Senators Push to Reduce Antibiotic Use in Agriculture

A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Senate that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to withdraw its approvals of certain antibiotics used in animal agriculture. The Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (S. 621), introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), would require that producers prove that their use of antibiotics doesn’t pose a risk to human health. S. 621 would also require new labels which call for minimal usage of antibiotics used for therapeutic purposes. This bill would build on guidance released by the agency in 2013 that makes it illegal for producers to use antibiotics for the purpose of animal weight gain.

Bipartisan Legislation to Repeal IPAB Introduced in the House

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). IPAB was included as a part of the ACA to make cost-cutting recommendations to Medicare if program spending exceeds a target growth rate. Unless Congress makes cuts to meet the law’s requirements, the Board’s recommendations would be automatically implemented. IPAB repeal is supported by members on both sides of the aisle who oppose the ceding of congressional authority to an unelected and unaccountable decision making body. Showing strong support for the bill, H.R. 1190 was introduced with 206 bipartisan original cosponsors.

Part D Legislation Introduced to Require Six Protected Drug Categories

Last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced a bill that would require Medicare Part D plan formularies to include prescription drugs in six categories: anticonvulsants, antineoplastics, antiretrovirals, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and immunosuppressants. The Grassley/Brown bill is a response to an attempt by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to limit protected categories to anticonvulsants, antiretrovirals, and antineoplastics through regulation last year. CMS did not finalize its proposed rule due to opposition from the public. S. 648 would prevent the Secretary of Health and Human Services from using the regulatory process to narrow protected drug classes, establish exceptions to exclude a drug in one of the protected classes, or limit access to protected drugs through utilization controls such as prior authorization. The bill would take effect starting in plan year 2015.

Ryan Dismisses Possibility of SGR Repeal Before Deadline

While speaking with the Federation of American Hospitals last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) explained that the lack of consensus on how to pay for permanent repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) will require the passage of another short-term fix before 21 percent cuts to Medicare physician reimbursement rates take effect on April 1. Repeal and replacement of the SGR would cost $174.5 billion. Ryan noted that a larger budget agreement could offer the opportunity to move SGR repeal at a later date.

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