Overnight Health Care: Trump unveils plan to lower drug prices | Dem questions drug company's payment to Trump attorney | House panel unveils opioid proposals

Overnight Health Care: Trump unveils plan to lower drug prices | Dem questions drug company's payment to Trump attorney | House panel unveils opioid proposals

Welcome to Overnight Health Care. We love Fridays -- especially when there's big health care news.

Today, after a long wait, President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE finally unveiled his plan to lower drug prices in a speech. The early reactions are now in, and most believe the drug industry got off easy.


What's in Trump's plan:

  • Stricter policing of delaying tactics that drug companies use to prevent less expensive generic drugs from reaching market.
  • Exploring whether to require companies to list drug prices in television ads.
  • Cracking down on gag clauses that prevent information from getting to consumers at the pharmacy counter.
  • Going after pharmacy benefit managers (PBM), so-called "middlemen" who negotiate prices and who drug companies point the finger at over costs.
  • Calls for more competition in Medicare Part B, which covers drugs administered in doctors' offices.


What's not in Trump's plan:

Trump stopped short of the sweeping proposals he offered on the campaign trail, like having Medicare negotiate drug prices. The plan is also big on raising questions or outlining items the administration is considering, rather than setting immediate actions.


Key quotes from Trump:

"The drug lobby is making an absolute fortune at the expense of American consumers... We are putting American patients first."



Reactions were, well, predictable. Republicans praised Trump's proposal. Democrats said the president didn't go far enough. The health industry's many sectors praised the parts of the speech they liked, and made sure to point fingers at each other over high prices.

For the most part, industry didn't see the speech as a threat to their profits. Both drug company stocks and PBM stocks spiked after the announcement



  • Steve Ubl, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America, was critical of elements of the proposal but said the group was still reviewing it. "These far-reaching proposals could fundamentally change how patients access medicines and realign incentives across the entire prescription drug supply chain," he said. "While some of these proposals could help make medicines more affordable for patients, others would disrupt coverage and limit patients' access to innovative treatments."
  • "The AMA is pleased the Trump administration is moving forward with its effort to address seemingly arbitrary pricing for prescription drugs… No one can understand the logic behind the high and fluctuating prices. We hope the administration can bring some transparency – and relief – to patients." - David O. Barbe, president of the American Medical Association.
  • Express Scripts, the country's largest PBM, touted their efforts at saving customers money. "President Trump rightly recognizes drug companies charge way too much, and their prices need to come down."


Democrats and patient advocates panned the measures as ineffective.



Click here for our full report.


In other health care news...


Opioid update:

The House Ways and Means Committee released four bipartisan proposals aimed at combating the opioid epidemic, as lawmakers and other congressional panels work to combat the scourge of opioid overdose deaths plaguing the country.

Next step: Marking up the packages. Here are the titles of the bills, but they will also be combined with an array of other legislation.

  • Preventing Addiction for Susceptible Seniors (PASS) Act
  • Combatting Opioid Abuse for Care in Hospitals (COACH) Act
  • Providing Reliable Options for Patients and Educational Resources (PROPER) Act
  • Medicare and Opioid Safe Treatment (MOST) Act

Also: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold its last mark-up of opioid legislation next week.


Senator questions drug company's payment to Trump attorney.

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee says he is opening an investigation into Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal attorney and his relationship with the pharmaceutical giant Novartis.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants to know what Novartis was looking to accomplish when it paid Cohen $1.2 million in 2017. The company said they wanted Cohen to advise them on health policy matters. But even when they realized he couldn't deliver what they were seeking-- after one meeting-- they still paid his contract.

Cancer drug in play?: Wyden suggested the payments to Novartis may be linked to Kymriah, the company's breakthrough cancer drug that was being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. The drug costs $475,000, and Novartis at the time was also in negotiations with Medicare about paying for it.

Other payments: Wyden also noted that Cohen was paid much more than any of Novartis's seemingly high-powered lobbyists. No single firm was paid more than $300,000 during the first 15 months of the Trump administration, but Cohen's firm was paid that much every quarter for a whole year.

Read more here.


After a deadly flu season, a group of senators are pushing Trump to do more. In particular, they want to boost research to develop a universal flu vaccine to the tune of $1 billion -- and are calling on President Trump to support their effort.

The argument from six Democrats and Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year MORE (I-Maine): The seasonal flu is a "pressing public health threat, taking a substantial toll on our families, health care system, and economy each year," they wrote in a letter sent to Trump Friday.

They wrote that they appreciated Trump has reportedly expressed "strong interest" in the development of a universal vaccine.

Here's the backstory: Per Stat. In March, philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates was reportedly talking to Trump in the Oval Office about the idea of a universal flu vaccine. Gates said that Trump was "super interested" in the notion -- so much so that he called Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to ask him about the vaccine while Gates was still in the Oval Office.

Read more here.


Planned Parenthood airs ad during 'Fox  & Friends' warning against changes to family planning program.

Anti-abortion groups and Republicans are amplifying their calls for the administration to reform Title X, the nation's federally funded family planning program for low-income women and men.

And Planned Parenthood is pushing back, in a way they know will catch the President's attention.

In a 30-second spot that aired during "Fox & Friends" and "Morning Joe" in the D.C. and New York City markets, a narrator says that the administration is "going after women's health and rights" and "threatening a new attack on access to Planned Parenthood."

"Tell Trump and Pence to stop the attack on women's health and rights," the narrator says.

Why it matters: Both sides say administrative action on Title X could be imminent. Many are expecting the administration to bring back Reagan-era Title X restrictions related to abortion providers, which could come through regulation.

Read more here.


What we're reading

Trump challenge to Native Americans' health splits HHS, alarms Hill GOP (Politico)

Why did Novartis pay Trump's lawyer $1.2 million? Look at its drug prices (Kaiser Health News)

The blockbuster fight over this obscure federal program explains America's drug prices (Vox)


State by state

New York, Minnesota settle lawsuit over missing federal funding for health plan program (Modern Healthcare)

Florida Democrats ask feds to block health care change (Associated Press)

Michigan's GOP has a plan to shield some people from Medicaid work requirements. They're overwhelmingly white. (Washington Post)