State of play: The White House is not actively considering declaring a public health emergency for abortion.
“We don’t believe that declaring a public health emergency would provide meaningful new resources in this fight,” Jen Klein, director of the White House gender policy council, told reporters.
In other news, the White House outlined its latest investments geared toward fighting cancer and helping the families of those battling the disease.
Welcome to The Hill’s Health Care roundup, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. We’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi.
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Officials outline efforts to fight cancer, help families
The White House on Thursday marked one year since President Biden relaunched the Cancer Moonshot initiative, announcing a series of new efforts to reduce cancer deaths and provide support to those getting treatment.
The National Cancer Institute will launch a new public-private partnership to assist families with children diagnosed with cancer, the White House said. The Childhood Cancer – Data Integration for Research, Education, Care, and Clinical Trials, or CC-DIRECT, will provide support to families to help them find ideal care for their child and participate in research initiatives like clinical trials and share data on optimal treatments.
The new program is a collaboration between the National Cancer Institute, the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Cancer Society, the Office for the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and several other groups.
The White House also announced that the Health Resources and Services Administration is awarding $10 million to improve access to cancer screenings to improve early detection. The funds will go to 22 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers, which will conduct patient outreach in their communities to promote early detection.
Biden in February 2022 relaunched the Cancer Moonshot with the goal to cut the cancer death rate in half over the next 25 years and improve the lives of caregivers and cancer survivors. Biden oversaw the original moonshot initiative during the final years of the Obama administration.
Lawmakers ask Biden to add drug czar to Cabinet
A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers on Thursday called on President Biden to reinstate the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to a Cabinet-level position to better address the overdose epidemic in the U.S.
In a letter led by Reps. David Trone (D-Md.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), along with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the lawmakers commended Biden for prioritizing the opioid epidemic in his State of the Union address last year.
“However, we have not yet broken the trend of rising overdose deaths, and patterns in overdose deaths are constantly evolving, as evidenced by the growing challenges related to xylazine,” they stated.
Xylazine is a non-opioid drug used as veterinary tranquilizer, also referred to as “tranq.” It is often used in combination with opioids like fentanyl to enhance the effects.
The ONDCP coordinates with 19 federal agencies to lead U.S. drug policy as a component of the president’s executive office.
The head of the ONDCP, a role currently occupied Rahul Gupta, was a Cabinet-level position until 2009, when former President Obama demoted it. The office was established in 1988 with the signing of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act by former President Reagan.
The lawmakers urged Biden to announce the reinstatement of this position to the Cabinet level in his upcoming State of the Union address on Feb. 7.
SENATE DEMS PRESS ABORTION PILL MAKER TO ADD MISCARRIAGE MANAGEMENT TO LABEL
A group of Senate Democrats is calling on Danco Laboratories, one of the manufacturers of the abortion pill mifepristone, to update the drug’s labeling to make it easier for patients to access the drug to help reduce complications from a miscarriage.
The Democrats, led by Sens. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Maggie Hassan (N.H.), urged the company to submit an application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to add miscarriage management to the medication’s label, which currently only includes medication abortion.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June, women have increasingly turned to abortion pills if they need to terminate a pregnancy. But many states have passed laws that severely restrict or outright ban medication abortion.
The senators wrote that since miscarriage management is not included on the mifepristone label, patients experiencing early pregnancy loss who need mifepristone don’t have easy access to the drug, putting them at risk of serious injury or death.
“At this time, Danco does not plan to submit an application to FDA for miscarriage management,” a company spokeswoman told The Hill.
REPUBLICAN AGS BLAST PHARMACIES’ PLANS TO SELL ABORTION PILLS
Twenty Republican state attorneys general sent a letter to U.S-based pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS on Wednesday, telling both companies their plans to distribute abortion pills through the mail are “both unsafe and illegal.”
In the letter, the coalition wrote that federal law prohibits anyone from using the mail to send or receive any drug that will “be used or applied for producing abortion,” referring to the Comstock Act of 1873.
Last month, the Justice Department issued a legal opinion finding that mailing abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol does not violate the Comstock Act and said the U.S. Postal Service is legally allowed to deliver prescription abortion drugs even in states that have curtailed access to abortion.
“But the text, not the Biden administration’s view, is what governs. And the Biden administration’s opinion fails to stand up even to the slightest amount of scrutiny,” the attorneys general said in the letter.
“We reject the Biden administration’s bizarre interpretation, and we expect courts will as well,” they added.
Bill Clinton returns to White House
The Biden administration on Thursday marked the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by urging expansion of the provisions guaranteed by the law and inviting former President Clinton, who signed it in 1993, to speak at the White House.
President Biden was also joined by Vice President Harris to commemorate the signing of the FMLA in the White House’s East Room.
The law requires certain employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if employees are sick, have a new child in their household or are taking care of a sick family member, without the risk of the staffer losing their jobs.
Biden issued a memo Thursday urging federal agency leaders to consider allowing their employees to access leave within the first year of their employment. Federal employees currently only qualify for leave after one year.
“Get cancer after six months? Your wife, your husband… Look, I’m a great respecter of fate. And I know all too well you can’t schedule when your loved one might need your help badly,” Biden said in his speech on Thursday.
The president also issued a directive to the Office of Personnel Management to create recommendations helping federal employees to “find safety from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking,” which the president referred to as “safe leave.”
WHAT WE’RE READING
Social Security, Medicare cuts sidelined in debt-ceiling talks (Wall Street Journal)
Biden mailed 737 million Covid tests but mum on who got them (Bloomberg Law)
Vaccine makers kept $1.4 billion in prepayments for canceled covid shots for the world’s poor (The New York Times)
STATE BY STATE
How Tennessee axed millions in HIV funds amid scrutiny from far-right provocateurs (NBC)
How Dobbs made the Wisconsin Supreme Court race one of the biggest elections of 2023 (The 19th)
Former UM chancellor: Gov. Tate Reeves privately acknowledged Medicaid expansion benefits (Mississippi Today)
OP-EDS IN THE HILL
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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