Despite dramatic news coming out of Washington in recent days—from the leaked Kavanaugh documents to the “Deep State Deep Throat” anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that American voters are still focused on healthcare:

Beyond the countdown to the 2018 mid-terms, this past week saw the fall of both a tech unicorn and CAR-T pricing, as well as the rise of a farmers’ market staple (and our personal favorite), KALE:

  • Disruptor, Disbanded: In the culmination of months of decline following faulty test results, criminal fraud charges, former Silicon Valley standout Theranos announced that it will shut its doors for good. Theranos owes at least $60M to unsecured creditors.
  • Approved, Reduced, and Rejected: Novartis landed a first-of-its-kind agreement to make cutting-edge cancer therapy Kymriah available through England’s National Health Service. Through the deal, the NHS will get Kymriah for $363,000, or a 25% discount off the $475,000 Novartis charges in the U.S. A week prior, NHS rejected access to competitor Gilead’s Yescarta due to its cost. 
  • Kale Gets Top Billing: Capping off its recently acquisition of Missouri-based agrochemical company Monsanto, Bayer placed live kale-covered billboards around  the St. Louis area. The billboards will stay—and grow—through September 12th, when the kale will be harvested and donated to the St. Louis Area Foodbank for distribution to local families. We recommend preparing with raisins, pine nuts, and lemon vinaigrette. 

But we’re just getting started, so read on as we review more results from the Kaiser Poll—and related news helping inform those results…

As the KFF polls shows, nearly 60% of Americans are concerned about what they pay for health care. Well, folks, apparently Philly-based cable company Comcast hears you—and is taking action to rein in costs for the company and its employees. At a time when most employers are passing on increasing health costs in the form of higher employee deductibles, Comcast has been able to keep its own costs mostly flat—while lowering deductibles for most employees to $250/year. In contrast, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the average employee deductible is $1,500. So how are they doing it? By forgoing traditional benefits packages to contract with a series of healthcare startups, including a patient navigator service and a telehealth “doctor on demand” service.

As Comcast leads the way in changing the game in employee benefits, what does this mean for payers and pharma?  For one thing, we could see employers start applying pressure to health plans and PBMs to pass along rebates and discounts to end users…if the Trump Administration doesn’t find a way to cap profits on administrative services first. And if large employers start working around large national payers to build a custom suite of healthcare services, it could mean the start of direct contracts with drug makers. With biopharmas pushing the boundaries of science, the Administration rethinking existing regulations, and startups changing the way employers build benefits programs, anything is possible. What is clear is that Amazon isn’t the only company disrupting health care...


Although public sentiment still places the blame for rising health costs on pharma, hospitals aren’t that far behind according to both KFF and new report from PhRMA, which asserts that hospitals mark-up prescription drugs by an average of almost 500%.
In a move to tackle both drug shortages and high prices, a group of health systems banded together to launch a generic drug company. The new venture, Civica Rx, will focus initial manufacturing on a combination of 14 generic pills, patches, and injections targeted at treating infections, cardiovascular conditions, and pain—areas hard hit by years of drug shortages. But before Civica Rx starts manufacturing, it will require potential customers to commit to long term purchasing volume to create stability and ward off aggressive price competition from traditional manufacturers. Of note, Civica Rx is backed by seven major health systems and three philanthropies, including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which also funds ICER, among other drug pricing-related initiatives. Civica Rx expects to submit ANDAs to the FDA in 2019 to secure manufacturing approval.

Disruption seems to be the dominant theme in this week’s news, and this story is no exception. With so many mergers, acquisitions, new partnerships—and a host of potential changes referenced in the President’s Blueprint, today’s customer could be tomorrow’s competition. As the landscape shifts, pharmacos should defend their scientific and manufacturing expertise (getting the GMP green light isn’t easy) and highlight unique partnerships that are delivering critical medicines to patients and providers in need.


One of the most frequent questions we get asked is “How effective is a tweet from President Trump?” Like with many things, this answer is “it depends”—on the news cycle, how the company reacts, what else is going on in the world, and so on. What do the people say? In the final snapshot from the Kaiser Poll, 42% of respondents believe that direct criticism from POTUS will help reduce drug costs, although only 12% believe the strategy will be “very effective.”

Regardless of the poll results, 100% of TWTW team thinks that the President will keep tweeting.That’s it for this week. We’re turning our attention to the start of Sunday Night Football—we can’t tell if we’re more excited about seeing the Bears take on the Packers or hearing Carrie Underwood’s new SNF theme…

About the Author:

We are a team of healthcare communicators, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. Drawing upon professional experiences from Congress, CMS, HHS, hospitals, and health technology—and our collective work in rare disease, oncology, diabetes, gene therapy, pain management and infectious disease—we provide unique solutions to the evolving messaging challenges in today’s healthcare industry. We support our clients with evidence-based approaches to preventing pricing pushback, protecting brands from modern activism, establishing and communicating clear policies surrounding expanded access to medicines, and a proactive approach to value frameworks. Our offerings also include product safety, litigation, regulatory risks, ex-U.S. considerations and policymaker investigations.