SmartBrief audience reading habits in healthcare and life sciences provide a unique insight into the priorities and interests of professionals in these industries, and our newsletter engagement data also provides insight into what keeps our readers busy at night. We look after health insurers, providers and IT specialists as well as the public in the pharmaceutical and medical technology sectors. Here’s what was most important to everyone in the fourth quarter, plus a look at what to do next.

The introduction of COVID-19 vaccines begins with the kinking of the healthcare system

In the fourth quarter of 2020 the Introducing the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech After receiving approval for an emergency, with the first vaccinations going to health workers. In December the US government ordered another 100 million cansThis brings the total to 200 million with the option to purchase up to 400 million additional cans.

Meanwhile, McKesson started shipping Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine after being the second receive an EUA from the FDA. The US government had pre-ordered 100 million cans prior to approval and announced in December that it would buy another 100 million cans.

What’s next? In 2021 the vaccines will be more widely used, the effects of new virus variants and the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on the health care workforce and the provision of care. The next few months are expected the most difficult of the pandemicsaid outgoing CDC director Robert Redfield. The vast majority of US hospitals are in COVID-19 hot zones, and hospitals across the country were struggling with staff shortages. As the pandemic rages, doctors across the country have closed their practicesand thousands of health professionals have left the field.

In better news, Johnson & Johnson has the late-stage studies fully enrolled for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which has the potential to be given in one injection, and AstraZeneca is also developing a vaccine with the University of Oxford. Manufacturers have said that their vaccines should be effective against that new COVID-19 variant first discovered in the UK but testing continues.

Health care costs continue to be in the spotlight

In a divisive political environment, drug pricing remained a key issue for life sciences trade organizations Lawsuit against the Trump administration on its drug pricing rule, which would tie Medicare payments for some drugs to the lowest price certain other countries pay. A federal judge at the end of December issued an injunction Blocking of the most favored nation treatment for pharmaceuticals in January.

There was also hostility and legal action against Big Pharma over drug prices in the fourth quarter, with the House hearings examining the results of a Pharma Profit Probe This found that large drug manufacturers significantly raised the prices of their products in an effort to increase profits and increase executive bonuses. The health insurance industry got on the train and blamed the lack of price controls for the high drug prices pushed back against a final rule Through targeted drug discounts in Medicare, it is argued that the policy will not cut prices.

In the meantime, the CMS received criticism when it finalized its Price transparency rule Call for the disclosure of tariffs between drug manufacturers, device manufacturers and health insurance companies. The insurance industry warns that the rule could increase prices and decrease competition.

What’s next? Regulators and lawmakers will continue to take steps to improve price transparency and reduce healthcare costs. For example the CMS began testing a sample of hospitals in January to review compliance with the final rule on hospital price transparency, which requires them to publish tariffs negotiated by the payer for certain services. And addressing unexpected medical bills out of pocket was included in the recent COVID-19 relief package, raising concerns in the healthcare industry that it could increase costs and premiums for private equity firms to use arbitration for payment disputes. Are drug price rules likely to continue to face legal challenges and industry objections in the coming months as lawmakers seek major changes to the status quo.

A new administration

The biggest shock of the fourth quarter was arguably the presidential election. Major changes in healthcare could be on the horizon under President Joe Biden’s administration, whose health agenda includes expanding health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and create a government-led, individual health insurance option.

One of Biden’s first steps as elected president was the announcement a new 12-person COVID-19 task force, led by former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, and said his pandemic response will include increased testing and contact tracing, additional investment in vaccines and treatments, and other changes.

He also fills out the list of top health officials, including Selection of Jeff Zients as COVID-19 Tsarand seek expert advice on how Meeting with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, to discuss transition logistics.

What’s next: Biden is expected to be retained a focus on price transparencyand is expected to have a unique opportunity to bring Congress together Lower healthcare costs. Includes a suggestion from Biden’s team an integrated financing package for caregivers Child care, elderly care and home care. However, Transformation reforms in health policy are considered unlikely given the difficult political climate, experts have said.


Download our latest infographic: Beyond COVID-19: 4 Post-Pandemic Healthcare Predictions

More top news

Check out a snapshot of other top healthcare and life sciences stories from the fourth quarter below.

April Hollis is a custom content editor for health content at SmartBrief. She edits newsletters with a focus on life sciences and regulatory news and oversees the development of content marketing articles for SmartBrief clients in the healthcare and life sciences sectors.

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