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AIDS Action Weekly Update

November 26, 1996

Welcome to AIDS Action Council's Weekly Washington Update, an on-line newsletter that reviews what is happening in Washington on AIDS policy issues each week. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us at the e-mail address listed below.

House Committee Assignments Complete

House Committee assignments to fill empty slots from members who are no longer in Congress or who have changed committees, were announced earlier this week. New members on committees that deal with AIDS issues, directly or indirectly Ä Appropriations, Budget, Commerce, Rules, and Ways and Means Ä are listed below. Not all the vacancies have been filled due to the uncertainty of committee sizes.

Named to the Appropriations Committee, which oversees the spending levels and rescissions for programs, were Representatives Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chet Edwards (D-TX), Tom Latham (R-IA), Carrie Meek (D-FL), Jim Moran (D-VA), Anne Northup (R-KY), John Olver (D-MA), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), David Price (D-NC), Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), and Zack Wamp (R-TN). Five of the Democrats named to the Appropriations Committee are returning members who had to leave the committee when the Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994.

Newly appointed members to the Budget Committee are Representatives Scotty Baesler (D-KY), Ken Bensten (D-TX), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jim Davis (D-FL), Robert Ehrlich (R-MD), Kay Granger (R-TX), Gil Gutknecht (R-MN), Van Hilleary (R-TN), Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), David Minge (D-MN), Mike Parker (R-MS), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), John Sununu (R-NH), and Robert Weygard (D-RI).

The Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over the Ryan White CARE Act, reauthorization of the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, HIV prevention, federal substance abuse and public health programs includes the following new members: Representatives Tom Sawyer (D-OH), Al Wynn (D-MD), Gene Green (D-TX), Karen McCarthy (D-MO), Ted Strickland (D-OH), and Diane DeGette (D-CO). New members on the Rules Committee are Representatives Richard Hastings (R-WA), Sue Myrick (R-NC), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY). New members appointed to the Ways and Means Committee are Representatives Xavier Becerra (D-CA), J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Kenny Hulshof (R-MO), William Jefferson (D-LA), John Tanner (D-TN), Karen Thurman (D-FL), Wes Watkins (R-OK), and Jerry Weller (R-IL).

Subcommittee assignments will be made following the Thanksgiving holiday. As reported in an earlier update, Senate assignments will also occur after the holiday.

Sign-On Letter To Pharmaceutical Companies Calls For Cost Controls

The Ad-Hoc Coalition for Drug Pricing has developed a sign-on letter to demand that major pharmaceutical companies address issues of cost of the promising new drugs for HIV/AIDS. While current evidence on the new AIDS drugs is quite encouraging the prohibitive cost of the new regimens make accessibility quite difficult for the people they should be helping. The letter calls on the pharmaceutical companies to immediately re-evaluate the prices of their respective drugs and take into consideration the impossible burden that prescription drug prices place on people living with HIV/AIDS and the assistance programs that serve them - primarily Medicaid and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).

The letter further calls on the pharmaceuticals to provide children and pregnant women with real access to new HIV combination therapies. Recently approved HIV/AIDS drugs have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for either group. The letter will be sent to executives at the following companies: Glaxo Wellcome, Hoffman-LaRoche, Abbott Laboratories, Merck & Company, Agouron Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, Amgen, Inc., Genentech, Serono Laboratories, Bio-Technology Group, Boehringer Ingelheim/Roxane, Gilead Sciences, Astra, Smithkline Beecham, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Parke-Davis, Miles Inc. Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Syntex Laboratories Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Ortho-Biotech, Schering Plough, Sandfi Winthrop, Fujisawa, Sequus, and Vestar.

For a copy of the letter, please contact Tonia Dickerson of AIDS Action Council, at 202-986-1300, extension 3030. The deadline to sign on to the letter is December 5.

FDA Commissioner David Kessler Announces Resignation

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner David Kessler announced earlier this week that he plans to leave his post early in 1997. Dr. Kessler, who is both a pediatrician and an attorney, has been the head of the FDA for the past six years, having been appointed during the Bush Administration. Recently the agency has been the target of regulatory reform efforts, and his departure could make that agency more vulnerable to radical reform efforts. Legislation to reform the FDA came to a standstill during the second session of the 104th Congress, much to the satisfaction of many patients advocacy groups. One of the concerns around the broad deregulation efforts included the worry that the attempts to facilitate rapid approval could result in the approval of drugs that have not been sufficiently tested, thus jeopardizing public health. Kessler has stated that he will stay on at the FDA until a replacement has been appointed.

HIV Infection Rates In Infants Lowers

Recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that the number of newborns infected with HIV from their mothers has declined 27 percent between 1992 and 1995. The cause of this decline is linked to the fact that more pregnant women who are HIV positive are taking AZT during pregnancy which lowers the chances of perinatal transmission of HIV from approximately 25 percent to about eight percent. The Public Health Service recommends use of AZT by HIV positive women during pregnancy and childbirth followed by six additional weeks of use after childbirth for the babies, as an effective means of lowering perinatal HIV transmission to newborns. At the end of September of this year, 566,002 cumulative cases of AIDS had been reported among all age groups; 7,472 of these cases occurred in children under the age of 13, ninety percent of whom were infected perinatally.

For more information contact:
Lisa White
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Ave., NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20009

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council. It is a part of the publication AIDS Action Weekly Update.