Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Dems close campaign by hammering GOP on health care | Senior HHS official dies | FDA approved cannabis-based drug now available | Bipartisan report looks into insulin price spike

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Dems close campaign by hammering GOP on health care | Senior HHS official dies | FDA approved cannabis-based drug now available | Bipartisan report looks into insulin price spike

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Overnight Health Care.

It is day one of ObamaCare open enrollment, and so far, we have not heard of any major problems with people trying to enroll in coverage for 2019.

Meanwhile, as the campaign season winds down and Republicans are trying to shift the narrative to immigration, Democrats are sticking to health care. Also today: the first FDA-approved drug derived from marijuana is now available by prescription and a new congressional report tries to shed light on the insulin market.

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But first:

 

HHS is mourning the death of a senior official

Dan Best, a senior adviser to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, has died.

"It is with tremendous sadness that I learned of the passing of our friend and colleague," Azar said in a statement Thursday.

"I had the great privilege to know Dan Best for the past decade," Azar added. "He joined me here at HHS out of a desire to serve the American people by making healthcare more affordable."

The statement did not list the cause of death.

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Best worked at CVS Health before joining HHS in March. He lead the agency's efforts on drug pricing reform. Best received his bachelor's degree from the University of Dayton in 1991.

"He brought his deep expertise and passion to this task with great humility and collegiality," Azar said. "All of us who served with Dan at HHS and in the administration mourn his passing and extend our thoughts and prayers to his wife Lisa and the entire Best family at this difficult time."

Read more here.

 

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We make prescription opioids. And we want to limit their use. For over 25 years, we’ve developed opioid medications for patients with chronic pain, and we are acutely aware of the public health risks they can create, even when taken as prescribed. As such, we believe the country needs a new approach to prescribing opioids. Learn more.

  

Democrats close campaign by hammering GOP on health care

While President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE talks about the caravan and ending birthright citizenship, Democrats are staying focused on health care in the final days of the campaign.

"Remember that we close on health care and corruption and they can close with whatever toxic racist stew they want," Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDemocrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover-up,' 'national disgrace' Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall MORE (D-Hawaii) tweeted on Tuesday.

"Clearly, Republicans will do absolutely anything to divert attention away from their votes to take away Americans' health care," House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFormer senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Democrats step up pressure over witnesses after Bolton bombshell Texas AFL-CIO endorses Cuellar's primary challenger MORE (Calif.) said on Tuesday in response to the birthright citizenship proposal.

The politics: Democrats see that health care is a winning issue for them. A Fox News poll this month found health care is the top issue for voters, with 58 percent of likely voters in the survey saying it is "extremely" important to their vote; within that group, Democrats have a 24-point lead over Republicans.

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Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist, said Trump's immigration messages this week are a sign he is desperate and that Republicans know they are losing on health care.

"You don't throw a Hail Mary pass if you're up by a few touchdowns," he said.

Read more here.

 

Congressional report says insulin market benefits drugmakers and insurers, not patients

"Perverse" incentives in the insulin supply chain lead to artificially high prices, as well as limited competition in the markets, according to a bipartisan report released Thursday by two lawmakers.

The report from Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Energy: Critics question data behind new Trump water rule | Groups seek more time to comment on Trump environmental rollback | EPA under scrutiny over backlog of toxic waste cleanups Democrats demand plan as EPA hits largest backlog of toxic waste cleanups in 15 years Overnight Energy: Trump issues rule replacing Obama-era waterway protections | Pelosi slams new rule as 'an outrageous assault' | Trump water policy exposes sharp divides MORE (D-Colo.) and Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedTrump's Dingell insults disrupt GOP unity amid impeachment House votes to temporarily repeal Trump SALT deduction cap Trump shocks, earns GOP rebukes with Dingell remarks MORE (R-N.Y.), co-chairs of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, took more than a year to complete and concluded that several factors drive insulin prices up, while forces that would typically drive prices down are "blunted."

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"Many cannot live without it, but countless patients struggle to afford it," DeGette and Reed said in a statement.

"As their out-of-pocket costs continue to rise, the current system is unfairly putting insulin out of reach – placing millions of lives at risk."

Why it matters: The price of insulin has doubled since 2012, after nearly tripling in the previous 10 years, the lawmakers say, despite no recent major breakthroughs that warrant the increases. Only three companies in the U.S. manufacture insulin, and they repeatedly get extended patents to keep cheaper generics out of the marketplace.

In their recommendations, DeGette and Reed said any legislative response to the rising prices of insulin should focus on generating more competition and creating price transparency.

Read more here.

 

First FDA approved cannabis-based drug now available by prescription

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The first cannabis-derived medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration is now available by prescription in every state, according to its manufacturer.

Epidiolex, manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, is intended to treat seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy that begin in childhood. The drug is made of cannabidiol (CBD), a component of marijuana that doesn't give users a high.

The hope among CBD advocates is that the FDA's approval could spur more research into medical marijuana products, though marijuana itself remains illegal.

Epidiolex was approved by the FDA in June, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified it as a Schedule V substance, the least restrictive schedule of a controlled substance. That cleared the way for GW to begin marketing its drug.

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

Democratic Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Sunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Senate Democrat: 'Fine' to hear from Hunter Biden MORE says Trump isn't doing enough to cut drug prices (CNBC)

Merck pulls out of agreement to supply life-saving vaccine to millions of kids (NPR)

My company offers free health insurance - here's why I decided to spend $1,000 more on a better plan (Business Insider)

 

State by state

In fight for his political life, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker makes 11th-hour proposal on pre-existing conditions (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Forget Trump, caravans and liberal mobs: It's all health care all the time in this House race in Illinois (The Washington Post)  

Protections on pre-existing conditions have not existed in North Dakota since 1970s (Politifact)

Chicago psychiatric hospital is under fire over reports alleging abuse of children (Pro Publica)

 

From The Hill's opinion page:

American global health leadership starts in Ohio and Georgia

Americans can't afford to get sick -- and limited plans could make things worse