Overnight Health Care: Opioid legislation passes overwhelmingly | DOJ backs Cigna-Express Scripts merger | Senate passes ban on pharmacy gag clauses
Overnight Health Care: CBO finds bill delaying parts of ObamaCare costs $50B | Drug CEO defends 400 percent price hike | HHS declares health emergency ahead of hurricane
Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.
The House and Senate return tomorrow, facing a truncated, and busy, schedule. House leaders said that despite the threat of Hurricane Florence and the absences of a handful of members who represent states impacted by the storm, they are pushing ahead with votes this week.
The most significant, from a health perspective, is legislation that would make changes to the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate. The bill received a score from the Congressional Budget Office today, and it isn't cheap.
CBO: House GOP bill delaying key parts of ObamaCare will cost over $50 billion.
House Republicans are back with another effort to strip away parts of ObamaCare, although this measure leaves the core intact. Still, there's a hefty price tag.
The measure will cost $51.6 billion over the next decade, according to a CBO report.
Watch out for it: The House plans to vote on the legislation later this week.
The House Rules Committee will meet Wednesday to prepare the measure for a floor vote.
What's in the bill?
- Retroactively lifts employer mandate penalty from 2015-2018
- Changes definition of full-time worker who needs to be provided health insurance from 30 hours a week to 40 hours a week
- Pushes back imposition of "Cadillac Tax" on high cost health plans until 2023.
Drug company CEO calls 400 percent price hike 'moral requirement'
Advocates for tougher rules on drug pricing are seizing on new controversial statements from a pharmaceutical company CEO.
Move over, Martin Shkreli, Meet Nirmal Mulye.
Nostrum Laboratories, based in Missouri, raised the price of nitrofurantoin last month from $474.74 a bottle to $2,393, according to the Financial Times newspaper. The drug treats urinary tract and bladder infections.
CEO Nirmal Mulye said the price was based on market dynamics, according to the newspaper.
"I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can ... to sell the product for the highest price," he said.
Mulye said the branded version of the drug increased in price to $2,800.
"The point here is the only other choice is the brand at the higher price. It is still a saving regardless of whether it is a big one or not," he said.
Backlash: The comments were quickly made into fodder for drug pricing advocates, as well as FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
"There's no moral imperative to price gouge and take advantage of patients," Gottlieb tweeted.
"FDA will continue to promote competition so speculators and those with no regard to public health consequences can't take advantage of patients who need medicine."
HHS declares public health emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence
The Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday declared public health emergencies in North and South Carolina ahead of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Florence.
The declarations give the agency more flexibility by loosening certain regulations. It allows the secretary to issue grants and spend money that he otherwise would not be able to. The orders are retroactive to Sept. 7 in North Carolina and Sept. 8 in South Carolina.
"Hurricane Florence is an intense storm and is predicted to be highly destructive, which poses a significant threat to the health and safety of those in its path," Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. "These actions help ensure that Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid have continuous access to the care they need when the storm makes landfall."
Former HHS Secretary Tom Price declared a public health emergency in Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey, but only after the storm hit.
The Hill event:
Join us Wednesday, September 12 for "A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition," featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service Brandon Lipps. Editor in Chief Bob Cusack will sit down with the headliners to discuss maternal, infant, and early childhood nutrition, and what steps can be taken to establish healthier eating patterns across all communities. RSVP here.
What we're reading
The secret drug pricing system middlemen use to rake in millions (Bloomberg)
Fact-checking an ad war over drug prices, Celgene, and Bob Hugin (Stat)
Billionaire Sackler family owns second opioid drugmaker (Financial Times)
State by state
Montana is voting on whether the tobacco industry should pay for Medicaid expansion (Washington Post)
Hospitals in the Carolinas prep for Hurricane Florence (Modern Healthcare)
From The Hill's opinion page: