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Pharmaceuticals

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The federal approval of a controversial drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease has reignited the debate over drug prices and the way the Food and Drug Administration makes decisions. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden seeks to gain goodwill overseas as he announces the U.S. will provide 500 million doses of covid vaccine to international health efforts. Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Joanne Kenen of Politico join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also, Rovner interviews Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. And to mark the podcast’s 200th episode, the panelists discuss what has surprised them most and least over the past four years.

Republicans, Democrats and the public at large agree that prices for prescription drugs are too high. But no one seems to know how to fix it. Vanderbilt University drug price researcher Stacie Dusetzina explains the basics of why drugs cost so much and why it’s hard to do something about it. Joanne Kenen of Politico, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet and Anna Edney of Bloomberg News join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss the prospects for policy changes.

Lawmakers are working on fleshing out the concept of a “public option,” a government-run or heavily regulated insurance plan that would compete with private insurance. But the details are complicated, both substantively and politically. Meanwhile, bioethicists are debating whether the U.S. should be vaccinating low-risk adolescents against covid-19 while high-risk adults in other countries are still waiting. Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico and Rachana Pradhan of KHN join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too.