Hoyer Urges Strengthening of Whistleblower Protections

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has sent a letter to House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) urging the panel to adopt a new prohibition on lawmakers revealing the identities of whistleblowers under the protection of federal law, making the disclosure of a whistleblower’s identity a violation of the House Code of Official Conduct. “While its application would only extend to the House,” Hoyer writes, “it is my hope that the Senate would follow the House’s example and adopt a similar provision in its own rules.” The Majority Leader states that he will work with the Rules Committee to ensure that his proposed rule is written precisely enough to hold violators accountable without impinging on lawmakers’ ability to work with whistleblowers and conduct oversight.

FDA Grants EUA for Lilly COVID Treatment

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Eli Lilly’s rheumatoid arthritis drug barticitnib, in combination with Gilead’sremdesivir, for the treatment of COVID-19. The combination has been shown to reduce time to recovery. The decision is based on a trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which found that the two drugs decreased deaths compared to patients who only received remdesivir, and reduced hospital recovery time by a day.

Moderna Releases Promising Vaccine Data

Moderna Inc. has released interim results for its COVID vaccine suggesting that it is 94.5 percent effective and may block severe cases of the disease. The data from a preliminary analysis of the company’s large late-stage clinical trial comes just a week after Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced that their vaccine candidate had a similarly positive record. Both vaccines rely on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology that has thus far never been used in an approved vaccine. The Moderna product does not require storage in the special facilities necessary for the Pfizer vaccine. In Moderna’s 30,000 person trial, only five volunteers who received two doses of the vaccine over four weeks became sick, compared with 90 COVID cases in participants who received the placebo. There were no severe coronavirus cases among vaccine recipients, compared to 11 cases in people who received the placebo. Moderna stated that an emergency use authorization (EUA) is expected following a final analysis of 151 cases and two months of follow-up safety data which will be completed later this month. There have been no significant safety concerns so far. The company hopes to manufacture 20 million doses by the end of this year, with the initial doses going to the U.S.

In related news, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will meet on December 10 to discuss the request for EUA of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The agency will issue a Federal Register notice this week with details of the meeting, which will include information about a public docket for comments. The meeting will be webcast live.

More Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID

Anew group of federal lawmakers announced that they had tested positive for coronavirus last week. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.),and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the oldest and longest-serving member of the House, have each tested positive and are isolating and working from home. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has also tested positive for the virus and is working from home. His positive test required him to miss his first roll call vote in more than 27 years, ending his 8,927 consecutive voting streak. A total of 82 members of Congress have contracted the virus, quarantined, or come into contact with someone with the disease this year, according to govtrack.us, and more than two dozen lawmakers have tested positive or were diagnosed with a presumed infection.

Hart Health Strategies COVID-19 Resources

Hart Health Strategies Inc. continues to update the following resources related to the coronavirus pandemic. Please remember to clear your cache to ensure you download the most recent documents.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Markups

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing to examine COVID-19, focusing on essential components of a solution; 10:00 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.; December 1

Recently Introduced Health Legislation

H.Res.1223 — Supporting the goals of World AIDS Day; Sponsor: Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13]; Committees: House - Foreign Affairs; Energy and Commerce

H.R.8755 — To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to expand the scope of practitioners eligible for payment for telehealth services under the Medicare program, and for other purposes; Sponsor: Rep. Sherrill, Mikie [D-NJ-11]; Committees: House - Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means

S.4900 — A bill to require a pilot program on activities under the Transition Assistance Program for a reduction in suicide among veterans, and for other purposes; Sponsor: Sen. Brown, Sherrod [D-OH]; Committees: Senate - Veterans’ Affairs

H.R.8756 — To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to ensure adequate payment for certain physicians’ services furnished under part B of the Medicare program during the COVID-19 public health emergency; Sponsor: Rep. Riggleman, Denver [R-VA-5]; Committees: House - Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means

H.R.8780 — To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for additional requirements with respect to electrodiagnostic services under the Medicare program; Sponsor: Rep. Walden, Greg [R-OR-2]; Committees: House - Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means

H.Con.Res.124 — Expressing the sense of Congress that public health professionals should be commended for their dedication and service to the United States on Public Health Thank You Day, November 23, 2020; Sponsor: Rep. Wittman, Robert J. [R-VA-1]; Committees: House - Energy and Commerce

S.Res.777 — A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the need for common sense solutions to improve health care delivery and affordability for all people of the United States; Sponsor: Sen. Perdue, David [R-GA]; Committees: Senate - Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

S.4919 — A bill to provide for a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on the potential benefits on population health outcomes of incorporating into the Federal legislative process tools that measure the impacts of proposed legislation (including in areas outside of health care) on health and health disparities, and for other purposes; Sponsor: Sen. Cardin, Benjamin L. [D-MD]; Committees: Senate - Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

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