Overnight Health Care: PhRMA's top lobbyist to depart | Colorado becomes third state to let doctors recommend marijuana instead of opioids | CDC finds drug overdoses now higher in urban counties

Overnight Health Care: PhRMA's top lobbyist to depart | Colorado becomes third state to let doctors recommend marijuana instead of opioids | CDC finds drug overdoses now higher in urban counties
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Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care.

As a reminder, next week we'll be scaling back to a recess schedule. 

Some big K Street news today, though: PhRMA's top lobbyist is leaving. Also, the CDC reports overdose deaths are becoming more urban, and Colorado will allow marijuana to be prescribed instead of opioids for pain.

We'll start with the lobbying news...


PhRMA's top lobbyist is leaving

Rodger Currie, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's (PhRMA) top lobbyist, is leaving his post at the nation's top lobby for drugmakers.

"Rodger Currie has decided to leave PhRMA to pursue new opportunities effective August 31. We thank Rodger for his tireless efforts leading PhRMA's advocacy functions during such a challenging time for the industry, and we wish him well in his next endeavor," PhRMA told The Hill in a statement.


Currie has been the executive vice president for advocacy at PhRMA since 2016.

Context: As the statement indicates, this has been a challenging time for the pharmaceutical industry. Lawmakers in both parties, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE, and Democratic presidential candidates are all calling for action to lower drug prices.

Still, PhRMA remains a powerful force and it remains to be seen whether any significant anti-industry policies will actually make it into law, despite all the talk about lowering prices. 

Read more here.


Colorado becomes third state to allow doctors to recommend marijuana instead of opioids

A new law in Colorado allows doctors to prescribe patients medical marijuana instead of traditionally prescribed opiates for any condition as the state seeks to battle the opiate addiction crisis.

The law, which The Denver Post reported in May would go into effect Friday, allows patients to choose medical marijuana as an alternative prescription for any diagnosis that would normally result in a prescription of an opioid-based medication.

The bill passed the state legislature with little opposition, though some critics said that the law could result in some patients being prescribed marijuana when different drugs are required.

"Our real concern is that a patient would go to a physician with a condition that has a medical treatment with evidence behind it, and then instead of that treatment, they would be recommended marijuana instead," one physician in Aurora, Colo., told the Post.

Read more here


In related news...


CDC: Overdose deaths now higher in cities than rural areas

Drug overdose deaths in the U.S. are now higher in cities, after years of being more common in rural areas, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the report, the overdose rates for urban areas surpassed rural areas in 2016 and 2017, but not by much.

The CDC found that in 2017, there were 22 overdose deaths out of every 100,000 people in urban areas. In rural areas, there were 20 overdose deaths per every 100,000 people. 

The report found that deaths in urban counties were the result of men who overdosed on heroin, synthetic opioids like fentanyl, and cocaine.

Rural counties reported higher deaths among women who overdosed on methamphetamine and prescription opioid pills like oxycodone.

Read more on the findings here 


What we're reading

Democratic candidates debate 'Medicare for All' when they should focus on saving ObamaCare (USA Today editorial)

Trump and Sanders want to ease imports of drugs from Canada. Canada says not so fast (The Washington Post)

What is it like to work in an abortion clinic or pregnancy center? Our reporters visited both. (Tampa Bay Times

Infusion treatments -- needed or not -- can deplete patients' wallets (Kaiser Health News)


State by state

Dem lawmaker Horsford warns Medicare for All is too expensive (Nevada Independent)

Medicaid supporters call for full expansion after failure of Utah Legislature's health care plan (Salt Lake Tribune)