We’ve written about climate change and its connection to public health many times in The Week That Was. And it looks like we weren’t the only ones paying attention.

This week, more than 70 health and medical groups issued a call to action to address climate change and its impact on human health. Calling it, the “greatest public health challenge of the 21st century" the signers from disease-specific associations and state-based public health groups, outlined ten priority actions. Those include incorporating climate solutions into all healthcare and public health systems and engaging the health sector voice in the call for climate action. While no pharma companies have signed on just yet, we anticipate there will be pressure to do so. Our activism expert (and co-editor) Dana Davis says – as corporate responses to social issues go - it’s a relatively “low risk” topic on which to take a stance.

Next week, we’ll be switching from green to red (and white, and blue). While we personally think healthcare policy is about as American as you can get, we’ll be taking a quick hiatus to celebrate the 4th. We hope you enjoy some fireworks in our absence!



 United Health purchased the popular online patient network PatientsLikeMe. PatientsLikeMe had been looking for a buyer following government scrutiny of foreign investments in the company. The online network will live in the insurance company’s R&D division. PatientsLikeMe says “personal data will not be transferred in any way that wasn’t part of original patient consent.” Sounds like a good time for a quick re-read of the fine print.


 AbbVie announced it will acquire Allergan for about $63B in the second largest corporate merger of the year. Unlike other recent deals, there is limited growth expectation for the combined AbbVie/Allergan portfolio. AbbVie’s CEO said the company was “not betting on the pipeline…essentially, Humira is buying the asset that will replace it in the long term.” Despite the transparency, investors may not be confident; as indicated by AbbVie and Allergan’s stocks declining.  


 Deaths from opioid overdoses are on the decline for the first time since 1990, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The reason, according to officials: increased access to naloxone, the drug that reverses opioid overdoses. The timing of the announcement aligned with a first-in-the-nation policy in New Jersey that allows first responders to administer buprenorphine, which reduces withdrawal symptoms, after they revive someone who overdosed. The policy is aimed at addressing opioid addiction by easing the transition to long-term treatment.


 A new Lancet study reported how successful the HPV vaccine has been in preventing cancer in 14 high income countries. According to the study, the prevalence of the two types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer decreased 83% among girls ages 13 to 19, and 66% among women 20 to 24 since the vaccine was introduced in 2006. While the vaccine has been recommended for people 11-26 years of age for more than a decade, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices this week recommended adults up to 45 who have not been vaccinated talk to their doctor about getting the shots.


 Former FDA Commissioner Scott “Fun Socks” Gottlieb has a new job. Gottlieb, like several other former FDA Commissioners before him, is joining the board of directors of a company he used to regulate. As part of that role, he will serve on the board’s Regulatory and Compliance Committee and the Science and Technology Committee. He says he looks forward to working with the company to “promote medical innovation, advance patient care and secure access to better healthcare outcomes for families around the world.”


 Pulse on Politics

by Michelle Leeds

It was a big week in politics with news from the Administration, Senate and the presidential campaign trail. Here’s what you need to know:

Campaign Trail
Democrats kicked off the 2020 presidential campaign this week with two nights of debate and there was no shortage of criticism for the pharma industry among the candidates. The Presidential hopefuls were quick to go after the industry as a whole, but did not call out specific companies or propose specific policies to address the cost of drugs. They drew a dotted line between high drug prices and voters’ financial concerns and often lumped the pharma and insurance industries together. In the roughly 25 minutes devoted to healthcare, insurance companies took the brunt of the beating. But, we expect drug prices will play an increased role in the conversation as policies move through Congress and the campaign season continues (for the next 16 months…).

The Trump administration signed a much anticipated Executive Order (EO) designed to make hospital bills more transparent. The EO directs HHS and other agencies to initiate a traditional rulemaking process (complete with public comment) around disclosure of hospital list prices. Notably, under the EO, the burden of disclosing pricing falls to hospitals. Insurance companies would not be required to disclose their negotiated rates. That distinction will be important as many consumers have expressed their desire for transparency around their out-of-pocket costs, which is what they pay after insurance kicks in.

Capitol Hill
On the Hill, Senators on the HELP Committee advanced a bipartisan bill designed to address a range of healthcare issues. The main attraction in the Lower Health Care Costs Act is the set of provisions aimed at preventing hospitals from delivering “surprise” medical bills to patients who might receive some portion of treatments out-of-network during a stay. But lawmakers tucked some drug pricing provisions in, too, including:

  • The CREATES Act, which would penalize drug makers that withhold samples from generic competitors.
  • A ban preventing PBMs from charging more for a drug than the PBM paid for the drug.
  • The FAIR Drug Pricing Act, which would require drug makers to notify HHS of price increases above 10%, justify the increase and disclose R&D costs.   

Elsewhere in the Senate, Finance Committee leadership is reportedly considering a sweeping deal to limit drug price increases in Medicare. Up for discussion is: 

  • Making drug companies pay rebates to Medicare Part D if their prices rise faster than the rate of inflation.
  • Making drug companies pay back Medicare if they launch a high-priced new drug.

Stay tuned to The Week That Was for updates as these policies progress.

Who wrote this? The managing editors of TWTW are Randi Kahn, who is rethinking her footwear given our fantastic new standing desks and Dana Davis, who spent 2:32 seconds in the Amazon Go store this week.

Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.

Got thoughts? Contact Randi Forward ThisblankSend to Linkedinblank

Did someone forward this to you? You’re so lucky! Sign up to receive TWTW every week.

Feeling nostalgic? We get it. Check out old TWTW issues here.


Image credits: insurance by jhon from the Noun Project, injection by Vectors Point from the Noun Project, Board of Director by Massupa  Kaewgahya from the Noun Project, American Flag by Xinh Studio from the Noun Project

And now please enjoy this disclaimer that prevents our team from getting in a heap of trouble: This report may contain links to external or third party websites. These links are provided solely for your convenience. Links taken to other sites are done so at your own risk and Syneos Health accepts no liability for any linked sites or their content. Syneos Health makes no warranties or representations, express or implied about such linked websites, the third parties they are owned and operated by, the information contained on them or the suitability or quality of any of their products or services. Syneos Health does not authorize the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material offered through these linked sites. Please refer to the use agreement and/or copyright statements of any external site you visit, or the terms and conditions of any externally provided web site for instructions, restrictions, and guidelines. If you have a question, please contact the webmaster of the external site.

About the Author:

Randi Kahn is a Senior Media & Content Director in our Reputation & Risk Management Practice, where she helps clients build and protect their brand reputations through executive thought leadership, public affairs, and issues preparation and response. She has worked for clients throughout the healthcare ecosystem including payers, providers, patient groups and pharma.