Lawmakers Seek Support for Medical Device Tax Repeal

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers are circulating a letter urging their colleagues to co-sponsor legislation that would permanently repeal the medical device tax. The Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2019, which has not yet been introduced, would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) 2.3 percent excise tax on sales of medical devices which is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2020. The letter is led by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and was signed by Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), and Jason Smith (R-Mo.).

DeGette, Markey Raise Concerns About New Opioid Approval

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have written to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb asking the agency to share documents related to the approval of Dsuvia, a formulation of the opioid sufentanil. The lawmakers express concerns about the risk of addiction associated with the product, and the FDA’s approval process. Dsuvia, which was approved in November, is ten times more powerful than fentanyl and 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. The potential dangers of the product have been acknowledged by Gottlieb, who has pointed to the potential benefit of the product in the military. Dsuvia can be administered under the tongue, which could be helpful in battlefield situations where injecting a drug could be difficult. DeGette and Markey requested a response from the FDA by March 5.

Energy and Commerce Requests Briefing on Blood Pressure Med Recalls

House Energy and Commerce Committee leadership have written to the FDA to request a bipartisan briefing on a series of recalls involving drugs manufactured overseas that may have been contaminated with known carcinogens. Since July 2018, the agency has issued at least 15 recalls for drug pressure medications known as angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) connected to two foreign drug manufacturing facilities in India and China. The lawmakers expressed concerns about the potential shortage of drugs to treat high blood pressure, and requested information on the basis and impact of the recalls as well as information on the FDA’s efforts to conduct foreign inspections. The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.).

Court Allows House to Intervene in ACA Lawsuit

A Louisiana-based federal court of appeals has agreed to allow House Democrats to intervene as a defendant alongside sixteen Democratic state attorneys general in the lawsuit brought by Republican state attorneys general challenging the ACA in court. The court denied, without explanation, a request filed by the Democratic states to fast track the appeal of a lower court’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

HHS’ Sutton Moves to WH Domestic Policy Council

Abe Sutton has been hired by White House Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan to serve as his top health policy aide. Sutton will work on prescription drugs, Medicare, and other health policy issues. He previously served as an adviser to HHS Secretary Alex Azar on value-based reform initiatives. He has also worked for the White House’s National Economic Council, where he helped expand association health plan and short-term health insurance plan options.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Meetings

Senate Finance Committee hearing on drug pricing, featuring the testimony of seven major pharmaceutical companies; time and place TBD; February 26

Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on measles outbreak and response efforts; time and location TBD; February 27

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing to examine policy principles for a Federal data privacy framework in the United States; 10:00 a.m., 216 Hart Bldg.; February 27

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing “Vaccines Save Lives: What is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?” 10:00 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.; March 5

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies hearing to examine the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other emerging health threats; 10:00 a.m., 124 Dirksen Bldg.; March 14

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