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What RFK’s new lane means

Robert F. Kennedy is officially running for president as an independent. In a Monday afternoon Philadelphia rally, the Kennedy family scion harkened back to the Declaration of Independence and “the one other president who did not have a political party” (George Washington), promising to take on D.C. influence and the powerful industry players who sway it, including pharmaceutical companies.


“Big Oil funds the Republicans; Big Tech funds the Democrats. Big Pharma and the military contractors make sure to give to both,” Kennedy said to a crowd of hundreds chanting “Bobby” as he spelled out an agenda that he says would break from normal Washington politics.

Kennedy has historically questioned the safety of vaccines and the policies that shaped Covid-19 shutdowns, both of which he brought up repeatedly during the rally. But in a sign of what’s to come for the burgeoning presidential candidate (who has shown more favorability in polling than both Biden and Trump), Kennedy painted himself as a centrist making space for all sides, even on the sharpest health care debates in the country.

“I’m proud I’m proud to say that my supporters include both pro lifers and pro choicers. They include climate activists and climate skeptics. They include vaccinated and unvaccinated,” he said — to thundering applause.


Beating the bushes for obesity drug research

If you know of research on whether obesity drugs save or cost the federal government money, congressional budget experts would like to see it, my colleague John Wilkerson reports.

Nearly 20% of seniors are obese, so at an annual net price of $13,600, weight-loss drugs would cost Medicare several billion dollars annually. Though expensive, the drugs could hypothetically save money by, for example, reducing the number of patients with heart problems. The Congressional Budget Office is not aware of research linking weight-loss drugs to lower costs elsewhere in the health care system, so the CBO director put out an all-points-bulletin for studies on the impact of the drugs to the federal budget.

It’s only recently that the CBO began publicly asking for research on specific topics. Former Director Doug Holtz-Eakin said the announcements remind the public that the CBO bases projections on a wide range of outside research, and they help spread the word in the wake of the pandemic, now that fewer researchers go to events in person. “It can’t hurt,” he said.

A German drug company and an American plan

Boehringer Ingelheim’s diabetes drug Jardiance is one of the lucky 10 in the Biden administration’s plan to negotiate prices. The company is also invested in obesity treatment, which, as John just reported, is a hot field with a lot of cost questions. Boehringer’s head of innovation Michel Pairet sat down with STAT’s Andrew Joseph to talk about those drugs and the company’s plan going forward.

On the drug negotiation plan, which every targeted pharmaceutical company signed onto earlier this month, Pairet took the refrain of many drugmakers. He warned that price cuts could mean fewer new medicines down the line. “At some point in time… we will have to make sometimes painful decisions — painful decisions for the patients, because there are disease areas that we might not be able to address.”

Read the full interview from Drew here.

The ‘insanity’ of new nursing home policies

Some of the country’s top Medicare experts aren’t sold on a new Biden administration plan to enforce stricter staffing requirements in nursing homes.

Medicare last month proposed new rules that would require long-term care facilities to have a registered nurse on site 24/7. There’s also minimum staffing ratios that require those nurses and nursing assistants to put in a certain amount of hours a day with patients.

Some advocates say the rule is a long overdue change to a system exposed by the Covid-19 crisis. But experts in front of a Medicare panel last week argued that the rule could create more problems than it solves, my colleague Tara Bannow reports. Besides costs and staff turnover, most facilities simply can’t comply, they argue. More from Tara on the infighting.

What we’re reading

FDA rejects Alnylam’s heart disease treatment over insufficient data, STAT

Should you pick Novavax’s Covid-19 shot over mRNA options? Science

Access to new tools to combat RSV in babies likely to prove challenging, STAT

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