The Texas House Committee on Public Health is currently considering two new bills, House Bill 1150 and House Bill 2079. HB 1150 authorizes licensed pharmacists to independently order and administer vaccines to individuals 3 years and older, and HB 2079 expands pharmacists’ scope of practice to prescribe medications pursuant to Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) waived tests. Texas pharmacists have been administering vaccines and tests since October 2020 when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance under the COVID-19 PREP Act declaration to permit qualified pharmacy technicians under a pharmacist’s supervision to administer FDA-approved vaccines to individuals 3 and older. This bill would keep these new authorities in place as the PREP Act declaration for COVID-19 medical countermeasures expires in 2024.
A federal judge in Texas has made the unprecedented decision to suspend the FDA’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone but delayed installing the ruling to give the Biden administration time to appeal. The ruling siding with anti-abortion groups could have wide-reaching implications on medication-assisted abortions as mifepristone has exploded in use since the Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down Roe v. Wade. However, a federal judge in Washington state issued another ruling that the FDA has to keep the drug on the shelves in 12 liberal states that called for expanding access to mifepristone. The ruling does give the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) time to file for emergency relief with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. HHS has not announced its next course of action.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit last week against the Biden administration for its mandate that Paxton says “require[s] pharmacies to dispense abortion-inducing drugs in violation of state law.” The regulation was issued in July 2022 and tied the dispensing of abortion drugs to a pharmacy’s receipt of Medicare and Medicaid funds. If the pharmacy won’t dispense drugs like mifepristone, then it would jeopardize its access to those federal program funds. In 2021, Texas passed the Human Life Protection Act that prohibits abortion in Texas and carries a criminal and civil penalty. Texas claims it is injured by the Biden pharmacy mandate because it violates Texas' "sovereign interest in the power to create and enforce a legal code."
Texas state leaders have rolled out a new pilot program in the hopes of combating the opioid epidemic in Texas schools. Attorney General Ken Paxton launched the “Friday Night Lights Against Opioids” pilot program to help stop opioids from spreading in Texas communities. The campaign will target young people, especially student-athletes. Over 3.5 million at-home medication/drug disposal packets will be distributed during high school football games across Texas between October 27 and December 17. High school athletes, parents, and community leaders will help distribute the packets at each football game.
Health insurance giant Centene Corporation has agreed to pay $165.6 million to Texas to resolve claims that it overcharged the state’s Medicaid program for pharmacy services. Texas is the 12th state to settle with Centene in the corporation’s largest payout yet. Since 2021, Centene has settled with Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and 3 others (which have not been publicly disclosed) for a total of $475 million.
The Texas Tribune
HB 1919 has been signed into law, further regulating pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) practices in the state of Texas. This law prohibits a PBM, health benefit plan insurer, or its affiliate from transferring any patient data for commercial use, and it also prohibits these entities from steering patients to an affiliated pharmacy or even flat-out requiring them to go to that pharmacy.
Texas Governor Abbott signed a PBM reform bill, HB 1763, that is supported by NCPA and Texas community pharmacy advocates. The bill allows local pharmacies to mail anddeliver prescriptions, bans clawbacks, bans PBM patient-steering, prohibits PBMS from paying affiliated pharmacies more than other in-network pharmacies, and more.