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Today in health news, a House panel report details the pressure put on the FDA by the Trump administration to reauthorize hydroxychloroquine and speed up authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccines, in time for the 2020 election.
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FDA faced pressure on vaccines, treatment: panel
Top Trump administration officials pressured the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reauthorize the discredited COVID-19 treatment hydroxychloroquine and to speed up the release of the first COVID-19 vaccines, according to a new report Democrats on the House select coronavirus subcommittee released Wednesday.
- Emails, text messages and testimony obtained by the committee show the Trump White House “exerted extreme and inappropriate pressure” on FDA to reauthorize hydroxychloroquine even after it was shown to be ineffective and potentially dangerous.
- The report found administration officials like trade advisor Peter Navarro enlisted outside allies like Fox News host Laura Ingraham and daytime TV talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz — now the GOP nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania — to amplify pressure on the FDA to authorize hydroxychloroquine, a drug normally used to treat malaria and lupus.
“The Select Subcommittee’s findings that Trump White House officials deliberately and repeatedly sought to bend FDA’s scientific work on coronavirus treatments and vaccines to the White House’s political will are yet another example of how the prior Administration prioritized politics over public health,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the panel’s chair, said in a statement.
Coordinated pressure: The efforts by members of the Trump administration, including the former president, to meddle with public health agencies has been well documented. However, the report offers new levels of detail of the pressures put on the FDA in 2020.
Former President Trump attacked then-FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and claimed without evidence that his agency was deliberately slowing down the authorizations of the vaccine and convalescent plasma because of politics.
“The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics,” Trump tweeted in August 2020. “Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!”
Read more here.
Judge blocks admin’s emergency abortion guidance
A federal judge in Texas in a Tuesday night ruling blocked guidance issued by the Biden administration that requires doctors to provide abortions in emergency medical situations even if doing so would run afoul of state law.
In a 67-page ruling, U.S. District Judge James Hendrix halted emergency abortion guidance that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued last month in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overruling of Roe v. Wade.
The practical effect of the ruling was to halt HHS from enforcing its guidance in Texas, stopping short of a nationwide injunction. Hendrix also blocked the administration from applying its regulation against two co-plaintiffs in the case, a pair of anti-abortion doctors’ associations.
Blow to Biden abortion strategy: The judge’s ruling dealt a blow to the administration, which had urged the court to find that a 1986 federal law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) superseded some restrictive state abortion laws passed in the wake of Roe’s demise.
EMTALA requires a hospital to provide stabilizing care to any patient that presents with an emergency medical condition. HHS says abortion qualifies as stabilizing care under the law.
Read more here.
BLACK AND HISPANIC PEOPLE BEARING BRUNT OF MONKEYPOX
Black and Hispanic people make up a disproportionately high number of monkeypox cases, according to a new analysis.
The analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that Black people make up 26 percent of monkeypox cases, compared to 12 percent of the population, while Hispanic people make up 28 percent of cases compared to 19 percent of the population.
The data, from May to July, indicates that racial disparities are an issue with monkeypox, as they have been in the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
“Underlying structural inequities place people of color at increased risk for public health threats, as was seen in COVID-19 and as is beginning to be observed amid the MPX outbreak,” the analysis states.
Vaccination disparities: While data is limited, four states — Georgia, Colorado, New Jersey and North Carolina — and Washington, D.C., are reporting racial data for monkeypox vaccination, showing disparities there as well, the analysis found.
It found that in D.C., for example, Black people have received 22 percent of vaccines but make up 36 percent of cases.
Read more here.
FIRST LADY TESTS POSITIVE IN ‘REBOUND’ COVID CASE
First lady Jill Biden has tested positive for COVID-19 days after receiving a negative test in a “rebound” case of the virus.
The first lady tested negative on Tuesday before receiving the positive test result on an antigen test on Wednesday afternoon, her office said.
“The First Lady has experienced no reemergence of symptoms, and will remain in Delaware where she has reinitiated isolation procedures,” Kelsey Donohue, the deputy communications director for the first lady, said in a statement.
A White House official said President Biden had tested negative for COVID-19 earlier Wednesday. The president is considered a close contact of the first lady, so he will mask for 10 days when indoors and close to others, the official said.
What is rebound? Rebound cases can happen in patients who take Paxlovid when a patient tests negative for the virus, only to test positive again a few days later.
The president had a similar rebound case after taking Paxlovid for his own COVID-19 infection late last month. He remained in isolation for another week because of the rebound case.
Read more here.
A surge in women registering to vote after Roe ruling
Several states where reproduction rights are at risk are seeing a surge in women registering to vote following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case, abolishing the constitutional right to abortion.
An analysis by TargetSmart Insights, a Democratic political data and data services firm, found that women are out-registering men by significant margins in states where reproductive rights are in danger of being repealed, such as Kansas, Wisconsin and Michigan.
- In Kansas, women out-registered men by 40 percent, making 70 percent of all new registrants women. Earlier this month, voters in the state rejected a proposed amendment that would have paved the way for the Republican-led state legislature to ban the procedure.
- In Michigan, where legal battles are taking place over abortion rights, women out-registered men by 8.1 percent since the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
- In Wisconsin, where it is now a felony for virtually any abortion to be performed, except in instances where it is needed to save the mother’s life, women have out-registered men by 15.6 percent since the Supreme Court’s decision.
“This isn’t just a blue state phenomena. In fact, it is more pronounced in states where choice is more at risk, or has been eliminated by the decision,” the CEO of TargetSmart tweeted.
Read more here.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- What Fauci’s exit tells us about the ongoing fight against Covid (Stat)
- White House strategy for monkeypox vaccines causing ‘chaos out in the field’ (Politico)
- Study: Pfizer COVID pill showed no benefit in younger adults (AP)
STATE BY STATE
- California ballot measure to guarantee right to abortion has strong support among voters, poll finds (Politico)
- Congressman’s wife died after taking herbal remedy marketed for diabetes and weight loss (Kaiser Health News)
- Abortion-rights groups sue Texas AG, prosecutors to protect ability to help pregnant Texans seek legal abortions in other states (Texas Tribune)
OP-EDS IN THE HILL
As monkeypox spreads, we must not repeat the failures of COVID-19 and HIV
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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