Overnight Health Care: House fails to pass 'right to try' bill | Trump panel urges action on cancer drug costs | Dem wants info on Conway's private flights with Price | Shareholders approve CVS-Aetna merger

Overnight Health Care: House fails to pass 'right to try' bill | Trump panel urges action on cancer drug costs | Dem wants info on Conway's private flights with Price | Shareholders approve CVS-Aetna merger
© Greg Nash

House fails to pass 'right to try' bill

The House failed to pass "right to try" legislation on experimental drugs Tuesday evening after Democrats expressed safety concerns over how the measure would let patients bypass the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In a vote of 259-140, the bill failed to garner the necessary two-thirds support to send the legislation to the Senate. The House had voted for the measure under suspension of the rules.

"Right to try" is a priority for the White House, and Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee unveiled a revised version of the bill over the weekend.

Before the vote, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWhite House faces growing outcry over migrant family policies John Legend slams Paul Ryan for Father's Day tweet, demands end to family separation Trump faces Father’s Day pleas to end separations of migrant families MORE's (R-Wis.) spokeswoman tweeted: "Are Democrats really going to deny critically ill patients every opportunity to find treatment?"

Democrats have countered that the measure provides "false hope" given no requirement in the bill that drugmakers provide the medicines to those who ask.  

Specifically, the "right to try" bill would have let terminally ill patients request access to drugs the FDA hasn't yet approved -- and to do so without going through the agency. 

The revised version of the bill struck "the right balance for patients and their safety," House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenCongress tackles mounting opioid epidemic Facebook faces new data firestorm What the net neutrality repeal means MORE (R-Ore.) and health subcommittee chairman Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessTrump signs 'right to try' drug bill House approves 'right to try,' sends bill to Trump's desk Overnight Health Care: New allegations against VA nominee | Dems worry House moving too fast on opioid bills | HHS chief back in DC | FDA reexamines safety of controversial Parkinson's drug MORE (R-Texas) said in a statement Sunday. 

But Democrats and patient advocacy groups quickly vocalized their concerns. More than 75 patient organizations sent a letter Monday to leadership in both parties saying they opposed the measure.

Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.), the the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced his opposition to the measure on Monday. 

Pallone and other opponents expressed concern that the bill could harm patient safety by bypassing the FDA. They also pointed to the agency's compassionate use program, saying the FDA approves 99 percent of requests it receives to let a patient use an experimental drug.

Read more here.


Trump reportedly considering firing VA chief

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-ethics chief calls on Trump to end 'monstrous' migrant policies Laura Bush blasts Trump migrant policy as 'cruel' and 'immoral' US denies report of coalition airstrike on Syria MORE is considering replacing Veterans Affairs chief David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinOvernight Defense: Top general defends Afghan war progress | VA shuffles leadership | Pacific Command gets new leader, name | Pentagon sued over HIV policy Trump taps VA chief of staff to run department on interim basis Trump VA pick boosts hopes for reform MORE with Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets DNC to reject fossil fuel company donations Energy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures MORE, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Two sources close to the White House told The New York Times that Trump is mulling firing Shulkin, who has been under scrutiny over ethics concerns, including his use of a personal security detail to run errands.

Trump has not formally offered Perry the job, and it's unclear if he would accept it, The Times reported. Perry served in the Air Force prior to his career in politics.

Shulkin has been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks following an internal report that found he spent most of a taxpayer-funded trip to Europe sightseeing, had the government cover the cost of his wife's airfare and improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets.

He has also gone on record to say he's rooting out "subversion" in his own department, where he claims other staffers are attempting to undermine him.

Read more here.


Oversight Dem demands info on Conway's private flights with Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceStates must hold Trump to his word on working with them to solve ObamaCare Rick Perry's travel cost Energy Department ,560 during first 7 months in office: report How do you beat a liar? You don’t play his game MORE

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWhite House faces growing outcry over migrant family policies First lady spokeswoman: Melania Trump 'hates to see' families separated at border Bill Clinton hits Trump administration policy separating immigrant families in Father's Day tweet MORE flew on several of the same private flights as former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, but has yet to reimburse the federal government for her share of the costs, House Democrats revealed Tuesday.

Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsConsultant with energy clients helped Pruitt get Rose Bowl tickets Five takeaways on the IG’s scathing report on the FBI Top Dems: IG report shows Comey's actions helped Trump win election MORE (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, accused the White House of stonewalling the investigation into how much the flights cost and called on the panel's chairman, Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyGowdy: House will use 'full arsenal' of constitutional weapons to get DOJ, FBI compliance on subpoenas Gowdy: IG report ‘certainly helps’ Trump Sunday Shows preview: Lawmakers, Trump allies discuss Russia probe, migrant family separation MORE (R-S.C.), to issue a subpoena.

"The White House has completely stonewalled our requests for documents," Cummings said in a letter to Gowdy. "If you do not issue a subpoena at this point, it will be obvious to the White House and the American people that the Committee has no intention of serving as a true check on the Executive Branch."

Conway is leading the White House efforts to combat the opioid crisis. According to documents reviewed by Cummings, Conway accompanied Price on several trips last spring and summer relating to the administration's opioid response that included stops in Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Read more here.


Trump's cancer panel says urgent action needed on rising drug costs

A White House advisory panel on Tuesday called for urgent action to address the rising cost of cancer drugs.

"Cancer patients should not have to choose between paying for their medications or paying their mortgages. For so many, it is truly a matter of life and death," said Barbara Rimer, chair of the President's Cancer Panel, which advises the president on issues related to cancer policy.

"This is a national imperative that will not be solved by any one sector working alone."

The panel offered several recommendations to the administration, including promoting pricing of drugs based on the potential value to the patient, and supporting policies that propose "sustained, predictable funding" for government agencies that work to provide affordable access to innovative cancer drugs.

But the group did not offer specific steps or actions for the administration to take.

Read more here.


U.S. spends twice as much as other wealthy countries on health care

The United States spent twice as much on health care as ten other high-income countries in 2016, largely because of the high costs of prescription drugs, administrative overhead and labor, a new study released Tuesday indicates.

While Americans don't use more services than people in high-income countries, the U.S.'s overall health spending still topped that of the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the U.S., high health care spending is driven by expensive prescription drugs, high-paid health professionals and administrative costs. Additionally, high health care spending in the U.S. does not translate to better health outcomes, the report found.

Read more here.


Shareholders overwhelmingly approve CVS-Aetna merger

Shareholders on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved CVS's proposed $69 billion deal to acquire health insurer Aetna.

The agreement was approved by about 97 percent of Aetna shareholders and 98 percent of CVS shareholders.

The merger is expected to close in the second half of this year, pending regulatory approval by the Department of Justice. It's not clear if federal regulators will approve the deal, but there have been favorable signs.

If approved, the merger of the nation's largest pharmacy and third-largest health insurer could have major implications for the industry.

Read more here.


Federal judge throws out Massachusetts challenge to Trump birth control rules

A lawsuit by the Massachusetts attorney general challenging the Trump administration's rollback of ObamaCare's birth control requirements was thrown out by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said the state lacks standing to sue because it already requires that employer health plans cover contraception regardless of changes in federal policy.

The Trump administration in October issued a rule allowing for-profit and nonprofit employers and insurers to stop covering birth control if they had moral or religious objections.

Massachusetts was one of several states that sued over the changes.

Judges in California and Pennsylvania issued preliminary injunctions blocking the administration from enforcing the changes in December.

But Gorton said while there is no doubt employers in those states would take advantage of the new exceptions, "the record is uniquely obscure" as to whether any in Massachusetts would.

Read more here.


What we're reading

Wendy Davis leaves door open to Planned Parenthood gig (Politico)

'Right-to-try' bill would give FDA some oversight, but still frustrates critics (Stat)

Death maps show where despair is killing Americans (NBC News)

Participants in rogue herpes vaccine research take legal action (Kaiser Health News)


State by state

Exclusive University of Michigan medical plan buys you 'better' care, special access (Detroit Free Press)

Kentucky House passes bill banning most abortions after 11 weeks (Think Progress)

Northam calls Virginia lawmakers back to Richmond for April 11 special session on budget (Richmond Times Dispatch)

Oregon governor signs bill to rein in prescription drug prices (KUOW)


Opinions in The Hill

Republican health policy is destroying rural health care  

Allegations of generic drug price fixing are troubling