Overnight Health Care: GOP chair blasts DEA over opioid enforcement | House passes bill to ease ObamaCare calorie rule | Patient groups oppose 'right to try' drug bill

Overnight Health Care: GOP chair blasts DEA over opioid enforcement | House passes bill to ease ObamaCare calorie rule | Patient groups oppose 'right to try' drug bill
© Greg Nash

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenDominant internet platforms must disrupt themselves Hammond pardons raise fears of emboldened anti-government extremists Oregon ranchers pardoned by Trump fly home on Pence donor's private jet MORE (R-Ore.) on Tuesday blasted the Drug Enforcement Administration for failing to provide information requested by the panel on why it has cut back enforcement actions against opioid distributors.

The committee had asked the DEA why it dramatically cut back on "immediate suspension orders" freezing suspicious shipments of opioids by drug distribution companies.

Walden said that the DEA has failed to provide answers to its questions about why those enforcement actions declined.

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At a press conference Tuesday, Walden held up pages of heavily redacted documents that the DEA had sent to the committee.

"We are done waiting for their cooperation," Walden said. "We've had it with the DEA."

The questions were part of a bipartisan investigation into "pill dumping" of massive amounts of prescription opioids, which kill thousands of people each year from overdoses.

The committee found that in one case drug companies shipped 20 million pain pills over 10 years to two pharmacies in Williamson, W.Va., a town of just 3,000 people.

But Walden said DEA actions to stop suspicious shipments of opioids have declined from 65 in 2011 to only five in 2015.

Read more here.

 

HHS says it's 'committed' to federal family planning program despite delays

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials are assuring family planning providers set to run out of federal funding this spring that there will be no gaps in services, even as the administration runs months behind in the grant process.

Valerie Huber, the acting assistant secretary for Population Affairs, the HHS office that oversees the Title X program, said in a notice to providers Tuesday that the Trump administration remains committed to the people who rely on the program.

"The Title X Program is important to this Administration," she said. "We are committed to the women and men who depend upon Title X services and efforts are already underway to ensure that there will be no gaps in service while the funding announcement is finalized."

Some family planning providers that offer reproductive health services to low-income women through the federally funded Title X program have grants expiring next month, but the administration has provided little information about reapplying for new grants. 

Read more here. 

 

40 patient advocacy groups oppose 'right to try' drug bill

Nearly 40 patient advocacy groups told House leaders they opposed the "right to try" bill on experimental drugs, arguing the measure would "likely do more harm than good."

In a letter sent to the House leaders of both parties, the groups wrote that they believe the right to try legislation wouldn't actually lead to greater patient access to unapproved drugs and that the current regulatory framework exists so patient protections aren't undermined.

"As you consider bringing this troubling legislation to the House floor for a vote we ask that you remain mindful of our concerns, and take into consideration the negative impact the policies could have on patients living with life threatening disease," the group of organizations -- which includes the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, National Organization for Rare Disorders and Susan G. Komen -- wrote in the letter sent Tuesday.

Read more here.

 

House passes bill to ease menu labeling rules under ObamaCare

The House passed legislation Tuesday to ease the ObamaCare rule that requires restaurants, convenience stores and supermarkets to list the calorie count of each menu item before it is set to take effect in May.

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Dramatic battle looms after Kennedy’s retirement Immigration overhaul on life support in the House Vulnerable House GOP leader takes lead on family separations bill MORE (R-Wash.) and Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), passed, 266-157, with the support of 32 Democrats.

The legislation keeps business owners from having to provide calorie counts for every possible variation of a sandwich, salad or slice of pizza. Instead, sandwich shops and pizza chains could give a calorie range, base the calorie count on how the item is commonly ordered or list the number of calories per serving.

The bill also allows restaurants to post calorie information online instead of on a menu board inside a store if the majority of orders are placed online, and it provides a 90-day window for businesses to correct any violations.

Read more here.

 

House CR cuts ObamaCare public health fund by $2.85 billion

The House's short-term bill to fund the government cuts $2.85 billion over 10 years from an ObamaCare public health fund, using the money to help pay for a range of health-care programs.

The cut is drawing criticism from public health groups who warn that it will harm work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in areas like vaccination and anti-smoking.

The fund, scheduled to spend roughly $10 billion over 10 years, has been a favorite target for offsets for other spending in recent years. Democrats agreed to cut the fund in 2016 as part of the 21st Century Cures Act boosting medical research.

Read more here.

 

House funding bill includes bipartisan Medicare reforms

The House's short-term bill to fund the government also includes a range of bipartisan Medicare reforms aimed at making the program more efficient and saving money over the long term.

The measure, known as the Chronic Care Act, has largely flown under the radar because it has been mainly free of political controversy.

It is the product of almost three years of work from both parties in the Senate Finance Committee, which began with a working group in 2015 looking for ways to better coordinate care for Medicare enrollees with chronic conditions.

Read more here.

 

Coalition of 44 groups calls for passage of drug pricing bill

A coalition of 44 groups is calling on Congress to pass a measure aimed at fighting high drug prices that has gained support from across the political spectrum.

The letter is signed by groups that are often directly opposed to each other, such as the conservative group FreedomWorks and the liberal group Families USA.

The bill, called the Creates Act, has bipartisan co-sponsors and is designed to increase competition and bring prices down by preventing branded drug companies from using delay tactics to prevent generic competitors from getting onto the market.

It is a rare anti-drug pricing measure that has some momentum in Congress, and it could be included as a way to help pay for a coming budget deal.

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

ObamaCare insurer not concerned about loss of individual mandate (Washington Examiner)

Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayMerriam-Webster provides meanings of 'yes' and 'no' after Trump's Russia comment Trump campaign Virginia chairman asks question in White House briefing Watchdog: First lady spokeswoman may have violated Hatch Act with ‘MAGA’ tweet MORE's 'opioid cabinet' sidelines drug czar's experts (Politico)

FDA calls kratom an 'opioid' and warns against using the supplement (Stat News)

 

State by state

Activists barnstorm red states to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot (Huffington Post)

California union leverages ballot initiatives for health care on its own terms (Politico)

Kansas telemedicine bill wades into abortion debate (The Topeka Capital-Journal)

 

From The Hill's opinion pages

Drug dealers among us: Look for those wearing lab coats or pinstripe suits

Efforts to curb opioid misuse must preserve patient access to medically-necessary opioids

Seniors -- not middlemen -- deserve the Medicare Part D discounts