Overnight Health Care: New group plans midterm spending against high drug prices | Senators urge Trump to boost Alzheimer's funding | Right to Try Act gains momentum after Trump pitch

Overnight Health Care: New group plans midterm spending against high drug prices | Senators urge Trump to boost Alzheimer's funding | Right to Try Act gains momentum after Trump pitch
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New group plans midterm spending against high drug prices

A new patient group says it plans to spend seven figures this year backing candidates who support policies to lower drug prices in what it hopes will be a counter to the pharmaceutical industry.

The group is called Patients for Affordable Drugs NOW, and is founded by a cancer patient named David Mitchell.


The group is circulating a questionnaire to candidates, and says that it could back some Republicans as well as Democrats, depending on candidates' positions on drug prices.

"We will go after anyone who shills for pharmaceutical companies, if you are a Democrat [or] if you are a Republican," said Ben Wakana, the group's president.

Read more here.


Trump's vows to take on drug prices, opioids draw skepticism

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE has pledged to take action to combat the opioid epidemic and reduce drug prices, but one year into his tenure, advocates and industry have grown skeptical of his promises.

During his State of the Union speech Tuesday, Trump said one of his top priorities is "fixing the injustice of high drug prices."

When the new head of the Department of Health and Human Services was sworn in on Jan. 29, Trump said prescription drug prices would come "rocketing down."

But advocates said they have heard it all before, and Trump has not acted on most of the drug pricing promises he made.

Read more here.


Bipartisan group of Senators call on Trump to boost Alzheimer's funding

A bipartisan group of senators is calling on President Trump to boost funding for Alzheimer's research in his fiscal 2019 budget set to be released this month.

"At a time when the United States is spending more than $200 billion a year to care for Alzheimer's patients, we are spending less than two thirds of one percent of that amount on research," the letter -- led by Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump expected to visit Maine despite governor's concerns Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river MORE (R-Maine) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBottom line Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Vogue's Anna Wintour urges Biden to pick woman of color for VP MORE (D-Minn.) and signed by a dozen others -- states.

"Although we have made progress in increasing funding, Alzheimer's research funding remains disproportionately low compared to its human and economic toll," the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to the president.

Read more here.


Right to Try Act gains momentum after Trump pitch

Advocates of "right to try" legislation have been given a jolt of momentum by President Trump's decision to tout the bill during his State of the Union address.

The legislation would allow patients with a serious illness to request access to experimental medicines that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't yet approved.

Trump called on Congress to send the measure to his desk, saying he believes "patients with terminal conditions, terminal illness, should have access to experimental treatment immediately that could potentially save their lives."

Supporters of the bill were elated by Trump's endorsement of the Right to Try Act to a national audience and are now hopeful that the bill, which has already passed the Senate, can quickly pass the House.

Read more here.


House GOP warming to ObamaCare fix

Key House Republicans are warming to a proposal aimed at bringing down ObamaCare premiums, raising the chances of legislative action this year to stabilize the health-care law.

House GOP aides and lobbyists say that top House Republicans are interested in funding what is known as reinsurance. The money could be included in a coming bipartisan government funding deal or in another legislative vehicle.

Any action from Republicans to stabilize ObamaCare would be a major departure from the party's long crusade against the law, but after having failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act last year, the discussion is shifting.

Read more here.


CDC loses director amid flu outbreak

The abrupt resignation Wednesday of the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comes at a difficult time for the agency, with officials fighting a deadly flu outbreak even as they seek to beat back proposed budget cuts from the White House.

The CDC is always on the front lines dealing with public health threats, and it has been working overtime this year to address drug shortages and an unusually active flu season.

Just last week, Brenda Fitzgerald told reporters 37 children had died from the flu this year. But Fitzgerald is now out as CDC director, following reports that she bought tobacco stocks while in office -- something that runs counter to the CDC's public health mission.

Her departure arrives at an inopportune moment, public health experts say, but they're confident career staff and the acting director will be able to run the agency smoothly until a replacement is named.

Read more here.


New York governor: Flu season worsens each week

New York's historic flu season is continuing to worsen every week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Thursday.

Cuomo said the state confirmed more than 11,600 cases of influenza reported to the health department over the past week, with more than 2,200 people hospitalized.

Cuomo said the numbers are the highest weekly in both categories since reporting began in 2004. They exceed last week's record 7,779 confirmed cases and 1,759 hospitalizations.

Read more here.


What we're reading

Can Amazon do to health care what it did to books? (CNN)

Why the CDC director had to resign (Politico)

Half of post-9/11 vets aren't getting mental health care, report says (Bloomberg)


State by state

As states target high drug prices, pharma targets state lawmakers (Kaiser Health News

The cost of healthcare for California government workers when they retire rises sharply to $91.5 billion (Los Angeles Times)

Molina Healthcare sues New Mexico over loss of Medicaid contract (The Santa Fe New Mexican)


From The Hill's opinion pages

Flu season this year is spreading like crazy -- this could have other bio-threat implications

Scientific credibility is at an all-time low -- and scientists are to blame

Washington failed on health care so Bezos and Berkshire are jumping in

Dr. Tom Frieden: People working in public health are stewards of the public's trust