Happy Friday! This will be the last Vitals of the year. We'll return to your inbox on Jan. 7. Thank you so much for reading and for all of your tips and feedback. Happy holidays!
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Generic drugs are America's solution to high prices for branded drugs, but recent events have raised the question of whether the generics market is working the way it's supposed to.
Between the lines: Sometimes competition does fail, and generic drug prices become too high, experts say. But at the same time, some generic drug makers struggle to turn a profit in the market because prices are so low, complicating the narrative.
The bottom line: High generic drug prices almost always stem from a lack of competition, but what drives this lack of competition can vary.
The farm bill that President Trump signed into law yesterday legalized hemp, although it will be highly regulated.
What happens next: While 33 states have legalized medical cannabis use, changes in federal law have lagged behind. Some advocates hope this is a step toward larger federal marijuana reforms.
The FDA issued a statement reiterating that it still has the authority to regulate cannabis products, and that it will take enforcement action against companies illegally selling these products.
Go deeper with Brookings' explainer on the new hemp law
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Yesterday's news that tobacco company Altria has invested $12.8 billion in Juul for a 35% stake in the e-cigarette company was not welcomed by everyone.
Flashback: Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory on Tuesday warning about the "epidemic" of teen e-cigarette use.
In the world of business press releases, announcing new board directors is extremely ho-hum. But this one released last week by for-profit hospital chain Community Health Systems caught my colleague Bob Herman's eye.
The details: CHS named Elizabeth Hirsch, a former executive at industrial gas company Praxair, as a board member. Hirsch is now the second former Praxair exec to sit on CHS’ board, following John Clerico. But the situation goes deeper than that, with some potential conflicts of interest.
Bob's thought bubble: The move raised a few eyebrows among some investors, a community that has soured on the hospital company that is loaded with debt and bleeding money. But these kinds of questionable board practices are common throughout the health care industry.
Researchers have developed a hair-thin needle with a tiny camera and a warning system to more safely navigate during brain surgery, according to a new Science Advances study.
Why it matters: Current use of MRI imaging to assist with brain needle surgeries does not have the resolution to detect small blood vessels, making the risk higher that the neurosurgeon could cause a brain bleed when conducting a biopsy.
What's next: The researchers hope to undertake a larger trial with patients who undergo brain biopsies, and are looking for a medical device manufacturer to help bring it to market.
Remember when we told you yesterday that America is getting heavier? Please forget about it for the next week or so — January will be here soon enough.