The MHA received media coverage the week of July 17 regarding the healthcare workforce, federal legislation to address drug shortages and bills signed by Gov. Whitmer eliminating burdensome provisions in the Healthy Michigan Plan and making changes to help ensure the program’s long-term success.
MHA CEO Brian Peters is quoted in multiple stories. Below is a collection of headlines from around the state.
“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” — Albert Einstein
The shortage of key cancer treatment drugs carboplatin and cisplatin made national headlines in recent weeks, as hospitals implemented multiple strategies to maintain care for their patients when supply of these two drugs was remarkably low to nonexistent. While this shortage deservedly caught the attention of the nation, hospitals must navigate dozens to hundreds of drug shortages every day. This shortage is a worst-case example of how inefficiencies in the pharmaceutical supply chain can have devasting impacts on patient care.
Unfortunately, hospitals far too often must manage short supply of drugs, seek alternative sources for drugs, adjust treatment regimens and collaborate with other health systems to maximize supply. Hospitals throughout the state used all these tactics to respond to the recent crisis.
I’m proud the MHA was able to quickly raise the flag on this issue to our lawmakers as soon as we became aware of it. U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs and has prioritized drug shortages as a national security concern. His report from March 2023 shares a wealth of information on the subject, including all the problems associated with drug shortages and recommended solutions. His committee has been a key partner in providing accurate information about the shortage to Michigan hospitals.
In addition, U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor) and Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) led Michigan’s US House delegation in sending a bipartisan letter May 24 to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf to take immediate action to mitigate the effects of the nationwide shortage. I’m happy to share every member of our House delegation signed on to the letter, showing the health of our hospitals, patients and communities is truly a bipartisan issue.
Our work will continue on this issue far after the supply of these two drugs stabilizes, as the MHA supports several strategies that will address drug shortages. The first is relaxing prior authorization requirements from health insurers for alternative therapies during a shortage so they can be used widely. Federally, we believe establishing an early warning system will help avoid or minimize drug shortages so both manufacturers and providers have more time to respond to an upcoming shortage. Healthcare providers also welcome improved communication from the FDA and drug manufacturers, as there is often little to no transparency on the cause of a drug shortage. Lastly, changing the economic model to encourage drug manufacturers to stay in, re-enter or initially enter the market would be beneficial to all stakeholders. Many shortages occur with generic drugs due to a limited number of drug manufacturers.
In addition to the public policy arena, it is noteworthy that hospitals across the country – including several of our MHA members – helped to launch Civica, an entity that is helping to increase the production and availability of key generic drugs. While not directly applicable to the current cancer drug shortage at this time, this effort is an example of the field looking to the future and doing all we can to ensure appropriate healthcare access to patients.
Finally, I’d like to lift up the MHA’s response to this crisis as a great example of the value of an association. Since we represent all acute care community hospitals in Michigan, we’re able to speak with a unified voice. The MHA has the relationships and institutional knowledge to quickly convene ad hoc groups in times of crisis to gather knowledge on the subject and what needs to be done, and then can execute and utilize our long-standing partnerships with lawmakers, both at the state and federal levels, to generate necessary awareness and action. By looking at national headlines, Michigan has been a leader in the shortage of carboplatin and cisplatin. That’s a testament to the health of our association and the culture we have helped to establish, whereby safety and quality engender collaboration and not competition within our hospital and health system membership.
As federal regulatory agencies evaluate COVID-19 vaccine and treatment possibilities, more than 5.5 million Michigan residents ages 16 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine to protect them against the deadly disease, equating to 68.2% of that population as of Oct. 15. Meanwhile, despite the rate of new cases decreasing in many of the states that had been experiencing a surge in hospitalizations and deaths, cases in Michigan have been increasing. Nearly 8,300 new cases were reported for Oct. 14 and 15, with 2,010 adults and 29 children hospitalized in the state Oct. 15. Total deaths in Michigan attributed to confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 21,563 Oct. 15.
The MHA continues to keep members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.
Moderna Expiration Date Extended for Frozen Vaccines
The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS) announced Oct. 13 that Moderna received approval for a two-month extension of FROZEN Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Some lots with an initial expiration of September or October will be extended if stored in frozen state. Seventy-eight lots are impacted by this extension.
The MDHHS does not have a list of these lot numbers, but Moderna is working diligently to get the extended lots updated in their tools and databases, with a priority on older lots first. To look up Moderna expiration, scan the QR code located on the carton or use the company’s expiration date lookup feature on its website. Healthcare providers are encouraged to continue checking these resources to determine whether they have lots that are impacted by this extension. Moderna vaccine should not be disposed of until an accurate expiration date is assessed.
Merck Requests FDA Approval for COVID-19 Treatment Pill
Merck formally requested approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Oct. 13 for a groundbreaking antiviral medication that effectively treats COVID-19. Trials demonstrate the treatment regimen, which comes in pill form that patients can take themselves at home, reduced risk of hospitalization and severe illness by at least 50%.
Approval would add a new effective treatment to providers’ toolboxes in keeping patients with COVID-19 out of the hospital. Unlike currently available antibody treatments that require providers to set up and staff infusion clinics, the pill could help provide relief to providers struggling with staffing and other treatment resources. If approved, the MHA will advocate that all payers, both public and private, cover the drug for all covered lives.
The MHA will keep members apprised of developments on this issue.
CDC Releases Planning Information for Vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued an initial planning document for jurisdictions to prepare for the distribution of vaccines for children ages 5 to 11. The document provides initial information pertaining to pediatric COVID-19 vaccines, as well as several assumptions that can be made about the pediatric COVID-19 vaccination program. Specifically, the document highlights the packaging changes and storage requirements for the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. The Pfizer vaccine for this age group is currently under review at the FDA, and a decision on whether an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the product will be granted is expected in the coming weeks.
Ordering of the Pfizer vaccine and any subsequent pediatric COVID-19 vaccines will begin when the FDA issues an EUA. Vaccine administration will begin once the CDC director makes a determination after reviewing recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The MHA will keep members apprised of developments on the vaccine for younger children. Members with questions may contact Ruthanne Sudderth at the MHA.
U.S. Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee Requests Provider Input
Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, and the committee’s ranking member Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) are seeking firsthand accounts from individuals and organizations (healthcare providers, state and local governments, first responders, etc.) who experienced challenges securing personal protective equipment and other medical products during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the committee request is open-ended.
This is part of the committee’s ongoing oversight of federal pandemic preparedness and the COVID-19 response. The committee will examine reports of fraud, exploitation, and faulty equipment and medical supplies. To this end, providers can report issues about vendors, counterfeit medical products, price-gouging or other challenges obtaining supplies during the response. The information received will help inform the senators’ bipartisan oversight and efforts to strengthen U.S. medical supply chains, improve emergency preparedness, highlight new and successful supply chain methods, and prevent bad actors from taking advantage of future national crises. Members interested in submitting their experiences can do so online.