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$1.2B Healthcare Crackdown, Teva's $4.35B Settlement, and Link Between High-Strength Cannabis and Addiction.
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
U.S. announces $1.2 billion healthcare crackdown tied to telehealth, cardiovascular tests
The U.S. Justice Department unveiled a $1.2 billion healthcare fraud crackdown, revealing criminal charges against 36 defendants for alleged fraudulent billing schemes tied to telemedicine, genetic and cardiovascular testing, and equipment.
The criminal charges target clinical laboratory owners, marketers, medical professionals, and telemedicine executives.
“The cases announced today include charges against people who brazenly used Medicare funds to purchase luxury items, medical professionals who corruptly approved testing and equipment, and business owners who submitted false and fraudulent claims for services patients did not need," Kenneth Polite, the head of the department's criminal division, told Reuters in a statement.
Although telemedicine played a role in prior fraud schemes, its use has greatly expanded since the pandemic, as U.S. regulators relaxed certain rules to make telemedicine more accessible to patients.
Teva reaches proposed $4.35 billion settlement of U.S. opioid lawsuits
Teva announced a $4.35 billion proposed nationwide settlement that could resolve thousands of lawsuits over the drugmaker’s alleged role in the U.S. opioid epidemic.
The proposal calls for Teva to pay state and local governments up to $3.7 billion in cash over 13 years plus a contribution of $1.2 billion worth of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. Israel-based Teva also will pay approximately $100 million to Native American tribes and pay attorneys fees incurred by the states, local governments and tribes.
Teva’s proposed settlement would allow state and local governments to opt for additional cash in lieu of an allotment of the overdose medication, at a value of 20% of the drug’s list price.
The settlement’s cash portion is higher than Teva’s chief executive suggested in May. CEO Kare Schultz told analysts at the time that he expected the company to pay around $2.6 billion in cash and medicine to reach a nationwide settlement.
For the Teva deal to take effect, Allergan must reach its own nationwide opioid settlement, and the two companies must settle a dispute over the amount Allergan owes Teva for claims filed prior to the 2016 sale.
U.S. states, cities and counties filed more than 3,000 lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, accusing them of downplaying their addiction risk and failing to stop pills from being diverted for illegal use.
The company’s insistence on including drugs as a major component of its opioid settlements has been a sticking point in past negotiations.
Teva in 2019 proposed to settle its nationwide opioid liability for $250 million in cash and $23 billion in contributed medicines that was rejected by state and local governments.
High-strength cannabis linked to addiction and mental health problems
As the strength or potency of cannabis products has increased internationally over the years, so have rates of people being treated for cannabis addiction, say the authors of a new study.
The new study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, suggests that people who use high potency cannabis are more likely to experience addiction than those using low potency products. It also suggests that people using high potency cannabis are more likely to experience a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia.
These findings may help to explain why more people have received treatment for cannabis problems over recent years. Data from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction show a 76% increase in people entering treatment for cannabis addiction in the past decade.
Based on these new results, the authors argue that public health guidelines and policies to help make cannabis use safer should be encouraged.
Lead author, Kat Petrilli from the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology explained: “Our systematic review found that people who use higher potency cannabis could be at increased risks of addiction as well as psychosis when compared to people who use cannabis products with lower potencies.
“These results are important in the context of harm reduction which aims to minimize the negative consequences associated with drug use. While the safest level of use for cannabis is of course ‘no use’, it is important to acknowledge that a significant number of people across the world use cannabis regularly and to ensure they can make informed decisions that could reduce any possible harms associated with it.”
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