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Health Care — White House says repealing military vaccine mandate a ‘mistake’

Police in Germany are asking for help after — ahem — about 60 containers of bull sperm were stolen from a farm this week. 

Today in health, the White House insists it’s a mistake to repeal the military’s vaccine mandate — though Congress is poised to do it anyways. 

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter? Sign up here or in the box below.

White House blasts effort to drop vaccine mandate

The White House on Wednesday called it a “mistake” to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military service members through the annual defense policy bill, but officials stopped short of saying President Biden would veto the legislation. 

  • “What we think happened here is Republicans in Congress have decided that they’d rather fight against the health and well-being of our troops than protecting them,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
  • “We believe that it is a mistake, what we saw happen on the [National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA] as it relates to the vaccine mandate. Making sure our troops are prepared and ready for service is a priority for President Biden. The vaccination requirement for COVID does just that.” 

In a compromise with Republicans, House Democrats are allowing language into the must-pass NDAA that repeals the coronavirus vaccine mandate for U.S. service members a year after it was enacted. 

The bill, which lays out how an $847 billion Defense Department top line will be allocated in fiscal 2023, is set to be voted on by the House Thursday. 

The White House on Wednesday would not say if Biden would go as far as vetoing the final version of the bill if it rescinded the vaccine mandate, with Jean-Pierre saying she didn’t want to “get ahead of the process.” 

Read more here. 

Tobacco giants to display signs stating health risks

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced this week that tobacco companies in the U.S. will now be required to set up signs in retail locations stating the health risks and effects of cigarettes, following through on a corrective measure issued as part of a lawsuit filed more than 20 years ago. 

The long legal journey: In 1999, the DOJ filed a lawsuit against several major tobacco companies, accusing them of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The suit alleged that the tobacco companies had purposely misled the public on the risks of smoking for decades. 

A federal judge in 2006 found the companies liable for the alleged RICO violations and ordered the defendants to issue corrective measures, stating that the companies were likely to continue violating RICO going forward without such orders. 

Court-ordered PSA: Beginning on July 1, 2023, statements on the risks of smoking tobacco will be displayed on “eye-catching” signs at thousands of retail locations.  

As the DOJ noted in its announcement, roughly 200,000 retailers have merchandising agreements with the aforementioned tobacco companies allowing them to control how their cigarettes are displayed in-store.

  • The signs will include statements conveying the numerous diseases linked to tobacco, the estimated number of people who die from smoking as well as the addictive nature of cigarettes.
  • These displays are expected to stay up for two years according to an agreement reached with tobacco retailers earlier in May. 

Read more here.

VIRTUAL EVENT INVITE

The Hill’s A More Perfect Union 2022 — Dec. 7-9 — Daily programming starts at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT

The Hill’s second annual multi-day festival explores and celebrates America’s best big ideas through the lens of American Reinvention. We will convene political leaders, entrepreneurs, policy innovators and disruptors, and thought provocateurs to debate and discuss some of the most urgent, challenging issues of our time. No Labels chief strategist Ryan Clancyformer Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.)former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd WhitmanForward Party co-chair Andrew YangAmerican Enterprise Institute CEO Robert Doar and more will join. RSVP now.

TWO NEW DRUGS COULD FIGHT COVID-19

Last week, the FDA officially paused the emergency authorization for the last remaining monoclonal antibody treatment, bebtelovimab from Eli Lilly. 

The drug was deemed ineffective against the currently circulating COVID-19 omicron subvariants and the U.S. now has one less treatment for coronavirus than it did previously. However, new medicines to treat the virus could be on the horizon. 

The candidates: 

A new drug, still in the early development stages, could be a gamechanger. Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute developed a “decoy” drug that mimics the receptor on the surface of cells that the virus needs to bind to in order to infect the cell. This receptor is called the ACE2 receptor.

  • This ACE2 decoy causes an irreversible structural change in the coronavirus once the virus binds to it. The structural change affects the spike protein, which is the part of the virus that is also targeted by monoclonal antibodies and vaccines.  

Another drug, developed by Shionogi, has received emergency authorization in Japan. It works by targeting specific enzymes that the virus needs to replicate.  

  • The pill, called Xocova or its generic name ensitrelvir fumaric acid, is meant to be taken once a day for five days after prescribed. This is fewer pills than Paxlovid, which requires three pills twice a day for five days.  

Read more here.

JUUL SETTLES MORE THAN 5,000 LAWSUITS

E-cigarette company Juul announced on Tuesday it has settled more than 5,000 lawsuits for an undisclosed amount after claims mounted over Juul’s marketing practices and plagued the company’s finances. 

The company said that the global settlements resolve claims with roughly 10,000 plaintiffs who filed suits in recent months and nearly led Juul to bankruptcy, including personal injury claims as well as settlements with a consumer class action, local government entities and Native American tribes. 

“The scope of these suits is enormous,” Lieff Cabraser, a co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “These settlements will put meaningful compensation in hands of victims and their families, get real funds to schools for abatement programs and help government and tribal entities prevent youth use of e-cigarettes across the U.S.” 

  • Juul said it was legally barred from disclosing the settlement amount for the other groups but indicated in its statement that it has secured an equity investment to fund the new resolution.
  • “These settlements represent a major step toward strengthening Juul Labs’ operations and securing the company’s path forward to fulfill its mission to transition adult smokers away from combustible cigarettes while combating underage use,” the company said. 

Read more here. 

Pfizer gets priority review for RSV vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted Pfizer’s application for an RSV vaccine for older adults and is expected to make an approval decision by the spring.  

  • Pfizer in a statement on Wednesday said the FDA is going to review its application under the priority review program, which reduces the approval timeline by four months. The end of the review period is expected to be May 2023, Pfizer said.
  • There is no vaccine for RSV in either adults or children. If approved, Pfizer’s candidate would become the first RSV vaccine for older adults. 

“With no RSV vaccines currently available, older adults remain at-risk for RSV disease and potential severe outcomes, including serious respiratory symptoms, hospitalization, and in some cases, even death,” Annaliesa Anderson, head of Pfizer’s vaccine research and development, said in a statement. 

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Lasik patients should be warned of complications, F.D.A. draft says (The New York Times) 
  • CDC head asks for COVID-19 funding, data as Hill interest fades (Roll Call) 
  • New immune therapy for advanced melanoma offers hope for hard-to-treat disease (NBC News

STATE BY STATE

  • Measles outbreak in central Ohio grows to more than 50 children, driven by ‘lack of vaccination’ (CNN) 
  • Study finds Medicaid managed care transition still impacted by poor communication, patient confusion and administrative burden (North Carolina Health News) 
  • Inside Boston’s youth mental health crisis (Boston Magazine) 

THE HILL OP-ED

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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