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This Week in Drug Pricing and Post-Election Healthcare Policy News

Xconomy National — 

Healthcare news has been coming fast and furious in the fallout of the election, particularly this week. Read on below for the latest on the 21st Century Cures Act, the Trump Administration’s latest nominees, and a biopharma CEO’s warning to his peers on drug pricing.

IN WASHINGTON…

—The House of Representatives passed a sweeping healthcare bill, the 21st Century Cures Act, by a wide 392-26 vote, a rebuke to critics who say the bill does nothing to stem high drug prices and will unwind FDA oversight in favor of faster approval of drugs and medical devices. The bill promises more than $6 billion in funding over five years for ambitious federal biomedical projects, but it’s unclear if the next Congress will appropriate those funds. The bill now goes to the Senate. The White House has already signaled its support.

—The incoming Trump administration nominated Georgia congressman Tom Price to run the Department of Health and Human Services, and Indiana health consultant Seema Verma to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The choices of fiscal and social conservatives made clear Trump’s opposition to Obamacare and current government insurance plans, and to federal support for abortion and other reproductive rights.

—While the national Precision Medicine Initiative got a promise of future funding from the Cures Act, California is pressing on with its own precision medicine grant program. Proponents hope the state government will fund it for a third year in 2017. UCSF’s Atul Butte, who oversees the program, sat down for a Q&A with Xconomy.

BIOPHARMA CEOS SPAR ON DRUG PRICING

—Allergan (NASDAQ: AGN) CEO Brent Saunders called on fellow biopharma executives not to just expect that the Trump administration will ignore the drug pricing debate. In an op-ed for Forbes, Saunders urged his peers to limit drug price hikes and “self govern,” or risk the government doing it instead.

—Meanwhile, at the Forbes Healthcare Summit, Bloomberg reports a group of CEOs got in a “shouting match” over drug prices, with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) CEO Leonard Schleifer claiming the industry uses constant price hikes to cover for a lack of innovation.

Alex Lash contributed to this report.