabilities with the technology behind the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna Inc. Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said the company is focusing on the “potential of mRNA in other strategic areas such as immunology, oncology and rare diseases in addition to vaccines.” (Article here)


  • Aspirus Health, a non-profit health system based in Wausau, Wisconsin, finalized a deal to acquire seven hospital and 21 physician clinics from Ascension Wisconsin. The transaction includes air and ground medical transport services in north and central Wisconsin. Aspirus will take on 2,700 new health care professionals and other employees from Ascension. (Article here)
  • The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) finalized the acquisition of three South Carolina community hospitals from LifePoint Health. The deal also includes a free-standing emergency department and other affiliated physician practices. Together, the facilities employ more than 2,500 dedicated staff. MUSC is the state’s second largest health care provider. (Article here)


  • The CMS released the final Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment Services rule, giving hospitals an overall $2.3 billion increase for inpatient stays in the 2022 fiscal year. The CMS estimates that overall hospital payments will increase by $3.7 billion, or 3.1 percent, in fiscal year 2022; however, the agency also expects payments to hospitals for uncompensated care will decline by $1.4 billion in fiscal 2022, which accounts for the net $2.3 billion payment increase. The CMS expects payments to long-term care hospitals to increase by 1.1 percent, or $42 million. The regulation also extends an add-on payment for new COVID-19 treatments through the end of the fiscal year where the public health emergency ends and requires hospitals to submit data on several public health measures to identify emerging outbreaks. (Fact sheet here; Articles here and here)
  • House Democrats agree with employer, labor, and consumer groups that commercial health plans should be included in legislation designed to curb drug prices. H.R. 3 would require pharmaceutical companies to rebate to the Treasury Department the amount that they raise prices for certain drugs above inflation. Employers and labor unions want those rebates in commercial plans as well. They argue that without that protection, they are susceptible to large price increases in prescriptions. (Article here)
  • A number of public unions have pushed back on President Biden’s requirement that unvaccinated federal workers undergo regular testing, wear masks, and socially distance. The pushback could spark court fights that could threaten the long-standing legal authority of employers to impose health measures at work. Some legal experts specifically cited the landmark case from 1905 that has long protected vaccine mandates will come under attack amid increased scrutiny of public health laws requiring vaccines in settings like schools that have had rules in place for decades. (Article here)

Public Health/Prevention:

  • One month later than President Biden’s July 4 goal, 70 percent of U.S. adults have now had at least one COVID-19 shot. Cyrus Shahpar, the White House’s COVID-19 data director, said the seven-day average of newly vaccinated adults was at its highest point since July 4 as concern over the highly contagious delta variant helps to drive up vaccinations. (Articles here, here, here, here, and here)