Greetings and a happy Monday, readers! This is Sy.
America’s prescription painkiller and heroin addiction epidemic has devolved into a crisis that public health officials, industry leaders, and politicians alike are taking seriously. The latest example? The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is recommending a 20% cut to the manufacturing of certain opioid painkillers and other addictive drugs.
A recent White House-commissioned report on the opioid overdose epidemic recommended a federal “state of emergency” over painkiller abuse and related deaths. “With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” the commission noted.
The latest proposal from the DEA proposes that “production quotas for Schedule I and II substances reflect the amount needed to meet the United States’ medical, scientific, industrial, export and reserve requirements”—and nothing more.
Read on for the day’s news.
The smartphone has ensnared Generation Z. My colleague David Morris highlights social psychologist Jean Twenge’s sobering findings about social culture and social media among Generation Z (that’s the one after us much-derided “Millennials”). “Today’s twelfth graders spend less time out of the house without their parents than eighth graders did in 2009. Only 56% of high school seniors dated in 2015, compared to 85% for Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The number of teens who spend daily time with friends dropped by 40% between 2000 and 2015,” David writes. One possible reason for this paradigm shift? Technology. Cyberbullying and depression rate spikes can go hand-in-hand; but there are also obvious advantages to increased information access facilitated by technology, such as drops in teen pregnancy. (Fortune)
An expansion of telehealth services for veterans. The Trump administration is rolling out a new initiative to expand telehealth services to veterans, including by promoting such technologies within the Department of Veterans Affairs. “The same technology that the president of the United States has access to we’re bringing to our veterans,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin about the VA Video Connect mobile app which can reportedly connect veterans with doctors practicing across 50 different specialties.
Zynerba shares plunge as cannabis-based treatment fails trial. Shares of marijuana-focused biotech Zynerba surged last year among brouhaha surrounding cannabis companies seeking milestone Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals. But, at the end of the day, clinical trials are king—and a stunning mid-stage study failure for Zynerba’s synthetic cannabis-based gel for epilepsy sent the company’s shares plunging about 58% in mid-day Monday trading. Other firms like GW Pharmaceuticals are hoping for better luck as they approach their regulatory review dates.
THE BIG PICTURE
Martin Shkreli was never biopharma’s black sheep. Last Friday, the infamous Martin Shkreli was convicted on three of eight criminal charges by a Brooklyn jury. This could amount to years of jail time. But it’s important to note that Shkreli’s alleged crimes had nothing to do with the gargantuan drug price hike which thrust him into notoriety. Drug companies are allowed to set whatever prices they want for their products under U.S. law, and certain programs meant to encourage rare disease drug development have created a market for those who would use it to reap massive financial benefits despite questionable advances for patients. For all of his bombast, Shkreli’s story goes to the heart of biopharma’s biggest controversies. (Fortune)
Welcome to Weedtown, USA, by David Z. Morris
Why Loneliness Is a Public Health Threat, by Alexandra Sifferlin
|Produced by Sy Mukherjee|