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A one-man White House personnel office


When Francis Collins stepped down after nearly 12 years as NIH director, he thought he’d finally get some peace and quiet, he told me — a chance to spend more time with his wife, the genetic counseling pioneer Diane Baker, and to devote more attention to his genomics research lab.

His respite lasted about six weeks. Then came a 7 a.m. call from Ron Klain, President Biden’s chief of staff. The night before, former White House science adviser Eric Lander had resigned amid a workplace-abuse scandal, and Klain wanted Collins to step in. It was, Collins said, a request to which “you can’t say no.”

In an exclusive interview — his first in his capacity as Biden’s science adviser — Collins filled me in on the four major personnel searches he’s currently leading: New directors for NIH, ARPA-H, and the National Cancer Institute, plus Biden’s next science adviser (he calls that last appointment his “get-out-of-jail-free card.”) He also shared his take on recent criticism of NIH, the ongoing addiction crisis, and political interference at federal science agencies. Read more here.


HELP — I need somebody (to reauthorize FDA user fees)

The Senate HELP Committee convenes today for a markup on the unfortunately-acronymed bill known as FDASLA, which would reauthorize the user fees that support the Food and Drug Administration and enact a number of agency reforms.

Much of the bill isn’t particularly controversial. But there could be some fireworks, in particular, on the issue of prescription drug importation. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has so far resisted a push from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to include major drug importation measures in the bill. But a lobbyist shared a copy of an amendment Sanders is expected to offer with me yesterday — and it includes a scheme to facilitate imports from Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries deemed safe by the FDA. And some committee Republicans have shown support for drug importation in the past, too. This could get interesting!

The manager’s amendment shared by committee staff still includes some modest reforms to the FDA’s controversial accelerated approval pathway and the requirement that the agency move quickly to approve over-the-counter hearing aids. The House passed its own version of the bill last week, which takes a different approach on accelerated approval.

It’s hot job summer for health care lobbyists

Some of D.C.’s top health lobbyists and policy wonks are ringing in the start of summer with some new gigs, Nick reports. These moves, in particular, caught his attention:

  • Mike Mattoon, one of BIO’s top lobbyists, is joining Acadia Pharmaceuticals as its V.P. of government affairs.
  • Liz Richardson, who directed the health care products at the Pew Charitable Trusts, started Monday as a senior manager of public policy.
  • Tim Robinson, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s veteran chief counsel, is joining Tiber Creek Group, whose clients include BIO and Anthem. He’s the second major E&C departure recently: Jeff Carrol, the committee’s longtime staff director, left for Capitol Counsel last summer.
  • And here’s a big one: Keagan Lenihan, who served as chief of staff to Stephen Hahn, the former FDA commissioner, has joined tobacco giant Phillip Morris as its vice president of government affairs and public policy.

If you’ve got more scoops for Nick, he’s at [email protected]

Is the FTC walking the walk on hospital mergers?

The Federal Trade Commision made a splash last week when it announced it was suing to block not one but two major hospital mergers. And it follows a long stretch of President Biden and FTC chair Lina Khan talking a big game on cracking down on health industry consolidation.

But experts describe last week’s lawsuits as “low-hanging fruit,” my colleague Tara Bannow writes, and argue that they do not represent a major shift in how the country’s top antitrust enforcers view health care mergers. “The complaints themselves are more smoke than fire,” one former FTC lawyer told Tara. Read the rest here.

PhRMA is descending on the WTO

The pharmaceutical industry has put all hands on deck this week in Switzerland, where global trade negotiators are considering a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, my colleague Ed Silverman reports. The Biden administration stunned Washington and enraged the pharmaceutical industry when it endorsed the waiver a year ago in response to wealthy nations accounting for a dramatically outsize share of the global vaccine supply.

But the proposal hasn’t moved forward. And now, the pharmaceutical industry says there’s no point in enacting the IP waiver this far into the pandemic, arguing that vaccine supply is no longer a major issue. But vaccination rates in much of Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia remain far out of step with the rest of the world. More here.

What we’re reading

SCOOP: Klobuchar, Porter call for FTC to investigate blood thinner price hikes by Janssen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, STAT

FDA says Moderna’s Covid vaccine for kids is safe and effective, Washington Post

Experimental ALS therapy receives approval in Canada, New York Times

A Florida hospital system is suing a religious sharing ministry over unpaid medical claims, STAT