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Can Canada Help Fix America’s High Drug Price Problem?—Brainstorm Health

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

The Trump administration wants to lower drug prices—with an assist from our neighbors up north.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will propose a federal rule allowing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada as a means of fighting the sky-high prices American patients often face.

To be clear, the proposal is tailored towards preliminary programs and pilot projects; for instance, states could choose whether or not to bring in prescription drugs from Canada.

What's likely more perplexing for drug makers (who are not exactly fans of international drug importation given their superior pricing power in the U.S.) is the next part: They could choose to re-import drugs currently sold at cheaper rates abroad to America (for cheaper prices).

Would drug companies actually do that? Well, if initial responses from trade groups are any indication... Probably not. Drug executives and the industry (and even the FDA itself) have previously claimed that importing drugs from other nations presents a safety hazard. It's also, clearly, a hazard for their bottom lines.

But President Donald Trump—and, seemingly, politicians across the entire political spectrum—have the biopharma industry in their sights, and the issue has made for some strange bedfellows. Heck, HHS Secretary Alex Azar himself is a former big pharma executive.

Read on for the day's news.

Sy Mukherjee, @the_sy_guy, sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Study: Google’s DeepMind may be able to identify vulnerable kidney patients earlier. A new study published in the journal Nature suggests that DeepMind, the Google and Alphabet-owned artificial intelligence outfit, has created software that could potentially alert health care providers about a dangerous health condition called acute kidney injury up to two days before patients actually develop it. The research was conducted via anonymous patient data from the Department of Veterans Affairs; DeepMind told my colleague Jeremy Kahn that it’s in negotiations with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the best ways to deploy such tech commercially. (Fortune)

Kaiser Permanente appoints its first digital officer. Speaking of the digital health revolution… Kaiser Permanente, that tried and true titan of the nonprofit health world, is getting itself a digital chief. Prat Vemana, a Home Depot executive, will be taking on the pioneering role, Modern Healthcare reports. It certainly makes sense for Kaiser, which has been pushing a more aggressive strategy to use data in order to tackle issues like the social determinants of health—long one of CEO Bernard Tyson’s hobby horses. (Modern Healthcare)

INDICATIONS

All hail the fish oil. Amarin has been on an extraordinary run over the past year from both a shareholder return and revenue growth perspective—and it’s all thanks to a fishy little pill (a version of, well, fish oil pills) that holds, according to clinical trial results, massive promise in reducing the risk of deadly cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes for at-risk patients. The treatment, Vascepa, managed to realize a stunning 91% increase in sales between Q2 2018 and the same three-month period this year. To break down the numbers: It went from $52.5 million in revenues to $100.8 million in quarterly year-over-year growth.

THE BIG PICTURE

And… expect even more health care wrangling tonight. As I predicted prior to last night’s opening saga of the two-parter Democratic presidential debate, health care took center stage. And, whoo boy, did it get tense (and surprisingly wonky). Candidates enthusiastically endorsed their own proposals while calling all of them “universal health care”—even if it meant incremental tweaks to the existing Affordable Care Act, a pure Medicare for All plan (supported most vocally by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren), or something in between. Tonight’s matchup between former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, and others should just add to the melee, which, at this point, is probably pretty confusing.

REQUIRED READING

Citi to Cut Hundreds of Trading Jobs—Proof That Industrywide Slump May Be Here to Stay, by Bloomberg

Yes Stocks Are Overvalued. But by How Much?by Ben Carlson

Putting Ethics on Par With Shareholder Valueby Jeremy Kahn

Apple Has a Million Dollar Bug Problem—And It’s Only Paying Thousands to Squash Themby Xavier Harding

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