Oct 11, 2019

Axios Vitals

By Caitlin Owens
Caitlin Owens

Good morning, and happy Friday from North Carolina. Today's word count is 792 words, or ~3 minutes.

1 big thing: Trump's smoke-and-mirrors 2020 health care strategy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump may be telling voters everything that they want to hear when it comes to health care, but much of it isn't true.

Why it matters: Trump is claiming victories he hasn't achieved and making promises he's not prepared to live up to, all on an immensely personal subject that voters consistently rank as one of the most important issues of 2020.

Trump's most demonstrably false claim is that, as he put it in May, "we will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions."

  • The Trump administration is currently urging the courts to strike down the Affordable Care Act, including its protections for pre-existing conditions.
  • Trump and congressional Republicans' efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in 2017 didn't include the same level of protection as the ACA does, nor have they ever proposed a plan that would.

Trump's claim that he has lowered drug prices for the first time in 51 years is murky at best. The timeframe is definitely wrong, as the Washington Post reports, though the recent realities of drug pricing are more nuanced.

  • On defense — attacking Democrats over "Medicare for All" — Trump is also making some dubious claims.

The other side: Democrats' "radical and dangerous policies would take away the insurance Americans know and trust while raising taxes and reducing choice," said White House Spokesman Judd Deere.

Yes, but: There's still a lot of time left before 2020, particularly for Trump to do something major on drug prices.

Go deeper.<br/>

2. A new CRISPR milestone

Doctors are using CRISPR to treat a woman with sickle cell disease, the first U.S. patient with a genetic disorder to receive such treatment, NPR reports.

The big picture: Advances in gene editing technology have given new hope to people with diseases that not long ago seemed untreatable.

  • But these new therapies are still experimental, and the technologies also carry the potential to be dangerously misused.

Details: The woman received infusions of genetically modified bone marrow cells, which will hopefully give her healthy red blood cells.

  • The companies sponsoring the study said earlier this year that they'd used CRISPR to treat a similar blood disorder in Germany, and there's been some evidence that the treatment may be working.
  • Doctors are also experimenting with treating cancer patients with CRISPR.

Go deeper: Genetic technology's double-edged sword

3. Juul, retailers at odds over software change

Juul says new retail software successfully curbed underage purchases and wants all stores that sell its products to eventually use it, Bloomberg reports.

The catch: Retailers gripe about changing their check-out software for 1 product. The system locks up if there are bulk purchases or if an invalid ID is scanned, Axios' Marisa Fernandez writes.

Details: The major e-cigarette maker is battling a slew of lawsuits from schools, state and city-wide bans and scrutiny from regulators, public health advocates and parents, in what the Food and Drug Administration calls a "vaping epidemic" among teens.

  • Juul already axed its social media and ceased production of flavored vape pods, which critics say fueled teen usage.

Meanwhile: There are 1,299 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury in 49 states and 26 deaths associated with e-cigarette use, the CDC said this week. Juul is not directly connected with the illnesses. Officials still have not concluded a cause.

4. Our global obesity problem

Almost 60% of people in OECD countries are overweight and nearly 25% are obese, according to an analysis from the intergovernmental organization.

Why it matters: Treating obesity-linked diseases in these countries costs $423 billion a year, and they will claim more than 90 million lives over the next 30 years — with life expectancies reduced by nearly 3 years, Marisa writes.

  • The OECD is made up of most countries in North America and western Europe — along with others scattered around the globe like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Israel and Chile.

The state of play: The report predicts nearly 8.5% of the world's health expenditures will be spent toward obesity-linked conditions between 2020 and 2050. In the U.S., that number could be as high as 14%.

  • It found that 50 million more adults became obese from 2010 to 2016.
  • Overweight people are responsible for 70% of all treatment costs for diabetes, 23% of treatment costs for cardiovascular diseases and 9% for cancers.

Of note: Another study published earlier this year found millennials are facing a much higher risk of obesity-related cancers than baby boomers did at their age.

Go deeper: Study: Millennials face greater risk of some cancers due to obesity

5. Regulatory gaps exacerbate youth vaping

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The delay in implementing comprehensive regulations for e-cigarettes has contributed to a growing crisis of vaping-related illnesses and deaths across the U.S. and poses particular risks to young adults, Ronald DePinho writes for Axios Expert Voices.

The big picture: E-cigarette use by American teenagers has surged, and the dangers are heightened by unsafe black market vaping devices and THC cartridges. But a recent flurry of regulatory activity by states looks set to continue, with federal action following shortly.

What's happening: To curb youth vaping, cities and states have begun to raise purchase ages and issue their own bans on e-cigarette flavors.

  • Meanwhile, major retailers such as Walmart, Costco and Kroger have stopped selling e-cigarettes.
  • Yes, but: These well-intentioned measures could inadvertently jeopardize longstanding efforts to reduce adult tobacco use.

Go deeper.

Caitlin Owens