In the country of the blindness cure

In some cases, Spark Therapeutics can cure a rare form of blindness (retinal dystrophy) with a new gene therapy. But how much to charge?

Experts: One. Million. Dollars.

Spark: Nah. How about the bargain price of $850,000? (You can get one eye done for half that, if you like.)

Pundits: Such a deal!

We hope they only mean layoffs

Allergan plans to cull its workers.

Prepare to facepalm

A federal investigation found that just 10 misclassified drugs* cost Medicare $1.3 billion in just four years.

Worse, only four drug makers were responsible for more than half of those “errors,” and just two drugs accounted for 90 percent of those lost rebates.

What drug makers? What drugs? The HHS inspector general won’t say.

Wait wait, it gets better. The problem could be worse, but even if CMS thinks there’s some shenanigans going on, the agency has no power to compel drug makers to provide information. (Mylan got caught in 2016 because its competitor tipped off the government.)

The inspector general thinks this should change.

* When the drug maker tries to pay a lower rebate by claiming a drug is generic rather than a brand-name product

C. diff culprit nabbed

There’s been a quiet epidemic of C. difficile infections around the country over the past 20 years (“the most common microbial cause of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals,” per the CDC), and no one knew where it was coming from.

Until now. It turns out the culprit is a sweetener called trehalose, which started being added to a lot of food in the early 2000s when the manufacturing cost dropped. Two particular strains of C. diff have genes that let them metabolize it. Result: Infection City.

Pharmacists slow to dispense naloxone

This is pretty shocking: Some pharmacists are apparently reluctant to dispense naloxone to people in danger of overdosing on opioids, citing either the cost (they’re afraid of not being reimbursed) or simply the lack of desire to help addicts.

Yes, really; 29 percent of Kentucky pharmacists said they were simply unwilling to dispense it.

Remember: In Georgia (like most states) pharmacists do not need a prescription to dispense naloxone, nor any extra training. You only need a copy of the standing order of the commissioner of public health, available at

One months of ads

AbbVie was pharma’s biggest advertising spender in December 2017, shelling out $30.9 million on ads for Humira.

Pfizer wasn’t far behind, though, with a combined $26.6 million to promote Xeljanz XR and Lyrica during the month. (If you include the $16.7 million it and Bristol-Myers Squibb spent promoting Eliquis, Pfizer actually tops the list.)

Johnson & Johnson took the number-three spot with $23.5 million on Xarelto.

Bandwagon Watch™

Add Randolph County, N.C., and Rockford, Ill. (home of the Rockford Peaches!) to the list of places suing opioid manufacturers.