Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — Dems to reframe gun violence as public health issue | Court orders key documents from OxyContin maker unsealed | Pfizer announces stock buybacks

Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care.

The deadline to enroll in an ObamaCare health insurance plan is tomorrow. Also today, Democrats are looking to reframe the debate over gun violence as a public health issue next year, and a court has ordered the release key documents related to Purdue Pharma's role in the opioid epidemic.

We'll start with House Democrats:

 

Dems to reframe gun violence as public health issue

House Democrats are planning to vote next year on bills that address gun violence as a public health concern, marking the party's first steps back into a divisive debate after being in the minority for eight years.

Energized by their midterm victories. a focus on gunshot victims and the voices of a growing chorus of medical professionals, Democrats say they will push for legislation to fund research on gun injuries and deaths.

Making gun violence a public health issue is seen as unlikely to cause divisions between liberal and centrist Democrats, some of whom are wary about moving too far to the left ahead of their 2020 reelection bids.

State of play: Most legislation around gun violence was off the table for eight years of Republican rule in the House as GOP leaders sided with the powerful gun lobby against any new firearm restrictions, including federal funding for research. Now, Democrats are united around making gun violence about public health, with some looking toward background checks as well. But everything involving guns is controversial, and even something as innocuous sounding as research has been vigorously opposed by the gun industry and the GOP.

The plan: Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news Mobile providers at center of privacy storm Hillicon Valley: Dem blasts groups behind Senate campaign disinformation effort | FCC chief declines to give briefing on location-data sales | Ocasio-Cortez tops lawmakers on social media | Trump officials to ease drone rules MORE (D-N.J.), the likely chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee next year, said appropriating funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study gun violence will be a priority in the new Congress. In addition to CDC funding, Pallone said the committee might take up legislation sponsored by Rep. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyWorries mount as cybersecurity agency struggles amid shutdown Hillicon Valley: Apple cutting iPhone production | Senior citizens more likely to share fake news on Facebook | Graham says AG nominee will let Mueller finish probe | Dems warn shutdown hurting IT recruitment Hillicon Valley: Marriott cuts breach estimates, but says millions of passports exposed | Los Angeles sues Weather Channel app over data collection | Bill would create office to fight Chinese threats to US tech | German politicians hit by major breach MORE (D-Ill.) that would mandate the surgeon general submit an annual report to Congress on the effects of gun violence on public health.

The obstacles: A divided Congress. It's clear that the House will pass some gun-related bills. But the Republican-controlled Senate means there will have to be compromises.

More on Democrats' plans here.

 

 

Court orders key documents from OxyContin maker to be unsealed

There could be some big revelations coming about the marketing of OxyContin.

That's because a Kentucky appeals court on Friday ruled that records about Purdue Pharma's marketing of the drug should be unsealed. The records include a deposition from Richard Sackler, the former president of Purdue Pharma.

Background: The company has been under scrutiny for years for deceptively marketing OxyContin, downplaying the addictive properties of the drug and helping contribute to the crisis of opioid addiction.

In 2007, Purdue Pharma paid more than $600 million and pleaded guilty to misleading the public about the addictiveness of OxyContin. Last year, 41 state attorneys general announced they were investigating Purdue and other opioid makers over their marketing practices.

It's not over yet: Purdue indicated on Friday that it intends to appeal the decision, meaning the documents will not be released right away.

"We're disappointed with the Court of Appeals' decision today," the company said. "The documents in question were never entered into evidence and did not play a role in any judicial decision. Under Kentucky law, such documents should remain private as outlined in the Protective Order with the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

"This decision raises important issues under Kentucky law, and we intend to pursue our rights to seek judicial review of the decision," it added.

More on the court fight here.

 

Report: Johnson & Johnson knew about asbestos in baby powder for decades

Executives at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) knew for decades that the talcum in its baby powder contained asbestos and failed to tell federal regulators, according to a Reuters report.

The report sent the company's stock tumbling on Friday, and it lost just under $40 billion in market value, according to reports. But analysts were surprised by the reaction. They seemed to think it was an over-correction and that shares will bounce back.

Reuters examined documents, trial depositions and trial testimony that reportedly shows that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, J&J executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers knew that the company's raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.

The people involved discussed the problem and how to address it, while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public, Reuters found.

More here.

 

Pfizer announces stock buybacks

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced $10 billion in stock buybacks Friday. That's on top of the $4.9 billion remaining from last year's buyback.

Drug companies reaped major profits from the GOP tax law and have been under fire for not using those profits to lower drug prices. Stock buybacks mainly help company executives and Wall Street shareholders. Pfizer made headlines earlier this year when it announced a freeze on price increases, after being pressured by President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' Brown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Pence on border wall: Trump won't be ‘deterred’ by Dem ‘obstruction’ MORE. But in October, the company said it would return to "business as normal" on pricing in 2019.

 

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What we're reading

Emails show Trump administration was told ObamaCare ad cuts could hurt enrollment (Huffington Post)

Health insurance costs crushing many people who don't get federal subsidies (Kaiser Health News)

ACA sign-ups have lagged for 2019. But what does that mean? (NPR)

Revised U.S. organ transplant policy probed by senators (Modern Healthcare)

 

State by state

Incoming Maine governor taps former Obama administration official to head state health agency (Portland Press Herald)

South Carolina Democrats think Medicaid expansion is being blocked. So they want voters to decide (Charlotte Observer)