NEW FDA RULES: Exactly one month into his new job, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf outlined a tough new policy requiring drug companies to include blackbox labels on more than 100 types of painkillers.
Califf, and others at the FDA, called it one of the FDA's biggest steps yet to warn patients and providers about the link between painkillers and overdoses amid a growing national opioid epidemic. Painkillers like oxycodone must now come with labels warning specifically of "misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death."
But the newly confirmed commissioner also made clear that he wasn't going after the drug companies alone.
As recently as the day of his confirmation, Califf defended the FDA's drug labels as "pretty clear and strong." The bigger problem, he said, was doctors who have "gotten in the habit of prescribing more opioids than they should."
Califf was confirmed in February with unanimous support of Senate Republicans, who favored his background in the pharmaceutical sector. Two Senate Democrats, Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyThis week: Pelosi's test Dem senators drop objection to FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: FCC chief lashes out at GOP | Obama takes on fake news | Bill would delay new hacking powers MORE (D-Mass.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinTrump flirts with Dems for Cabinet Trump meets with Dem senator amid Cabinet speculation Overnight Energy: Walden wins Energy gavel | Trump looks at Dems to head Energy, Interior MORE (D-W.Va.), opposed Califf's nomination, criticizing his approach to fighting opioid abuse as too lax.
The FDA has been stepping up its outreach to patients and doctors about the potentially lethal effects of using painkillers after the number of overdoses reached a record high in 2014.
Last month, the FDA announced a "sweeping review" of its opioid policies in an attempt to quash criticism that the agency has reacted too slowly to the issue – and help Califf's confirmation in the Senate. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1RibI3i
OBAMACARE BACK IN THE SUPREME COURT It's Part IV for ObamaCare in the Supreme Court on Wednesday. This time, it's a challenge to an "accommodation" to the health law's contraceptive mandate.
The challengers in the case, Zubik v. Burwell, argue that the Obama administration is unjustifiably forcing religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor to cover birth control, despite an arrangement where insurers provide contraception directly.
"The burden is not on your faith to obey government mandates," Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanNearly 600 VA dental patients may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis Republicans raise red flags about ObamaCare repeal strategy Overnight Healthcare: GOP in talks about helping insurers after ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Wis.) said Tuesday in a floor speech defending the Little Sisters of the Poor. "The burden is on the government to respect your faith."
The administration counters that the challengers are threatening contraceptive access for women, and say the court risks setting a dangerous precedent if it finds in their favor. Check back at TheHill.com Tuesday night for the full story.
JUDICIARY COMMITTEE FORCED TO HALT TORT REFORM BILL: The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday was forced to abruptly postpone a markup on a medical tort reform bill after outbursts by several conservatives.
The committee has yet to reschedule the markup. A spokesperson declined to comment on whether Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteHouse GOP picks two women to lead committees Victims of Nazi Art theft need Congress to HEAR Passing US-Canada preclearance would improve security and economy MORE had been aware of conservative opposition to the bill before holding the markup.
"I believe this issue should be left up entirely in the state courts, in the states," Rep. Ted PoeTed PoeOvernight Cybersecurity: Lawmakers pushing for vote to delay warrant rule changes Coons to call for voice vote to halt changes to hacking rule The right person for State Department is Rudy Giuliani MORE (R-Texas) said in a rare display of discord on a GOP bill.
"This committee should not, in my opinion, pass legislation that harms state courts and decisions made in state courts because the people in those states don't want limits on liability," he said. His position was then echoed by Rep. Louie GohmertLouie Gohmert Texas rep laments not being allowed to cook ribs on his Capitol balcony GOP votes to keep Ryan as Speaker GOP lawmaker: Illegal for Clinton to 'indicate' she'll keep AG Lynch MORE (R-Texas), who also argued against federal tort reform.
The medical malpractice bill, which sets a $250,000 cap on compensation for non-economic damages to a patient, has long been opposed by advocates of states' rights.
The committee's top Democrat, Rep. John Conyers (D-N.Y.), called it a "strong disrespect of federalism." And just before the markup, the committee received a letter protesting the bill from 29 groups, including the Center for Justice & Democracy and Consumer Watchdog.
The bill cuts spending by about $40 billion over 10 years, and it was the committee's response to House Speaker Paul Ryan's call to each committee to identify spending cut during this year's budget process. http://bit.ly/1RjdRcP
HHS: MEDICARE SAVED HALF-TRILLION IN FIVE YEARS: A slowdown in recent healthcare spending helped save $473 billion in Medicare spending between 2009 and 2014, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The announcement comes as HHS is marking the sixth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, touting delivery system reforms in Medicare and the marketplace to reduce spending.
Other data have shown, however, that much of the healthcare slowdown was a result of the 2008 recession as well as separate cuts to Medicare under ObamaCare. Read more here: http://bit.ly/21FSebw
ON TAP TOMORROW:
The Supreme Court hears arguments on Zubik vs. Burwell at 10 a.m.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will hold a press event on the sixth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act
ProPublica hosts an event on healthcare transparency and patient safety at Kaiser Family Foundation
WHAT WE'RE READING:
CDC urges doctors to prevent Zika spread during labor, delivery (Reuters)
Burwell: Up next for ObamaCare, transforming medicine (Bloomberg View)
Planned Parenthood expands transgender health services (PQ Monthly)
Cecile Richards opens up about fighting for reproductive rights (Vice Magazine)
IN THE STATES:
Alabama governor says he will veto budget over Medicaid (Associated Press)
NYC hospitals, faced with $1.2B funding gap, plea for help as they struggle to survive (NY Daily News)
Hackers take aim at two more California hospitals (Kaiser Health News)
Pence signs bills aimed at curbing drug abuse (Indiana Public Media)
ICYMI FROM THE HILL:
Labor Department set to issue controversial silica rule: http://bit.ly/1UD67bj
Obama touts ObamaCare as a success on anniversary http://bit.ly/1T5Cdvh