Top Healthcare News, 12.5.2019 Edition: The Gene Therapy Pool…of Money

Blake Madden
4 min readDec 3, 2019


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. As you can imagine, it was a pretty sleepy week for news.

Drugs & Pharma | Gene Therapy

Billions of $$$ Invested into Gene Therapy

That’s a big gene pool. Big Pharma is betting big-time on gene therapies as its next major source of income. Already, eleven drug giants like Pfizer and Novartis have invested over $2 billion into gene therapy research and development since 2018, according to Reuters.

Here’s the super risky part, though. Gene therapy research is extremely costly. It takes a huge amount of money to bring a drug (once they even find one) from start to finish. So naturally, the drugs that come will probably be pretty pricey, too.

Innovation | Amazon

Amazon’s Voice-to-Text Transcription Service

In one of the less-sexy but completely-essential health tech products announced this week, Amazon unveiled a software called Transcribe Medical. The software will (hopefully) free up a ton of doctor time by transcribing doctor notes accurately. As we’ve all heard, administrative tasks and electronic health records are a huge cause ofburnout among physicians, and this product addresses that. Kudos, Amazon.

Competitive Nature.

Interestingly, Amazon is only making this software available to clients who use Amazon Web Services. You think Bezos is blind to competition?

Innovation | Disruption

Kroger & Best Buy Each Expand their Healthcare Initiatives

Kroger expands new health care initiative — Kroger 360care

Grocery chain Kroger has launched a healthcare initiative that allows hospitals to use its stores to expand care offerings to patients, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. The grocery chain appears to be targeting a similar healthcare strategy to Walmart: helping patients to access lower-cost healthcare.

In other news, Best Buy is continuing its push into the digital health space. Did you know they’ve already invested $1 billion in healthcare ventures?

Big Pharma | Opioid Crisis

Criminal Probe Launched for more Opioid Drug-Makers

Federal prosecutors are launching a criminal probe into whether or not opioid producing companies violated the Controlled Substances Act.

Thoughts from the Week.

What’s next?

It’s been a pretty disappointing fall session for Congress from a healthcare standpoint. While surprise billing and drug pricing were hot and heavy topics, the policy proposals are in a complete gridlock right now.

I can’t imagine anything changing anytime soon while the impeachment proceedings trudge on and the ACA has its day back in court. So my big question is…. what’s next for healthcare?

At this point, it looks like we might not see any real results before the 2020 election.

Policy Corner

Regulatory | HHS

HHS and CMS are Butting Heads

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CMS chief Seema Verma seem to be clashing quite a bit in the Oval Office, according to Politico’s anonymous sources. The story goes as far as suggesting that Azar is trying to push Verma out. That’s some high school level drama, eh?

Regulatory | Vaping

Trump Doesn’t Want to Risk Vaping Ban

Amidst the health concerns surrounding vaping and the continued push for a permanent ban, researchers are saying “hold up.”

We’re also forgetting the potential political implications of an outright vaping ban. About 10% of Trump’s constituency vapes. I’m sure he’s just gonna ignore that and ban vaping, anyway.

Medicaid | Tennessee

Tennessee Wants to Overhaul Medicaid

Tennessee has found itself as the guinea pig over the future of Medicaid in a highly controversial proposal. In a first for any state, Tennessee asked the federal government for a ‘block grant’ lump sum to fund its Medicaid program, rather than the ‘pay as you go’ program currently funded by the federal government.

Payment Models | Radiation Oncology

CMS Delays the Radiation Oncology Payment Model

This week, CMS, who’s in charge of how much Medicare pays for health services, delayed its controversial payment re-design for the radiation oncology industry (that’s people who receive radiation treatment for cancer).

Quick Hits

  • Interested in healthcare social media influencers?
  • Birth rates in the U.S. fell for the 4th year in a row
  • A kidney went to the wrong transplant patient. (Don’t worry, the original patient got another one. I already checked.)
  • We’re seeing the earliest flu season in 10 years.
  • Former Outcome Health Executives were Charged in a $1 Billion fraud scheme.
  • UnitedHealthcare is opening Medicare Services Centers in certain Walgreens Stores.
  • The Great American Eye-Exam Scam

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Originally published at on December 3, 2019.



Blake Madden

I write about healthcare. Policy, business, digital health, & more. Written in plain English. Here to connect, learn, and continue the healthcare convo.