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POLITICO New York Health Care: Restaurants sue health department; 'pharma bro' has no regrets

Dear readers: POLITICO New York Pro subscribers receive this email at 5:30 a.m. each weekday. If you'd like to receive it at that time, along with a customized real-time news feed of New York health care policy news throughout the day, please contact us at and we'll set you up for trial access.

written by Dan Goldberg

A ‘NONSENSICAL SCHEME’ — The National Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging the New York City Board of Health overreached when it approved new regulations requiring sodium warning labels at certain restaurants. The outcome of the case could determine what role the Board of Health plays in New York City, and whether the health commissioner is empowered to regulate the industries believed to cause the most harm. Read my story here:

...The case comes down to whether a court finds the sodium rule more like calorie counts on menu boards, or like the portion cap rule, which became known as the “soda ban.” The association claims that calorie counts were different because they were just numbers and came with no warning, unlike this rule, which links high sodium to heart disease and stroke. But the soda ban was different, too, because that limited what a restaurant could serve. This is merely informational. Read the lawsuit here:

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AND MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW Josefa and me on Twitter @J__Velasquez & @DanCGoldberg. And for all New Jersey health news, check out @katiedjennings

PHARMA BRO — If Martin Shkreli could rewind the clock three months — back before he raised the price of Daraprim to $750 per tablet from $13.50, back before he was condemned a greedy “pharma bro,” back before he was the subject of federal investigations — he would have … raised the price even higher. "I think I could have it raised it higher and made even more profit," Shkreli said Thursday morning at a Forbes Healthcare Summit in Manhattan. The controversial CEO explained he has one job — to maximize return for his investors — and nothing, certainly not some bad press, would deter him. This story is filled with delectable quotes. Read it here:

...Check out this video of Shkreli jousting with an executive from Express Scripts. It’s worth your click.

...But more seriously, I want to ask readers, regardless of Shkreli’s demeanor, how is his stance on maximizing profit that much different from Gilead’s or any other drug company?

CLUES FROM HOLMES — Despite a torrent of negative publicity and harsh scrutiny, Theranos — the upstart Silicon Valley company that promises to revolutionize blood testing — says it is seeing more patient interest than ever before. “In the last four weeks, we’ve seen our highest volume," CEO Elizabeth Holmes said Thursday evening at a Forbes health care summit in Manhattan.

NOW WE KNOW — Scientists can now confirm your girlfriend is changing you, at least when it comes to drinking. (Your boyfriend is changing you, too.) Results of the study showed that adolescents who dated were more similar to dating partners than to friends on measures of alcohol abuse. "The results confirm what most friends complain about - romantic partners are a distraction from friendships," said Dr. Brett Laursen, one of the authors and a professor and graduate studies coordinator in the Department of Psychology at Florida Atlantic University. “Friends no longer shape drinking habits the way they used to. Romantic partners now dictate terms. Your friends were right: You aren't the same person you were when you were single."

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SKELOS AND PRI — When Adam Skelos felt that he was being "picked on" at his seldom-show job at a medical malpractice insurer, he called his father, then senate majority leader Dean Skelos, to help sort it out. Anthony Bonomo, the head of Physicians Reciprocal Insurers and a prolific political donor, testified Thursday at the Skelos corruption trial, noting that less than two weeks after being hired as a program manager for the Long Island-based company, Adam Skelos relayed to his father that his supervisor, Christopher Curcio, was treating him unfairly. The complaint then prompted a call to Bonomo from the Nassau County lawmaker. POLITICO New York Josefa Velasquez has more:

MEDICAL MARIJUANA CONCERNS — Crain’s examines the current state of New York’s budding medical marijuana program. “Even if the dispensaries open on schedule, lawmakers are worried that the cannabis products will remain out of patients' reach. They say the state has not done enough to get physicians interested in recommending patients for cannabis cards, which means there will be fewer customers. Patients and lawmakers also are concerned drug prices will be high, because they have been given no clarification from the state, which will set rates based on marijuana companies' production costs. The state Health Department will not reveal how many doctors have signed up for the four-hour course they are required to take to register patients, said state Sen. Diane Savino during a panel on medical marijuana in Manhattan Wednesday evening.”

HEALTHY COMMUNITIES — The Wall Street Journal explains Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Building Healthy Communities initiative. “The multimillion-dollar public-private partnership aims to improve the health of New Yorkers in 12 communities that have limited access to healthy food and are sometimes referred to as food deserts. The initiative plans to build more urban farms, expand school gardens and establish community-center culinary programs and farmers markets.”

JOB LISTING — Bloomberg News is looking for a reporter to cover the pharmaceutical industry.

HAPPENING TODAY — Americans for Tax Fairness plan to protest at noon outside Pfizer’s headquarters at 42nd and 2nd. The group is protesting Pfizer’s planned inversion, which will allow it to avoid certain U.S. taxes. State Sen. Liz Krueger and Public Advocate Letitia James are expected to speak.

ACROSS THE RIVER: The vote split along party lines, but New Jersey Assembly Democrats ultimately prevailed in passing a bill on Thursday that would ban inverted companies — U.S. firms that incorporate abroad to reduce their corporate tax rate — from receiving state contracts or subsidies. It would also require the companies to repay any subsidies that have already been doled out. Interest in the issue was renewed in the wake of Pfizer’s recent announcement that it had agreed to a $160 billion merger with the smaller, Ireland-based Allergan. Pfizer will move its headquarters to Ireland to take advantage of the lower corporate tax rate there. POLITICO New Jersey’s Katie Jennings has more:

-JERSEY’S OBAMACARE NUMBERS — More than 56,000 New Jersey residents have selected an Obamacare exchange health plan during the open enrollment period, according to the the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than 208,000 people were enrolled in the exchange at the end of the last year’s open enrollment period.


-KABUKI OR KAMAKAZI? — The Senate on Thursday passed its reconciliation package, which repeals Obamacare. Before reading further, it is important to remember the President will veto this bill. Sens. Susan Collins and Mark Kirk were the only Republicans who voted against the bill along with all Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders didn't vote.

...POLITICO reports on the last-minute adds, including language that would defund the Prevention and Public Health Fund, as well as provisions to repeal the law's reinsurance provisions, the tax on health insurance plans and many other taxes, such as the tanning salon tax and a fee on health savings accounts. Republicans came up with an additional $750 million to help states address mental health needs and substance abuse disorders. The House will still have to approve the Senate package, but that's not expected to be much trouble.

...Senate Democrats blocked Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare's risk corridors, saying it would violate Senate's budget rules. Sen. Marco Rubio, a longtime critic of the program, took to the floor to blast their move as "outrageous."

...Senate Republicans retaliated, striking a Democratic amendment to preserve tax credits for vets, individuals who lost their jobs, victims of domestic violence and Americans with diseases like hepatitis C and cancer.

-SENATE VOTES TO REPEAL CADILLAC TAX — The Senate approved an amendment repealing Obamacare's Cadillac tax by a 90-10 vote, according to POLITICO. “The huge bipartisan support highlights the vulnerability of the controversial tax on high-cost employer plans. Although the bill will ultimately be vetoed, today's vote -- the first ever on the tax -- sets the stage for further action to repeal or delay the levy strongly opposed by unions and businesses.” The 10 who voted against are: Republicans Dan Coats, Bob Corker, and Ben Sasse, and Democrats Barbara Boxer, Tom Carper, Dick Durbin, Tim Kaine, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill and Mark Warner.

-PAUL RYAN GOES AFTER AHIP — Speaker Paul Ryan took a swing at Marilyn Tavenner, the former CMS administrator and new president of AHIP, the insurance lobby, according to POLITICO. He was talking about the relationship between big government and big business. “This is how it works: Smart, talented people go into government thinking the only way to fix complicated problems is with complicated laws—laws that only people like themselves can understand…” Ryan said. “And then they go into the private sector and help businesses navigate the very maze they created. If the insurance industry does not understand how Obamacare works, why not hire the person who ran it? This works out great for them. …That’s how today’s experts become tomorrow’s cronies.”

-PUTTING GENES BACK IN THE BOTTLE — The New York Times reports: “An international group of scientists meeting in Washington called on Thursday for what would, in effect, be a moratorium on making inheritable changes to the human genome. The group said it would be ‘irresponsible to proceed’ until the risks could be better assessed and until there was ‘broad societal consensus about the appropriateness’ of any proposed change. The group also held open the possibility for such work to proceed at some point in the future by saying that as knowledge advances, ‘the clinical use of germline editing should be revisited on a regular basis.’”

-FITCH ON UNITED — “Fitch Ratings has affirmed the 'A' Issuer Default Rating and 'A-' senior unsecured notes rating of UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (UNH) as well as the 'AA-' Insurer Financial Strength ratings of its insurance company subsidiaries. The Rating Outlook is Negative. See the complete list of rating actions at the end of this release.”

-FITCH ON OTHER INSURERS — “Revenues and earnings for U.S. insurance brokers are likely to modestly improve in 2016 relative to levels reported through nine months of 2015.”

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from Community Healthcare Network provider Tyler Evans, director of preventative medicine and associate medical director. In men older than 45 and women older than, a daily aspirin (between 75 and 100 mg) can significantly reduce serious cardiovascular events.”


-WHERE IT ALL BEGINS — Researchers from NYU’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research examined associations between frequency and recency of nonmedical use of opioids and heroin among students. They found 12.4 percent of students reported lifetime nonmedical opioid use and 1.2 reported lifetime heroin use. The more often a student used opioids the more likely he, or she, was to try heroin, and three-quarters of heroin users reported lifetime nonmedical opioid use.

-COST-BENEFIT — Ed Silverman looks at a study that examined the cost effectiveness of treating prisoners who have Hepatitis C. “Using computer models, the researchers determined that treatment could lower infection among both prisoners and society, overall. How so? If more inmates are treated, the disease would be less likely to spread within prisons, where an estimated 17 percent of the population is already infected. Beyond that, hepatitis C would be less likely to spread in the wider population once inmates are released.”

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 12/3, 12/2, 12/1, 11/30, 11/25

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