Good morning from New York City, which is very far from Alabama and doesn't seem to have as many Sharpies as D.C.
Today's word count is 997, or <4 minutes.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Insurers are trying to figure out ways to help employers afford to cover gene therapies, which can carry price tags in the millions, WSJ reports.
The gene therapy pipeline is robust, and sales are expected to skyrocket in the next few years.
What they're saying: "Hard to know if the thesis of getting more lives will turn into getting bigger discounts where there is no competition. It clearly has not borne out for those other expensive specialty drugs that lack competition," Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Peter Bach told me.
Yes, but: Many companies already have stop-loss insurance, meaning these additional services could come across as redundant.
State and federal health authorities are focusing in on a single chemical as they try to determine the cause of vaping-related illnesses, the Washington Post reported yesterday.
Why it matters: Identifying the common chemical gives health officials a potential thread to follow to pinpoint the cause and find the right treatment for a severe pulmonary illness that has killed 2 people and may have afflicted at least 215 more, my colleague Jacob Knutson writes.
Details: The FDA said it did not find anything "unusual" in the nicotine products used by the patients, per the Post.
Yes, but: Health officials are not yet ruling out contaminants in nicotine vaping products.
My thought bubble: Michelle Francl, a professor at Bryn Mawr College, told the Post that vitamin E acetate is "basically grease."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report yesterday showing that black and American Indian women are much more likely than white, Asian and Hispanic women to die pregnancy-related deaths.
Between the lines: There are often multiple contributing factors to a pregnancy-related death, stemming from differences in access to care, quality of care and the prevalence of chronic disease, per the report.
If you're looking for some certainty about how much a health care test will cost you, the best solution may be a maddening one, Axios' Sam Baker writes — buying a Groupon.
Details: NPR has a close look at this trend, which first started bubbling up on Twitter late last month.
Medical Groupons can help fill gaps in insurance coverage — that’s a big selling point for dental Groupons, and could also help explain the popularity of Groupons for services like mammograms. Insurance usually covers those, but that only helps you if you have insurance.
Our thought bubble, via Sam: There is only one reason for providers to offer up complex medical testing on Groupon — to generate volume. Big-name hospital systems may not be offering online coupons, but they, too, are trying to drive volume.
The CEO of Mallinckrodt played defense yesterday at an industry conference after Bloomberg reported the drugmaker hired restructuring advisers and may even be pondering bankruptcy amid opioids lawsuits, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
Between the lines: Mallinckrodt's stock is now down 90% on the year, trading at $1.59 per share to the delight of many short sellers. But any opioid settlement for the company, which sells generic hydrocodone and oxycodone pills, is far from its only problem.
Flashback: The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission said earlier this year that Acthar was a waste of money at its current price.