KHN’s ‘What is Health?’: The FDA goes after nicotine


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The FDA launched a crackdown on smoking and vaping this week – ordering Jules to be removed from the market and announcing its intention to reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has not ruled in favor of a high-stakes abortion, but has said that private health insurers can limit the amount of kidney dialysis care provided, forcing some patients to seek Medicare.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Joan Kennen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politics, and Rachel Cohurs of Stat.

In this week’s episode Takeway:

  • The FDA instructed Jules to remove its e-cigarettes from the U.S. market because the company’s application to the agency did not provide sufficient information to regulators as to whether Jules presented a danger to users. The FDA says there are concerns about the risk of some harmful chemicals being released from jelly pods. Jules is expected to appeal the FDA’s decision.
  • Jules helped cause an explosion when e-cigarettes hit the market, and officials initially thought it would help smokers quit smoking. But the use of flavored tobacco in the industry and aggressive marketing have helped dramatically increase use among adolescents and led to a regulatory crackdown.
  • The Supreme Court ruled this week that employers can choose all dialysis treatments outside the network in their employees’ health plans, a decision that will likely lead many patients to seek Medicare coverage for their kidney problems. This decision was a disappointment for dialysis providers, who usually receive less compensation from Medicare than a private insurance plan.
  • The decision leaves many details unresolved and further legal battles could ensue. Dialysis providers may go to Congress to enact legislation that would bar employers from such actions.
  • Sense is likely to consider a bill proposed by Susan Collins (R-Main) and Jean Shaheen (DNH) that seeks to reduce the cost of insulin. The bill is thought to be more friendly to drug traffickers than any other bill passed in the House this year. The Senate bill would allow pharmaceutical manufacturers to bypass pharmaceutical benefit managers and rebates on insurance plans and other costly subsidies, at which price Medicare will offer insulin at 2021. This will limit out-of-pocket costs to $ 35 for insured consumers.
  • As the Senate moves closer to a vote on the gun safety law, other efforts are underway to find more funding for programs to help address mental health issues. These efforts can help in campaigns to reduce suicide and domestic violence, which are often associated with guns.
  • The House is beginning efforts to pass an allocation bill, and the Department of Health and Human Services primary funding measure again does not include the so-called Hyde Amendment, a long-term policy called the late Republican Henry Hyde (R) -Ill) that prohibits the use of federal funds for most abortions. By The Senate did not clear the House’s earlier attempt to repeal the Hyde Amendment.
  • President Joe Biden has nominated Arti Prabhakar, former head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He will replace Eric Lander, who was forced to resign following reports of employee harassment.
  • Prabhakar seems to be an undisputed choice and it brings a good deal of management experience. His responsibilities will likely include overseeing epidemic planning, efforts to establish a new biomedical research organization called ARPA-H, and strategies to improve cancer prevention.

Also this week, Rovner interviewed KHN’s Noam N. Levey about the new KHN-NPR project on medical loans, called “Diagnosis: Debt.”

Also, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week that they think you should read:

Julie Rovner: AP’s “New Focus on the Welfare of Veterinarians at the Westminster Dog Show” by Jennifer Peltz

Joanne buys: Fern.org’s “Back Forty: How to Protect Farmers from Heat-Related Kidney Disease,” by Nancy Everett

Rachel Kohrs: Markup’s “Facebook is taking sensitive medical information from hospital websites,” by Todd Feders, Simon Fondry-Titler, Angie Waller and Surya Mattu


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