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 RyanCorey Stewart fires aide who helped bring far-right ideas to campaign: report GOP super PAC hits Randy Bryce with ad starring his brother Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms 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 WaldenHouse GOP blocks Trump-supported drug pricing provision from spending bill GOP turns its fire on Google Hillicon Valley: Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias | DOJ convenes meeting on bias claims | Rubio clashes with Alex Jones | DHS chief urges lawmakers to pass cyber bill | Sanders bill takes aim at Amazon MORE (R-Ore.) and health subcommittee chairman Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessTwitter’s Dorsey apologizes to McCain family for ‘unacceptable’ tweet Overnight Health Care: Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare plans | GOP fails to block DC individual mandate | Ebola returns to Congo Republican chairman wants FTC to review mergers of drug price negotiators 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 TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE is considering replacing Veterans Affairs chief David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinVeterans group sues to block advisers known as ‘Mar-a-Lago Crowd’ from influencing VA Mar-a-Lago insiders provided input on VA policy, personnel decisions: report Ahead of speech, Kansas City newspaper urges Trump to listen to veterans MORE with Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: House panel approves park funding, offshore drilling bills | Green group putting M into races | Perry applauds Russia boosting oil production Perry welcomes efforts by Russia, OPEC to boost oil production The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Hurricane Florence a new test for Trump team 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 PriceWhite House officials discussing potential replacements for FEMA chief: report Overnight Health Care: CBO finds bill delaying parts of ObamaCare costs B | Drug CEO defends 400 percent price hike | HHS declares health emergency ahead of hurricane HHS should look into Azar's close ties to the drug industry MORE

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayThe Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Conway: Kavanaugh accuser 'should not be ignored’ George Conway rips Trump over tweet about Obama's '57 states' gaffe 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 CummingsGraham to renew call for second special counsel Hillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests House Dems blast GOP for FBI, DOJ 'conspiracy theories' aimed to protect Trump 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 requests FEMA administrator’s travel records amid allegations Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe 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