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ACA Lawsuit: Appeals Court Hears Arguments

Last week, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments in the Texas v. United States case that has the potential to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Two judges asked pointed questions that seemed sympathetic to the case against the ACA. While this is disheartening for cancer patients who rely so heavily on the ACA, observers from Kaiser Health News and others cautioned that a long road remains ahead, and that the Supreme Court will likely hear the case eventually.

Federal Judge Blocks Rule on Drug Pricing in TV Ads

Last week, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to require pharmaceutical companies to include the price of drugs in direct-to-consumer television ads. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta wrote in his decision:

“That policy very well could be an effective tool in halting the rising cost of prescription drugs. But no matter how vexing the problem of spiraling drug costs may be, HHS cannot do more than what Congress has authorized. The responsibility rests with Congress to act in the first instance.”

The administration’s next steps are unclear.

HHS Pulls Proposed Medicare Drug Rebate Rule

The administration pulled a proposal to change the rules that govern the rebates pharmaceutical companies pay to pharmacy benefit managers. As STAT summed it up: “Drug manufacturers had largely supported it, while middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers and insurers were vocally opposed.”

As the Washington Post wrote:

“The withdrawal of the plan is expected to put pressure on administration officials to pursue more populist proposals, from importing lower-cost drugs from other countries to basing the prices of some Medicare drugs on the lower prices paid by other countries — ideas favored by the president but reviled by the drug industry and many Republicans.”

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Cancer Survivors Are Twice As Likely To Suffer From Chronic Pain

Consumer Affairs

An analysis of National Health Interview Survey data estimates “that nearly 5.4 million cancer survivors struggle with chronic pain, which translates to about 35 percent of all cancer survivors in the United States.” Such insights into the pain that cancer survivors experience are especially relevant in the context of the current opioid crisis in America.

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Aggressive breast cancers more likely to hit black and younger women


This in-depth article explains the findings of a large study on triple-negative breast cancer. Researchers found that non-Hispanic black women and younger women are at higher risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer.

“While this study and earlier ones showed that triple-negative breast cancer is more common in women under 40, ‘I hear all the time from younger women that they were initially told by a doctor that they were too young to have breast cancer,’ said Elissa Thorner, co-director of the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Program at Johns Hopkins Medicine.”

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Have Cancer, Must Travel: Patients Left In Lurch After Hospital Closes

Kaiser Health News

Another example of an all too familiar trend — a rural hospital closes forcing patients to travel long distances to receive the care they need. The article looks at the impact on cancer patients in particular, as well as the community at large, when a local hospital like this shuts down. “Rural cancer patients typically spend 66% more time traveling each way to treatment than those who live in more urban areas, according to a recent national survey by ASCO.”

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Survivorship Issues Reshape a Researchers Career

American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Blog

Hillary Stires, PhD, and a NCCS Elevate Ambassador, shares the personal experiences that influenced her shift from a career focused in cancer research to a career focused in health policy and patient interaction.

“I was astounded. I had spent the last six years as a PhD student learning how to interpret data and compare averages. But patients are not averages – they are individuals. After this experience, I recognized that I could not truly accomplish the comprehensive training I sought without considering the needs of patient advocates like Jamie.”

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Billionaire Sean Parker is nerding out on cancer research. Science has never seen anyone quite like him


An interesting article that looks at how billionaire Sean Parker, known as an innovator and disruptor in Silicon Valley, is bringing his approach and money to cancer immunotherapy.

“While ‘medicine in general can be so staid and cautious,’ said D.A. Wallach, a life sciences investor who has known Parker since around 2011, ‘you’ve got in Sean a billionaire who doesn’t need to answer to anyone, who’s incredibly intellectually engaged with this science, and who has believed for a long time that he knows what the answer’s going to be.’”

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KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Could The ACA Really Go Away?

A Kaiser Health News (KHN) Podcast

This podcast provides a good summary of the legal threat facing the ACA due to a lower court ruling last December, and takeaways from the questioning before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals discussed above. “The legal challenge to the ACA by conservative states is a real threat to the law, but the case could still be resolved in a wide variety of ways. It is likely, however, to be appealed to the Supreme Court at some point.”

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Trump officials tell one court Obamacare is failing and another it’s thriving

Los Angeles Times

The Trump administration argues two different narratives about the ACA in different court cases. This article highlights how eliminating the individual mandate didn’t severely affect insurance enrollment rates. “In an insurance market that guarantees access to people with pre-existing conditions, there need to be both carrots and sticks to encourage healthy people to sign up for coverage and keep the market stable. It turns out, if the carrot is large enough, the stick is less important.”

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