Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care – Presented by Kidney Care Partners – Dems renew push to fund gun violence research at CDC | New uncertainty over vaping crackdown | Lawmakers spar over Medicare drug prices

Stefani Reynolds

Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care, where Scott Gottlieb’s abrupt departure is casting doubt over the future of e-cigarette and tobacco regulation at the FDA and House Democrats are debating Medicare price negotiation. We’ll first start with a new push to allow the CDC to research gun violence…


House Dems renew push for funding gun violence research at CDC

House Democrats are poised to approve new funding for gun violence research in the face of what they say is a “public health emergency” killing thousands of Americans every year.

If successful, it would be the first time in nearly 20 years that Congress has funded gun violence research after a measure passed in the 1990s discouraged federal agencies from studying the issue.

“We should not be afraid of research. Gun violence is a public health emergency,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee’s health subcommittee.

Why it matters: This all comes back to the Dickey Amendment, passed in 1996, that prevented the use of federal funds to advocate for gun control. But Democrats and public health experts say it created a chilling effect at agencies studying gun violence prevention. Congress also hasn’t directed funding to the CDC for gun violence research since then.

A shift?: Democrats pushed for a repeal of the Dickey Amendment in a funding bill last year after the Parkland shooting, but were rebuffed by Republicans who, at the time, were in the majority.

But House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (N.Y.) said the amendment could stay if Congress funded gun violence research.

Still, Republicans say the larger problem is directing federal agencies to study specific issues, especially ones that are politically sensitive.

“We’re pretty careful about trying to let researchers decide what the areas of research makes sense,” said Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), the top Republican on the subcommittee.

The agency perspective: CDC Director Robert Redfield said the Dickey Amendment doesn’t prevent the agency from doing research. But he added that the CDC needs funding from Congress “to instruct us to do that research.”

Read more on the debate here.





FDA chief’s resignation casts cloud over vaping crackdown

The abrupt resignation of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has raised questions about whether the agency will further pursue its aggressive crackdown on vaping and tobacco companies.

“He is leaving at a uniquely sensitive time,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “If his departure means the promises he’s made don’t get adopted, then literally an entire generation of kids is at risk.”

During his two-year tenure at the FDA, Gottlieb unveiled ambitious proposals that he said were aimed at curbing the youth vaping “epidemic” and reducing the harm and appeal of traditional cigarettes.

But none of the proposals has been implemented, and it’s not known whether his eventual replacement will follow the same strategy.

Why it matters: Many on Capitol Hill agree that Gottlieb was an outlier in the Trump administration — unafraid to push the envelope and push regulations if he thought it would benefit public health. It’s not clear if Trump, who has spoken highly of Gottlieb, will want to find a replacement who is more in line with his anti-regulation, pro-industry agenda.

Read more on what’s next here.


Fresh calendar entries:

The Senate Finance Committee will hear from Health Secretary Alex Azar about the agency’s 2020 budget request on March 14 at 10:15 a.m..

Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia will hear oral arguments in the cases against the Trump administration’s approval of Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky on March 14 at 10 and 11 a.m.


Ways and Means debates Medicare drug price negotiation

Republicans and Democrats faced off over a bill from Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices at a hearing on Thursday, the latest session as the drug pricing issue heats up.

Doggett, one of the House’s most outspoken drug industry critics, spoke out against the “unrestrained monopoly power” of drug companies.

He touted his bill, which would break drug companies’ monopolies on drugs and allow for generic competition if the company refused to sell at the price the government negotiated.

Republicans denounced that approach though as stealing drug companies’ property, calling it “Washington-sanctioned seizure of research and development.”


Also at The Hill:

Pentagon officials on Thursday confirmed that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has asked the Department of Defense (DOD) for space to house up to 5,000 immigrant children through the end of the fiscal year, reports The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell.

More than 800 students in the Washington county that is battling one of the nation’s largest measles outbreaks have been ordered to stay away from classrooms for up to three weeks, The Seattle Times reported Wednesday.

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would outlaw abortions in the state after a fetus has a detectable heartbeat. Meanwhile over in Georgia, a state House committee also approved similar legislation.



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What we’re reading

Health-care providers say CDC’s opioid guidelines are harming pain patients (The Washington Post)

White House says no dispute with FDA chief Gottlieb before exit (Bloomberg)

Indian Health Service head to face questions on failure to stop doctor who abused patients (The Wall Street Journal)


State by state

Indiana Sen. Mike Braun (R) enters fray over prescription drug ‘middleman’ with proposal to cut costs (Indianapolis Star)

Florida Blue’s ObamaCare enrollment steady at 1M after rival Oscar’s launch (Forbes)

Kansas Rep. Jim Kelly clashes with Cato Institute director as Medicaid expansion talks begin (Dodge City Daily Globe)


From The Hill’s op-ed page

‘Medicare for all’ is an expensive wrecking ball

VA in-house healthcare is great; community care efforts have fallen flat so far

Tags Lloyd Doggett Mike Braun Nita Lowey Rosa DeLauro Tom Cole

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