HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Shortage of infant formula prompts home action

President Joe Biden has said he expects increased infant formula imports to relieve a shortage in the United States “within weeks or less” as pressure mounts from parents and lawmakers to tackle the growing problem. “I think we’re going to, in a couple of weeks or less, get a lot more formula on the shelves,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Friday.

White House officials have been reluctant to set a timeline for returning formula stocks to normal. The president defended his administration’s response to the problem, which was exacerbated in February after Abbott Laboratories recalled certain brands of formula linked to rare bacterial infections in four children.

“If we had been better mind readers, I guess we could have been,” he said in response to a question about why his administration didn’t act faster. “But we acted as quickly as the problem appeared to us. And we must move forward with caution and speed.

The administration has been quick to show it is trying to ease the shortages that have left shelves empty in stores across the country. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote to Abbott CEO Robert Ford on Friday urging the company to take action to allow low-income families to use federal aid to buy other formula brands at least until the end of August. Josh Wingrove and Jordan Fabian have more.

At the Capitol:

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote on two bills this week to get more formula on the shelves. One would grant emergency authority to the program for women, infants and children to allow relaxation of certain non-safety related regulations regarding infant formula. pelosi (D-Calif.) said the bill would be reviewed in an expedited process.
  • The other measure is an additional credit that Pelosi declared House Appropriations Speaker Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) will bring upstairs to remedy the shortage. The details of this legislation are being worked out.
  • Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Robert Califf will also be grilled on the formula shortage when he testifies Thursday before the House Appropriations Agriculture-FDA subcommittee.

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It also happens on the Hill

Drugs at the border to be heard: Senior Department of Homeland Security officials will testify on Wednesday about the agency’s efforts to stop the flow of opioids into the country, an issue that has alarmed lawmakers on both sides as opioids are the source of the most overdose deaths in the United States. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus told a hearing last week that illegal drugs usually cross the border in vehicles at ports of entry. Read a statement about the hearing here.

Other hearings this week:

  • The Senate Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee holds a hearing Tuesday on the National Institutes of Health’s fiscal year 2023 budget request. Acting NIH Director Lawrence Tabak and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci are among those due to testify.
  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee provided markup on Tuesday for legislation, including HR 7180, which authorizes the National Science Foundation to award grants to support research into the disruption of regular cognitive processes associated with Covid-19.
  • Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee is holding a hearing Tuesday on modernizing electronic health records at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • The House Coronavirus Crisis Oversight Subcommittee is holding a hearing on Tuesday into the effects of the Covid pandemic on the nation’s low-wage women’s workforce.
  • The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is organizing a hearing on cybersecurity in the health sector on Wednesday.
  • House of Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee holds a hearing Thursday on the FDA’s fiscal year 2023 budget request. Commissioner Robert Califf is due to testify.
  • BGOV Calendar: See the full list of hearings for this week.

Invoices fixed for the passage: The House plans to vote this week on a series of measures suspending the rules – which require a two-thirds majority – related to veterans’ health concerns. Among them are:

  • HR 7500, which would authorize major medical facility projects for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill would authorize $3.4 billion in fiscal year 2022 to restore or build 12 VA medical facilities. The House Veterans Affairs Committee did not review the bill. For more, see Christina Banoub’s summary of the BGOV bill.
  • HR 5754, which would require the VA’s Office of Patient Advocacy to create an online system for veterans to file and track complaints about VA health services. The House Veterans Affairs Committee approved the bill by vote on April 6. To learn more, see the summary of the BGOV bill by Christina Banoub.
  • S. 2102, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mammograms to veterans who served in places associated with exposure to burning fireplaces. The Senate passed the bill by voice vote on March 24. For more, see Naoreen Chowdhury’s summary of the BGOV bill.
  • Read more: Agenda of the house for the week of May 16

What else to know today

Abortion misinformation surges on Facebook, Twitter: Conspiracy theorists have latched onto the abortion rights debate on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok, leading to an increase in misinformation about what is already one of the most politically charged topics online – and signaling the complex decision-making that will lie ahead for social media companies if the procedure becomes illegal in some states. Read more from Davey Alba.

  • Anti-abortion group tells U.S. Supreme Court Medicaid recipients don’t have right to sue states to compel them to pay providers chosen by patients, including those who perform abortions, . Americans United for Life has joined South Carolina in pushing the court to review a Fourth Circuit ruling upholding that Planned Parenthood South Atlantic can retain its status as a Medicaid provider in the state. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.
  • New York told federal court it was appealing an order block the enforcement of a law that requires employers to inform employees that they cannot be discriminated against because of their reproductive health care choices. Faith-based employers have already told the Northern District of New York they will appeal its dismissal of claims that the law violates their First Amendment freedom of association and religion, Pazanowski has more.

Authorized FTC Pharmacy Agent Probe With New Member: Federal Trade Commission Democrats, with confirmation of Alvaro Bedoya, now hold majority needed to approve probe into entities that administer prescription drug benefits, but antitrust lawyers say Chairwoman Lina Khan will still try to reach a broad consensus before moving forward. Bedoya could push a PBM study plan over the finish line after the agency’s previous efforts failed in a deadlocked 2-2 vote. Céline Castronuovo has more.

Access to HIV testing to get a boost from the FDA: Makers of some HIV tests will face less stringent premarket requirements under a final FDA order released Friday reclassifying those devices. The order allows manufacturers of nucleic acid, antigen, and antibody tests used for the detection of HIV to submit applications through one of the most commonly used routes for devices: premarket notification or the 510 route. (k). Read more from Céline Castronuovo.

Investigations into parent abuse of trans children have been resolved in Texas: Texas’ highest court of appeals lifted a statewide injunction against Governor Greg Abbott’s crackdown on gender-affirming care for trans minors, with a catch. Abbott ordered child protection officials to investigate gender care for minors as potential child abuse. In Friday’s ruling, the Texas Supreme Court allowed the investigations, but said officials must get a judge’s approval before acting on the results of any investigation. Erik Larson and Laurel Calkins have more.

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With the help of Ellen M. Gilmer and Emily Wilkins

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri to [email protected]; Michaela Ross to [email protected]

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