Overnight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks

Overnight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.

The international coronavirus situation is worsening, but the U.S. is working with drugmakers on potential treatments. Meanwhile in Congress, another Republican has endorsed the Senate's drug pricing bill.

We'll start with drug pricing...



Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices

Some new momentum for the Grassley-Wyden drug pricing bill: Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Senate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties MORE (R-Iowa) on Tuesday announced her support. 

Why it matters: Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Political establishment takes a hit as chaos reigns supreme MORE (R-Ariz.), who also faces a tough campaign this year, endorsed the bill last week, meaning with Ernst there are now two GOP senators in competitive races endorsing the bill, helping to lend some energy to the effort. 

However: The bill still faces tough prospects given that many Republican senators object to one of its key provisions, which would limit drug price increases in Medicare to the rate of inflation. GOP critics denounce it as a "price control."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Democrats: A moment in history, use it wisely 'Comrade' Trump gets 'endorsement' from Putin in new mock ad by Lincoln Project MORE (R-Ky.) acknowledged last week that Senate Republicans have "internal divisions" on the bill and declined to say whether it would get a vote. 

There is also a question of whether Democrats would make a deal on one of their signature campaign issues when they are pushing for a stronger bill from House Democrats, which Republicans have widely dismissed. 


Read more here


US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine

The Trump administration is working with two pharmaceutical companies to develop a treatment for the coronavirus.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday said it would provide funding to French drugmaker Sanofi to produce a coronavirus vaccine candidate.

HHS said its Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will provide "expertise and reallocated funds" to support the vaccine's development

Sanofi previously worked to develop a vaccine for SARS, which is another type of coronavirus.

Also on Tuesday, BARDA said it was expanding its partnership with Janssen, part of Johnson & Johnson.

Janssen is working on a vaccine, but on Tuesday said it was also working to determine whether previously tested medicines can be used to help patients survive a coronavirus infection and reduce the severity of disease from the virus, called COVID-19, in non-lethal cases.

Details: BARDA did not say how much money it was providing. In addition, a vaccine will take years before it can become publicly available; it is not the first line of defense. Even if one is developed tomorrow, it would still take well over a year before it could even be tested on humans. 

Read more here


UN secretary general: Coronavirus poses 'enormous' risks but 'not out of control'

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said that the coronavirus poses "enormous" risks globally but is "not out of control" during a Tuesday interview with The Associated Press.


Guterres told the AP that the outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, is "a very dangerous situation" for the world. 

"The risks are enormous and we need to be prepared worldwide for that," Guterres said. 

He said his biggest worry is that the virus will spread to places with "less capacity in their health service," particularly certain nations in Africa. He added that the World Health Organization is working on how to manage this theoretical situation, according to the AP.

Read more here.


More on the coronavirus

Chinatown restaurants, shops say business is down due to coronavirus fears


American hospitalized with coronavirus: 'It messes with your mind'

Wuhan hospital director dies after contracting virus

Apple to miss revenue projections, blames coronavirus

Delta, Hawaiian airlines work with officials to trace path of couple with coronavirus

99 more cases of coronavirus confirmed on cruise ship


Wednesday, February 26: America's Opioid Epidemic: Lessons Learned & A Way Forward 


Join The Hill on Wednesday, February 26th in downtown Washington, D.C. as we host a conversation about expanding access to treatment and helping those battling opioid addiction begin the journey toward long-term recovery. We will be speaking with Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rep. David JoyceDavid Patrick JoyceThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The American Investment Council - Trump takes his 'ready to reopen' mantra on the road GE cutting up to one-quarter of aviation unit's workers Boeing suspends Washington production, GE Aviation lays off thousands MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court upholds permit for B pipeline under Appalachian Trail | Report finds NOAA 'Sharpiegate' statement 'not based on science' but political influence | EPA faces suit over plan to release genetically engineered mosquito Report finds NOAA 'sharpiegate' statement 'not based on science' but political influence Democrats call for green energy relief in next stimulus package MORE (D-N.Y.). RSVP today!


What we're reading

Trump's support for bipartisan Senate drug pricing bill may not be enough to push it into law (Washington Post

The global responders: Who is leading the charge against the coronavirus outbreak (Stat News)

Publicly traded health insurers' revenue nears the $1 trillion mark (Modern Healthcare)

1 in 4 rural hospitals is vulnerable to closure, a new report finds (Vox.com)


State by state

California's ObamaCare signups rise after state requires coverage, enhances subsidies (CNN.com)

Medicaid standoff: Trump plan to tighten oversight of states draws objections (Wall Street Journal)

'The Democrats have pretty much outmaneuvered us': Mike BraunMichael BraunGridlock mires chances of police reform deal Pelosi says GOP 'trying to get away with murder' on police reform bill GOP senator introducing bill to scale back qualified immunity for police MORE wants to lead GOP on healthcare (Washington Examiner


From The Hill's opinion page

Congress should consider the harms of competitive bidding for life-sustaining devices