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Bernie Sanders will vote in opposition to Dr. Monica Bertagnolli to be NIH director : Photographs


For months, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) refused to carry a listening to on Dr. Monica Bertagnolli’s nomination to steer the Nationwide Institutes of Well being. Sanders lastly held that listening to final week.

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For months, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) refused to carry a listening to on Dr. Monica Bertagnolli’s nomination to steer the Nationwide Institutes of Well being. Sanders lastly held that listening to final week.

Alex Wong/Getty Photos

Dr. Monica Bertagnolli is anticipated to lastly get a vote in a Senate committee on her nomination to steer the Nationwide Institutes of Well being this week. It has been a very long time coming — and Sen. Bernie Sanders says he’ll vote in opposition to her.

“Dr. Monica Bertagnolli is an clever and caring individual, however has not satisfied me that she is ready to tackle the greed and energy of the drug corporations and well being care business,” Sanders (I-Vt.) stated in a press release Tuesday afternoon. “I intend to vote NO at her affirmation listening to on Wednesday. I’ve not requested any member of the Committee to observe my lead. This ought to be a vote of conscience.”

A markup on her nomination is about for Wednesday at 10 a.m. and a vote is anticipated to observe. She should win that vote, although it is not going to be unanimous.

The highest spot at NIH has been open since Dec. 2021, when Dr. Francis Collins, the longest serving NIH director, stepped down. President Joe Biden nominated Bertagnolli, who heads the Nationwide Most cancers Institute, again within the spring of 2023.

The method has been stalled for months as a result of Sanders, who chairs the Well being, Training, Labor and Pensions Committee, wished to get extra motion and concessions from the Biden administration on excessive drug costs earlier than he would proceed with Bertagnolli’s nomination.

A Senate committee lastly held a listening to final week on Oct. 18 and Sanders remained targeted on drug costs — a difficulty over which the NIH has little or no management.

Dr. Monica Bertagnolli testifies throughout her Senate HELP Committee affirmation listening to on Oct.18. She presently heads the Nationwide Most cancers Institute.

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Dr. Monica Bertagnolli testifies throughout her Senate HELP Committee affirmation listening to on Oct.18. She presently heads the Nationwide Most cancers Institute.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Photos

After introducing Bertagnolli, Sanders rapidly pivoted to the excessive costs People pay for prescribed drugs.

“Let me say a number of phrases about my issues,” he stated, utilizing his opening assertion to element the failures of the nation’s “damaged” well being system. “Very related to the listening to that we’re conducting proper now,” he stated, “we spend, as a nation, the very best costs — we pay the very best costs on this planet for prescribed drugs, in some circumstances 10 instances greater than the individuals in different nations.”

In his assertion Tuesday, Sanders referred to as American well being care dysfunctional and decried how costly it’s whilst life expectancy declines.

The best way the listening to started — introducing points and politics that aren’t essentially on level — highlights how a lot the job of main the NIH has modified. The company has a finances of greater than $47 billion, making it the biggest funder of medical analysis on this planet. However the accountability of its director has, because the pandemic, taken on new layers of complexity.

It has develop into “an infinite job of bridging between the world of coverage, the world of the general public, and the world of science,” stated Larry Levitt, govt vice chairman for well being coverage at KFF. (KFF Well being Information is an editorially impartial program of KFF, the nonpartisan well being coverage group.)

“COVID turned the scientific well being companies into political footballs like by no means earlier than,” Levitt stated.

The nomination of Bertagnolli, a surgical oncologist, was applauded by a lot of the medical analysis group, particularly the oncology world. However after she was tapped for the function in Might, progress stalled. Dr. Laurence Tabak, a dentist, has been the appearing director of NIH within the interim.

The affirmation of Bertagnolli’s predecessor, Dr. Francis Collins, a doctor and geneticist, took simply 4 weeks in 2009, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), noticed. Bertagnolli’s, he instructed her, has “confronted a a lot totally different nomination course of. Your nomination was held up by Chairman Sanders.”

Sanders agreed to carry the listening to solely after the Biden administration introduced a contract with biotech firm Regeneron Prescribed drugs for a next-generation monoclonal antibody to forestall COVID-19 that required the listing worth of any ensuing drug to be equal to or decrease than the worth in different main international locations.

Through the listening to, he returned to the difficulty, suggesting NIH ought to search extra such agreements with drugmakers that rely upon the company’s analysis. He requested Bertagnolli if she might “decide to us that you’ll work to guarantee that People don’t pay increased costs for prescribed drugs on this nation than individuals all over the world.”

She responded noncommittally: “It might be a terrific honor to have the ability to work with you to guarantee that the American individuals have entry to the care that they should dwell lengthy and wholesome lives.”

As a part of his criticism of Sanders, Tuberville additionally identified that the NIH has been and not using a confirmed director for 21 months. Tuberville, in the meantime, has for months been holding up nominations to army management positions over abortion insurance policies.

If she’s confirmed, Bertagnolli would lead the NIH at a time of excessive scrutiny and skepticism of public well being companies. HELP Committee Rating Member Invoice Cassidy (R-La.) instructed her that a part of her obligation could be “to rebuild the connection with Congress and the general public, being a pacesetter that represents the pursuits of all People and never simply of the scientific group.”

To this finish, senators requested Bertagnolli about how she would lead the company’s analysis on maternal well being and diabetes, and about how she would tackle each opioid dependancy and psychological well being crises. She was pressed on how accessible NIH’s knowledge could be to the general public.

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) requested if she thought taxpayers ought to “fund gender reassignment experiments.” She dodged the query, noting that transgender youth are among the most susceptible within the nation.

Bertagnolli saved a cool tone all through the listening to as she shared her imaginative and prescient of “ensuring that American individuals have entry and availability and may afford the well being care that may save lives.”

Senators additionally questioned how well-rounded Bertagnolli’s expertise is and whether or not she would favor the NCI over the company’s 26 different institutes and facilities. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) requested Bertagnolli if she would have the ability to discover a stability.

She defined that, as an oncologist, she “took care of sufferers of all ages, all walks of life, all totally different well being states. I’m very acquainted to working with colleagues in cardiology, in psychological well being, in opioid use dysfunction, in kidney illness, to deal with my sufferers with most cancers.”

The HELP Committee has scheduled a markup on Bertagnolli’s nomination Oct. 25. If her nomination passes the committee, it can then transfer to a full Senate vote. If confirmed, she would be the first girl to carry the job since 1993.

KFF Well being Information is a nationwide newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about well being points and is among the core working applications at KFF—an impartial supply of well being coverage analysis, polling, and journalism.

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