Supporters see Massachusetts as an “endgame for tobacco”

Supporters see Massachusetts as an “endgame for tobacco”

Happy Tuesday! I’m Joanna Slater, national correspondent covering the Northeast. When I heard that Massachusetts communities were passing “intergenerational” tobacco bans, I decided to learn more. Have a tip about news or health in my area? Send it to [email protected].

Today’s edition: Lawmakers, veterans and activists will gather on Capitol Hill to demonstrate for MDMA-assisted therapy. Federal antitrust regulators are stepping up their criticism of prescription drug middlemen. But first …

Some cities in Massachusetts want to ban tobacco permanently

A dynamic is currently developing in Massachusetts that advocates call the “nicotine-free generation.”

Last month, Reading, a city 25,000 north of Boston, passed an ordinance banning the sale of cigarettes and nicotine products to anyone born in 2004 or later, even if they have reached the legal purchasing age of 21.

The regulation will not affect older smokers, it says in Richard LopezChairman of the Reading Health Board. However, with each passing year, a growing number of residents are banned from buying them. It is “the end of tobacco and nicotine,” he said.

Reading is not aloneFive other Massachusetts communities have taken the same step in recent months, building on the example set by Boston suburb Brookline in 2020. Those rules are set to take effect Jan. 1, and at least two other towns are considering joining them.

The new wave of regulations puts Massachusetts at the forefront of a global movement. Britain is considering banning the sale of cigarettes to people born in 2009 or later. New Zealand, meanwhile, had introduced a similar ban but changed course after a change of government.

It’s unclear whether a push by a handful of Massachusetts communities to gradually ban tobacco will spread or fizzle out, with critics arguing that residents can easily circumvent the restrictions by purchasing nicotine products in neighboring towns.

But the opponents have taken note of this. “You don’t have to be a nicotine user to find this a bit ridiculous,” said Peter BrennanManaging Director of New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Associationthat is more than 7,000 regional retailers and their suppliers. “This is virtue-mongering of the worst kind on the part of these health authorities.”

Yes but: In March, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled against store owners who challenged Brookline’s policy, rejecting their argument that the city’s ordinance was unconstitutional and that municipalities did not have the authority to impose such restrictions.

Brennan has not ruled out further legal action. He said the group is reviewing its options, including a possible appeal of the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nationwide, smoking rates among adults have been falling for decades and are below 11 percent for the first time in 2023, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNevertheless, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States and is responsible for 480,000 deaths annually – more than from car accidents, murders, suicides and drug overdoses combined.

Anti-tobacco campaigners are increasingly concerned about the rise in the use of e-cigarettes and flavoured nicotine pouches, which they say appeal to young people. Last year 1 of 10 High school students reported using e-cigarettes, while only 2 percent stated that he smoked cigarettes.

Legislators and advocates want to promote MDMA-assisted therapy

On offer today: Veterans groups and members of Congress from both parties will gather outside the U.S. Capitol to urge federal agencies to approve MDMA-assisted therapies to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The event will feature an art installation of nearly 150,000 Dog tags symbolizing veterans who died by suicide, our colleague David Ovalle reports.

Key context: The Food and Drug Administration is close to deciding whether to give MDMA the green light. This would be the first regulatory approval of a psychedelic drug as a medicine. Lykos Therapeutics has slimmer chances after an advisory committee – citing concerns about the validity of research data from clinical trials – overwhelmingly rejected recommending MDMA in combination with talk therapy to treat the disorder.

MDMA, better known as the euphoric party drug ecstasy, is a Schedule I controlled substance, on the same level as heroin and LSD. Veterans have become prominent advocates for the use of MDMA and other psychedelics to alleviate PTSD, a condition that affects millions of people but for which there are few approved drugs to treat it. They are joining politicians like the House of Representatives in amplifying the call for approval. Daniel Crenshaw (R-Texas), who recently sharply criticized the committee’s decision – with an approving nod from Elon Musk on X.

  • Lawmakers participating in today’s event include Republican representatives. Jack Bergman (Me and Morgan Luttrell (Tex.), both veterans and Democratic representatives. Lou Correa (California), co-founder of the Psychedelics Advancing Therapies group.

Also happening on the hill today…

Senate Democrats will try to pass the Women’s Reproductive Freedom Act. which calls for the enshrinement of the protection provided by Roe v. Wade in federal law. Republicans are expected to block the vote, as they did yesterday on three Democratic-led bills that would have expanded abortion access.

The House Budget Committee will mark the legislation to finance the Ministry of Health and other authorities in the 2025 fiscal yearThe GOP-backed bill proposes: 7 percent Cut to HHS and a 22 percent Cut to the CDC. It also includes a set of guidelines targeting areas such as abortion and gender reassignment care.

FTC: Prescription drug middlemen increasingly exert control over Americans’ access to medicines

Leading pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) may be taking advantage of a “highly concentrated” market to increase their profits by driving up drug prices and squeezing independent pharmacies. Federal Trade Commission said an interim staff report published yesterday.

The details: The country’s six largest PBMs processed more than 90 percent the around 6.6 billion prescriptions filled in the United States last year, according to the report, which is part of an ongoing investigation that began in 2022.

The FTC said the middlemen appear to have the ability and incentive to steer patients to their affiliated pharmacies, which often receive higher reimbursements from PBM-run health plans than non-affiliated ones. A case study of two cancer drugs found that this practice resulted in nearly 1.6 billion US dollars for increased revenues at the pharmacies affiliated with the three largest PBMs in less than three years.

While the report did not recommend breaking up the largest conglomerates, it suggested that certain business practices “urgently require further scrutiny and possible regulation.” The FTC stressed that its findings were preliminary and said some companies had not turned over all the information requested.

The industry’s perspective: The Association for Pharmaceutical Care Managementa PBM trade group, criticized the FTC report as biased and based on “anecdotes and comments from anonymous sources and self-interested parties.”

“The report completely overlooks the volume of data that demonstrates the value that PBMs provide to the American healthcare system,” said PCMA President and CEO JC Scott said in a statement, saying they reduced the cost of prescription drugs and improved access to medicines.

  • On the way: Michael DolstenHead of Research and Development at Pfizer, will step down after helping to select a successor. Dolsten has been with the pharmaceutical company for over 15 years and played a key role in the development of the successful coronavirus vaccine.
  • A US judge agreed to freeze lawsuits against the Sackler family for two monthsgive Purdue Pharma a chance to negotiate a new pact with its owners after the Supreme Court rejected a bankruptcy settlement, Jonathan Randles Reports for Bloomberg Law.
  • A US Marine was disciplined by the Navy for unsuccessfully attempting to Access to President Biden’s medical records without permissionofficials said yesterday, while the 81-year-old’s health and suitability for the office are still being assessed, according to the Post Daniel Lamothe.

Talking to Latino voters about “el aborto” to push for pro-abortion measures (By Molly Hennessy-Fiske | The Washington Post)

These GOP women begged the party to end abortion. Then the backlash began. (By Caroline Kitchener | The Washington Post)

What cognitive tests measure and could tell us about Biden and Trump (By Lizette Ortega and Fenit Nirappil | The Washington Post)

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