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Pandemic preparedness is already off Congress’ priority list


The timeline for a rare, bipartisan bill meant to prepare the United States for another pandemic is already slipping, STAT’s Rachel Cohrs reports.

The lawmakers behind the bill, Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), have been working on a sweeping pandemic preparedness bill since this spring. They had originally hoped that draft legislative priorities would be released by summer and then would work its way through the congressional committee process this fall. But now the bill text might not even be released until late this year or early 2022, three lobbyists and a congressional aide told her.

While Murray tells Rachel that she’s still hopeful about the bill, a lengthy delay could make it much harder to get something signed into law. After all, the timeframe the lobbyists and aide laid out would prevent the bill from being included in three major legislative vehicles currently being considered by Congress.


More from Rachel here.

Biogen hires help for Congress’ inquiry into Aduhelm

Somehow, Biogen actually spent less on lobbying this summer compared to last year, despite all it has going on after the controversial approval and rocky rollout of its new Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm — a list that includes a congressional investigation into its efforts to influence the FDA.

That’s in part because Biogen hired the law firm Covington & Burling to handle its interactions with congressional investigators, two sources familiar with the arrangement confirmed to STAT. There’s no telling how much Biogen is paying Covington for their services because the firm, which does lobby on behalf of some pharmaceutical clients, isn’t technically registered to lobby on behalf of Biogen.

Covington is one of the most powerful law firms in Washington, and it has a history of getting corporate clients out of hot water with congressional investigators. The firm’s website lists more than a dozen high profile congressional investigations it has handled; they include everything from drug pricing investigations to defending military contractors involved in overseas wars and banks being investigated for foreclosure practices.

Biogen and Covington both did not respond to requests for comment.

Which drug maker spent the most on lobbying this quarter? The answer will surprise you

If you guessed Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Amgen — or even any of the megacorporations that make up PhRMA — you’d be wrong. It was Horizon Therapeutics, which markets 11 rare disease drugs here in the U.S. The company spent a whopping $3.49 million on lobbying over the last four months. That’s more than $2 million dollars more than any other pharmaceutical company spent this quarter. Horizon even spent more than the trade association it belongs to, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.

The spending spree is particularly surprising given Horizon isn’t even a member of PhRMA, the drug lobbying powerhouse in Washington.

STAT surveyed a number of congressional aides and drug industry lobbyists to get a sense of how a company like Horizon could spend so much — and no one knew. One congressional source on a key committee told STAT they hadn’t heard from the company all year.

The drug pricing debate rages, and voters get an earful

Rumors swirled over the weekend that lawmakers were seriously considering watering down Democrats’ signature drug pricing reforms in an effort to win over the support of moderate Democrats. Now, advocacy groups on both sides of the debate are spending big trying to influence the few Democrats that will ultimately decide the fate of the package.

On the pro Medicare negotiation side: Patients for Affordable Drugs launched a new six-figure campaign on Monday that will run in California, Oregon, New York, and Arizona. Protect Our Care also launched a new radio ad Monday targeted at Rep. Kathleen Rice in New York.

On the anti-negotiation side: Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group with ties to PhRMA, announced a six-figure radio campaign this morning in Arizona arguing that Medicare negotiation would hurt innovation.

As Rachel wrote last week, much of this is coming down to 4 key senators, whose votes could make or break how much Democrats can actually accomplish.

STAT stories you may have missed

A disrupting force, or ‘just another mail order pharmacy’? How Amazon Pharmacy stacks up, a year after launching.

Mark Cuban is launching his own PBM “for good rather than evil.”

Hospitals are increasingly finding ways to avoid cutting deals with vendors like Epic Systems and Cerner Corp.

A new study finds that the vast majority of women who recieved abortion pills by mail had no issue with the process.

How a Supreme Court case pitting the ACLU and cancer patients against a genetics company has shaped biotech.

Illumina is promising to launch Grail’s cancer detection test in Africa and Asia, but won’t say when.