Overnight Health Care: Dem demands details on Trump-Pfizer pricing deal | Why both sides agree nominee could shift high court to right on abortion | DEA gets more powers to limit opioid production

Overnight Health Care: Dem demands details on Trump-Pfizer pricing deal | Why both sides agree nominee could shift high court to right on abortion | DEA gets more powers to limit opioid production
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Overnight Health Care.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE and top HHS officials are patting themselves on the back following Pfizer's announcement that it would delay a price hike on some of its drugs, but a top Senate Democrat is wondering if it's all a PR stunt.

The Department of Justice has new power to regulate opioid production, and there's agreement among both liberals and conservatives that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh could shift the court to the right on abortion.  

We'll start with the fallout from last night's late breaking Pfizer news.


Top Dem questions Pfizer-Trump drug pricing deal

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Kremlin seeks more control over Russian internet | Huawei CEO denies links to Chinese government | Facebook accused of exposing health data | Harris calls for paper ballots | Twitter updates ad rules ahead of EU election Kremlin seeks more control over internet in Russia Wisconsin governor to propose decriminalization of marijuana MORE (D-Ore.) is skeptical of Tuesday's deal between President Trump and Pfizer to delay price hikes.

While Trump and HHS officials touted the move on Twitter and in statements, there are real questions as to whether the latest move will have a substantial or lasting effect.


"Secret, sweetheart arrangements with pharmaceutical companies are exactly why America's drug pricing system is broken," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

Background: Pfizer announced Tuesday evening it would delay previously announced price increases on 100 drugs following "an extensive discussion" with Trump to give the administration more time to work on its plan to lower costs.

The prices will return to their pre-July 1 levels, and will remain there until the president's blueprint goes into effect or the end of the year, whichever is sooner.

Trump touted the agreement on his Twitter account as a rollback, even though the agreement is temporary.

More skepticism: Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Trump, Dems open drug price talks | FDA warns against infusing young people's blood | Facebook under scrutiny over health data | Harris says Medicare for all isn't socialism Patients, health data experts accuse Facebook of exposing personal info High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks MORE (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill he was also not impressed with the announcement.

"Just because [President Trump] goes to one drug company and says 'your prices are too high,' isn't going to solve the problem ... He's just looking for some kind of press hit by saying 'I spoke to Pfizer' but in the scheme of things it doesn't add up to anything."

Read more here.


Insurers say they really do want lower drug prices

Insurers are pushing back against Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar's claim that some drug companies want to lower their prices, but don't because insurers or pharmacy benefit managers want to keep their share of rebates, which are higher if the original price is higher.

"We support lower list prices," said Matt Eyles, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, without mentioning Azar by name.

Insurers are pushing for policies to lower drug prices. Those include increasing competition by speeding up FDA approval of generic drugs, and creating new ways to pay for drugs that are based on how well the drugs work.

Coming up next: Get ready for a whole slew of comments on ways to lower drug prices ahead of Monday's deadline to respond to President Trump's blueprint for lowering prices.


Shifting to the Supreme Court fight...


Conservatives, liberals both agree: Nominee a pivotal vote on abortion

Conservatives and liberals alike think Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh could shift the Supreme Court further right on abortion issues.

The question, they say, is not whether Kavanaugh's addition to the court would be a shift, but whether it will lead to a complete overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion or the upholding of restrictions that would make the decision obsolete.

Why it matters: Kavanaugh hasn't ruled on many abortion cases, so it's difficult to know where he stands on Roe v. Wade or abortion in general. But he did dissent in a case involving a pregnant unaccompanied minor seeking an abortion, writing that "the majority apparently thinks that the government must allow immigrant minors to have immediate abortion on demand."

What to watch: Democrats are sure to hit Kavanaugh hard on this subject during his confirmation hearing.

We have more on the fight and the stakes here.


New regulation gives Drug Enforcement Administration more power to limit opioid production

Essentially, the regulation allows the DEA to consider the extent that a drug is abused when determining its annual production quota.

Why it matters: Experts say the overproduction of opioids has contributed significantly to the opioid crisis. The Justice Department said the changes will "encourage vigilance on the part of opioid manufacturers," help the agency respond to the changing drug environment and protect U.S. citizens from addictive drugs.

Bipartisan support: It's a change pushed by both Republicans and Democrats.

Read more here.


Fireworks at Ways and Means health care markup

A markup of 11 health care bills sparked a fight over the passage of ObamaCare and the national debt.

While five of the bills were bipartisan, most Democrats took issue with the fact that they did not include offsets.

Most of the bills would tweak Health Savings Accounts, and another would temporarily repeal ObamaCare's employer mandate.

Democrats argued that the changes were not significant enough to justify the cost, and would mostly benefit the wealthy.

"The provisions we are considering today provide America's wealthiest another option to stash tax-free money at a cost of $92 billion to tax payers," said ranking member Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealDems want info from IRS about new tax forms On The Money: Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive | Dems question IRS on new tax forms | Warren rolls out universal child care proposal | Illinois governor signs bill for minimum wage High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks MORE (D-Mass.).

After listening to several Democrats complain about the package adding to the national debt, Brady retorted: It's a pleasant surprise to see Democrats talk about the deficit since you and President Obama added $2 trillion to the national debt in one year. One year added $2 trillion to the national debt and today you're lecturing us?" 

Wednesday roundup

New Jersey-based pharmaceutical distributor Alvogen filed a lawsuit against the state of Nevada on Wednesday seeking to halt the use of their drugs in an execution. The lawsuit caused a judge to temporarily halt the execution of a twice-convicted murderer

The American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM) announced that it is partnering with the American Medical Association (AMA) in its effort to restart the science of firearm injury prevention.


What we're reading

Fox News pundit says Brett Kavanaugh is pro-ObamaCare. Is he? (PolitiFact)

Republicans hide ObamaCare bailout inside health savings accounts bill (The Federalist)

3 key lessons from Trump's drug price feud with Pfizer (Fortune)


State by state

GOP candidate Mike DeWine says he'd keep Ohio's Medicaid expansion as governor (Cleveland.com)

Appointments at one Kentucky dental clinic down by half after Bevin's Medicaid cuts (Lexington Herald-Leader)


From The Hill's opinion page

AHA Medicare appeals reform recommendations miss the mark