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KHN First Edition: April 25, 2016


First Edition

Monday, April 25, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Thousands Leave Maryland Prisons With Risky Health Problems But No Coverage
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock reports: "Stacey McHoul left jail last summer with a history of heroin use and depression and only a few days of medicine to treat them. When the pills ran out she started thinking about hurting herself. ... Jail officials gave her neither prescription refills nor a Medicaid card to pay for them, she said. Within days she was back on heroin — her preferred self-medication — and sleeping in abandoned homes around Baltimore’s run-down Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. Thousands of people leave incarceration every year without access to the coverage and care they’re entitled to, jeopardizing their own health and sometimes the public’s." (Hancock, 4/25)

Kaiser Health News: In West Baltimore, Scarce Pharmacies Leave Health Care Gaps
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra and Jeremy Snow report: "The immense new CVS dominates the corner of Pennsylvania and West North avenues. Two smaller pharmacies nearby might both fit inside. One is Keystone Pharmacy, a block away on West North. Care One is five minutes on foot up Pennsylvania. CVS, its front shelves crammed with brightly-packaged processed foods and household cleaning supplies, is an island of abundance for this West Baltimore neighborhood, one of the city’s poorest. It’s a contrast that shows what’s changed and what hasn’t in the past year, since Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died of injuries sustained in police custody, unleashing days of protests. ... But if 2015’s protests emphasized police brutality and race relations, the absence of more stores like CVS that are easily accessible to people in impoverished, predominantly black neighborhoods underscores Baltimore’s other persistent inequities." (Luthra and Snow, 4/25)

The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth CEO Sees Decline In Total Compensation
UnitedHealth Group Inc. said Chief Executive Stephen Hemsley’s total compensation package was valued at $14.5 million last year, down from $14.9 million in 2014. The largest component was $7 million of stock awards. Mr. Hemsley’s base salary rose to $1.35 million from $1.3 million. UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurer, said its compensation committee found the CEO’s performance “outstanding and distinctive.” His non-equity, incentive-plan compensation totaled $3.67 million. (Beckerman, 4/24)

The New York Times: Theranos’s Fate Rests With A Founder Who Answers Only To Herself
It’s all up to Elizabeth Holmes. Theranos, a blood-testing lab started and led by Ms. Holmes that promised to revolutionize the industry, is now under criminal investigation and faces increasing skepticism about whether its core technology works. Several federal agencies are looking into the company’s operations. Ms. Holmes herself may have to answer to federal regulators about what she told investors. (Abelson, 4/24)

The Washington Post: To Sway Drug Approval, Patient Advocates Turn Up The Heat On The FDA
Billy Ellsworth, a teenager with an inexorable and devastating degenerative muscle disease, will bring a football with him to a Maryland hotel conference center on Monday. For months, he has been brainstorming a way to prove to a panel of scientists and physicians that the experimental drug he has been taking for more than four years has kept him strong and well — and he’d like to punctuate his brief testimony in the clearest possible way: by throwing them the ball. (Johnson, 4/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Fountain Of Youth? Drug Trial Has Seniors Scrambling To Prove They’re Worthy
What if there were a way to stave off the creaks and calamities of old age? Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is working on it. With word leaking out, seniors from all over the globe have been hounding Dr. Barzilai and his colleagues to get in on the action—with many writing to prove their worthiness. Never mind that formal patient recruitment is still perhaps a year away. (Levitz, 4/24)

The New York Times: The Dangers Of ‘Polypharmacy,’ The Ever-Mounting Pile Of Pills
Dr. Caleb Alexander knows how easily older people can fall into so-called polypharmacy. Perhaps a patient, like most seniors, sees several specialists who write or renew prescriptions. “A cardiologist puts someone on good, evidence-based medications for his heart,” said Dr. Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. “An endocrinologist does the same for his bones.” And let’s say the patient, like many older adults, also uses an over-the-counter reflux drug and takes a daily aspirin or a zinc supplement and fish oil capsules. “Pretty soon, you have an 82-year-old man who’s on 14 medications,” Dr. Alexander said, barely exaggerating. (Span, 4/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Big Pharma Gets Solace From Europe
Are the transatlantic tables turning in pharma Switzerland’s Novartis said this past week that it was seeing faster uptake of heart-failure drug Entresto in Europe than in the U.S. The potential blockbuster has struggled: It sold just $17 million in the first quarter, with Novartis guiding to $200 million for the year, well below forecasts. With heightened focus on the burden of high U.S. drug prices, Novartis said it got a better reception in Europe’s single-payer system than in the U.S. for its value-for-money pitch for Entresto, which helps to reduce hospitalizations. (Thomas, 4/24)

Politico: Drug Makers Spend Big To Fight California Price Control Referendum
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton give drug makers the jitters when they talk about Medicare negotiating the prices of prescription drugs. But the biggest near-term threat to the industry comes from a California ballot initiative that would test a version of that idea in the most populous state. That ballot initiative “is a grenade being rolled into the conversation, and it is being taken very seriously,” says a Republican drug lobbyist in Washington, D.C. (Cook and Karlin-Smith, 4/25)

NPR: Pastoral Medicine Credentials Raise Questions In Texas
You've probably heard of the credentials M.D. and R.N., and maybe N.P. The people using those letters are doctors, registered nurses and nurse practitioners. But what about PSC.D or D.PSc? Those letters refer to someone who practices pastoral medicine – or "Bible-based" health care. It's a relatively new title being used by some alternative health practitioners. The Texas-based Pastoral Medical Association gives out "pastoral provider licenses" in all 50 states and 30 countries. Some providers call themselves doctors of pastoral medicine. But these licenses are not medical degrees. That has watchdog organizations concerned that some patients may not understand what this certification really means. (Silverman, 4/25)

The Associated Press: Oklahoma Lawmakers Approve Bill To Revoke Licenses Of Abortion Doctors
An Oklahoma bill that could revoke the license of any doctor who performs an abortion has headed to the governor, with opponents saying the measure in unconstitutional and promising a legal battle against the cash-strapped state if it is approved. In the Republican-dominated legislature, the state's House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a Senate bill late on Thursday. Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, has not yet indicated whether she will sign it. (Herskovitz, 4/22)

The Associated Press: Williamsburg Psychiatric Hospital Loses Medicare Funding
Eastern State Hospital no longer has Medicare funding after a survey found it did not comply with requirements of participation for psychiatric hospitals. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently submitted a termination notice, effective April 21, citing the hospital’s failure to correct a set of deficiencies surveyors noticed during a June survey of the Williamsburg hospital, the Daily Press reported. (4/22)

NPR: Florida Keys Weigh Options For Battling Mosquitoes And Zika
Billy Ryan visits Roy's Trailer Park on Florida's Stock Island every two months. It's part of his regular rounds as an inspector for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. "Hey I'm just checking on the yards for the mosquito control," he tells one resident, Marie Baptiste, as he heads into her yard. "OK?" No problem, she tells him. People who live in the Keys are used to seeing mosquito control inspectors. Since an outbreak of dengue fever in 2009, the inspectors have conducted routine house-to-house checks in areas where the Aedes aegypti mosquito breeds. (Klingener, 4/22)

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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