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The Curious Capitol Columns

Hot Topics | November 12, 2021

You’ve just left the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the National Arboretum, and a few hundred yards in front of you stand 22 Corinthian columns supporting nothing but air atop a grassy knoll. You’re looking at the National Capitol Columns, though perhaps ex-Capitol Columns would be a more appropriate name.

From 1828 to 1958, the columns had a structural purpose and graced the East Portico of the Capitol. The columns were removed when the east side of the Capitol was expanded to correct an aesthetic (not structural) oversight in the building’s design. After the columns were removed from the Capitol, benefactress Ethel Garrett campaigned to establish a permanent home for the columns at the National Arboretum.

Thank you for making us your home for the healthcare stories that made headlines this week:

Califf for Commissioner

  • President Biden nominated Dr. Robert Califf, a cardiologist, to serve as Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If confirmed by the Senate, Califf would return to the job he held in the last few months of the Obama administration and have another opportunity to execute his goals of transforming the way stakeholders across healthcare use data. However, Califf’s confirmation process may not be smooth, as Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) publicly voiced concerns over the Dr. Califf’s approach to regulating opioids. (STAT, Endpoints News)

Your guide to mandate madness

  • It’s been a busy week for President Biden’s vaccine mandate. Last Saturday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the mandate from going into effect. (POLITICO) The Administration responded by encouraging businesses to implement the mandate of their own accord, while the Department of Justice filed a brief arguing the mandate is legal. (The Hill [1], The Hill  [2]) As the legal challenges make their way through the courts, many American businesses are unsure of whether they should make preparations to implement the mandate. (Roll Call, The Hill)

Moderna’s patent problem

  • A public disagreement regarding the development of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine intensified this week when Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, told Reuters the company “made a serious mistake” by asserting three NIH scientists did not help invent a key component of the vaccine. Moderna has stated the company “reached the good-faith determination that these individuals did not co-invent” the component of the vaccine in question. The dispute may now go to court. (Endpoints News [1], Endpoints News [2])

Confusion in the courts

  • Federal judges issued two conflicting verdicts on the 340B drug discount program, which requires pharmaceutical companies to offer discounts on all outpatient drugs sold to hospitals and clinics serving low income populations. One judge ruled the federal government did not have the authority to threaten to penalize Novartis and United Therapeutics for reducing 340B discounts. However, another judge asked the federal government to review how some hospitals participating in 340B use contract pharmacies. Following the verdicts, it remains unclear if the Department of Health and Human Services has the authority to force pharmaceutical companies to provide 340B discounts. (STAT)

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