The stories about Purdue Pharma — maker of the opioid painkiller OxyContin — just keep on coming: "Abusers aren't victims; they are the victimizers," Richard Sackler, Purdue's former chief executive, wrote in a 2001 email, Bloomberg reports.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The stem cell industry is booming in the U.S., and while some legitimate medical uses have been discovered, there's also a thriving shadow industry offering poorly understood products without much regulation, ProPublica and the New Yorker report.
Why it matters: Patients are paying thousands of dollars for care that is unproven and largely unregulated.
One trend is doctors touting the (unproven) healing power of amniotic stem cells, which don't have to be harvested from a patient's own body.
The bottom line: The investigation "found disgraced doctors who were recast as salespeople, manufacturers that cloaked themselves in pseudoscience and had few scientists on staff, and clinics that offer to treat conditions like multiple sclerosis or kidney disease without specialized training," ProPublica’s Caroline Chen writes.
Insurers on the individual market are expected to pay a record total of about $800 million in rebates to enrollees, a result of setting their premiums too high last year, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.
The big picture: The analysis suggests that the ACA marketplaces are stable and profitable for insurers, even if individual market enrollees tend to be sicker than they were pre-ACA.
A new gene therapy made by Novartis is about to come to market with a potential price tag of $2 million, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The imminent arrival of the drug is, unsurprisingly, creating new concerns about cost.
My thought bubble: The situation is emblematic of our future. With the development pipeline full of innovative drugs designed to treat or cure gut-wrenching diseases, the question of whether a baby's life is worth $2 million — and whether we as a society can afford that — is going to become a familiar one.
Three out of 5 U.S. deaths from pregnancy-related complications are preventable, the CDC announced yesterday.
Why it matters: Public health officials have been grappling with the knowledge that the U.S. continues to have one of the highest maternal death rates despite being one of the biggest economies in the world, my colleague Eileen Drage O'Reilly reports.
Details: 700 American women die every year from pregnancy-related deaths, according to the CDC.
Go deeper: "Every year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster," USA Today reported in March, in an investigation that is worthy of your time.
It has always been expensive to get sick, but it's becoming an even worse problem in a way that hasn’t really gotten our attention, the Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Altman writes in today’s column.
The big picture: A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Los Angeles Times shows that a strikingly large share of people with serious medical conditions are struggling to pay their medical bills, often wreaking havoc with their family budgets and causing them to cut back on care.
Hims, an online seller of prescription health care products for such conditions as erectile dysfunction, recently hired former Lyft executive Melissa Walters as its first chief marketing officer, Axios' Dan Primack reports.
Why it matters: This comes shortly after a well-traveled New York Times story about "restaurant-menu medicine" companies like Hims, which operate in something of a regulatory blank space — connecting patients with doctors who prescribe without conducting in-person exams.
Hims founder and CEO Andrew Dudum told Axios that the NYT story "didn't really articulate anything we felt was out of clinical protocol and outside standards."
Editor's note: The fourth story of Vitals yesterday was corrected to show that 47.4% of physicians work as employees of a hospital system or as employees of a practice owned by other physicians.