While Washingtonians may be “only intermittently in love with their rivers,” the Potomac River is an enduring and defining feature of the Washington, D.C.’s geography. Before the first European settlers arrived in Virginia, the area around our nation’s capital was home to the Patawomeke tribe, and it is from this tribe that the Potomac river derives its name. Over the years, Patawomeke was Anglicized and ofthe many different spellings that were used including Potomach, Pittomack, Pottomeek, Potomac rose above the rest.
The river has gone by other names as well. George Washington called it “the Nation’s River” while Lyndon B. Johnson called it “the national disgrace,” taking a swipe at how polluted the waterway had become in the mid-20th century. If Johnson were alive today, he would be happy to hear that the city is upgrading infrastructure as part of the multi-billion dollar Clean Rivers Project that will significantly improve water quality in the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, as well as the Chesapeake Bay downstream.
And now we take you three miles east from our Nation’s River to our nation’s Capitol for this week’s healthcare policy news headlines:
Washington’s white whale
Last week we told you that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was encouraging lawmakers to include a measure on drug pricing reform in President Biden’s American Families Plan (AFP). (The Hill) On Wednesday night, President Biden unveiled the AFP, which notably did not include a provision on drug pricing policy. President Biden asked Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but the nation’s legislature is under no obligation to respond to the President’s request. (STAT, The Hill)
Read more: The White House and Congressional Democrats are not seeing eye to eye on drug pricing reform, prompting comparisons to President Trump’s relationship with the 116th Congress on the issue. (STAT)
FDA to move against menthols
On Thursday, the FDA announced it would issue a new proposal in the next 12 months to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes, and all flavors in cigars. The move was hailed by public health groups which have long pushed for such a ban. Even once the proposal is issued, any ban is likely years away as the tobacco industry is all but certain to contest the new regulations. (Axios, The Hill, STAT)
Updated mask guidance
With the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the United States making strides in vaccinating huge swathes of the population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new mask-wearing guidance for those who are fully vaccinated. According to the latest guidance, it is safe for fully vaccinated people to participate in the following activities outdoors without wearing a mask: exercise with members of your household, attend a small outdoor gathering with others who are fully vaccinated and dine outdoors at restaurants. (Axios, Roll Call, The Hill)
Read more: The CDC’s guidance can be reviewed in full, here.
Biden expands access to buprenorphine
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has updated federal guidelines that will allow more healthcare providers to prescribe buprenorphine, an FDA-approved treatment for opioid use disorder. Previously, medical professionals had to undergo an eight hour training course before they could prescribe the drug, a training that fewer than 100,000 providers out of an eligible one million completed. Deaths from opioid overdoses rose sharply during the past year, and public health experts hope expanded access to buprenorphine will help combat this alarming trend. (STAT, The Hill)
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