Sandhya Raman

FDA commissioner outlines new opioid enforcement action
The agency used, for the first time, a new type of enforcement designed to control the illegal flow of opioids

The Food and Drug Administration released a warning letter to a top drug distributor on Tuesday, using for the first time a new type of enforcement authority that the agency’s head called an important step in controlling the illegal flow of opioids.

FDA's letter alleged that distributor McKesson Corp. sent drugs that were supposed to be opioids — but were missing pills or were not even opioids — to multiple pharmacy locations, raising questions about whether potent opioid painkillers were missing and where they may have gone.

March for Life activists get anti-abortion boost from Trump
President: ‘I will veto any legislation that weakens pro-life federal polices’

Lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates who gathered Friday for the nation’s largest annual anti-abortion rally say they are pivoting to a defensive strategy in Congress, with a focus on confirming conservative judges as legislation stalls.

Thousands of advocates gathered to protest the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion. The event featured a surprise appearance by Vice President Mike Pence with second lady Karen Pence, and a video message from President Donald Trump.

Marching abortion opponents have message for Trump administration: Do more
Advocates push fetal tissue, family planning changes

Thousands of abortion opponents will take to the streets of Washington on Friday for the nation’s largest annual anti-abortion rally, coinciding with a flood of anti-abortion action from government officials that underscore the movement’s priorities for 2019.

The March for Life is held every January to protest the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion nationwide.

Senators clash over abortion fee rule
Proposal would change how individuals are billed for abortion coverage

Senate Democrats and Republicans at odds over a proposed rule that would change how individuals are billed for abortion coverage sent two competing letters to Health and Human Services this week.

The public comment period for the rule closed Tuesday, amassing over 74,000 comments.

Supreme Court Will Not Hear Planned Parenthood Defunding Appeal
Two conservative justices — Roberts and Kavanaugh — side with liberal colleagues

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by two states that want to cut Medicaid funds from providers like Planned Parenthood, keeping in place lower court opinions that anti-abortion advocates oppose.

The states, Kansas and Louisiana, argued that Medicaid does not allow individual patients to sue if state officials refuse to cover a provider’s non-abortion services because the provider sometimes separately performs abortions.

Pro-Choice Caucus Preps for Democratic Majority
Members hope to push back on abortion

An influential House caucus hopes to use the Democrats’ majority next year to counteract Republican efforts to restrict abortion and family planning, although the group still faces an uphill battle against a Republican Senate and administration with strong ties to the anti-abortion lobby.

The Pro-Choice Caucus has been recently overshadowed by its conservative rival, the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, which counts Republican leadership and lawmakers from the influential Freedom Caucus among its members.

Poll: Health Care a Top Issue For Midterm Voters
Both nationally and in Florida and Nevada, voters focused on health care

A majority of individuals rank health care as a “very important” issue in determining who they plan to vote for, according to a new poll that looks at prospective voters nationally as well as in two key battleground states.

Thirty percent of those polled nationally selected health care as the “most important” issue, outranking the economy, immigration, and gun policy, according to data from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Three States Get Ready to Vote on Abortion
Oregon, Alabama and West Virginia have measures on the ballot

Oregon, Alabama and West Virginia voters will face separate ballot initiatives next month aimed at restricting abortion access in those states.

These initiatives fit into a larger fight over abortion that continues to heat up. Anti-abortion advocates hope that changes at the state level can be used as test cases and later implemented more broadly, while abortion rights advocates hope to defeat them. A particularly contentious ballot initiative can be used as a messaging move to drive voters to the polls in tight elections such as this fall’s West Virginia Senate race.

Bipartisan Opioids Bill Explained
Podcast, Episode 123

CQ Health reporter Sandhya Raman explains what's in the sweeping opioids bill that Congress cleared on Oct. 3 – just in time for lawmakers to campaign on the issue before the November midterm elections.

House Democrats, Republicans Unite Behind Opioids Bill
Bipartisan measure now heads to the Senate

The House passed consensus legislation, 393-8, on Friday intended to help combat the opioid crisis. The legislative compromise was finalized earlier this week, and now heads to the Senate for a final vote.

The two chambers came to an agreement on Tuesday, but made additional changes to the bill after the Congressional Budget Office initially estimated that the bill would increase the deficit by $44 million over the next 10 years.

Red-State Democrats Zero In on Opioid Epidemic
Issue could buoy vulnerable incumbents in West Virginia, Missouri

Vulnerable red-state Democrats are highlighting their work to address the opioid crisis in an effort to hold on to their congressional seats, even as it remains unclear whether the Senate will take key action before the midterm elections.

While the opioid epidemic is a priority for much of Congress, candidates in especially hard-hit states, such as West Virginia, have made it a core issue in their re-election bids.

Kavanaugh’s Health Care Positions Hint at Future Abortion Views
Trump’s pick said 2010 health care law was a substantial burden on religious employers

The prior positions on health care cases by Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, hint at his potential future positions if confirmed to the court.

Kavanaugh, a conservative judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, has the support of anti-abortion groups and could play a key role in attempts to limit or overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade case, as a number of abortion cases make their way through the lower courts. Roe v. Wade upheld the constitutional right to an abortion, with the court finding that a right to privacy extended to a woman’s right to an abortion.

Abortion Challenge May Loom After Supreme Court Retirement
Justice Anthony Kennedy has been swing vote

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement could pave the way for major changes in women’s health and abortion issues, possibly some of the biggest since the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade, if the Senate confirms a conservative justice.

Kennedy has been a key swing vote on women’s health issues. Two years ago, he joined the plurality in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a major abortion rights case, which struck down a Texas law that would have resulted in the closure of most of the state’s abortion clinics.

House Passes Bipartisan Opioid Bill Package
Bill ‘does not adequately deal with the magnitude of the crisis,’ Pallone says

The House on Friday passed a bill that will serve as the legislative vehicle for many of the 55 other House-passed bills designed to curb opioid addiction, ending two weeks of floor votes on opioids measures.

The catchall bill, which advanced 396-14, would incorporate a number of proposals from the Energy and Commerce and the Ways and Means committees relating to Medicaid, Medicare, and public health. A group of 161 patient advocacy groups wrote to Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this week in support of the legislation.

House Prepares for Week of Action on Opioid Bills
‘Collectively these bills do not go far enough’

The House will begin a voting marathon Tuesday on 34 bills designed to address the opioid epidemic. While most are not likely to be contentious, two have previously stirred controversy.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reserved about a week and a half of floor time to discuss opioid legislation. Additional bills are likely to be considered next week, such as four bill packages the House Ways and Means Committee approved with bipartisan support.

Congress’ Focus on Opioids Misses Larger Crisis
‘All the bills are tinkering around the edges,’ one health official says

By SANDHYA RAMAN, ANDREW SIDDONS and MARY ELLEN McINTIRE

Congress faced a startling public health and political problem throughout 2016 as the number of people dying from opioid addiction climbed. The number of Americans succumbing to drug overdoses more than tripled between 1999 and 2015, affecting a whiter and more geographically diverse population than previous drug crises. Lawmakers ultimately approved some modest policies aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse and provided $1 billion to support state efforts.

Congress’ Proposals on Opioids Aren’t Keeping Up with Epidemic
Reporter’s Notebook — An executive summary of our biggest stories, from the reporters themselves

Reporter Sandhya Raman discusses her recent report comparing the bills that Congress has drafted so far to combat the opioid crisis and the heart of the epidemic itself. Find out what she found most surprising in her research — such as how many of the proposals are not addressing the newest concern....
Podcast: Opioid Legislation on Deck
CQ on Congress, Episode 101

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Committees Tackle Politically Powerful Issue of Opioids Legislation
Senate HELP panel advanced bipartisan package Tuesday

The House heads into a marathon opioid markup Wednesday, a day after the Senate health committee approved bipartisan legislation of its own addressing the crisis. Both chambers are eager to advance bills to combat the crisis under an aggressive timeline, with an eye toward demonstrating action before the midterms on an issue that affects voters representing most demographics and districts.

“Even though this epidemic is worse in some parts of the country than others, find me a congressional district where this isn’t an issue,” said Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford. “Absolutely, they do not want to go into an election and have their constituents mad at them.”

Senate Panel Unveils Draft Bill to Combat Opioid Addiction
HELP Committee expected to discuss legislation next week

The Senate health panel on Wednesday released a discussion draft intended to curb opioid addiction. The development comes as other House and Senate committees also prepare legislation.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee plans to discuss this legislation at an upcoming hearing on April 11. The panel has already held six hearings on the opioid crisis so far this Congress featuring representatives from agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as governors from states affected by the crisis.