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In This Edition:

From Kaiser Health News:

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Pharm It Out'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Pharm It Out'" by Hilary Price.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

SEARCHING TO SOOTH A CITY’S DIVISIONS

Oh my, Baltimore!
Charm City’s problems persist.
Health care plays a role.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Summaries Of The News:

Pharmaceuticals

4. Outgoing Valeant CEO To Issue Mea Culpa For 'Mistake' Of Aggressively Boosting Drug Prices

At a Senate Committee on Aging, J. Michael Pearson will testify that he regrets pursuing transactions just to increase the price of the drugs.

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Was Too Aggressive In Raising Drug Prices, CEO Says
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. has made mistakes and been too aggressive in the past in dramatically boosting ​the ​price​ of some of its drugs, the company’s outgoing chief executive is expected to tell a Senate committee Wednesday. Valeant’s drug-price increases have overshadowed its broader work, “and so I recognize that we therefore need to work to regain the confidence of Congress, the public, doctors, and patients,” Michael Pearson, the departing CEO, says in testimony prepared for the Senate Special Committee on Aging. (Rapoport, 4/27)

The Associated Press: Valeant CEO Will Cite ‘Mistakes’ In Price-Hiking Strategy
J. Michael Pearson will issue the unusual mea culpa on Capitol Hill for the business strategy that made Valeant an industry powerhouse but also triggered a backlash against the Canadian drugmaker. “Let me state plainly that it was a mistake to pursue, and in hindsight I regret pursuing, transactions where a central premise was a planned increase in the prices of the medicines,” Pearson states in the written testimony. The comments come days before Pearson is to be replaced as Valeant CEO, and may not win much sympathy from members of the Senate Committee on Aging. The committee is investigating the dramatic price increases pushed by Valeant and several other drugmakers. (Perrone, 4/27)

For more drug pricing news, check out our new weekly feature, Prescription Drug Watch, which includes more coverage and perspectives of the issue.

Capitol Hill Watch

5. Potential Political Fallout Lurks On Edges Of Zika Fight As Feuding Derails Funding Progress

Senate negotiators moved closer to a deal on funding to fight zika but Republicans are split on the effort, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio leading the charge for increased funding. His state, an election battleground, is one that is most threatened by the virus.

The New York Times: Senate Nears Deal For At Least $1.1 Billion To Fight Zika Virus
Senate negotiators on Tuesday moved closer to an agreement to provide at least $1.1 billion in emergency financing to combat the rapidly spreading Zika virus, which public health officials warn poses an imminent threat in the United States, but House Republicans said they were still not ready to approve additional funds. ... Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a Republican who has led negotiations for his party, said Tuesday that his talks with Senator Patty Murray of Washington, a Democrat, had produced the outlines of an agreement that would provide about $1.1 billion in additional financing. Mr. Blunt said negotiators were still discussing details, including how much money would need to be restored for work on Ebola. (Herszenhorn, 4/26)

Bloomberg: Zika Fight Starts To Bite Republicans Ahead Of Mosquito Season
Senate Republican leaders entered this week hoping to act quickly to fight the Zika virus, but ran into internal feuding and now face the prospect of political fallout in election battleground states like Florida. Talks with Democrats on an emergency spending package stalled and lawmakers now anticipate doing nothing before they leave on a one-week recess at the end of the week. Republican leaders say they will bring a bill to the Senate floor at some point as they continue to negotiate on the details, but it remains unclear when and how such a measure would advance. (Dennis, 4/26)

The Hill: Rift Opens In GOP Over Zika Funding
Congressional Republicans are split on whether to provide emergency funding to fight the Zika virus. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) cast doubt on the emergency request Tuesday, saying he thinks the issue should be dealt with through the regular appropriations process. That would mean new funds have to wait until Oct. 1. (Sullivan, 4/26)

Meanwhile, in Ohio —

The Columbus Dispatch: State Wants Local Health Departments, Residents To Be On Guard Against Zika
The growing threat of Zika — a virus linked to severe birth defects when pregnant woman are infected — has vaulted the pest to scary new levels and sent health officials scrambling to mount a defense against the possible spread of the disease in the United States. With a Zika vaccine nowhere in sight, prevention efforts largely have turned to the insects primarily responsible for transmitting the virus. Which is why dozens of people sat in a room talking about mosquitoes today at the Ohio Department of Transportation. (Kurtzman, 4/26)

6. Senate Democrats Appeal To Colleagues To Fund Lead Testing In Schools

The senators argue that investing in testing and prevention now will avoid future health care and education costs. Meanwhile, the Senate reaches an agreement to authorize $100 million in grants and loans to replace contaminated pipes that caused the crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The Washington Post: After Flint Crisis, Senate Democrats Call On Congress To Pay For Lead Testing In U.S. Schools
Twenty-four Senate Democrats are asking their colleagues in Congress to help schools pay for the testing of lead levels in drinking water, calling it an investment to ensure the health and safety of the nation’s children. The move comes in the aftermath of the drinking-water crisis in Flint, Mich., which helped shine a light on a loophole in federal law that exempts many schools from having to test their water for lead contamination. Many schools don’t have the resources for voluntary testing, leaving children vulnerable to the possibility of undetected toxins in the water they drink from school fountains. (Brown, 4/26)

In other water safety news —

Health Law Issues And Implementation

7. Last Ditch Legislative Effort To Kill Medicaid Expansion Fizzles In Arkansas

Senators failed to override the governor's maneuvers to extend the health program for low-income residents. Also, a poll in Utah suggests that a majority of residents want the legislature there to agree to expand Medicaid.

Arkansas News: Medicaid Expansion Plan Survives Veto Override Attempt
As expected, opponents of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Medicaid expansion plan made an unsuccessful last-ditch effort Tuesday to kill [the] program. ... Passage of the motion would have cleared the way for a vote to override the veto, but the motion failed in a voice vote. With only 10 of the 35 senators opposed to Arkansas Works, any attempt for a veto override was expected to fail. (Lyon, 4/26)