Trump’s health chief suggests ‘massive’ drug price cuts not imminent

President Donald Trump’s top health care official is lowering expectations that drug companies will soon announce huge price cuts, undercutting Trump’s recent claims that his drug pricing plan would produce immediate results.

Trump on May 30 said some of the largest pharmaceutical companies would announce “voluntary massive drops in prices” within two weeks in response to his drug pricing plan released in mid-May. Wednesday will mark two weeks since Trump’s remarks, which drugmakers at the time said caught them by surprise.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar told the Senate HELP Committee Tuesday morning that there are “several drug companies that are looking at substantial, material decreases in drug prices,” but he indicated it could take time for the cuts to happen. Azar did not say which companies were considering cuts or how deeply they would slash prices.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon. Continue reading “Trump’s health chief suggests ‘massive’ drug price cuts not imminent”

Trump’s health chief suggests ‘massive’ drug price cuts not imminent

President Donald Trump’s top health care official is lowering expectations that drug companies will soon announce huge price cuts, undercutting Trump’s recent claims that his drug pricing plan would produce immediate results.

Trump on May 30 said some of the largest pharmaceutical companies would announce “voluntary massive drops in prices” within two weeks in response to his drug pricing plan released in mid-May. Wednesday will mark two weeks since Trump’s remarks, which drugmakers at the time said caught them by surprise.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar told the Senate HELP Committee Tuesday morning that there are “several drug companies that are looking at substantial, material decreases in drug prices,” but he indicated it could take time for the cuts to happen. Azar did not say which companies were considering cuts or how deeply they would slash prices.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon. Continue reading “Trump’s health chief suggests ‘massive’ drug price cuts not imminent”

Trump administration weighs nicotine limits in cigarettes

The FDA is considering setting a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes for the first time to make them less addictive and is seeking public feedback ahead of issuing a proposed rule.

Lowering nicotine levels will make it harder for future generations to become dependent on cigarettes and make it easier for current smokers to quit or switch to less harmful products, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

The nicotine rule is one of a number of tobacco-related regulations FDA is working on. The agency will soon seek comment on the role that flavors like menthol play in tobacco use, and to get feedback and data concerning the possible regulation of premium cigars. It’s also working to modernize its approach to the development and regulation of nicotine replacement products like gum and patches.

Combined, the moves bring tobacco regulation to a prominence not seen since the tenure of David Kessler, Continue reading “Trump administration weighs nicotine limits in cigarettes”

Trump-backed drug bill fails in House

House Republican leaders on Tuesday failed in their bid to pass a right-to-try drug bill that would give terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs without FDA authorization.

The 259-140 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority of members present and voting needed to approve the measure under the expedited process GOP leaders used to bring it to the floor.

Right-to-try drug bill could needlessly raise patients’ hopes, experts say

Congress may be on a speedy path to lifting the hopes of terminally ill patients. Whether it’s anything more than a feel-good exercise is an open question.

The House of Representatives is expected to deliver the deciding vote for a right-to-try bill Tuesday that President Donald Trump touted in his State of the Union address and would give terminally ill patients — or those likely to die prematurely — access to experimental medicines without the FDA’s blessing. The Senate, which already passed its own bill, is considered likely to adopt the changes.

The right-to-try idea, conceived by a little-known libertarian think tank, has an instantaneous appeal. But FDA, drug industry and health policy experts say it’s unlikely to significantly increase the number of patients who get unapproved drugs. And the few who do could be exposing themselves to unnecessary risks while compromising medical research.

“I think this is feel good Continue reading “Right-to-try drug bill could needlessly raise patients’ hopes, experts say”

Kellyanne Conway’s ‘opioid cabinet’ sidelines drug czar’s experts

President Donald Trump’s war on opioids is beginning to look more like a war on his drug policy office.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has taken control of the opioids agenda, quietly freezing out drug policy professionals and relying instead on political staff to address a lethal crisis claiming about 175 lives a day. The main response so far has been to call for a border wall and to promise a "just say no” campaign.

Trump is expected to propose massive cuts this month to the “drug czar” office, just as he attempted in last year’s budget before backing off. He hasn’t named a permanent director for the office, and the chief of staff was sacked in December. For months, the office’s top political appointee was a 24-year-old Trump campaign staffer with no relevant qualifications. Its senior leadership consists of a skeleton crew of three political appointees, down from nine Continue reading “Kellyanne Conway’s ‘opioid cabinet’ sidelines drug czar’s experts”

Trump’s controversial new health care idea

It sounds like a humane and overdue change to federal drug regulations: Allow desperately sick patients to ask for experimental new medicines if they’re willing to take the risk. And give drugmakers a break on liability if they provide them to patients.

The idea, known as "right-to-try," got a huge boost Tuesday night when President Donald Trump mentioned it in his State of the Union address. “People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure—I want to give them a chance right here at home. It’s time for the Congress to give these wonderful, incredible Americans the ‘right-to-try.’” he said, surprising the health care industry and publicly citing for the first time an idea that Vice President Mike Pence had been pushing for a year.

A right-to-try bill is now making its way through Congress; it passed the Senate in Continue reading “Trump’s controversial new health care idea”

How Trump’s HHS nominee’s drug company ‘gamed’ patent

When Donald Trump’s nominee for HHS secretary was a top executive at Eli Lilly, the patent on its blockbuster Cialis was soon to expire.

So Lilly tested it on kids.

The drugmaker believed the erectile dysfunction drug might help a rare and deadly muscle-wasting disease that afflicts boys. The drug didn’t work — but under a law that promotes pediatric research, Lilly was able to extend the Cialis patent anyway for six months — and that’s worth a lot when a medication brings in over $2 billion a year.

Critics say the brand-name drugmakers are “gaming” the patent system, finding all sorts of ways to protect monopolies and delay competition from generics. And Alex Azar — the former president of Eli Lilly’s U.S. operations, now poised to become the top U.S. health official — professes to oppose such tactics.

But the tension between his past actions as a Continue reading “How Trump’s HHS nominee’s drug company ‘gamed’ patent”

Why a drug for aging would challenge Washington

What if you could live to 85, 90 or even 100 with your mental faculties intact, able to live independently without debilitating conditions until the last year of your life? What if just one medical treatment could stave off a handful of terrifying ailments like heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s?

The idea of a pill for aging sounds like science fiction or fantasy. But the hunt is increasingly real. At the cutting edge of research, scientists and doctors are already deep into the quest for a drug that could transform the experience of aging. The goal isn’t a pharmaceutical fountain of youth, exactly; nobody is promising to stretch human lifespans indefinitely. Instead, they’re looking for a way to ensure healthier aging—a drug that could make it more likely people reach their eighth or ninth decade of life with fewer of the ailments that make old age painful and disabling for Continue reading “Why a drug for aging would challenge Washington”

Trump’s HHS secretary nominee boosted drug prices while at Eli Lilly

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that his nominee for HHS secretary, Alex Azar will “be a star for … lower drug prices!” But the record of the former top executive for Eli Lilly, which tripled the price of a top-selling insulin drug while he led its U.S. operation, suggests a different story.

Lilly is one of three drug companies targeted by a class-action lawsuit that accuses the company, then under Azar’s watch, of exploiting the drug pricing system to ensure higher profit for insulin and has been fined in Mexico for colluding on the pricing of the drug.

Azar, who spent almost a decade at Eli Lilly, rising to become president of the drug giant’s U.S. operations before leaving earlier this year, doesn’t deny drug costs are a consumer issue. But his record there and as a top official in George W. Bush’s administration suggests he’s unlikely Continue reading “Trump’s HHS secretary nominee boosted drug prices while at Eli Lilly”

Trump picks ex-pharma executive Azar to lead HHS

President Donald Trump on Monday nominated former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar to be his next Health and Human Services secretary, moving to stabilize the agency at the center of his administration’s biggest domestic policy failure.

Azar, a veteran of George W. Bush’s administration, would succeed Tom Price, who resigned after POLITICO reported he spent roughly $1 million on private and government air travel in just seven months on the job.

"He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!" Trump tweeted from the Philippines this morning.

If confirmed, the 50-year-old Azar would be thrust onto the front lines of a White House agenda that includes repealing Obamacare, reining in drug prices and rolling back regulations — goals that have remained largely unfulfilled since Trump took office.

The Trump administration is wagering Azar has the policy and political chops to get those priorities back on track, and Continue reading “Trump picks ex-pharma executive Azar to lead HHS”

Trump opioid panel ducks question of new money

President Donald Trump’s opioid commission will call Wednesday for big boosts in substance abuse treatment programs but stop short of asking for new funding that federal and state officials say is critical to pay for such programs.

The commission, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, will recommend the Trump administration increase access to addiction treatment and recovery programs, expand the availability of medication-assisted therapies and expand first responders’ ability to administer the life-saving overdose reversal drug, naloxone, according to a draft of the commission’s final report obtained by POLITICO.

But the draft recommendations don’t include asking Congress to appropriate new dollars to tackle the crisis.

The commission’s final meeting and report come just one week after Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency — a move seen as a largely symbolic gesture that provided no new funding.

Administration officials have characterized the declaration as a jumping off Continue reading “Trump opioid panel ducks question of new money”

Trump vows to ‘liberate’ Americans from ‘scourge of drug addiction’

President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency Thursday and touted "really tough, really big, really great advertising" against drug use. But despite his August vow to spend "a lot of money” to combat it, he did not pump additional funds into an epidemic that has ravaged communities and claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Trump said he would swiftly "review and evaluate" recommendations due next week from his opioid commission and promised to fight illegal drug shipments from countries like China. But the declaration disappointed state officials and public health experts who say a lot more money is needed to respond to a deadly epidemic that is outpacing efforts to contain it. Policies, they said, won’t accomplish much without substantial investments behind them.

“People are dying," said Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. "We have people dying of overdoses on waiting lists Continue reading “Trump vows to ‘liberate’ Americans from ‘scourge of drug addiction’”

Trump opioid declaration falls short, say state officials

President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and touted a big public advertising campaign against drug use. But he did not pump additional money into an epidemic that has ravaged communities and claimed thousands of lives.

Trump said he would act swiftly to "review and evaluate" recommendations due next week from his opioid commission, and promised to address illegal drug shipments from countries like China. But the declaration disappointed state officials and public health experts who say a lot more money is needed for a deadly epidemic that is outpacing efforts to contain it.

“People are dying," said Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. "We have people dying of overdoses on waiting lists for an effective treatment.”

Senior administration officials told reporters that acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan will sign the declaration on Thursday. That will allow public health agencies to Continue reading “Trump opioid declaration falls short, say state officials”

Libertarians score big victory in ‘right-to-try’ drug bill

The Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would allow people facing life-threatening diseases access to unapproved experimental drugs, providing a victory for libertarian advocates who see government regulators thwarting patients’ rights.

The bill, S. 204 (115), passed swiftly and easily in a Senate bitterly divided over health care. The powerful pharmaceutical lobby, which had quietly opposed an earlier version, kept an unusually low profile. The industry has been focused on fighting off any efforts to go after drug pricing, which President Donald Trump has said he would tackle.

The bill’s chief champion, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), declared it a victory for individual liberty over government, and for “the right to hope.” It’s also been championed by the libertarian Goldwater Institute, and Vice President Mike Pence, who tweeted that it gives patients “hope & a chance.”

The legislation would allow patients with serious diseases — anything from Continue reading “Libertarians score big victory in ‘right-to-try’ drug bill”

Senate GOP’s new health care bill expected to include controversial Cruz amendment

The Senate Republicans’ draft Obamacare repeal bill due to be released on Thursday will tentatively include a controversial amendment from Ted Cruz, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will unveil the bill on Thursday morning at a closed-door, members-only meeting. It is also expected to eliminate tax cuts for the wealthy, include new financial support for low-income people’s insurance, allow people to pay for insurance with pre-tax money, and include billions more to fight opioid addiction.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee was advocating for the amendment with Cruz. But he is not yet supportive of the latest version because he’s unaware of its content, a spokesman for Lee said.

The amendment from Cruz will be tentatively included, those sources said, and could be altered or removed later. The amendment would allow the sale of cheap, deregulated insurance plans as long as Obamacare-compliant plans are still Continue reading “Senate GOP’s new health care bill expected to include controversial Cruz amendment”

Republicans can’t agree on where Senate Obamacare repeal stands

Congressional Republicans and Trump administration officials were at odds Sunday over how close the Senate is to a deal on an Obamacare repeal package and what the legislation should look like — an indication that the upper chamber may be further from agreement than some politicians let on.

“We are getting close,” Marc Short, President Donald Trump’s director of legislative affairs, said on “Fox News Sunday.” The White House is making calls this weekend to “try and get the Senate package across the finish line,” Short added.

But Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a conservative who was one of the holdouts who doomed efforts to vote on health care legislation last week, disagreed: “I don’t think we’re getting anywhere with the bill we have. We’re at an impasse,” Paul said on the same show.

Republicans have scrambled to put together a bill repealing President Barack Obama’s signature reform, but conservative Continue reading “Republicans can’t agree on where Senate Obamacare repeal stands”

Opioid cash may sweeten Senate health bill for moderates

The one near-certainty in GOP efforts to patch up their failed Obamacare repeal bill over the July Fourth break is that they will add more money to combat the opioid crisis.

That may entice some moderate lawmakers to support the bill. But it will do little to fulfill Donald Trump’s campaign promise to address the crisis devastating so many communities. And it certainly won’t make up for the Medicaid cuts that many members of his own opioid commission oppose because tens of thousands of people who are addicted to the drugs would lose regular health coverage.

Addiction experts and others across the political spectrum say that boosting the current bill’s $2 billion for substance abuse services is like applying a band-aid to a gunshot wound. The White House and congressional sources said late Wednesday night that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to add at least $45 billion to Continue reading “Opioid cash may sweeten Senate health bill for moderates”

Opioid cash may sweeten Senate health bill for moderates

The one near-certainty in GOP efforts to patch up their failed Obamacare repeal bill over the July Fourth break is that they will add more money to combat the opioid crisis.

That may entice some moderate lawmakers to support the bill. But it will do little to fulfill Donald Trump’s campaign promise to address the crisis devastating so many communities. And it certainly won’t make up for the Medicaid cuts that many members of his own opioid commission oppose because tens of thousands of people who are addicted to the drugs would lose regular health coverage.

Addiction experts and others across the political spectrum say that boosting the current bill’s $2 billion for substance abuse services is like applying a band-aid to a gunshot wound. The White House and congressional sources said late Wednesday night that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to add at least $45 billion to Continue reading “Opioid cash may sweeten Senate health bill for moderates”

Trump’s drug price ‘remedy’ expected to be industry friendly

Candidate Donald Trump made rising drug costs a signature issue during his campaign and beefed up his criticisms after the election, saying in January that the drug industry was "getting away with murder."

The comments unnerved drug executives, but six months later, the industry is no longer in a state of panic.

The administration is not proposing, as Trump did on the campaign trail, that the government negotiate drug prices or allow the importation of cheaper drugs from abroad. At a meeting Friday, top Trump administration officials reportedly made little progress on even on more modest goals that are said to be an executive order on drug prices, which the White House is pushing to release.

The meeting which was led by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and included top leadership of U.S. health agencies, trade officials and senior Trump advisors like Gary Cohn and Reed Cordish, ended with Continue reading “Trump’s drug price ‘remedy’ expected to be industry friendly”