Fall’s around the corner and the crisper air may have you grabbing a hoodie… but not one of the ones in the news this week.

As the number of people suffering from a vaping-related lung illness rises (last count was 530 and 8 people have died from it), a new hoodie helps people (including kids) camouflage their vaping habit so they can get their nicotine anywhere, anytime.

Other eyebrow-raising sweatshirts feature school names where mass shootings have taken place with holes insinuating gunshots. A company cofounder says it wanted to make a statement on gun violence to influence policy changes while also empowering the survivors. It’s definitely gotten people talking, but perhaps not in the way intended.

Now time to snuggle up in non-controversial autumn wear and read some of the week’s healthcare news.



A study from Sector & Sovereign Research (SSR), a research company that tracks the pharmaceutical industry, shows that list price increases have slowed and net prices have actually fallen compared to this time last year—evidence that the trend of limiting price increases to less than 10% continues. Nearly 50% of products took no list price increase at all. With today’s political climate and the intense focus on healthcare costs, SSR expects this trend to continue at least through the election.


America’s favorite game show host, Alex Trebek, is back on chemo. The Jeopardy icon has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and had said just a few weeks ago that he was done with treatment and was “on the mend”. Lucky for us, Trebek says he will continue to host his show for now. He says, “As long as I can walk out, and greet the audience and the contestants, and run the game, I'm happy.”   


Audrey Gelman, the CEO of Wing, a woman-focused co-working space collective and club, was the first pregnant CEO to appear on the cover of a business magazine. Gelman says she hopes women see her cover and “feel the confidence to take greater professional risks while also not shelving their dreams of becoming a mother and starting a family." In the healthcare industry where less than 10% of women are CEOs, sharing and supporting images like this one are powerful tools, particularly as more companies focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives. 


Millions of senior citizens attempting to fill prescriptions are getting rejected at pharmacy counters each year. A federal watchdog report showed 3.45% total pharmacy claims through Medicare Part D are rejected each year. The reason: administrative complexity that prevents prescribing clinicians from accessing formularies and the specific requirements for prescribing. CMS is working to integrate an electronic real-time benefit tool, which would improve communications between clinicians and pharmacists, by 2021. 


In preparation for flu season, the Trump Administration issued an executive order to advance the development of a universal flu vaccine and influenza vaccines that are not egg-based. Funding for government-led research and/or incentives for private companies to develop these new vaccines will need to come through the appropriations process in Congress, so implementation is uncertain. In the meantime, you can find us at our local clinic this weekend getting our vaccination for the year.

It's here!

By Paul Tyahla

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has officially rolled out the prescription drug pricing plan we’ve all be speculating about.

The political future of the bill is uncertain, but its release shows growing momentum on a few key issues: direct negotiation between Medicare and drug companies and connecting the price of medicines in the U.S. to the price paid internationally.

That Speaker Pelosi authored the legislation in the first place carries weight and means this is a high-priority issue to House Democrats. Committee hearings on the bill are expected as early as next week.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Direct the Health and Human Services Secretary to identify 250 drugs without “meaningful competition” each year, and negotiate the prices of at least 25 of them.
    • The negotiated price could not exceed 120% of the average of what other advanced countries pay for the medicines.
    • Manufacturers that fail to negotiate and reach agreement could face excise taxes on that product’s annual gross sales starting at 65% (and increasing 10% every quarter that it remains out of compliance).
    • The manufacturer would be required to offer the negotiated price to commercial plans.
  • Limit price increases in Medicare Part D and Part B to inflation applied retroactively to 2016. (The rate of inflation was 1.7% in the last 12 months.)
  • Create an out-of-pocket maximum of $2,000 for Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Reinvest Medicare cost savings achieved from negotiated prices to funding research at NIH.

Stay tuned to The Week That Was for progress updates and reach out to RRM as you prepare to react.

WeWork is Not Working (for investors)

By Eric Laub 

WeWork dominated financial headlines this week, delaying their IPO again due to significant negative investor sentiment. In a world of unicorns and phoenixes, investors initially expected WeWork would go public without issue, but after a long series of setbacks the company continues to be snubbed by investors. 

So what are the issues investors are grappling with?
1.         Corporate governance (board oversight and control)
2.         Valuation is too expansive
3.         CEO compensation
4.         Contract and lease agreement concerns
5.         Post-IPO performance of other Unicorns – Snapchat, Uber, Lyft, Slack

The net/net

The financial sector has raised concerns about the worrisome trajectory of the economy and this is one more sign the market is shifting – a trend that impacts life science companies as well. Investors are scrutinizing investments more than ever in an attempt to mitigate potential risks—and their interest in new offerings is waning.

WeWork is a symptom of this much larger trend towards risk adverse behavior from the investment community. We project healthcare investors will continue to heighten their scrutiny, but companies with strong fundamentals, great science and solid leadership will continue to have investor interest.

We’ll continue to assess the environment to help you with financial communications planning in the run-up to JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Drop us a line with questions!

Who wrote this? The managing editor of TWTW is Randi Kahn, who is especially grateful for her RRM teammates for their contributions this week. Kudos to Rose Shelley, Amanda Eiber, Miriam Kalnicki, Paul Tyahla and Eric Laub. 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.

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Image credits: sort price high to low by Sophia Bai from the Noun Project, Correct Answer by Björn Andersson from the Noun Project, pregnant woman by Alice Noir from the Noun Project, Pharmacy by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project, Measles Vaccine by Jason Dilworth from the Noun Project, Congress by MRFA from the Noun Project, IPO by Dama Adhikara 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.