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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The Latest: White House urges governors to help on vaccines

WASHINGTON — The White House is urging U.S. governors to put politics aside and help the Trump administration promote future coronavirus vaccines as safe and effective.

Vice President Mike Pence urged governors Monday to use their bully pulpits and reassure the public that vaccines will be safe to take after a rigorous vetting process by the Food and Drug Administration.

“What we don’t want is people undermining confidence in the process,” Pence said in a private call with governors, the audio of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Trump has escalated his promise for a coronavirus vaccine before Election Day. But Democrats, independents and even some Republicans do not trust the Trump administration to produce a safe and effective vaccine on such an aggressive timeline.

Pence acknowledged the country is in the middle of a heated election season, but stressed that no corners would be cut in approving a vaccine and said his request for support was apolitical.

“I’m leaving the politics outside of the room here,” Pence said.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK

— Analysis: U.S. to hit 200,000 dead; Trump sees no need for regret

— New Zealand to begin lifting all remaining coronavirus restrictions

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president, who has long called for a reform of the United Nations, said the world body has failed in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a televised address following a Cabinet meeting, Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed the UN was late in “accepting the existence” of the pandemic and had failed to “make its presence felt” for nations requiring help to fight infections.

“The UN, which has fallen flat concerning crises from Syria to Yemen, as well as developments in fragile regions of Africa and South America, has also flunked during the pandemic,” he said.

His comments came as world leaders mark the 75th anniversary of UN General Assembly this week.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Spring break at Connecticut’s four state universities has been canceled and several public schools around the state were closed Monday because of the coronavirus.

State officials said they were canceling spring break next March to help ensure health and safety at Central Connecticut State University, Southern Connecticut State University, Western Connecticut State University and Eastern Connecticut State University.

Several public schools in Connecticut were closed Monday because of positive coronavirus tests, including in Hartford, Bridgeport and Weston.

Connecticut Congresswoman Jahana Hayes said Monday that she developed a fever since testing positive for the virus over the weekend, and her breathing is labored.

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BOISE, Idaho — Idaho school districts vary widely when it comes to letting the public know about coronavirus cases in classrooms.

An investigation by the Idaho Statesman reveals that school districts across southwestern Idaho have wide-ranging levels of transparency when it comes to the number of COVID-19 cases in local schools. Some notify the public of each case in

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‘I trust vaccines,’ not Trump

Joe Biden on Wednesday said he doesn’t trust President Donald Trump to safely oversee the federal government’s approval and dissemination of a Covid-19 vaccine.

“I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump,” Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware.

Trump has repeatedly pledged to “produce a vaccine in record time,” and has suggested that one could be ready shortly before Election Day. That prediction has contradicted the timeline that many health experts have said is realistic.

Several vaccine candidates have entered the final stage of testing in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that states should begin preparing for a “large-scale” distribution of Covid-19 vaccines by Nov. 1 — two days before the presidential election — while the head of the Food and Drug Administration has raised the possibility the agency could use its emergency authority to quickly approve a vaccine before clinical trials end. Those directives have led numerous Trump critics to question whether they were made because of political interference by the White House.

Earlier Wednesday, the director of the CDC said coronavirus vaccines won’t be widely available until mid-2021.

Biden on Wednesday repeated his message that “we can’t allow politics to interfere with the vaccine in any way” and pointed to dubious statements Trump has made in the past that are not backed up by science.

“He doesn’t have any respect for science,” Biden said.

“This is the same guy who said, inject bleach,” he added. “This is the guy who said, if you want to keep hurricanes from getting to the United States, drop a nuclear weapon on them.”

In April, Trump suggested that people should consider an “injection of disinfectant” to beat Covid-19 — an idea that experts immediately rejected as irresponsible and dangerous. In 2019, Axios reported that Trump had, during a meeting with top officials, raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons to destroy hurricanes.

Biden, meanwhile, has repeatedly said that the White House must ensure the public that the coronavirus vaccines are safe and that any decision to approve them is driven by science, not politics.

Those demands have prompted Trump to attack Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as anti-vaxxers. Harris has said that she would also not solely trust Trump’s word about the safety of any vaccine rolled out before the election.

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