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KHN First Edition: March 1, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, March 01, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: EHRs In The ER: As Doctors Adapt, Concerns Emerge About Medical Errors
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "The mouse slips, and the emergency room doctor clicks on the wrong number, ordering a medication dosage that’s far too large. Elsewhere, in another ER’s electronic health record, a patient’s name isn’t clearly displayed, so the nurse misses it and enters symptoms in the wrong person’s file. These are easy mistakes to make. As ER doctors and nurses grapple with the transition to digitalized record systems, they seem to happen more frequently." (Luthra, 3/1)

Kaiser Health News: R2D2’s Next Assignment: Hospital Orderly
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "Meet the Tugs — a team of 27 robots now zooming around the hallways of the new University of California-San Francisco hospital at Mission Bay. They look a bit like R2D2, dragging a platform around behind them. Instead of drones, think of them more as little flatbed trucks, ferrying carts of stuff around the vast hospital complex — food, linens, medications, medical waste and garbage. And they do it more efficiently than humans." (Gold, 3/1)

USA Today: Hillary Clinton Shifts Fire From Sanders To GOP Ahead Of Super Tuesday
Hillary Clinton’s main target is Sen. Bernie Sanders no more. Fresh off a resounding victory in the South Carolina primary, the former secretary of State is lambasting the Republican primary field on everything from health care to “hateful rhetoric” and gun control as she prepares for a series of Tuesday contests expected to help tighten her grip on the Democratic presidential nomination. ... Clinton’s assault on Republicans included ... their plan to end Obamacare. “They never tell you what they’ll put it in its place because you won’t like it,” she said, including ending restrictions on insurance company discrimination against individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and kicking adult children off their parents’ health insurance plans. (Przybyla, 2/29)

The New York Times: Young Lawyers Ready To Argue A Major Abortion Case Before The Supreme Court
Facing off before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, in what could be the most momentous abortion case in a quarter-century, will be two lawyers who are still in their thirties and are described by colleagues as whip-smart masters of the law and unflappable under pressure. Arguing in defense of Texas’ sharp restrictions on abortion clinics will be Scott Keller, 34, the state solicitor general. He spent his childhood in rural Wisconsin, clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the Supreme Court and was legal counsel in the Senate to Ted Cruz, whom Mr. Keller calls a mentor. Speaking on behalf of Texas abortion providers, who are challenging laws that may force many clinics to close, will be Stephanie Toti, 37, a lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. Born in Brooklyn to an Italian-American family, she said her devotion to women’s rights was influenced by her grandmother, whose immigrant parents pulled her from school after the eighth grade because they feared that education would make her unmarriageable. (Eckholm, 2/29)

Politico: High Court To Hear 'Watershed' Texas Abortion Case
The Supreme Court this week will hear arguments on whether Texas can limit abortions to surgical centers and to doctors affiliated with nearby hospitals — potentially reshaping the national landscape on abortion during a presidential election year. Eight justices will hear oral arguments Wednesday in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the most significant abortion case to come before the court since 1992, and among the most significant constitutional tests since the court upheld abortion rights in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. (Haberkorn, 2/29)

USA Today: Abortion War In Texas Tests High Court Standard
On Wednesday, a suddenly short-staffed Supreme Court will hear the most significant challenge in a generation to the ever-rising number of state abortion restrictions. Clinics in Texas, a dwindling breed under the 2013 law, are fighting requirements that doctors must have admitting privileges at local hospitals and clinics must meet the same operating standards as surgical centers. Texas legislators and the nation's leading abortion opponents say those rules are necessary to protect women's health, even if they result in leaving just 10 clinics in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age. The nation's leading abortion rights groups and major medical associations say the rules don't serve public health but represent a roadblock for women seeking abortions — the very type of burden the high court's landmark 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey was intended to prohibit. (Wolf, 2/29)

The Washington Post: The World’s Abortion Policies, Explained In 7 Charts And Maps
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear its most significant abortion-related case in nearly a decade on Wednesday. With eyes focused on Washington, it is worth exploring how other countries have dealt with the issue. In 2013, the United Nations published an extensive report on abortion policies all over the world. Although some details may have changed since then, the data provides striking insights that are worth considering amid the heated U.S. debate. (Cameron and Noack, 3/1)

The Associated Press: Telemedicine To Expand Access To Abortions In Maine
The operator of one of Maine's three abortion clinics plans to expand access by offering abortion pills without the need for in-office consultation with a doctor. Augusta-based Maine Family Planning said it intends to allow patients to visit one of 16 regional planning clinics, where they'll consult via audio-visual technology with a physician. One of the medications to induce abortion would be given at the clinic, and the second could be taken at home. (2/29)

USA Today: Health Companies Will Improve Digital Records, But Safety Concerns Linger
Federal health officials announced a deal Monday that should make digital health records easier for consumers and regulators to access and address safety issues linked with the data. Nearly all of the companies that provide digital health records and 16 of the largest hospitals and health systems agreed to stop the practice of “information blocking," to adopt a universal language and to improve the systems so patients can easily monitor their health information. (O'Donnell, 2/29)

The Associated Press: Health Groups Aim To Make Medical Records Easier To Access
Technology companies, hospital systems and doctors' groups have agreed to take steps to make electronic health records easier for consumers to access and use, the Obama administration announced Monday. "Now is the time for this data to be free and liquid and available," said Karen DeSalvo, head of the Health and Human Services department office overseeing the transition to computerized medical records. The goal is to improve care where it matters the most, added DeSalvo, who spoke ahead of a formal announcement by Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell at a health technology conference in Las Vegas. (2/29)

The New York Times: New Study Links Zika Virus To Temporary Paralysis
A new study of 42 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome in French Polynesia offers the strongest evidence to date that the Zika virus can trigger temporary paralysis, researchers reported on Monday. But experts cautioned that more evidence from other locations was needed to be conclusive. Since last year, doctors have noticed an unusual increase in Guillain-Barré cases in several countries with Zika outbreaks, including Brazil, El Salvador and Venezuela. But as the World Health Organization reported on Friday, a large number of those patients have not yet been confirmed through laboratory testing to have Zika. (Saint Louis, 2/29)

Los Angeles Times: Zika's Link To Guillain-Barre Syndrome Revealed
During a seven-month outbreak of Zika virus infection that ended in April 2014, health officials in French Polynesia noticed an uptick in the number of patients showing up at hospitals with a rare but dangerous constellation of symptoms known as Guillain-Barre syndrome. Typically in the wake of a viral or bacterial infection, patients stricken with Guillain-Barre syndrome suffer a sudden onset of weakness, pain and paralysis in their legs and arms. Occasionally, paralysis progresses to the chest, impairing a patient's ability to breathe. Even with access to a respirator and intensive care, some 5% of those stricken by Guillain-Barre die. (Healy, 2/29)

The Washington Post: Zika Is Expected To Infect 1 In 5 Puerto Ricans, Raising Threat To Rest Of U.S.
Zika has landed forcefully in America, in one of its poorest and most vulnerable corners, a debt-ridden territory lacking a functioning health-care system, window screens and even a spray that works against the mosquitoes spreading the virus in homes, workplaces, schools and parks. There are 117 confirmed cases of the virus in Puerto Rico, four times the number at the end of January. (Sun, 2/29)

The New York Times: Waste In Cancer Drugs Costs $3 Billion A Year, A Study Says
The federal Medicare program and private health insurers waste nearly $3 billion every year buying cancer medicines that are thrown out because many drug makers distribute the drugs only in vials that hold too much for most patients, a group of cancer researchers has found. The expensive drugs are usually injected by nurses working in doctors’ offices and hospitals who carefully measure the amount needed for a particular patient and then, because of safety concerns, discard the rest. (Harris, 3/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Under Investigation By SEC
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. on Monday said it was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Canadian drug company’s stock sank to the lowest level in three years. The SEC has requested information about Valeant’s now-terminated relationship with drug distributor Philidor Rx Services LLC, and Valeant has submitted emails, financial documents and other data to comply with the request, according to a person familiar with the matter. (McNish and Rapoport, 2/29)

The Associated Press: Valeant's Stock Plunges 18 Pct As Company's Headaches Mount
Valeant Pharmaceuticals' stock tanked Monday amid ongoing turmoil over the embattled drugmaker's delayed financial results, its leader's health and government probes into what has gone wrong at the Canadian company. Even news Sunday that CEO Michael Pearson is returning immediately after nine weeks recovering from pneumonia and unspecified complications failed to buoy Valeant shares. (2/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant’s ‘Entirely New Story’ Worries Investors
It’s a whole new ballgame at Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. And investors aren’t a fan of the playbook. Valeant on Sunday night pulled its guidance, cancelled its fourth-quarter conference call and said that its chief executive, Michael Pearson, would return to the helm after months of medical leave, while a board member, Robert Ingram, would take over the role of chairman. Investors sent the stock down as much as 9.5% Monday morning on the flurry of news. And one analyst is warning that there’s no way to know what’s coming next. (Farrell, 2/29)

The Wall Street Journal: How Your Supplements Interact With Prescription Drugs
As millions of Americans consume over-the-counter herbal and botanical supplements in a bid to boost health, there is increasing evidence that these products can interfere with a wide range of prescription medications used to treat everything from cancer to depression to high blood pressure. Recent studies have found that a greater number of supplements than previously thought may affect the way certain enzymes in the body metabolize drugs. Some supplements may inhibit the enzymes’ ability to break down a drug and clear it from the body, causing medication to build up to potentially toxic levels and even cause overdose. Other supplements may increase the rate at which a drug is broken down, clearing it from the body too quickly to be effective. (Landro, 2/29)

Reuters: Court Hears Appeal Of Ruling In Menendez Corruption Case
The U.S. Constitution protects Sen. Robert Menendez from being prosecuted on bribery charges for talks he held with government officials on behalf of a friend who gave him gifts valued at $1 million, the New Jersey Democrat's lawyers argued on Monday. The arguments came before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the corruption case against Menendez. Federal prosecutors charge that he accepted lavish stays at a Caribbean villa, a luxurious visit to a Paris hotel and flights on private jets from Florida ophthalmologist and businessman Solomon Melgen, a longtime friend. Menendez interceded on Melgen’s behalf in an $8.9 million billing dispute with Medicare, prosecutors say. (2/29)

The New York Times: Veterans Seek Help For Infertility Inflicted By Wounds Of War
During a firefight in Afghanistan in 2005, Army Cpl. Tyler Wilson, 20, was hit by a bullet that pierced his spine and left him paralyzed below the waist. Since then, the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided him with free health care, as it does for all veterans who were disabled while serving. Yet there was a gap in his coverage that came as a shock. By law, the V.A. cannot provide in vitro fertilization, not even to a veteran like Corporal Wilson whose ability to have children was impaired by an injury sustained in the line of duty. Doctors have told him and his fiancée, Crystal Black, that in vitro fertilization is their only chance of conceiving a child. Each attempt costs more than $12,000, and they will have to pay for it themselves. (Grady, 2/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Tiny Cameras To See In The Intestines
The digestive tract can be inhospitable terrain to examine. Some of its twists and turns are difficult to reach with a scope, and most scope procedures require patients to undergo sedation or anesthesia. One branch of science is seeking to overcome these obstacles with vitamin-size capsules that can be swallowed and sent through the gut to capture images, and perhaps someday perform basic tasks such as biopsies or drug injection. (Whalen, 2/29)

NPR: In Texas, Uneven Expansion Of Obamacare Sows Frustration
People in Texas are significantly more likely than adults nationwide to report that it has gotten harder to see a doctor in the past two years. The finding comes from polling done by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. ... Almost 1 in 5 people in Texas says it's gotten harder to see a doctor in the past two years according to the NPR poll. It didn't matter what kind of insurance they had. About 70 percent of insurance plans for Texans available on are small ones, according to Dan Polsky, a health economist at the University of Pennsylvania. (Silverman, 2/29)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2016 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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