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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Who Asked You?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Who Asked You?'" by Chris Browne.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

HHS TOUTS DRUG TREATMENT, MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF EXPANSION

Mental health access
For Medicaid families
Not for middle class.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Summaries Of The News:

Campaign 2016

4. Trump's About-Face On Abortion: 'The Laws Are Set'

The Republican front-runner's positions on abortion have been in the spotlight since he said if it were banned, women seeking out the procedure should be punished. In a "Face the Nation" interview Sunday, he said, "The laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way." A spokeswoman later clarified that he meant abortion laws won't change until he's president.

The Associated Press: Trump Now Says Abortion Laws Should Be Left As Is
Donald Trump now says abortion laws should not be changed. It's a pendulum swing for the Republican presidential contender on an issue that's caused him grief since he said earlier in the week there should be "some form of punishment" for women who get abortions if the procedure is outlawed. Now he's shifted anew, in a "Face The Nation" interview being broadcast Sunday. In an excerpt broadcast Friday on "CBS Evening News," Trump said about abortion: "The laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way." He declined several times to say whether he thinks abortion is murder. "I have my opinions on it, but I'd rather not comment on it," he said. Asked if he disagrees with those who consider the procedure to be murder, he said, "No, I don't disagree with it." (4/2)

The Washington Post: Donald Trump On Abortions: ‘I Would Have Rather Answered It In A Different Manner’
Donald Trump has come under fire for just about every answer he gave on abortion in the past week. On Sunday, Trump expressed regret for his initial remarks about punishing women who receive abortions if the procedure were banned, and he said he corrected his statements so that his view is "acceptable to everybody." ... On "Fox News Sunday," Trump said he was answering a "hypothetical" question. "I said the woman because it was asked hypothetically," Trump said. "I also corrected it, and I made it very much so that I think -- everybody -- it's acceptable now for everybody." (Lee, 4/3)

The Washington Post: Donald Trump Took 5 Different Positions On Abortion In 3 Days
You can see the exact moment last week that Donald Trump made up his mind on whether women would face criminal punishment once he signed new restrictions into law. He is at a town hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, and, after Matthews badgers him for a while, he finally answers the question. “The answer is ... that,” Trump says, eyes looking to the side in thought, “there has to be some form of punishment.” He punctuates “has” with a hand gesture. Done. Final. But as it turns out — and as it has turned out repeatedly over the course of his life — that was not, in fact, Trump’s final position on the subject. (Bump, 4/3)

Politico: Trump Abortion Comments Reverberate On Social Media
Donald Trump’s comments on abortion this week attracted a lot of attention on social media — but not from the candidate himself. On Wednesday Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that he believes there should be some sort of punishment for women who get abortions if the practice were illegal. Within a few hours, Trump released follow-up statements walking back the initial comments, but his words reverberated online. (Gold, 4/2)

In other 2016 election news, scientists and advocates are drawing distinctions between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on stem cell research —

The Associated Press: Clinton, Sanders Had Opposing Views On Biomedical Research
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were on opposing sides of certain types of biomedical research while they served in Congress, differences that have gained notice by scientists and advocates on the forefront of stem cell research. Clinton has pointed to her advocacy for groundbreaking medical research, from her push for more dollars as a New York senator for the National Institutes of Health to her long support for stem cell research that could eventually lead to regenerative medicine. Sanders, a Vermont senator, has supported stem cell research in the Senate. But advocates within the scientific community cite his voting record in the early 2000s in the House when he repeatedly supported a ban on all forms of human cloning, including one called therapeutic cloning intended to create customized cells to treat disease. (4/2)

Marketplace

5. New FDA Head Tops Ranking Of Influential Physician Executives And Leaders

Modern Healthcare has released its annual list of the most influential physician leaders in health care, and Dr. Robert Califf comes in at the top of the rankings because the decisions he makes will define how drugs, medical devices and more are regulated in this century.

Modern Healthcare: New Drug Regulator Confronts Major Challenges
An opioid abuse epidemic fueled by prescription drugs. Public outcry over high drug prices. A huge backlog of generic drug applications. Industry stakeholders pressing for faster approvals. Former clinical researcher Dr. Robert Califf recently took over a U.S. Food and Drug Administration that is heading into an era of unprecedented challenges and change. The decisions he will make over the next few years—assuming he holds on to his job in the next administration—will redefine how drugs, medical devices, tobacco, food safety and controlled substances are regulated in the 21st century. (Johnson, 4/2)

Pharmaceuticals

6. Cholesterol Drug Touted As 'Great Hope' Stuns Specialists With Lack Of Benefits

Although patients taking the drug saw their LDL cholesterol fall and their HDL levels rise as hoped, researchers find that it didn't have an impact on whether they had heart attacks and strokes, or died from cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, one study confirms statin intolerance while another shows that statins have positive benefits in a globally diverse group of people. And getting a bypass gives patients a better chance at surviving than taking drugs alone.

The New York Times: Dashing Hopes, Study Shows A Cholesterol Drug Had No Effect On Heart Health
It is a drug that reduces levels of LDL cholesterol, the dangerous kind, as much as statins do. And it more than doubles levels of HDL cholesterol, the good kind, which is linked to protection from heart disease. As a result, heart experts had high hopes for it as an alternative for the many patients who cannot or will not take statins. But these specialists were stunned by the results of a study of 12,000 patients, announced on Sunday at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting: There was no benefit from taking the drug, evacetrapib. (Kolata, 4/3)

The Washington Post: Statin Intolerance Is Real, Researchers Find. Another (More Costly) Drug May Get Around The Problem.
Statins like Lipitor and its generics have revolutionized cardiovascular care for nearly two decades as an effective, inexpensive way to reduce LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. Not everyone can take them, though; a significant number of people complain of muscle pain, weakness and cramping so severe that they discontinue the therapy even at the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Their resistance to the medication has been controversial, because in most cases there are no biomarkers for the muscle problems individuals describe. (Bernstein, 4/3)

The Associated Press: Global Research Sees Statin Benefits In Lower Risk Patients
The first major research of its kind shows that cholesterol-lowering statins can prevent heart attacks and strokes in a globally diverse group of older people who don't have heart disease. The results bolster recommendations in recent guidelines on who should consider taking the drugs. The aim was to prevent heart problems using a statin alone, blood pressure drugs or a combination of the two. The three approaches are commonly used in high risk patients or those with evidence of heart disease. The patients in the study did not have heart disease and faced lower risks of developing it, and the statin approach worked best. (4/2)

The Associated Press: Bypass Boosts Survival In Heart Failure, 10-Year Study Says
Heart failure patients with clogged arteries have a better chance of surviving 10 years if they get bypass surgery plus medicine rather than just drugs alone, according to an international study. Earlier results from the same research raised questions about the benefits of bypass versus medicine alone, but researchers say the long-term evidence clearly favors the surgery. (4/3)

7. Valeant's $58M Accounting Error Prompts The Question: What Other Flaws Will Emerge?

The company made a mistake in booking sales to a specialty pharmacy. Improperly booking revenue, as Valeant did with Philidor, is a tactic called "stuffing the channel" that sophisticated investors stay alert for. Elsewhere, new clinical data give hope that Regeneron's new drug could help reverse the company's 2016 stock slump.

The New York Times: A Valeant Boo-Boo May Portend Bigger Errors
In the five months since Valeant’s board established a committee to examine the company’s accounting practices, it has turned up one $58 million error. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, the besieged drug company, had made a mistake in booking $58 million in sales in 2014 to Philidor Rx Services, a specialty pharmacy the company used to sell its drugs. Those sales should have been recorded later, when the drugs were actually dispensed to patients, the committee said. A $58 million boo-boo is no biggie for Valeant, which reported over $8 billion in sales in 2014. Still, the question lingers: Will other accounting flaws emerge? (Morgenson, 4/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Regeneron’s Blockbuster Dreams Get Brighter
After a rough start to the year, fresh clinical data gave Regeneron Pharmaceuticals shareholders some much-needed relief. Regeneron’s stock surged 12% on Friday after the company announced strong phase 3 clinical results for dupilumab, its experimental treatment for
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