With Alice Miranda Ollstein and Dan Goldberg
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– Senior Trump administration officials had no definitive proof to back up their accusations that Covid-19 escaped from a Chinese lab, newly obtained documents reveal.
– Labor groups step up pressure on Congress to fight drug prices as the stalemate worsens.
– Lawyers call for the resignation of Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, as the debate over the agency’s decision to approve a new drug for Alzheimer’s disease continues.
WELCOME TO PULSE WEDNESDAY – where more than 600,000 in the United States have now died from Covid-19, a toll that exceeds the population of some major cities. Towards brighter days: contact us at [email protected] and [email protected].
HOW TRUMP OFFICIALS SEEK TO PIN COVID ON CHINA – Senior Trump administration officials have hinted that Covid-19 escaped from a Chinese laboratory despite the lack of conclusive evidence on the origins of the virus, report Erin Banco and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO.
The spring 2020 effort to blame a Wuhan infectious disease lab for the coronavirus pandemic was part of a messaging campaign spanning the White House, the National Security Council, and the State Department, and was passed in several times by the then president. Donald trump then secretary of state Mike Pompeo. They saw this message as essential to a diplomatic offensive, to compel China to allow an external investigation.
But documents and cables obtained by POLITICO show that evidence gathered by the US government has never substantiated these claims, leaving the administration’s top national security and health officials divided over the likely source of the virus.
For example: Economist Pierre Navarro then deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger adhered to the theory of laboratory leaks, while others, including Antoine Fauci then head of the CDC Robert redfield thought it was more likely to have its origin in nature.
It’s a mystery that continued until the Biden era, although it is not clear if there is more hope now to resolve it; China refused to share vital lab data with the United States
“I guess if a lab leak did occur, the probability of accessing definitive evidence would be close to zero,” said Zack Cooper of the American Enterprise Institute. “It would be one of the best-protected secrets in the history of the Communist Party.”
FIRST IN PULSE: LABOR LAUNCHES NEW POWER FOR DRUG PRICES ACT – New coalition of more than 100 unions, faith groups and health policy advocates warns congressional committee chairs and Democratic leaders not to leave provisions to negotiate Medicare drug prices, lower age of eligibility for Medicare and extending the benefits of larger jobs and families plans.
In a letter sent Wednesday morning and shared with Alice Miranda Ollstein of POLITICO, the SEIU, the Communications Workers of America, the United Auto Workers and other groups say the current high cost of drugs has hurt their members and put a strain on their members. test the insurance programs for which they negotiated.
Action on these issues has stalled on the Hill. No House hearing or progressive-backed HR 3 hikes have been scheduled since a group of moderate Democrats voiced concerns about the measure last month. Meanwhile, the staff of Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are still trying to come up with a proposal that can get at least 50 Democratic votes, confirmed the legislators and assistants.
“I try to pose ideas and try them out on people, and I think that in too long a time we’ll have something to show,” Wyden said on Tuesday.
A member of the Senate added that Democrats on the Finance Committee were trying to “update and strengthen” the bipartisan bill that Wyden and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced in the last Congress and to add to it. form of price negotiation by the government.
“But what that looks like is yet to be determined, especially whether or not it looks like HR.3,” the aide said. “It is the most complicated and the most controversial piece.”
FOLLOWING NOT A WORD VACCINES AVAILABLE – Another batch of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 snapshots produced by Maryland contractor Emergent BioSolutions can be sent to the public, the FDA announced Tuesday evening.
Three slices of J&J vaccines produced by Emergent have now been cleared for use, out of millions made at the Maryland plant before the contamination interrupted production. Last month, the FDA said two lots, or roughly 10 million doses, could be used safely, but millions more would need to be destroyed.
The following question : Will J&J vaccines be used again in the United States? State vaccine orders had started to decline weeks ago, and excess injections have now gone unused long enough to start expiring, as federal officials rushed to extend their expiration dates and roll them out to abroad.
ADVOCACY CAMPAIGN AGAINST woodcock AFTER ALZHEIMER’S DECISION – Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen is calling on Woodcock to step down following the FDA’s decision last week to approve an expensive new drug for Alzheimer’s disease based on limited evidence.
The FDA approval of Biogen’s Aduhelm “has shown a blatant disregard for science, has gutted the agency’s standards for approving new drugs, and ranks as one of the most irresponsible and irresponsible decisions. most egregious in the agency’s history, ”wrote Michael Carome, head of health research at Public Citizen. a June 16 letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
– Letter lands amid ongoing debates about the drug’s effectiveness and the cost in addition to an unusually lengthy search for a permanent FDA commissioner.
Critics of Woodcock argue that the Alzheimer’s decision is the latest evidence that the acting FDA commissioner, who has headed the agency’s pharmaceutical division for decades, is too close to the industry. Its supporters argue that the drug shows promise and could be the first good news for neurodegenerative disease in years.
ICYMI: Harvard professors Aaron Kesselheim, who resigned from the FDA advisory board after the ruling, and Jerry Avorn this week wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times, saying the agency has hit “a new low “.
TODAY: HHS PANEL MEETING ON VACCINE EQUITY – The National Vaccine Advisory Committee is meeting today and Thursday to discuss vaccine awareness, fairness, reluctance and the spectrum of Covid-19 variants.
– Assistant Secretary of Health Rachel Levine will open the meeting in one of its first major oratorical events since its confirmation to the Senate in March.
POLISHED TO SIGN THE COLORADO HEALTH REFORM PROJECT – Democratic Gov. Jared Polis is set to sign legislation to cut health insurance premiums, in a bid to make a key part of his 2018 campaign a reality, reports Dan Goldberg of POLITICO.
The measure has been referred to by some as a public option bill, but it does not actually create a government-backed plan to compete in the private market. Rather, he calls on insurers to come up with a standard plan in 2023 that cuts premiums by 15% over three years.
Lawmakers had to water down the bill to appease opposition from hospitals, doctors and insurers – but Polis argued that even modest premium cuts as a result of the bill would be better than none at all.
AMA REFUSES THE STATEMENTS ON TRANSGENDER INVOICES – The American Medical Association will oppose any legislation to restrict health care for transgender youth amid an increase in GOP state-level efforts to ban medical treatment related to the transition.
WADA’s House of Delegates voted on Tuesday to broaden its stance against what it called a “dangerous government intrusion into the practice of medicine,” arguing that state legislatures should not interfere with the ability of doctors to consider a range of medical options for children.
“Gender care is medically necessary, evidence-based care that improves the physical and mental health of transgender and gender diverse people,” said Michael Suk, WADA Board Member.
– The organization’s House of Delegates also advocated a crackdown on public health misinformation, urging social media companies to be more aggressive in weeding out false claims about vaccines in particular. The new policy follows an increase in the time doctors have spent with patients fighting misinformation, WADA said.
Washington state’s plan to provide marijuana to those who get vaccinated has failed to attract both the pottery shops and health care providers needed to make the program a success, reports Gene Johnson of the Associated Press.
Vaccine shortages have prevented Asian countries that have done the best job containing Covid-19 from making significant progress in vaccinating their populations against it, writes Damien Cave of the New York Times.
Despite his promise to end mandatory minimum sentences, President Joe Biden has quietly extended a policy that makes it easier to punish people for low-intensity drug-related offenses, reports Beth Schwartzapfel of the Marshall Project.