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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Slowdowns in mail delivery could have serious consequences for the millions of Americans who get prescription drugs — in some cases, lifesaving treatments — through the mail.

Why it matters: Treatments for cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other complex diseases increasingly are sent in the mail. And the coronavirus pandemic has spurred more people to get their routine prescriptions mailed to their homes, as a safer alternative to visiting a pharmacy.

Driving the news: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said Tuesday that he would suspend the controversial operational changes that Democrats had widely criticized as a threat to timely mail-in voting this November.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would still continue their oversight of the postal service — which has included questions for the pharmacy industry about possible delays, as well as concerns about delays for VA patients.

By the numbers: Americans received 313 million adjusted prescriptions through the mail in 2019, often for common, generic medications that treat things like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

  • Even though that's only 5% of all prescriptions, mail orders represent roughly a quarter of all drug spending, according to health data firm IQVIA, thanks to the growing mail-order business for expensive pills that treat complex diseases.

Consequently, the U.S. Postal Service has become a critical backbone of the country's medication infrastructure.

Where it stands: Even before Tuesday's announcement, the disruption to prescription deliveries seems to have been minimal.

  • In the latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, just 5% of respondents said they had been expecting a drug delivery in the past week but either hadn't gotten it or had gotten it late. (14% were expecting a delivery and got it in time.)
  • But anecdotally, for the people who are experiencing delays, the worries are real.

The bottom line: "My patients who rely on their insulin, or their inhalers, or any other type of medication can't wait weeks to see whether or not their prescription will be delivered," Jacqueline Fincher, the president of the American College of Physicians, said in a statement.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

More than 100 million Americans voted early in 2020

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than 100 million Americans voted early in the 2020 election across the U.S., according to state data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic and its resultant social-distancing measures prompted a massive uptick in both mail-in ballots and early voting nationwide, setting up an unprecedented and potentially tumultuous count in the hours and days after the polls close on Nov. 3.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

The bomb cyclone and atmospheric river seen via satellite on Sunday. The center of the storm is at the middle of the comma shape, due west of Washington State. (CIRA/RAMMB)

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.