HEALTHCARE BRIEFING: Biden urges response to drug trafficking
A bipartisan group of senators renews its push to permanently ban highly addictive fentanyl analogues but is waiting for the Biden government to intervene first.
The surge in overdose deaths in the US is being driven in part by the presence of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be made in a number of ways, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) said. The two want to enable the federal government to count fentanyl-like drugs among the most heavily controlled substances.
“Fentanyl analogs are driving up the death toll,” Grassley said yesterday at a Senate committee hearing on international narcotics control. The two senators’ call for enforcement powers against human traffickers reflected growing pressure on the Biden government to crack down on trafficking and curb overdose deaths.
Earlier this year, Congress extended the government’s powers to ban fentanyl-like substances until the end of October. Some lawmakers wanted these authorities phased out, arguing that they contribute to excessive surveillance of people with addiction problems.
The Biden government in April asked lawmakers to temporarily extend the power to give time to outline a comprehensive approach to dealing with drug trafficking and planning fentanyl substances – to add drugs to the banned substances list to record.
Regina LaBelle, acting head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said yesterday that her office would give lawmakers a recommendation on whether to extend the authorities before the October expiration. “We are grateful that Congress extended the preliminary planning earlier this year as it gives us the opportunity to develop a consensus approach,” she said. Read more from Alex Ruoff.
Done on the hill
Energy and Trade Surcharge: The House Energy and Trade Committee is expected to record 16 health bills, including:
- HR 2379 to re-approve and expand a governmental grant program to respond to the Opioid Use Disorder Crisis;
- HR 2364 to conduct a public awareness campaign to raise public awareness of synthetic opioids;
- HR 2355 to facilitate responsible, informed dispensing of controlled substances and other prescribed medications;
- HR 951 for the implementation of a national campaign to raise awareness of the importance of maternal vaccination for the health of pregnant women and childbeds as well as their children;
- HR 3742 to issue revised regulations requiring the dissemination of information on recommended vaccinations of the Advisory Committee on Vaccination Practices to care facility staff; and
- HR 2347 to ensure adequate access to vaccines under the Medicaid program and the Childhood Vaccines program.
Hearings on the Hill:
- Differences in Life Expectancy: The Senate Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Primary Health and Old-Age Insurance holds a hearing on differences in life expectancy.
- Extreme heat: The House’s Science, Space and Technology subcommittee is holding a hearing on extreme heat in the United States
Clyburn Investigates Pandemic Evictions: House Majority Whip James Clyburn (DS.C.), who chairs the Select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, is requesting documents from four corporate tenants with “high clearance rates” during the Covid-19 pandemic. Invitation Homes, Pretium Partners, Ventron Management and the Siegel Group have requested over 5,000 evictions during the crisis, according to a statement.
Advances in Pandemic Preparedness Act: House Legislators have tabled a bill aimed at ending bottlenecks in domestic personal protective equipment supply chains in preparation for future pandemics. The House Oversight and Reform Committee unanimously approved HR 4470 yesterday. The next stop is the house floor. Read more from Allie Reed.
Senators seek updates on antitrust law in healthcare: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) And Steve Daines (R-Mont.) Yesterday asked the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice for updates on their efforts to combat anti-competitive behavior in the health insurance sector, a statement said. The letter comes after the law on the reform of occupational health insurance was passed in January this year.
- Meanwhile, corporate reporting requirements for start-up acquisitions are being revised as the FTC is considering reviving a decade-old policy on business with future competitive effects. Restoring pre-1995 reporting requirements could particularly affect the pharmaceutical community, said Jeny Maier, attorney at Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider LLP’s antitrust group. Read more from Siri Bulusu.
Delta makes up 83% of the cases, Walensky tells the senators: The Delta variant makes up 83% of all sequenced Covid-19 cases in the US, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a Senate panel yesterday. The new number was a significant 50% increase in the week of July 3, she said. Regions in the US with low vaccination coverage allow for faster spread of the highly transmissible variant first identified in India. Fiona Rutherford has more.
- Also at the hearing, several Republicans urged health officials to allow Covid-19 booster vaccinations for vulnerable populations such as cancer patients, based on data from Israel and other countries. The chiefs of the CDC and FDA said they are constantly monitoring what is happening in the US and around the world, but they don’t have enough data to support the recommendation of boosters. Jeannie Baumann has more.
Remote Vote Survives GOP Challenge: A Republican-led challenge to a resolution allowing House members to vote remotely during the pandemic fell flat yesterday after the DC Circuit said the change could not be reviewed in court. The proxy resolution adopted in May 2020 deals with “core legislative acts” and is therefore covered by the constitution, the US Court of Appeals ruled on behalf of the DC Circuit. Jacklyn Wille has more.
Cyber breach reporting required in draft law: Federal agencies and operators of critical infrastructures such as energy companies and hospitals would have to report cyber intrusions to the Department of Homeland Security within 24 hours, or there could be penalties under a bipartisan bill presented today. Read more from Rebecca Kern.
The coronavirus pandemic
The end of the health crisis will put Covid-19 products in limbo: Covid-19 vaccines, therapies and other related products are available in the US thanks to more than 400 emergency clearances issued by the FDA during the pandemic.
Almost all of these products are at risk of being withdrawn from the market once the Public Health Emergency Declaration ends – unless and until they receive full approval. The Food and Drug Administration has been working on guidelines for transitioning from emergency status for almost a year, but companies need to prepare now, lawyers say. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.
Pelosi Aide, White House Official Test Positive: A senior spokesperson for the speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) And a White House official – both fully vaccinated – tested positive for Covid-19. The Pelosi employee has had no contact with the spokesman since it was exposed, a spokesman said in a statement yesterday. And a White House official said the infected aide was not in close contact with high-ranking people. Billy House and Jordan Fabian have more.
Report Reveals Evidence of Test Price Spread: A new report from America’s Health Insurance Plans trading group said price spread for Covid-19 tests remains a problem, with the average commercial market test costing $ 130 and data showing that “the proportion of testing 50% is “to 100% above the average cost has doubled since earlier in the pandemic,” says a press release.
More about the pandemic:
What You Should Know Today
Cancer Doctors Ask Biden, Congress To Reject Medicare Cuts: The radiation oncology community is calling on President Joe Biden and Congress to stop proposed Medicare salary cuts and policy changes that they say could jeopardize access to care for cancer patients. Radiation Oncologists will face a 5% salary cut in 2022 under the Medicare Medical Care Fee Schedule (RIN 0938-AU42). Read more from Tony Pugh.
Cigar Industry Rejected FDA Fees: The FDA duly implemented federal law by extending some rules for cigarettes to other tobacco products, and when it charged cigars and pipe tobacco fees, the DC Circuit said a defeat for the cigar industry yesterday. The FDA did not act arbitrarily in setting fees for cigars but not e-cigarettes, as Congress said fees should only apply to six types of products, the court said. Read more from Martina Barash.
Other industry headlines:
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