What We’re Reading: Daily COVID-19 Deaths Surpass Previous Record; Bipartisan Support for Marijuana Research; Prescription Drug Prices on the Rise

The United States reports a record 3000 daily coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) deaths; the House of Representatives passes bill in support of marijuana research; data show rises in prescription drug list prices.

US Reports Record 3000 Daily COVID-19 Deaths

Daily deaths from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) topped 3000 for the first time in the United States on December 9, The New York Times reports. The new peak comes 1 week after a previous daily record of 2885 deaths was set—a troubling milestone, as so many daily deaths had not been reported in the country since April 15. This nationwide surge also led to the highest average number of deaths reported in the country since April (from 2232 to 2249). At least 288,000 total deaths have been reported in the United States since the pandemic’s onset, more than any other country. Currently, Brazil ranks second for overall COVID-19 mortality, reporting around 179,000 deaths.

House Passes Marijuana Research Bill With Bipartisan Support

The United States House of Representatives passed a bill that would enable scientists to conduct marijuana research in states that have legalized the substance, according to Politico. The bill marks the second piece of marijuana legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled House in recent days, but it was passed with strong bipartisan support. Currently, research on marijuana is based on a few variations grown by the University of Mississippi, as it is the only entity permitted to grow the substance under federal law for research. In addition to creating a new research structure for the drug, the bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to remove any limitations on researching marijuana and speed up wait times for research marijuana cultivation applications.

Data Highlight Increase in Prescription Drug List Prices

New research published in JAMA Network Open found list prices for prescription drugs have more than doubled between 2010 and 2016. Specifically, pricing data from the top 5 patent-protected specialty and 9 traditional brand name medications showed the median wholesale list price rose by 129% within the 6-year window. In addition, investigators found median patient out-of-pocket costs increased by 53% and median insurance payments after rebates and discounts increased by 64%. The cross-sectional analysis was based on 14.4 million pharmacy claims made by 1.8 million patients, with the researchers concluding that the increases in drug list prices associated with increased patient out-of-pocket costs may have implications for cost-related nonadherence and insurer payments.