Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines

Welcome to Wednesday night’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re waiting to see if there’s going to be a deal on a new COVID-19 relief package.



a man wearing a suit and tie: Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines | Fauci said his mask stance was 'taken out of context' by Trump


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Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines | Fauci said his mask stance was ‘taken out of context’ by Trump

Top House Democrat: Parties ‘much closer’ to a COVID deal ‘than we’ve ever been’

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The head of the House Democratic Caucus said Wednesday that the negotiators seeking an emergency coronavirus deal are “much closer” to a deal than they have been at any point during the long weeks of on-again-off-again talks.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) pointed to comments by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicating a willingness to embrace $1.5 trillion in new stimulus spending – a number on par with the bipartisan relief package offered last week by the Problem Solvers Caucus – noting that that figure is far closer to the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion package than Republicans have previously backed.

After almost two months of stalled talks, Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have resumed the negotiations this week by phone. In some sign that progress is being made, Mnuchin met with Pelosi in the Speaker’s office on Wednesday afternoon.

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House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses

An explosive staff report from the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee found that the CEOs of Teva and Celgene raised drug prices exponentially for no reason other than to boost profits and inflate executives’ bonuses.

Oversight Democrats at a hearing on Wednesday pressed those CEOs, and put them on the defensive.

Highlights: Internal documents obtained by the committee found Celgene raised the price of the cancer drug Revlimid 22 times.

The drug, approved to treat the blood cancer multiple myeloma, more than tripled in price since its launch in 2005, driven almost exclusively by the need to meet company revenue targets and shareholder earnings goals.

In 2005, a monthly supply of Revlimid was priced at $4,515. Today, the same monthly supply is priced at $16,023, a cost of $719 per pill.

Easy target: The report found that executives at Celgene and Teva specifically targeted the U.S. market for massive increases because Medicare is not allowed to negotiate drug prices.

Context: The Democratic-led report comes just weeks before Election Day, and follows a flurry of mostly empty last-ditch efforts by President Trump aimed at showing he is taking action on drug pricing. Trump has made lowering drug prices a key part of his messaging for years, dating back to the 2016 campaign, but has little to show for all his bluster.

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Atlas, health officials feuds add to Trump coronavirus turmoil

The feuds between White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas and top public health officials are raising more questions about President Trump‘s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Atlas, a

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U.S. House Speaker Pelosi to Confer With Airline CEOs on Aid: Sources | Top News

By David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi will speak on Friday afternoon with the chief executives of the country’s top airlines, who are urging Congress to approve another $25 billion in assistance to keep tens of thousands of U.S. workers on the payroll past Sept. 30, sources said.

Pelosi and House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio are expected to hold a 2:45 p.m. EDT (1845 GMT) call with the chief executives of United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines and others, a Democratic aide told Reuters.

The end of this month marks expiration of the $25 billion in federal payroll assistance that airlines received when the coronavirus first began spreading around the world.

Airlines and unions are pleading for a six-month extension as part of a bipartisan proposal for another $1.5 trillion in coronavirus relief. At the same time, airlines are negotiating with employees to minimize thousands of job cuts that are expected without another round of aid.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows met with major airline chief executives on Thursday. He said President Donald Trump is also open to a stand-alone measure for airlines, though congressional aides say that is unlikely to win support given aid requests from so many other struggling industries.

Pelosi has said cited airlines and restaurants as two industries that need additional help but said that could mean less for other parts of the coronavirus relief bill.

“We recognize the severe impact the virus is having on our entire economy and the need for support touches many other individuals, organizations and programs. Assistance now can help to lessen the long-term impact to the economy and ultimately speed recovery,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a letter to Congress on Friday.

“The aviation industry is a critical driver of the larger economy,” he said in the letter, which was also signed by the leaders of five unions.

Up to 16,000 United jobs are at risk without aid, he said. American has said it plans to end service to 15 small communities without additional government assistance and furlough about 19,000 workers.

Air travel has plummeted over the last six months as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 196,000 American lives and prompted many to avoid airports and planes, seriously depressing airline revenues.

Congress also set aside another $25 billion in government loans for airlines, but many have opted not to tap that funding source.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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CEOs of all major U.S. airlines ask White House for $25B in new aid

Sept. 17 (UPI) — The heads of all major U.S. airlines met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday to ask for more federal aid amid ongoing hardships in the aviation industry.

Attending the meeting with Meadows at the White House were American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, United CEO Scott Kirby, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram, Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden and Airlines For America President Nicholas Calio.

Airlines worldwide have taken significant losses since the pandemic began early this year and virtually all have made cutbacks in some fashion to offset the lost revenues from declines in passenger traffic.

Meadows told the CEOs Thursday President Donald Trump would support $25 billion in additional financial aid for the industry to save thousands of jobs.

U.S. airlines can begin laying off employees on Oct. 1 when a moratorium on job cuts expires, which was attached to the first round of federal funding in the spring.

“I never thought I’d say $25 billion was a small number, but compared to $1.5 trillion, it’s a rather small amount of additional assistance that could potentially keep 30,000 to 50,000 workers on the payroll,” Meadows said. “If we’re going to get something separate prior to that deadline, it’s going to have to happen next week.”

“We had a very good meeting with the chief [of staff],” Kelly said. “The first CARES Act kept this country out of pandemic and I think the only mistake that was made is that it didn’t go far enough and long enough.”

Without further federal aid, American said last month it will cut 19,000 and United said it will dismiss 16,000.

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Airline CEOs meet with White House in plea for more federal aid

A passenger aircraft of American Airlines.

Silas Stein | picture alliance via Getty Images

U.S. airline CEOs met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday, making a last-minute attempt to convince officials to approve more coronavirus aid as mass job cuts are set to hit the industry next month.

Executives that attended the meeting included American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly. Airline stocks pared earlier losses following the meeting.

Airlines received $25 billion in federal aid in the March CARES Act that prohibits them from cutting jobs through Sept. 30. With that date less than two weeks away, executives urged the White House to reach a deal on a new bailout package as more than 30,000 sector jobs are at risk starting next month.

The airline chiefs and labor unions that represent most of their workers are seeking another $25 billion in federal payroll grants that would preserve jobs through the end of March since a significant rebound in demand hasn’t materialized this summer, with demand hovering at around 30% of last year’s levels.

“We had a very good meeting with the chief [of staff],” said Southwest’s Kelly after exiting the meeting. “The first CARES Act kept this country out of pandemic and I think the only mistake that was made is that it didn’t go far enough and long enough.”

Parker said the executives are also in contact with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about a new, national coronavirus package.

“We airline CEOs are here on behalf of the people that work for us … keeping our country moving when our country is largely paralyzed,” American’s Parker said after the meeting. “Without action they’re going to be furloughed on Oct. 1 and it’s not fair.”

American said it expects to cut 19,000 jobs as early as next month. United said it could slash more than 16,000 employees, but it recently reached a preliminary cost-cutting deal with its pilots’ union that could preserve close to 3,000 pilot jobs at least through mid-2021.

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White House’s Meadows meeting with airline CEOs as job cuts loom

By Lisa Lambert and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will meet with major airline chief executives on Thursday as the industry braces for thousands of layoffs in two weeks, and he urged lawmakers to embrace a $1.5 trillion coronavirus aid package proposed by a bipartisan congressional group and embraced by President Donald Trump.

“I’m meeting with airline CEOs today. We’ve got tens of thousands of people that are about to be laid off,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “So if nothing more, let’s go ahead and put that package on the floor and pass that. Because hopefully all of us can agree that laying off airline workers at this particular time is not something we should do.”

The meeting, set for Thursday morning, was organized by the airlines’ main lobbying group, Airlines for America, which includes American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, two airline officials briefed on the matter said.

Airlines do not plan to offer a new proposal but will again be making the case that helping to avert airline job cuts is one good reason to pass a broad coronavirus relief bill.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow later told reporters that airlines have already received “quite a bit” of federal funds.

“We have indicated down through the months airline problems would get that,” Kudlow said when asked about targeted relief for the companies.

At the end of this month the $25 billion in federal payroll assistance airlines received when the deadly COVID-19 first began spreading across the country and around the world is set to expire.

Congress also set aside another $25 billion in government loans for airlines, but many have opted not to tap that funding source.

Companies such as American are now pleading for a six-month extension while they simultaneously negotiate with employees to minimize thousands of job cuts that are expected without another round of aid.

Air travel has plummeted over the last six months as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 196,000 American lives and prompted many to avoid airports and planes. With a major revenue plunge, airlines have had to turn to the federal government for help in saving jobs.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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