The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) said it is initiating a fast-track program for ex parte appeals for patents at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which will require payment of a fee. PTO said the program, the Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program, will advance any petitioned appeals with the objective of reaching a decision on that appeal within six months, and is limited to 500 appeals unless that number has not been reached by July 2, 2021. The agency said it may extend the program beyond that date temporarily or permanently.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it will extend its partnership with pharmacy and grocery retailers to provide continued access to COVID-19 testing access, including in underserved communities. HHS said the program has stood up more than 600 sites in 48 states and the District of Columbia, and that roughly 70% of these are located in communities with moderate-to-high social vulnerability. The program pays the participating drug stores and grocery stores with a flat fee for administering each test, HHS said.

The U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services said it will conduct a study of Medicare coverage of respiratory pathogen panel tests for the COVID-19 pandemic in response to relaxed Medicare coverage rules for payment of such tests. OIG said the changes made by the CMS allows non-physician practitioners to prescribe tests, which could enable fraudulent billings by unscrupulous actors. The report will be issued at an unspecified date in 2021.

The Advanced Medical Technology Association (Advamed) said in a July 1 statement that it has petitioned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to extend the federal public health emergency (PHE) beyond the existing expiration date. Advamed President and CEO Scott Whitaker said that since the inception of the state of emergency for the COVID-9 pandemic, the medical device industry has delivered 86 commercial in vitro diagnostic tests and is delivering 10,000 ventilators per week. Whitaker supported a proposal to extend the PHE, adding that some of the provisions extended by HHS should be made permanent, including provisions for telehealth.

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