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In health news, the Biden administration is going to audit nursing homes’ use of antipsychotic medication and inappropriate diagnoses of schizophrenia.
But first, a look at how the White House will mark the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Welcome to The Hill’s Health Care roundup, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. We’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter?
Harris to commemorate Roe’s anniversary
Vice President Harris will deliver remarks in Florida on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, aiming to put the spotlight back on abortion rights following last summer’s ruling that struck down the precedent set by Roe.
The vice president has taken a leading role in the Biden administration in pushing back on the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade, and her speech will be the main way the White House notes the anniversary of the original ruling.
The Supreme Court ruling largely kicked the issue back to the states, though some conservatives have argued there should be federal legislation establishing a minimum cutoff for abortions.
Florida previously allowed abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, but Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last year signed a 15-week ban into law.
DeSantis has since come under fire from conservatives and allies of former President Trump, like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), for not being stricter and banning all abortions in the state.
The White House has been working at the margins where it can, including by expanding access to abortion pills in states without restrictions.
The administration and Democrats have pushed for Congress to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade. But with control of Congress split, any federal legislation is unlikely to pass.
Read more here.
Feds to target antipsychotics use in nursing homes
The Biden administration is planning a crackdown to reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes and the misdiagnosis of schizophrenia in patients, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Wednesday.
Beginning this month, CMS will conduct targeted audits to determine whether nursing homes are accurately assessing and coding individuals with a schizophrenia diagnosis, the agency said.
The initiative is part of a larger administration effort to improve the safety and quality of nursing home care, ensure adequate staffing levels and hold nursing homes accountable if they provide unsafe care.
There has been growing evidence from nursing home safety advocates that facilities inappropriately diagnose patients and overprescribe antipsychotic drugs to sedate patients.
Antipsychotic medications are especially dangerous among the nursing home population due to their potential devastating side effects, including death.
The problem: The use of antipsychotic medications among nursing home residents is an indicator of nursing home quality and used in a nursing home’s Five-Star rating. But the rating excludes residents with schizophrenia, which gives an incentive to code residents as having the disease when they do not.
The new policy will take that into account. The rating scores for nursing homes that have a pattern of inaccurately coding residents as having schizophrenia will be negatively impacted, CMS said.
Read more here.
W.VA. AGREES TO $83M SETTLEMENT OVER OPIOID EPIDEMIC
West Virginia on Wednesday announced an $83 million settlement with Walgreens to resolve a lawsuit over the pharmacy chain’s role in perpetuating the opioid crisis in the state.
Walgreens has agreed to pay the settlement within an eight-year period, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) said.
Walgreens is part of a larger litigation involving Kroger, Walmart, CVS and Rite Aid. Walmart and CVS settled with the state in September for a combined total of $147 million, and Rite Aid settled in August for up to $30 million.
Kroger is the last remaining defendant, with a trial scheduled for June.
Read more here.
BILL WOULD LET KIDS 12+ GET VAX WITHOUT PARENTAL CONSENT
A bill introduced to the Connecticut state legislature on Tuesday would allow children ages 12 and older to receive vaccines without a parent’s approval.
The bill, proposed by state Rep. Kevin Ryan (D), would amend Connecticut’s general statute and allow a child 12 years or older to get a vaccine without the consent of their parent or guardian, if passed. The bill was referred back to the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health on Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this month that childhood vaccinations fell in the 2021-2022 school year again, saying that coverage for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was the lowest in a decade.
Read more here.
FDA: Public harm if abortion pill approval reversed
A lawsuit challenging the decades-old Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of mifepristone has no merit, and a Texas judge should reject a request for a court order revoking that approval, the Biden administration argued in a Tuesday filing.
The FDA said granting the request from anti-abortion groups would be “unprecedented.”
“The public interest would be dramatically harmed by effectively withdrawing from the marketplace a safe and effective drug that has lawfully been on the market for twenty-two years,” it argued.
Flashback: The lawsuit was filed in November in Amarillo, Texas, by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative legal group that has helped author states’ anti-abortion laws and defended Mississippi in the case that led the Supreme Court to overturn the abortion protections granted in Roe v. Wade.
The lawsuit asks for the court to immediately pause the FDA’s approval of the drug while the case proceeds, which would effectively make all medication abortions illegal.
The plaintiffs argue the FDA unlawfully fast-tracked the approval of mifepristone through a process intended for treatments of life-threatening illnesses.
No harm, no case: In the filing, Biden administration attorneys said the plaintiffs face no injury, let alone any irreparable harm.
“Yet they ask this Court for emergency relief in the form of a mandatory injunction that would immediately withdraw approval of a safe and effective drug that has been available in the United States for more than two decades—based on speculative allegations of harm and Plaintiffs’ untested assertions … that they know better than FDA whether this drug is safe,” the administration said.
Read more here.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Pfizer CEO says governments haven’t learned lessons of Covid-19 pandemic (WSJ)
After a brief pandemic reprieve, rural workers return to life without paid leave (Kaiser Health News)
Websites selling abortion pills are sharing sensitive data with Google (ProPublica)
HIV vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson fails clinical trial (Stat)
STATE BY STATE
California joins other states in suing companies over insulin prices (New York Times)
Abortion rights debates kick off in legislatures across the country (Pluribus News)
Poll: 80% of Mississippians favor Medicaid expansion (Mississippi Today)
THE HILL OP-EDS
Vaccine hesitancy is surging again, regardless of the science.
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.