Overnight Health Care: Democratic governor signs Louisiana abortion bill | US measles cases break 25-year record | FDA to hold first hearing on CBD products Friday

Overnight Health Care: Democratic governor signs Louisiana abortion bill | US measles cases break 25-year record | FDA to hold first hearing on CBD products Friday
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Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

The U.S. has now broken a decades-old record for measles cases, civil rights groups are suing HHS and South Carolina over alleged adoption discrimination, and New Jersey is suing the now-infamous Sackler family over the opioid epidemic. Meanwhile, on Friday the FDA will take its first steps towards regulating CBD.

But we'll start with some late-breaking news on abortion.


Democratic Louisiana governor signs abortion bill

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Thursday broke with his party and signed into law a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur at about six weeks of pregnancy.

The so-called "heartbeat" abortion ban, the sixth of its kind to be passed in recent months, doesn't include exceptions for rape or incest.


With Edwards' signature, Louisiana is the sixth state to pass such a ban, joining Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio and Missouri.

Why this time is different: Edwards, who says he is "pro-life," is the first Democratic governor to sign a sweeping bill limiting abortion rights in the state.

The politics: The "heartbeat" bans, as well as a separate, widespread abortion ban in Alabama, have been criticized on the national stage by abortion rights advocates and prominent Democrats, including many of those running for president.

What's next: Louisiana's ban won't take effect unless a similar bill in Mississippi is upheld in a federal appeals court.

A federal judge last week issued a preliminary injunction blocking that law from going into effect while it is being challenged in court.

Proponents of the bans are hoping the legislation will lead to a Supreme Court battle to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that granted abortion rights nationwide.

Read more on the abortion fight here.


US measles cases grow to 971, breaking 25-year record

The measles outbreak is continuing to grow at an alarming trend, and public health officials on Thursday said the U.S. has broken a decades-old record for the most measles cases reported in a single year, with 971 cases reported so far in 2019.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the total number of cases through the first five months of this year has surpassed the record 963 cases reported for all of 1994.

The last time the country saw as many cases was in 1992, when more than 2,200 were reported.

Most of the cases have been spread from children who catch it while traveling abroad, and then spread the disease in their unvaccinated community upon returning. The majority of people who get measles are unvaccinated.

"Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated, do get vaccinated," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

Concerns based on misinformation about the vaccine's safety and effectiveness, as well as disease severity, may lead parents to delay or refuse vaccines, the agency said. Measles was declared eliminated in 2000, but if the current trends continue, that will no longer be the case come next fall.

"That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health," the agency said in a statement.  

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb:

A preventable tragedy, and now there's risk that the disease could again become endemic in the U.S. https://t.co/ASkkN70ZNN

-- Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) May 30, 2019

From HHS Secretary Alex Azar:

#Measles is preventable: We have a safe & effective vaccine to protect ourselves, loved ones & neighbors from this incredibly contagious disease. Talk to your doctor to ensure you & your children are up-to-date with the recommended vaccination schedule. https://t.co/pFNaIpeG8C

-- Secretary Alex Azar (@SecAzar) May 30, 2019

Read more on the outbreak here.


Coming tomorrow: FDA to hold first public hearing on CBD

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday is set to hold its first-ever public hearing on products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds. The most popular such product? Cannabidiol, or CBD.

The hearing is a big step, as the market has been booming, and industry is clamoring for some sort of regulatory clarity from FDA. The current situation, they say, is basically the Wild West. Congress legalized the use of hemp-based CBD products late last year in the farm bill, sending the agency scrambling to figure out new rules around regulating a unique product that is both a drug and a dietary supplement. Right now, nobody really knows if it's legal or not, and the FDA hasn't been totally clear.

What to expect: There will be more than 140 people testifying at the all-day hearing, ranging from academics to manufacturers to advocacy groups and state government officials. FDA wants data about the safety and efficacy of CBD in general, as well as its use in food and drink products. The hearing is an attempt for information gathering. In particular, expect the agency to focus on concerns about the levels of CBD, the mode of delivery, as well as any interactions it could have with other substances.

What will happen next: After the hearing, there will be a comment period open until July 2. The agency will consider the public input, and the FDA's working group on CBD is expected to share results later this summer. But FDA can drag out the regulatory process for a long time if needed. The public input will be used to develop draft regulations, which will go through another comment period before being finalized. It could be years, but the hearing is a first step.


Civil rights groups sue HHS, South Carolina over Trump adoption policies

Civil rights groups are taking the Trump administration and the state of South Carolina to court, alleging the governments are making it easier for taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against same-sex and non-evangelical couples.

Thursday's lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on behalf of a married lesbian couple. Eden Rogers and Brandy Welch were turned away by Miracle Hill Ministries, South Carolina's largest state-contracted, federally-funded foster care agency.

"Trump's HHS and South Carolina should not be permitting foster care agencies that receive taxpayer money to care for wards of the state to disqualify potential foster parents because they don't conform to a religious litmus test," said Currey Cook, counsel at Lambda Legal. "Agencies have no right to exclude families because of their faith or sexual orientation."

The back story: The lawsuit comes after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) earlier this year granted a waiver to a faith-based adoption agency in South Carolina that allows it to continue turning away same-sex and non-Christian couples while receiving federal money.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal said the federal waiver means the administration is condoning discrimination, and the lawsuit said the use of religious eligibility criteria is unconstitutional.

Read more on the lawsuit here.


New Jersey sues Sackler family for alleged role in opioid epidemic

New Jersey is suing the family that founded Purdue Pharma, alleging "deceptive" marketing practices that fueled the opioid epidemic.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said his office filed the lawsuit Thursday against eight members of the Sackler family.

"We allege that these eight defendants, despite knowing the highly addictive nature of their product, adopted highly deceptive marketing practices, encouraged reckless prescriptions and targeted multiple patient populations," Grewal said.

"They sought and reaped huge profits from the suffering of others."

Context: The Sacklers and Purdue Pharma are named in thousands of lawsuits filed by cities, counties and states over their alleged role in the opioid epidemic.

The family has denied the allegations.

Read more here.


Families list health care as top financial problem: poll

There's a reason why lawmakers keep talking about lowering health care costs: A lot of people are struggling with them.

Health care costs are the top financial issue facing most American families, according to a new Gallup poll released Thursday.

Americans' top financial issues according to the poll:

Health care: 17 percent

Low wages or lack of money: 11 percent

College expenses: 8 percent

Cost of owning or renting home: 8 percent

Taxes: 8 percent

In Congress: Various bipartisan ideas about "lowering health care costs" are coming together, including Senate health committee chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP braces for impeachment brawl McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows GOP senator: 'Inappropriate' to discuss opponents, but impeachment a 'mistake' MORE and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Biz groups say Warren labor plan would be disaster Freedom of the press under fire in Colorado MORE (D-Wash.) releasing a draft proposal earlier this month.

Read more here.


What we're reading

Trump takes aim at insurers and hospitals over health care costs (CNN.com)

Old fight, new front: AIDS activists want lower drug prices. Now! (NPR)

Facebook pledged crackdown on vaccine misinformation. Then not much happened. (The Wall Street Journal)

Doctors were alarmed: 'Would I have my children have surgery here?' (The New York Times)


State by state

Official says threat by Cigna CEO to leave Connecticut kills public option health legislation, though insurer denies 'anything like that' (Hartford Courant)

Only a few firms get a shot at Georgia health care waiver contract (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Kentucky Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthHow Trump and Pelosi went from bad to worse On The Money: Trump signs stopgap spending bill | Shutdown fight delayed to November | Deutsche Bank reveals it has two individual tax returns tied to House subpoena | House Dems demand documents on Ukraine aid It's time to axe the unjust 'widow's tax' MORE co-sponsors four Medicare-for-all measures (Louisville Courier Journal)