A federal judge on Monday ruled in favor of three major drug distributors in a lawsuit that accused them of causing a public health crisis in Cabell County, West Virginia, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from Connecticut, Georgia, and West Virginia.
- Connecticut: Aetna on Friday reversed a year-old policy that required prior authorization for cataract surgery. The reversal, which took place after Aetna reviewed 12 months' worth of data on the surgeries, means that the insurer's 24.5 million members will no longer need to obtain prior authorization before cataract surgery, except for Medicare Advantage enrollees in Georgia and Florida. Notably, the reversal comes amid growing federal scrutiny on inappropriate uses of prior authorization among Medicare Advantage carriers. "We regularly evaluate and update our clinical policies and processes to help ensure our members are provided with the best care," an Aetna spokesperson said. "This decision supports that practice." (Tepper, Modern Healthcare, 7/1)
- Georgia: CDC on Saturday announced that a listeria outbreak that has resulted in the death of one person and the hospitalization of 22 others across 10 states was tied to ice cream from Big Olaf Creamery in Florida. According to CDC, the infections occurred over the last six months and affected individuals less than one year old to 92 years old. Among 17 individuals interviewed by CDC, 14 reported that they had consumed ice cream. Of those, six reported consuming ice cream from Big Olaf or locations that might have sold the brand. Notably, the creamery only sells ice cream in Florida—and 10 of the hospitalized patients lived in another state but had visited Florida in the past month. While a full recall has not been issued, Big Olaf on Friday began contacting all retail locations to advise against selling the ice cream, and CDC has directed customers to throw away any product from the brand. (Chung, New York Times, 7/3)
- West Virginia: A federal judge on Monday ruled in favor of AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, in a lawsuit that accused them of causing a public health crisis by distributing 81 million pills over eight years in Cabell County, West Virginia. The lawsuit, filed by Cabell County and the City of Huntington, alleged that the drug distributors created a public nuisance. In particular, Cabell County attorney Paul Farrell argued that the distributors should be held responsible for sending a "tsunami" of prescription pain pills into the county, adding that the distributors' conduct was unreasonable, reckless, and showed a lack of regard for the public's health and safety. Ultimately, U.S. District Judge David Faber ruled that Cabell County and the City of Huntington "failed to show that the volume of prescription opioids distributed in Cabell/Huntington was because of unreasonable conduct on the part of defendants." He added, "The opioid crisis has taken a considerable toll on the citizens of Cabell County and the City of Huntington. And while there is a natural tendency to assign blame in such cases, they must be decided not based on sympathy, but on the facts and the law." (AP/NPR, 7/4)