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Brainstorm Health: Alcohol Abuse Screening, Juul Sales, SVB Leerink Merger

November 13, 2018, 10:31 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers.

On Tuesday, the giant in the vaping space, Juul, officially announced that it would stop selling the majority of its reloadable, flavored nicotine pods from stores. And, perhaps even more significantly, the company is ceasing its social media promotions altogether—promotions which were seen by regulators and critics as having an outsize effect in getting kids to smoke e-cigarettes.

Juul will shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts; on Twitter and Snapchat, the firm will request that the platforms restrict any promotional materials in a way that minimizes the number of underage users exposed to the content. (On a side note, if you happen to see corner stores heavily promoting Juul sales with colorful signs, as I have in the past few days, this is the reason why.)

That’s not to say Juul will stop sales of its massively popular products altogether. The e-commerce business will continue. And critics continued to pounce on the company. “E-cigarette use is an epidemic in this country and belated, loophole-riddled half-measures like those rolled out today by Juul are simply not enough to save children from lifetimes of addiction and disease,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut in a statement.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has stated that his focus on e-cigarettes and vaping stems primarily from a focus on American youth. While vaping may be less dangerous than traditional tobacco products among adults attempting to quit, early studies have suggested that the fruity, fun appeal of vaping devices are particularly attractive to children, and may, ironically, lead them to eventually graduate to even more harmful nicotine products.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


A health care data breach comes to, the federal website through which Americans purchase individual health plans under the Affordable Care Act, has been the object of a data breach, the government announced. That includes immigration status, employer information, names, birth dates, addresses, and even partial Social Security numbers, in some cases, for about 75,000 people. "We are continuing to investigate this breach and putting additional security measures in place to make sure and the Marketplace process are safe and all consumer information is protected," wrote the Department of Health and Human Services in a letter to consumers. "Please be assured that all information will be protected during Open Enrollment." (Washington Times)


Roivant continues to rake in the dough. Biotech upstart (and umbrella corporation) Roivant Sciences has raised another $200 million in funding, spiking its valuation to an estimated $7 billion, according to the company. That's despite a number of setbacks for Roivant's various member companies (which now number at more than a dozen, each with a focus on a different area of the life sciences), including a devastating failure in Alzheimer's disease (admittedly a difficult space for many drug makers). Roivant has pressed forward with ambitions to get a rare disease drug approved by the FDA, among other treatments in its pipeline. (Bloomberg)


New guidelines on alcohol abuse screening. The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) wants doctors to examine American adults' drinking habits during annual checkups, citing the reality that unhealthy alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of preventable death in America. (Fortune)

SVB to snap up Leerink Partners. Here's a big one on the venture capital side: SVB Financial Group, the parent of Silicon Valley Bank, announced Tuesday that it will buy up the health care-focused investment bank Leerink Partners, further expanding the Silicon Valley footprint in the early-stage life sciences. The deal involves $280 million in upfront cash. "SVB and Leerink share a focus on providing financing and strategic advice at critical stages in a company’s growth and development," said Greg Becker, CEO of SVB Financial Group and Silicon Valley Bank, in a statement. "Together, we will deliver a complete capital markets offering – including debt, convertible debt and equity financing – and advisory services – including mergers & acquisitions – for private and public healthcare and life science companies."


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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