FDA ban on menthol in cigarettes removes major regulatory hurdle

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The right to try is the last policy to get “2.0-ed”

2022, it seems, is the year of health policy rollbacks.


The bipartisan duo behind the 21st Century Cures Act are trying to rally support for a Cures 2.0. President Biden announced the launch of the Cancer Moonshot 2.0. And now there is a right to try 2.0.

The new legislation, from the libertarian think tank Goldwater Institute, is meant to speed up patient access to so-called “N of 1” drugs that are tailor-made for critically ill patients. On Monday, Arizona became the first state to enact the law. Now, the Goldwater Institute plans to pass the bill in several other states before pushing it to Capitol Hill, just as it did with the first right-to-try laws.


At first glance, the bill seems fair. After all, mere days of delay could mean the death of these critically ill patients. But, as I explain in a new story for STAT, the Goldwater Institute cannot point to real issues that require policy changes. In fact, they couldn’t even name a doctor who said this new path is needed.

To learn more about the new bill and what happens next in the fight against Right to Try 2.0, check out my new story.

After a month of intense lobbying, FDA regulation of menthol is on the way

The FDA’s long-awaited rule banning menthol in cigarettes lifted a major regulatory hurdle on Thursday and is expected to be released in the coming days.

The settlement has been the subject of intense lobbying over the past month. The White House has held 25 settlement meetings since early April, according to STAT’s review of public meeting logs. They brought in everyone from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the National LGBT Cancer Network to Altria and the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, but we at DC Diagnosis are especially intrigued by the involvement of advocacy groups civil rights in the struggle.

Earlier this month, the Reverend Al Shaprton wrote directly to the White House arguing that the proposed menthol ban “targets and severely harms African-American smokers, who overwhelmingly prefer menthol cigarettes.” Sharpton also met with the White House on April 13, according to state-run newspapers, and he wrote letters with many other influential civil rights organizations — including the ACLU — saying a menthol ban would provoke clashes. between the black community and the police.

But not everyone in the civil rights community is convinced.

The NAACP penned its own letter to the Biden administration last week endorsing the menthol ban, and it went after Sharpton directly.

“We do not agree with the tobacco industry’s message and strategy presented by some black leaders: banning menthol cigarettes would be discriminatory. We reject this view. Failure to ban the sale of cigarettes and menthol products would be discriminatory and would defeat the purpose and function of the FDA to protect and promote public health for all, including the African-American community. American,” the band wrote.

The debate appears at least partly fueled by a sustained lobbying effort by tobacco companies, an LA Times investigation found on Monday.

Biden’s Paxlovid push

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a series of initiatives aimed at increasing the use of antiviral pills to treat Covid-19. The first step will simply be to make Paxlovid and Merck’s molnupiravir, another oral antiviral treatment, available in more places. Currently, the drugs are available in 20,000 locations and this figure is expected to increase to over 30,000.

The US government will also dramatically increase the number of “test to treat” facilities, where eligible patients can receive a Covid test, followed by a prescription, and then the prescribed medication. She also wants to launch an awareness campaign.

My colleague Matthew Herper has the whole story here.

Inside the White House’s not-so-open approach to Covid funding

When Jen Psaki told reporters they might have copies of a White House binder full of Covid-19 funding details, my colleague Rachel Cohrs took the press secretary at her word. Within minutes of the press conference ending, Rachel was already plotting how to get to the White House grounds to get her hands on the information. But when Rachel arrived at Psaki’s office, she discovered that the White House was not, in fact, distributing copies of the binder — far from it. Instead, Rachel was given just an hour to sift through nearly 400 pages under the watchful eye of a White House staffer.

In a new story, Rachel gives readers exclusive insight into what the Biden administration was telling lawmakers during the drawn-out fight over the future of Covid-19 funding, which has pitted Republicans against anger over lack of transparency. of the White House against the Democrats. , apoplectic over Republicans’ reluctance to continue writing White House checks.

Take a peek inside the binder – and Rachel’s saga – here.

Keeping hopes alive for drug price reform

This morning, advocates will hold a press conference on Capitol Hill to mark the launch of a new campaign urging lawmakers to quickly pass drug pricing reform. The 70 groups behind the new campaign, dubbed “Push For Lower Rx Prices,” will urge lawmakers to pass comprehensive drug pricing reform before Memorial Day — a lofty goal, given that only 34 days.

The campaign is the latest attempt by advocates to drum up support for drug price reform following lawmakers’ legislative implosion in December. The launch comes just days after Senator Elizabeth Warren renewed her calls for the Biden administration to use executive action to quickly reduce drug prices. This is part of another advocacy campaign called “Make Meds Affordable”, which was launched in February.

One of the groups leading today’s campaign, Patients for Affordable Drugs, also came out today with a new poll aimed at bolstering support for drug pricing reforms. Most of the results probably won’t surprise loyal DC Diagnosis readers, but we at STAT were intrigued by this particular nugget: Only 10% of respondents, including just 12% of Republicans, said the US system drug pricing “is fair for the high quality of care, innovation and access we have to treatments.

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