Overnight Health Care: Drug company under scrutiny for Michael Cohen payments | New Ebola outbreak | FDA addresses EpiPen shortage

Overnight Health Care: Drug company under scrutiny for Michael Cohen payments | New Ebola outbreak | FDA addresses EpiPen shortage
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Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care. Unlike Michael Cohen, we're not asking you to pay millions of dollars for information. And we think you'll find our newsletter more useful than what Novartis got in return. (Keep reading...)

Also today, an EpiPen shortage is putting people with allergies on alert, and a new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has health officials scrambling. But first:

 

Novartis under scrutiny for payments to Michael Cohen

The Swiss drug company Novartis on Wednesday revealed that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE contacted the company last year about payments it made to Michael Cohen, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE's longtime personal attorney.

"Novartis cooperated fully with the special counsel's office and provided all the information requested," the company said in a statement.

Novartis said it hired Cohen in February 2017 as part of a one-year contract for consulting services. The company said it paid Cohen $100,000 per month, for a total of $1.2 million.

What were they hoping to get? "With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain US healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act," the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Don't call us... We'll call you: But Novartis said that after just one meeting they decided not to work with Cohen any further. "In March 2017, Novartis had its first meeting with Michael Cohen under this agreement."

Novartis said the meeting led the company to conclude that "Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to US healthcare policy matters and the decision was taken not to engage further."

The Stormy connection: The payments to Cohen were made through a shell company called Essential Consultants LLC. That company is under scrutiny because Cohen used it to make a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film star alleging an affair with Trump, as part of a nondisclosure agreement.

Read more here.

 

More details: A Novartis employee told Stat news on Wednesday that Cohen had promised the company access to Trump and other top administration officials.

Read more on that here.

 

White House response: During Wednesday's press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dodged questions about the payments and reports that Cohen had promised access to the administration. Sanders instead referred reporters to Trump's outside legal team. She also wouldn't address a question about whether Cohen was qualified to provide insights into the president's thinking.

"I'm not going to get into somebody else's qualifications. That's something an independent company that hires that individual would have to make that determination, not me," Sanders said.

Read more here.

 

There's a new Ebola outbreak.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo declared a new outbreak of the disease Tuesday after two patients tested positive for the virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

What happens now? The WHO is working with the country's government in an effort to stop the disease from spreading. It released $1 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies.

Context: The country saw an Ebola outbreak last year, but it was "quickly contained," according to the WHO. The organization attributed this success to the quick testing of blood samples and announcing the outbreak early, a rapid response from health authorities and other factors.

The Trump factor: Ebola garnered national attention in 2014 following an outbreak in West Africa.

The White House's Office of Digital Strategy later found in an analysis that Trump's tweets marked a turning point in the outbreak, signaling when the American public began to fear the virus.

"Stop the EBOLA patients from entering the U.S. Treat them, at the highest level, over there. THE UNITED STATES HAS ENOUGH PROBLEMS!" Trump tweeted at the time.
Read more here. 

 

There's a shortage of EpiPens.

EpiPens were big in the news in 2016 with their manufacturer facing a public outcry over their high prices. Now, there's another issue: Patients are having trouble getting the them due to a shortage.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday acknowledged a shortage of EpiPens.

"Drug shortages are a top priority for the FDA as they pose a significant public health issue in the U.S," she added. "The FDA is committed to working closely with the manufacturers to resolve all shortages as quickly as possible."

The problem: The response came after the advocacy group Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) raised the alarm about EpiPens earlier this week, calling on the FDA to "take immediate action to address a growing national shortage" of the devices.

FARE said that, since May 2, more than 400 people in 45 states have reported difficulty filling prescriptions for EpiPens.

Read more here.

 

CDC director to take pay cut of more than $165k.

CDC Director Robert Redfield agreed to cut his pay after public criticism. Now we know what his new salary will be.

Robert Redfield will be paid $209,700 a year, HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in an email. Oakley said Redfield's new compensation is being calculated using the same formula used to pay the prior three agency directors.

The backstory: Redfield asked HHS Secretary Alex Azar for a pay cut April 30, after Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayGOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Senate Dems press Sessions for records on racial discrimination complaints Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press MORE (D-Wash.) raised questions about why HHS was paying him $375,000 a year, which was more than double what his predecessor earned. HHS previously wouldn't disclose Redfield's new salary.

According to HHS, the last reported annual salary for Julie Gerberding was $207,000; the last salary for Dr. Thomas Frieden was $209,700; and the last salary for Brenda FitzgeraldBrenda FitzgeraldOvernight Health Care: Drug company under scrutiny for Michael Cohen payments | New Ebola outbreak | FDA addresses EpiPen shortage CDC director to take pay cut of more than 5k CDC director asks for salary reduction after questions raised MORE was $193,700.

Read more here.

 

Wednesday roundup

President Trump is not going to issue a veto threat of the farm bill over work requirements for food stamp recipients, a White House official said Wednesday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is facing a lawsuit accusing it of seizing $41,000 from a registered nurse last October and not giving it back, The Washington Post reported.

 

What we're reading

WHO officials fear latest Ebola outbreak in Congo could spread to big cities (Stat News)

The absurdity of American health care pricing, in one chart (Vox)

Trump's 'America First' agenda on drug pricing could backfire around the world (Politico

 

State by state

North Dakota insurance department to review state's marketplace (West Dakota Fox)

Louisiana following through with warnings to 37,000 Medicaid recipients (NOLA.com)

California counties jump into opioid litigation (The Wall Street Journal)