Health Care — GOP plans COVID probes if they have majorities

Health Care — GOP plans COVID probes if they have majorities

Election night this year will probably be rife with anticipation, stress and… spookiness? As nerds come in, a”blood moon“lunar eclipse is set to rise. It’s still Halloween in our hearts.

In health NEWS, we’ll be looking at the GOP’s plans should the party take control of the House or Senate in the midterm elections.

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter?

If GOP gets majority, to-do list includes COVID, Fauci

Congressional Republicans are floating sweeping investigations into the Biden administration’s COVID-19 spending and are looking to tighten the purse strings on agency funding should they hold majorities after next week’s midterms.

Republicans are frustrated with what they see as the administration’s unaccountable coronavirus spending and are looking to shine a spotlight on where the trillions of dollars doled out by the White House have gone.

Polls show the House is more likely to flip than the Senate, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) is poised to take control of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has wide jurisdiction over issues like Medicare, Medicaid, food and drug safety and the federal health agencies.

Prospective plans: Rodgers and other GOP lawmakers have said they want to prioritize an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, as well as the administration’s policies in response to the virus, like school closures.

  • “Overall, regarding the COVID response, the lockdowns, the decisions that were made in response to COVID, we want to look at the decisions that were made, what drove those decisions, and how we might want to approach that in the future,” Rodgers told Punchbowl News in a September interview.
  • A GOP aide said the committee is interested in holding the administration accountable for the grants from the American Rescue Plan as well as the Inflation Reduction Act. While a lot of the money was allocated, and lawmakers will want to track it, some of it has been set aside for later years.

In the crosshairs: The aide said the committee is also looking to bring in officials like Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

Brooks-LaSure has not tested since her Senate confirmation, and GOP lawmakers want a chance to grill her, especially about Medicare’s new authority to negotiate drug prices.

Read more here.

Pfizer testing combined COVID, flu vaccine

Pfizer and BioNTech have launched a phase 1 trial for an mRNA-based vaccine that would target both COVID-19 and the influenza virus.

According to BioNTechthe vaccine candidate is a combination of Pfizer’s flu vaccine candidate, which is in phase 3 clinical development, and the company’s bivalent omicron-specific coronavirus vaccine dose.

The study includes 180 adults between the ages of 18 and 64. Participants received their first doses of the vaccine candidate this week. The follow-up period for each of the participants will be six months.

  • “The flexibility and manufacturing speed of the mRNA technology has demonstrated that it is well-suited for other respiratory diseases,” Annaliesa Anderson, Pfizer’s senior vice president and chief scientific officer for vaccine research and development, said in a statement.
  • “Even with existing seasonal influenza vaccines, the burden of this virus is severe across the world causing thousands of deaths and hospitalizations every year,” Anderson said.

Timely timing: The launch of Pfizer and BioNTech’s study into a combined flu and COVID-19 vaccine comes as health officials warn of what could be a harsh respiratory viral season this year.

Exposure to the influenza virus has been low for the past two years as the pandemic pushed more people indoors, and a harsh flu season observed in the Southern Hemisphere caused officials to worry that the same could happen in the north.

Read more here.

CDC ISSUES UPDATED GUIDANCE ON PRESCRIBING OPIOIDS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday issued new guidance for providers on prescribing opioids for chronic pain, updating its current recommendations that have been in place since 2016.

The CDC proposed new opioid prescription guidelines earlier this year amid criticisms that the old ones had resulted in worsened outcomes for patients with chronic pain.

  • “Our hope is that this new guideline, informed by the latest science and what we’ve learned about the human story of patients living with pain, can be a tool to help clinicians ensure the safest and most effective treatment for their patients is provided and that pain function and quality of life will improve for the millions of Americans dealing with pain each day,” Christopher Jones, acting director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a briefing on Thursday.
  • Some changes include recommending that clinicians “carefully weigh benefits and risks” when changing opioid dosages and to “optimize nonopioid therapies while continuing opioid therapy.”

Instead of stating that clinicians should “avoid prescribing opioid pain medication and benzodiazepines concurrently whenever possible,” the newer guidance recommends that clinicians “use particular caution” when prescribing the two different kinds of medication.

Read more here.

NY REACHES $523M SETTLEMENT WITH DRUG MANUFACTURER TEVA

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday issued new guidance for providers on prescribing opioids for chronic pain, updating its current recommendations that have been in place since 2016.

The CDC proposed new opioid prescription guidelines earlier this year amid criticisms that the old ones had resulted in worsened outcomes for patients with chronic pain.

  • “Our hope is that this new guideline, informed by the latest science and what we’ve learned about the human story of patients living with pain, can be a tool to help clinicians ensure the safest and most effective treatment for their patients is provided and that pain function and quality of life will improve for the millions of Americans dealing with pain each day,” Christopher Jones, acting director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a briefing on Thursday.
  • Some changes include recommending that clinicians “carefully weigh benefits and risks” when changing opioid dosages and to “optimize nonopioid therapies while continuing opioid therapy.”

Instead of stating that clinicians should “avoid prescribing opioid pain medication and benzodiazepines concurrently whenever possible,” the newer guidance recommends that clinicians “use particular caution” when prescribing the two different kinds of medication.

Read more here.

Report: Health care ‘uniquely vulnerable’ to cyber attacks

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a report on Thursday outlining cybersecurity threats in the health care sector and ways the federal government can improve security standards in the industry.

The report, which is divided into three sections, recommends that the federal government improve the country’s cybersecurity risk posture in the health care sector, help the private sector mitigate cyber threats and assist health care providers in responding and recovering from cyberattacks.

  • “Unfortunately, the health care sector is uniquely vulnerable to cyberattacks and the transition to better cybersecurity has been painfully slow and inadequate,” Warner said in the report.
  • “The federal government and the health sector must find a balanced approach to meet the dire threats, as partners with shared responsibilities,” he added.

In the first section, Warner recommends that the federal government enhance its cybersecurity leadership within the health care sector and protect health care research and development from cyberattacks.

Warner also suggested that the government mandate a regular process to improve the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations to address cyber threats. HIPAA is a federal law that requires standards to protect sensitive patient data from being disclosed.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Vaccines used to be apolitical. Now they’re a campaign issue (NPR)
  • Monkeypox may spread before symptoms start, study suggests (CNN)
  • Biden officials to get key data on new Covid booster’s effectiveness (Politico)

STATE BY STATE

  • Ahead of transgender care vote, medical board members donated over $80K to DeSantis (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Physician group threatens legal action over stalled Texas maternal mortality report (Houston Chronicle)
  • Voters have expanded Medicaid in 6 states. Is South Dakota next? (The New York Times)

THE HILL OP-ED

COVID, the flu and RSV: We’re not out of the woods

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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