Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Senate panel approves Trump FDA pick | Biden downplays Dem enthusiasm around ‘Medicare for All’ | Trump officials unveil program for free HIV prevention drugs for uninsured

Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care.

President Trump’s FDA nominee got a nod from the Senate health committee. The Trump administration unveiled a plan to help the uninsured get HIV treatment and prevention services, and Democratic presidential candidates are still squabbling over their health care plans. 

We’ll start with the FDA:

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Trump’s FDA nominee approved by Senate panel

Cancer doctor and researcher Stephen Hahn’s nomination cleared the Senate health committee Tuesday 18-5, setting him up for a vote on the floor. 

If Tuesday’s vote is any indication, Hahn’s confirmation vote will be relatively uncontroversial. He got the support of several Democrats, including Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Doug Jones (Ala.). 

But the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), along with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), both 2020 presidential contenders, voted no, expressing concerns about Hahn’s qualifications. 

“I’m just not convinced Dr. Hahn is the right pick for the job,” Murray said Tuesday. 

“I was particularly concerned that when pressed several times by members on both sides of the aisle, Dr. Hahn refused to commit to implementing a strong policy to clear non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes that have not undergone FDA review from the market,” Murray said. 

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Why it matters: If confirmed by the full Senate, cancer doctor and researcher Stephen Hahn would join the FDA at a challenging time: The agency is facing pressure from all sides on how to curb youth vaping rates, with some pushing for a ban on flavored e-cigarette products. 

Hahn, the chief medical officer of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, hasn’t weighed in on specific proposals but has called teen e-cigarette use concerning. 

Read more on Hahn here

 

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Biden says most Democratic enthusiasm isn’t around Medicare for All

The “Medicare for All” battle continues in the Democratic primary. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden downplayed enthusiasm for “Medicare for All” within the Democratic Party on Thursday, saying the majority of the party was not behind the policy idea. 

“I don’t think the bulk of the enthusiasm in the Democratic party is for Medicare for All,” Biden said in Iowa, according to NBC News.

Biden has repeatedly warned against moving in the direction of a Medicare for All system, and has instead pushed for expanding the Affordable Care Act and adding a “public option” that allows people to select a government plan or use private insurance.

The move has put him in direct odds with progressive Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who have their own Medicare for All plans. 

Read more here

 

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Meanwhile…

 

Buttigieg responds to Biden’s accusation he ‘stole’ health care proposal

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday responded to fellow Democratic White House contender Joe Biden’s allegations that he “stole” the former vice president’s health care plan.

“Well, first of all, I’ve been talking about ‘Medicare for all who want it’ since at least February, and also the plans are not exactly the same,” Buttigieg told CNN.

He added: “Of course I believe that our approach on health care is the best one, and I’m willing to bring that plan out and compete with any of my competitors on having the best plan.”

On Monday, Biden tore into Buttigieg while on the campaign trail in Iowa, saying the South Bend mayor “stole” his policy idea, adding that he would’ve been criticized if he’d copied another rival.

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Read more here.

 

Trump officials unveil program for free HIV prevention drugs for uninsured

The Trump administration on Tuesday announced a program to provide free HIV prevention medication to uninsured people, part of President Trump’s effort to end the HIV epidemic. 

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said the move is “a historic expansion of access to HIV prevention medication and a major step forward in President Trump’s plan to end the HIV epidemic in America.”

Trump announced in his State of the Union address earlier this year a goal of cutting new HIV infections by 75 percent in five years and 90 percent by 2030. 

The program announced Tuesday will allow uninsured people to get free HIV prevention drugs, known as PrEP. 

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The program uses a donation from the drug company Gilead, which announced in May that it will provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with up to 2.4 million bottles of PrEP annually. Officials said that is more than enough to provide medication for the approximately 200,000 uninsured people who need it.

Read more here

 

Another generic drug company admits to price-fixing

Rising Pharmaceuticals on Tuesday admitted to fixing the price of its high blood pressure medication and divvying up customers with another drug company. 

The New Jersey-based generic drug manufacturer will pay more than $3 million in a settlement with the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

Rising Pharmaceuticals conspired with a competitor and its executives to inflate the price of Benazepril HCTZ from April 2014 until at least September 2015, according to the DOJ. 

The competitor was not named by the DOJ. 

The DOJ charged Rising with a one-count felony charge but will defer prosecution for three years in exchange for cooperation in other price-fixing investigations. 

 

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Survey: 37 percent of Americans plan to skip flu vaccine this season

Thirty-seven percent of American adults don’t plan to get flu shots this season, according to a poll released Tuesday.

A survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago found those who don’t plan to get shots have concerns about the side effects of the vaccine or think it doesn’t work very well.

Others said they never get the flu, don’t like needles or are concerned they will get the flu from the vaccine.

“Widespread misconceptions exist regarding the safety and efficacy of flu shots,” said Caitlin Oppenheimer, senior vice president of Public Health Research at NORC at the University of Chicago.

“Because of the way the flu spreads in a community, failing to get a vaccination not only puts you at risk but also others for whom the consequences of the flu can be severe,” she added.

Why it matters: The CDC recommends flu shots for most people aged 6 months and older. While the effectiveness of the vaccine varies by year, some studies have shown people who are vaccinated and still get the flu experience milder symptoms. 

The flu may seem commonplace in 2019. But it still kills thousands of Americans every year and is particularly dangerous for infants and the elderly. 

Read more here

 

What we’re reading

Labor unions team up with drug makers to defeat drug-price proposals (The New York Times

The history of OxyContin, told through unsealed Purdue documents (Stat News

Mexico weighs U.S. plan to strip biologic drugs from trade pact (Bloomberg)

 

State by state

Another red state may soon expand Medicaid. There’s a message in this. (The Washington Post opinion

Major medical, legal groups oppose Louisiana abortion law before U.S. Supreme Court (NPR

Anthem Blue Cross gets flagged and fined more than other insurers (California Healthline

 

From The Hill’s opinion page

Reducing maternal mortality in rural America 

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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