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KHN First Edition: April 13, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Health Care's Hard Realities On The Reservation: A Photo Essay
Misha Friedman, for Kaiser Health news, reports: "The federal government is obligated by law to provide medical care to American Indians and Alaska Natives, and it does it through the Indian Health Service, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. There are also tribal-run health centers set up on reservations. And 20 states have Urban Indian Health Programs, which receive IHS funding to provide medical services and support to American Indians who don't live on reservations. But there are still significant gaps in care, both on the reservation and in town. The IHS is chronically underfunded. It receives a set amount of money each year to take care of 2.2 million native people -- no matter how much care they may need. On the reservation, IHS facilities often don’t have services that people elsewhere expect, such as emergency departments or MRI machines. And those limited facilities can be hours away by car." (Friedman, 4/13)

The New York Times: Facebook And Napster Pioneer To Start Cancer Immunotherapy Effort
Sean Parker was a pioneer in music sharing when he co-founded Napster and in social media as the early president of Facebook. Now he wants to pioneer in a field that is already jumping with activity: cancer immunotherapy. Mr. Parker is announcing Wednesday that he is donating $250 million to a new effort that will bring together six leading academic centers to develop ways to unleash patients’ own immune systems to fight cancer. (Pollack, 4/13)

Reuters: Sean Parker Sets Up $250 Million Cancer Immunotherapy Collaboration
"Any breakthrough made at one center is immediately available to another center without any kind of IP (intellectual property) entanglements or bureaucracy," Parker, the co-founder of music-sharing website Napster and the first president of Facebook, told Reuters in an interview. The institute will focus on the emerging field of cancer immunotherapy, which harnesses the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. (Beasley, 4/13)

USA Today: Billionaire Announces $250 Million In Cancer Immunotherapy Funding
Parker's enormous cash infusion is the largest ever for cancer immunotherapy — and one of the largest ever for cancer research — and comes three months after President Obama called for a $1 billion federal cancer research program that he dubbed a “moonshot." The estate of the billionaire shipping magnate Daniel Ludwig donated $540 million to six cancer centers in 2014 and Nike co-founder Phil Knight pledged $500 million to cancer researchers at Oregon Health & Science University in 2013. (O'Donnell, 4/13)

The Associated Press: Collaborative Institute Aims To Speed Cancer Drug Creation
“Everybody knows that we need to move forward and change the model” for cancer research, Jeffrey Bluestone, an immunology researcher and the institute’s CEO, told The Associated Press Tuesday. “The goal here is to rapidly move our discoveries to patients.” For decades, fiercely competitive and secretive drugmakers protected their money-making discoveries with patents and lawsuits. Academic researchers likewise often guarded their work closely until it was published because their promotions, awards and sometimes revenue from licensing patents depended on individual achievement. That often slowed progress. (Johnson, 4/13)

The Washington Post: $250 Million, 300 Scientists And 40 Labs: Sean Parker’s Revolutionary Project To ‘Solve’ Cancer
“Cancer immunotherapy is such an incredibly complex field, and for every answer it seems to pose 10 more questions. I’m an entrepreneur so I wish some of these questions had been answered yesterday,” Parker said. He describes the effort as a way to remove obstacles related to bureaucracy and personality that will allow scientists to borrow from each other’s labs unencumbered. The researchers will continue to be based at their home institutions but will receive additional funding and access to other resources, including specialized data scientists and genetic engineering equipment set to become part of the nonprofit Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in San Francisco. (Cha, 4/13)

Los Angeles Times: Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Launches Initiative To Advance Cancer Immunotherapies
Specifically, Parker said his institute will place its initial bets on three broad areas of research: developing a new generation of T-cell therapies; investigating new uses for, and effective new combinations of, the kinds of "checkpoint inhibitor" drugs that have already proved effective for skin, lung and kidney cancers; and improving the effectiveness and potential uses for vaccines and cellular therapies in fighting a wider array of cancers. (Healy, 4/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Sean Parker Turns To Cancer Research
Bold cancer campaigns have proved disappointing in the past, and big advances aren’t likely overnight. Researchers are learning that tumor cells and immune-system cells are enormously complex, complicating efforts to understand how their interactions promote or inhibit disease. In addition, the high costs of immunotherapy drugs that reach the market are prompting concerns about the affordability of potentially life-saving treatments. The new efforts are fueled in part by the initial success of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Merck & Co. as well as still-experimental ways to engineer immune-system cells to attack tumors. Many patients with advanced melanoma, lung cancer and leukemia have survived for years after being given only weeks or months to live. (Winslow, 4/13)

The Associated Press: Painkiller Critics Take Aim At Hospital Surveys, Procedures
Critics of how prescription painkillers are administered in the U.S. are calling on health officials to phase out hospital procedures and questionnaires used to manage pain. They say the current system inadvertently encourages the overprescribing of addictive drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin, fueling an epidemic of overdoses tied to the opioid medications. Deaths linked to misuse and abuse of prescription opioids increased to nearly 19,000 in 2014, the highest figure on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (4/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Religious Groups, Obama Administration Respond To Supreme Court Request For Contraception Compromise
New briefs from the Obama administration and Christian-affiliated nonprofits could shift the Supreme Court’s handling of a standoff over the federal health law’s contraceptive coverage requirements. The court, operating with eight members following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in March took the unusual step of asking each side to send additional briefs after it heard oral argument in the case. The request asked both sides to address whether there was some fresh compromise whereby health plans could offer birth control coverage for workers at religiously affiliated institutions whose teachings oppose it, without involvement from the employer sponsoring the plan. (Radnofsky and Kendall, 4/12)

The Washington Post: Contraception Compromise Acceptable If It Ends Legal Challenges, Administration Says
The Obama administration said a compromise floated by the Supreme Court to resolve objections from religious organizations to providing their employees with contraceptives would work only if it was clear that the women would receive the coverage through other means, and if it ended the controversy. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. told the court that requiring a modification to the accommodation already offered to the religiously affiliated colleges, charities and hospitals was unnecessary. He said a modification would be acceptable only if the court ruled that it would satisfy the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and if it halted lawsuits from groups that say providing contraceptive coverage would make them complicit in sin. (Barnes, 4/12)

The Associated Press: Kansas Supreme Court To Consider Right To Abortion
The Kansas Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the conservative state's constitution guarantees the right to an abortion as part of an appeal of a groundbreaking appeals court ruling. The appeal comes after the Kansas Court of Appeals refused to implement the state's first-in-the-nation ban on a common second-trimester abortion method. In a split decision, the court said the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights independently from the U.S. Constitution. If upheld, the ruling would allow state courts to protect a woman's right to end her pregnancy beyond federal court rulings. (4/12)

Reuters: Congress Sends Obama Bill On Zika Drug Development
U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill to provide financial incentives to companies developing treatments for the Zika virus, and the White House said President Barack Obama was expected to sign the legislation although it is insufficient to meet the challenge. The measure allows the Food and Drug Administration to include Zika drug developers in the agency's priority review voucher program. The program encourages manufacturers to study treatments for diseases that might not be profitable by expediting the regulatory review of a more lucrative drug in their research pipeline. (Clarke and Morgan, 4/12)

Reuters: Obama Expected To Sign Bill On Zika Drug Development: White House
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to sign a bill to provide financial incentives to companies developing treatments for the Zika virus, a White House spokeswoman said, but the bill passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday is insufficient to meet the challenge. "We hope that this legislation encourages private sector partners to address the challenge of Zika, but it contains no funding and is ultimately insufficient on its own, since it doesn't provide the $1.9 billion in funding that our public health experts have said is needed right now to prepare Americans for the imminent local transmission of Zika in this country," spokeswoman Katie Hill said. (Gardner, 4/12)

The Washington Post: More Than 50 Health, Religious And Labor Groups Urge Congress To Reject TPP Trade Deal
More than 50 public health, religious and labor groups — including Doctors Without Borders, the Catholic lobby group Network and the Communications Workers of America — are urging Congress to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation free trade agreement between the United States and Pacific Rim nations. In a letter sent to Congress on Tuesday, the groups argue that the intellectual property and pharmaceutical provisions in the pact would make it more difficult for people in TPP countries to access affordable medicine. (Ho, 4/12)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Panel Opposes Approval Of Clovis Lung-Cancer Treatment
Clovis Oncology Inc. said a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted to recommend against early approval for the biopharmaceutical company’s experimental lung-cancer treatment. Shares fell 5.4% on Tuesday during the regular session and declined a further 3% to $13.81 in recent after-hours trading. It is the latest setback for Clovis whose lung-cancer treatment—called rociletinib—faces competition from a rival drug from AstraZeneca PLC called Tagrisso, which received U.S. regulatory approval earlier in November. (Stynes, 4/12)

Los Angeles Times: More Babies, Fewer Multiple Births, Are Resulting From Assisted Reproduction
2014 saw the birth of more babies than ever who got their start in the petri dish of a fertility clinic in the United States. In its yearly review, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology reported a total of 65,175 live births resulting from a variety of procedures -- up from 63,286 in 2013. Amidst growing concern about the numbers of twins and triplets born to women who undergo infertility treatments, the assisted reproduction industry also detailed its progress in driving down the rate of multiple births, and for the first time reported pre-term births among its patients. Some 78% of babies born to women who underwent such procedures as in vitro fertilization were singletons, up from 75.5% in 2013. (Healy, 4/12)

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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