FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is one busy bee. He’s currently on his farewell press tour, preparing to step down from his post at the FDA next month, and he’s going out with a bang. According to Politico’s Pulse Check podcast, the FDA has made at least one press announcement a day during Gottlieb’s tenure. He’s jumped well above that rate in the past several days. With all that work, The Week That Was team is wondering 1.) if he ever sleeps 2.) if he sleeps at his office. It is pretty clear to us why he says he wants to spend more time with his family.
Here’s a quick look at the loose ends he wrapped up this week:
The Cost of Cancer Caregiving
One of the most overlooked aspects of the cost of healthcare is the toll an illness takes on those caring for the sick, both emotionally and financially. A compelling story in the New York Times, by reporter Aaron E. Carroll, profiled the burden faced not just by the patient undergoing care – but also the direct and indirect costs incurred by caregivers who support their loved ones.
Sharing a personal story about one of his friends, Carroll poignantly laid out the financial strain that caregivers often face. From taking time off work to support loved ones with treatment and recovery – to travel to medical appointments and additional childcare support – caregivers are often rearranging their lives. The costs to a family unit compounds as the patient and caregiver face lost wages and time. And the impact is significant: a study published in Cancer reports that over a two-year period, caregiving costs were more than $72,000 for lung cancer, $66,000 for ovarian cancer, $59,000 for lymphoma, and $38,000 for breast cancer. Those are some hefty numbers and we expect they’ve increased with inflation. In fact, the burden has become so great, that terms like “financial toxicity,” the concept that the stress from the costs of care making you sicker, is common vernacular in the oncology community.
While the cost of caregiving hasn’t received much attention on the national level, some states are making moves. Lawmakers in several states, including California, are considering tax credits to support caregivers, from helping them pay for professional help to retrofitting a home to accommodate a disability.
As life science companies communicate about the value of drugs, it is important to consider the full picture, which includes the impact to the caregiver. When approaching the market, companies might seek to quantify the burden to caregivers presented by the existing treatments (or lack thereof). Better, rapid and durable outcomes from new medicines may have life-changing improvement to the patient and caregivers – but that can only be revealed when we capture those improvements and communicate them.
Pulse on Pricing
A few updates on the pricing front this week.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s staffers are in talks with the White House about addressing drug costs. No details have been released about specifically what was discussed, but it’s a sign of potential bipartisan collaboration that could go somewhere. We’ll be watching!
If you’re looking for progress on pricing legislation, the states are where it’s at. Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a first-in-the-nation bill that will create a state board to set limits on the prices state and local governments pay for drugs for their employees. It’s Maryland’s second stab at addressing drug prices (their first effort, passed in 2017, was deemed unconstitutional by the courts). The legislation now goes to the State Senate.
Who wrote this? The managing editors of TWTW are Randi Kahn, who is looking for a new apartment, and Dana Davis, who is moving this weekend.
Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.
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