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Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

Congress recently put the pharmaceutical industry on the hook for more of seniors' drug costs, but the industry is pushing lawmakers to reverse that policy as part of a bill to address the opioid crisis.

The big picture: Congress voted earlier this year to shift billions of dollars in Medicare drug costs away from seniors and onto drug companies. Now, "PhRMA is begging" lawmakers to reverse that decision in unrelated opioids legislation, a GOP congressional aide said.

The details: A February spending bill required drugmakers to cover more of the costs seniors incur when they fall into Medicare's "donut hole."

  • It was a rare lobbying loss for the industry. Its leading trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, has been lobbying aggressively on the issue ever since.
  • After failing to get lawmakers to reverse the hit in subsequent spending bills, the industry's focus has now shifted to the opioids package being finalized by House and Senate leaders, according to lobbyists and congressional aides familiar with the process.
  • "Sounds like the size of the fix for pharma could be maybe 2-3x bigger than the opioids funding," a House Democratic aide said.

Industry is trying to broker a compromise, those sources said: Eliminate the multibillion-dollar tab drug companies would absorb for Medicare's "donut hole," and in exchange industry would accept a version of a bill designed to stop brand-name drugmakers from blocking generic competitors.

Yes, but: None of this has anything to do with the opioid crisis, which has so far been a rare example of bipartisan agreement. And there's reason to be highly skeptical Democrats would go along with the industry's latest request.

  • "If you're a Democrat, why do you want to do this?" one pharmaceutical lobbyist asked.
  • It's also unclear whether Republicans will go along. The GOP congressional aide said his party won't force the issue unless PhRMA can lock in Democratic support on its own.

Go deeper

23 mins ago - Health

Florida records most new daily COVID cases in state since pandemic began

Nurses bring a portable x-ray machine to a treatment tent outside the emergency department at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida, set up to serve as an overflow area as the number of COVID-19 infections surges throughout Brevard County. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida reported 21,683 new COVID-19 cases — the most in the state in a single day since the pandemic began, per data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday.

The big picture: Florida is now the U.S. coronavirus epicenter, with the Delta variant driving a surge, Axios Tampa Bay's Ben Montgomery notes.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

Chart: Less than 0.1% of vaccinated Americans tested positive for COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC and state Covid dashboards. Dani Alberti/Axios

Of the 164 million vaccinated Americans, around 125,000 people have tested positive for breakthrough infections and 0.001% have died, according to state data compiled from state dashboards by NBC and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: While "breakthrough cases" have been getting media attention, the low numbers show that the pandemic is mostly a threat for the unvaccinated population.

Biden officials celebrate infrastructure deal in fuel-cell big rig

White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm celebrated progress on President Biden's infrastructure package by taking a spin in a Kenworth fuel-cell, zero-emissions Class A truck.

What they're saying: "We have a deal, a Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework deal," Granholm said. McCarthy responded: "it's big and it's beautiful."