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KHN First Edition: April 6, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, April 06, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Opioid Epidemic Spurs Rethink On Medication And Addiction
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "Drug treatment providers in California and elsewhere have relied for decades on abstinence and therapy to treat addicts. In recent years, they’ve turned to medication. Faced with a worsening opiate epidemic and rising numbers of overdose deaths, policymakers are ramping up medication-assisted treatment. President Barack Obama last week said he’d allocate more money for states to expand access to the medications. He also proposed that physicians be able to prescribe one of the most effective anti-addiction drugs, buprenorphine, to more patients." (Gorman, 4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Pfizer To Walk Away From Allergan Deal
Pfizer Inc. has decided to kill its planned $150 billion takeover of Allergan PLC, after the Obama administration took aim at a deal that would have moved the biggest drug company in the U.S. to Ireland to lower its taxes, according to people familiar with the matter. The companies are expected to announce the deal’s termination as early as Wednesday morning, after Pfizer’s board voted Tuesday to halt the combination and the New York-based pharmaceutical company then notified Dublin-based Allergan, the people said. (Rockoff, Hoffman and Rubin, 4/5)

The New York Times: Pfizer And Allergan Are Said To End Merger As Tax Rules Tighten
The decision is a victory for the Obama administration, which introduced the initiatives as part of an effort to thwart the ability of companies to move income overseas, beyond the reach of the United States. The proposed regulations, announced on Monday by the Treasury Department, appeared specifically to target Pfizer and Allergan, which has its tax domicile in Ireland. Still, tax experts said that other transactions would also be affected. When Pfizer and Allergan announced their deal in November, they knew that the Obama administration would take aim at it. But the companies and their advisers were stunned when the Treasury Department took highly aggressive steps in removing many of the tax benefits of the merger. (De la Merced and Picker, 4/5)

The Associated Press: Analysts: New Inversion Rules Will Kill Pfizer-Allergan Deal
“The Obama administration isn’t just sending a message to Pfizer, it’s sending a message to all U.S. companies contemplating inversions, and that message is ‘Don’t,” said analyst Steve Brozak, president of WBB Securities LLC. Investors seem to view the deal as dead, and were trading shares in the two companies at a furious pace Tuesday. Allergan’s U.S. shares fell $41, or 15 percent, to close at $236.55 Tuesday. Pfizer shares rose 64 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $31.36. (Johnson, 4/5)

Reuters: Obama's Inversion Curbs Kill Pfizer's Allergan Deal
Several U.S. presidential candidates, including Republican Donald Trump and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have seized on the issue in their campaigns. "We have so many companies leaving, it is disgraceful," Trump told reporters as he greeted voters in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Tuesday. Clinton and Sanders both expressed support for Treasury's plan.(Humer, Pierson and Barbaglia, 4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Allergan’s Inversion Problem: There Is A Plan B
What is yet unclear is how this will affect any breakup fees. Even if Allergan had been on the hook for these, though, they likely wouldn’t have been that onerous. The break fee is $3.5 billion under certain circumstances, but drops to $400 million in the event of adverse changes in tax law. And, amidst disappointment for shareholders, Allergan could be well-positioned to form a Plan B. That is because Allergan is set to divest its generics business to Teva Pharmaceuticals for more than $40 billion in cash. That deal, which is expected to close in the near future, will give Allergan’s balance sheet a much-needed refresh. After all, net debt exceeded $41 billion at the end of 2015, according to FactSet. (Grant, 4/5)

The Washington Post: Obama Criticizes Companies That Leave U.S. For Lower Taxes
President Obama made a forceful case Tuesday for stopping corporations from moving their headquarters overseas to avoid U.S. taxes, saying they are taking advantage of the American economic system and saddling the middle class with the bill. These companies “effectively renounce their citizenship,” Obama said at a White House news briefing. “They declare that they’re based somewhere else, thereby getting all the rewards of being an American company without fulfilling the responsibilities to pay their taxes the way everyone else is supposed to pay them.” (Merle, 4/5)

The Associated Press: Valeant Completes Accounting Review, Finds No New Issues
Valeant said Tuesday that it has completed a review of its accounting and found no new problems. Shares of the troubled Canadian drug company soared Tuesday morning. Valeant is facing several problems, including federal probes into its accounting and business practices. Last month, the company said longtime CEO J. Michael Pearson was leaving the company once a successor is chosen. (4/5)

The Associated Press: FDA Approves 1st Cheaper Version Of J&J’s Top Drug Remicade
Federal health officials have approved a cheaper version of Johnson & Johnson’s blockbuster drug, Remicade, a pricey biotech medicine for inflammatory diseases. The approval of Inflectra Tuesday is only the second time that the Food and Drug Administration has approved a quasi-generic biotech drug for the U.S. market. These so-called biosimilar drugs, already available in Europe, have the potential to generate billions of dollars in savings for insurers, doctors and patients in coming years. (Perrone, 4/5)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Approves Rheumatoid Knockoff
Inflectra is what regulators and the drug industry call a “biosimilar” to J&J’s Remicade, which has been available since 1998 and had U.S. sales of $4.45 billion last year. A biosimilar is a close copy of a biotech drug, which is usually manufactured in living cells rather than synthesized chemically like traditional pills. The FDA last year approved the first biosimilar—a Novartis AG version of Amgen’s Neupogen drug for cancer chemotherapy patients—using new criteria arising from a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act aimed at supporting a biosimilar market. (Loftus, 4/5)

The New York Times: Wisconsin Takeaways: Donald Trump Stumbles And Bernie Sanders Soars, For Now
Can a single state make any real difference in a chaotic and unpredictable presidential primary season? Tuesday night’s dual Wisconsin primaries suggest so. The result was a clarifying glimpse into where Trumpism falters, where Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont can succeed, and whether each party’s establishment has the power to steer its own nomination. ... After Mr. Trump’s clumsy expressions of solidarity with opponents of abortion — suggesting at one point that there should be “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions — he won just a third of self-identified evangelical Christians. (Confessore, 4/6)

The Washington Post: Ted Cruz Declares Wisconsin ‘A Turning Point’ In The GOP Campaign
Ted Cruz rolled to a landslide victory Tuesday in Wisconsin’s hotly contested Republican presidential primary, capitalizing on a difficult stretch for Donald Trump to cut into the front-runner’s overall delegate lead and deliver a psychological blow to the billionaire mogul. ... In the closing days of the Wisconsin race, Trump burrowed in to try to close a polling deficit with Cruz. ... Trump also deployed his wife, Melania, to make a rare campaign appearance Monday night in Milwaukee — a move seemingly orchestrated to soften his image with women after a series of misstatements on abortion policy. But it was not enough. (Sullivan and Rucker, 4/5)

The Associated Press: White House To Transfer Ebola Funds To Combat Zika Virus
Congressional officials say the Obama administration is about to announce it will transfer leftover money from the largely successful fight against Ebola to combat the growing threat of the Zika virus. The officials say roughly 75 percent of the $600 million or so would be devoted to the Centers for Disease Control. The agency focuses on research and development of anti-Zika vaccines, treating those infected with the virus and combating the mosquitoes that spread it. (4/6)

Los Angeles Times: Despite Bipartisan Support, Mental Health Reform Bill Could Be Derailed
Mental health advocates are pressing Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill not to abandon a push to modernize the nation's ailing mental health system amid rising partisan tensions over President Obama's Supreme Court pick. The effort has picked up crucial bipartisan support in the Senate and galvanized dozens of groups representing patients, physicians and state and local leaders. The Obama administration has also backed calls for reform, proposing more than $500 million in new federal spending to expand mental health services nationwide. But election-year politics and uncertainty over funding are fueling concerns that years of collaborative work by lawmakers from both parties may not bear fruit. (Levey, 4/6)

The Washington Post: What Yelp Can Tell You About A Hospital That Official Ratings Can’t
If you've ever taken the time to give Yelp your two cents about a hospital, you'll be happy to know that someone's listening and that they've deemed the crowdsourced information not only useful — but unique. In what is believed to be the first large-scale analysis of such data, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania looked at 17,000 Yelp reviews of 1,352 hospitals from consumers. They found that the online information provides a broader sense of a facility than the current gold standard — a U.S. government survey that costs millions of dollars to develop and implement each year. (Cha, 4/5)

The Associated Press: Hackers Broke Into Hospitals Despite Software Flaw Warnings
The hackers who seriously disrupted operations at a large hospital chain recently and held some data hostage broke into a computer server left vulnerable despite urgent public warnings since at least 2007 that it needed to be fixed with a simple update, The Associated Press has learned. The hackers exploited design flaws that had persisted on the MedStar Health Inc. network, according to a person familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss the findings publicly. (Abdollah, 4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: National Health IT Coordinator Says Technology Can Help Unblock Patient Data Access
The cloud era and big data are poised to give consumers access to their medical records like never before – whenever and wherever they need it, says Karen DeSalvo, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s acting assistant secretary and the national coordinator for health information technology. She told Wall Street Journal reporters and editors that she wants to refocus health data around people, not records. Over time, that could help overcome the for-profit “blocking” of patient data. (Loten, 4/5)

The Washington Post: VA Formally Proposes New Limits On Appeals Rights For Its Executives
Senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs overseeing health care programs could appeal disciplinary actions against them only through internal department channels, under a formal proposal the department has sent to Congress. While other VA executives still could bring appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board, that adjudicatory agency would have to give more deference to the department’s decisions, under the proposal. (Yoder, 4/5)

The Associated Press: Federal Official Pledges Improved Care At Tribal Hospitals
A federal official acknowledged Tuesday that the level of care is “unacceptable” at some government-run hospitals serving Native American patients and assured tribal leaders her agency would work to enact swift and long-lasting reforms. Mary Smith, principal deputy director of the Indian Health Service, spoke with Great Plains tribal leaders in Sioux Falls during the first in a series of meetings to discuss the hospitals’ quality of care, including recent findings of woefully inadequate service at some of the facilities. (Garcia Cano, 4/5)

The Associated Press: Increase In Threats Reported At US Abortion Clinics
Threats and violence directed at U.S. abortion clinics increased sharply in 2015, according to the National Abortion Federation, which attributed the surge to the release of undercover videos intended to discredit Planned Parenthood. "In my more than 20 years with NAF, I have not seen such an escalation of hate speech, threats and calls to action against abortion providers," said Vicki Saporta, the federation's CEO. (4/5)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Videos Bring Raid, Abortion Activist Says
An anti-abortion activist who made undercover videos at Planned Parenthood clinics said in a social media posting that California Department of Justice agents raided his home Tuesday. Agents seized all video footage from his apartment, along with his personal information, David Daleiden said in a Facebook post. Daleiden, the founder of a group called the Center for Medical Progress, said agents left behind documents that he contends implicate Planned Parenthood in illegal behavior related to the handling of fetal tissue. (4/5)

Politico: Investigators Search Home Of Man Behind Planned Parenthood Sting Videos
California investigators on Tuesday evening searched the apartment of David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist behind the series of sting videos released last summer showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fees for fetal tissue and organs. California Attorney General Kamala Harris said last summer that she would investigate whether Daleiden broke laws in the course of his sting operation, which spurred a huge political battle over Planned Parenthood's federal funding. Daleiden filmed part of his project in Planned Parenthood clinics in California.

The Associated Press: Mississippi House Sends Abortion Procedure Ban To Governor
Mississippi would ban a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure under a bill headed to Gov. Phil Bryant's desk. The House voted 85-32 Tuesday to approve Senate changes to the legislation. Gov. Phil Bryant's spokesman didn't immediately respond to questions about whether he would sign the bill. Bryant generally opposes abortion. The measure would outlaw a procedure called dilation and evacuation unless an abortion is required to prevent a mother's irreversible physical impairment. (4/5)

NPR: UVA Study Links Disparities In Pain Management To Racial Bias
Numerous studies have shown that black patients are less likely than their white counterparts to receive pain medicine for the same injury. Now, new research from the University of Virginia suggests a reason why. It found that a substantial number of white medical students and residents believe black people are less sensitive to pain. (Cornish, 4/5)

The Washington Post: The Graying Of HIV: 1 In 6 New U.S. Cases Are People Older Than 50
Thousands of people 50 and older are diagnosed with HIV each year in the United States, a development that has significant consequences for the health care and social support they need and the doctors, counselors and others who provide it. Older people tend to be sicker when the infection is finally discovered. They usually have other health conditions that accompany aging and often are too embarrassed to reveal their illness to family and friends. (Bernstein, 4/6)

The Associated Press: Subway Posting Calories Nationally As Regulation Lags
Subway is moving ahead and posting calorie counts on menu boards nationally despite another delay in a federal rule requiring the information. The sandwich chain says its new menu boards with calorie counts are already rolling out around the country and should be up in all 27,000 of its U.S. stores by April 11. The decision to forge ahead comes as restaurant chains have awaited the Food and Drug Administration's final guidance and enforcement of a rule requiring food sellers with 20 or more locations to post the information. As part of the federal health care overhaul, a rule was passed in 2010 requiring major chains to post calorie counts on menus with the goal of helping Americans make better food choices. (4/5)

The Associated Press: California Lawmaker Wants To Allow Supervised Heroin Use
A lawmaker wants to allow California addicts to use heroin, crack and other drugs at supervised facilities to cut down on overdoses, joining several U.S. cities considering establishing the nation's first legal drug-injection sites. The proposal introduced Tuesday comes as San Francisco, Seattle, New York City and Ithaca, New York, weigh ordinances to set up the facilities, citing the success of a site operating in Canada since 2003. (4/5)

The New York Times: New York Attorney General Begins Inquiry Into Sale Of Nursing Home To Developer
The New York State attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has opened an investigation into a series of transactions surrounding the lifting of a deed restriction on a Manhattan nursing home that enabled its purchase by a luxury condominium developer for $116 million. The attorney general’s office began sending subpoenas on Friday to the developer and several other companies involved in the transactions involving 45 Rivington Street, a former school building on the Lower East Side that had been a nonprofit health care center for AIDS patients until last year. (Goodman, 4/5)

The Wall Street Journal: New York Attorney General Opens Probe Into Manhattan Deed Change
The New York state attorney general’s office is investigating the series of transactions that led to the sale of a Manhattan health-care facility to a residential developer, the office said Tuesday. Subpoenas from the office were sent out last week to several players involved in the deal, a spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. The subpoenas were from the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, according to people familiar with the matter. (Dawsey and David O'Brien, 4/5)

The New York Times: Florida Agrees To Improve Poor Children’s Access To Health Care, Settling Suit
Florida health officials, in a settlement announced Tuesday, agreed to improve access to health care for poor children, ending a long-running class-action lawsuit that had accused the state of shortchanging doctors and leaving low-income families to trek long distances to visit specialists. The state reimbursed doctors so little for Medicaid services that many doctors refused to treat the patients, lawyers argued in a suit filed in 2005 by pediatric doctors on behalf of nine plaintiffs. Hundreds of thousands of children who were on Medicaid never received checkups, and for years, 80 percent of the children never saw a dentist, the worst rate in the nation. (Robles, 4/5)

Reuters: Florida Pledges Better Health Care For Poor Children To Settle Lawsuit
Florida officials will boost access to health and dental care for poor children in settlement of an 11-year-old class-action lawsuit, the groups behind the legal action said on Tuesday. The settlement calls for Florida to increase payments to physicians who treat poor children and sets benchmarks for preventative and dental treatment to be met over five years, according to the Philadelphia-based Public Interest Law Center, which represented the plaintiffs. (Dobuzinskis, 4/6)

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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