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KHN First Edition: May 4, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Smokers’ Ranks Look Conspicuously Sparse In Obamacare
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Barred from restaurants, banned on airplanes and unwelcome in workplaces across America, smokers have become accustomed to hiding their habits. So it’s no surprise many may now also be denying their habit when they buy health coverage from the federal health law’s insurance exchanges. Insurers -- who can charge higher rates in most states to admitted smokers -- are steamed." (Galewitz, 5/4)

Kaiser Health News: Maryland Seeks Federal OK To Speed Ex-Inmates’ Medicaid Access
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock reports: "Seeking to slash the red tape that keeps ex-prisoners with mental illness, drug addiction and other ailments from getting health coverage, Maryland is proposing to give thousands of newly released inmates temporary Medicaid membership with few questions asked. The measure, described as the first of its kind in the nation, would help close a gap occurring when sick inmates leave jail or prison care but have trouble getting coverage and treatment after they get out, sometimes for months, advocates say." (Hancock, 5/4)

Kaiser Health News: More Action Needed Against Drug Abuse: Poll
Kaiser Health News staff writer Lisa Gillespie reports: "The fight against the growing abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin is not robust enough at any level -- not federal and state governments’ efforts or those of doctors and users themselves, according to most Americans in a new poll out Tuesday. Lack of access to care for those with substance abuse issues is a major problem, said 58 percent of those surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.) The poll found that Americans had somewhat different views of heroin and prescription drug abuse. More than a third called heroin abuse an extremely serious health problem in the U.S., while just over a quarter of those surveyed said the same about the abuse of strong prescription painkillers. In contrast, fewer than a fifth regarded alcohol abuse in the same way. (Gillespie, 5/3)

NPR/ProPublica: Medical Errors Are No. 3 Cause Of U.S Deaths, Researchers Say
A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine says medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States — and highlights how shortcomings in tracking vital statistics may hinder research and keep the problem out of the public eye. The authors, led by Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Martin Makary, call for changes in death certificates to better tabulate fatal lapses in care. In an open letter, they urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to immediately add medical errors to its annual list reporting the top causes of death. (Allen and Pierce, 5/3)

The New York Times: Medical Errors May Cause Over 250,000 Deaths A Year
If medical error were considered a disease, a new study has found, it would be the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease and cancer. Medical error is not reported as a cause of death on death certificates, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has no “medical error” category in its annual report on deaths and mortality. But in this study, researchers defined medical error as any health care intervention that causes a preventable death. (Bakalar, 5/3)

The Washington Post: Researchers: Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause Of Death In United States
Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who led the research, said in an interview that the category includes everything from bad doctors to more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another. "It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care," Makary said. (Cha, 5/3)

Los Angeles Times: Medical Errors Are No. 3 Cause Of Death In The U.S., After Heart Disease And Cancer
Fatal medical errors include cases in which patients received medications they were allergic to and instances in which patients died of preventable infections, among many other possibilities. Doctors and nurses are not necessarily involved, experts said — sometimes a faulty computer program may be to blame. “Medical care has become really complex,” said Dr. David Classen, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Utah who was not involved in the study. “It's no longer one single physician taking care of a single person at a hospital. It's these huge groups of people now, and mistakes get made.” (Netburn, 5/3)

The Associated Press: CDC: Preschoolers With ADHD Often Given Drugs Before Therapy
Too many preschoolers with ADHD still are being put on drugs right away, before behavior therapy is tried, health officials say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that three in four young kids diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are put on medicines. New CDC data shows that's continued, even after research found behavior therapy is as effective and doesn't give children stomach aches, sleep problems or other drug side effects. (5/3)

The Washington Post: CDC Warns That Americans May Be Overmedicating Youngest Children With ADHD
The drugs of choice among most pediatricians, psychiatrists and others treating children with ADHD are stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin — which have earned an almost mythical reputation for their ability to help children do better in school, and which some teens and college students abuse to gain an edge in academics. But the long-term effects of those drugs on a young brain and body have not been well studied, and the side effects can be numerous, including poor appetite, sleeplessness, irritability and slowed growth. "Until we know more the recommendation is to first refer parents of children under 6 years of age who have ADHD for training and behavior therapy," Anne Schuchat, CDC principal deputy director, said in a call with reporters on Tuesday. (Cha, 5/3)

Los Angeles Times: For Little Children With ADHD, More Than A Pill Is Best
Among the littlest people diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder--ADHD--nearly half get no more help dealing with their distractedness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity than that provided by prescription medication, says a new government report. That's despite the fact that for these patients--children ages 2 to 5 diagnosed with ADHD--behavior therapy can help children develop self-control, organizational skills and coping mechanisms, tools that would help them over the long run. (Healy, 5/3)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: How A Tool To Help Patients Save On Health Care Backfired
All kinds of tools are being developed to give consumers the ability to answer how much health care will cost even before they decide where to go, ranging from a primary care doctor's visit to a flu shot. ... Bringing light to health care prices, an area that is famously opaque and hard to navigate, offers for the first time the prospect that patients will truly be able to shop around and save themselves -- and the health care system -- money. But a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday suggests that transparency tools alone aren't going to lead to much, if any, savings. The study followed health care spending at two large employers that offered a web tool that allowed patients to easily shop around and save on health care costs. (Johnson, 5/3)

Reuters: Big Pharma Dominates Ranking Of Stocks With Best Five-Year Returns
U.S. pharmaceutical companies dominated an annual global ranking of top 10 large-cap stocks with the best five-year returns, according to an analysis released on Tuesday by Boston Consulting Group. Drug company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which had an average annual total share return of 75.3 percent, was the top performer. Allergan and Gilead Sciences, with 43.3 percent and 41.4 percent average annual returns, respectively, took second and third place. (Kearney, 5/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Pfizer Reports Rock-Solid Quarter, Sees Stronger Year Ahead
Pfizer Inc. raised its earnings outlook for the year, and said it isn’t planning to pursue another tax-inversion merger due to White House opposition. Pfizer and Ireland-based Allergan PLC last month canceled their planned $150 billion merger after the U.S. Treasury Department issued new rules designed to stymie such tax-lowering deals, known as inversions, which move the tax residences of companies to countries with lower corporate tax rates. (Rockoff and Hufford, 5/3)

The Associated Press: CVS Health Tops Street 1Q Forecasts
Specialty drugs and retail expansions boosted CVS Health's first-quarter revenue by 18.9 percent, helping to offset higher costs and push results above Wall Street expectations. The nation's second-largest drugstore chain also confirmed its full-year profit outlook, though second-quarter forecasts are short of expectations. First-quarter profit fell 6.1 percent during the period to $1.15 billion, or $1.04 per share, mainly on higher acquisition-related costs. Excluding certain expenses, the company earned $1.18 per share. (5/3)

The Wall Street Journal: CVS Health’s Results Top Views As Prescription Volumes Climb
CVS Health Corp.’s first-quarter sales surged, helped by more prescription claims and specialty drug sales at its pharmacy-benefits business, and added revenue from recent acquisitions on its drugstore side. Its pharmacy-service division, which includes the specialty pharmacy businesses and its pharmacy benefit manager, posted a 21% increase in sales. The retail division logged growth of 19%, primarily from the addition of roughly 1,600 Target Corp. pharmacies that CVS now runs as well as the acquisition of Omnicare Inc., which dispenses drugs to places like nursing homes. CVS completed both deals in the last year. (Ziobro and Beilfuss, 5/3)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Warns Of Rare Impulse Reactions To Abilify Medication
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday warned of rare cases in which patients taking the antipsychotic medication Abilify have experienced uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat, shop and engage in sex. The drug is also sold under the generic name aripiprazole and the brand names Abilify Maintena and Aristada. The FDA noted that such cases, while rare, can in theory affect anyone taking the medication. (Burton, 5/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Prosecutors Say More Charges Against Martin Shkreli Likely
Prosecutors are likely to file additional charges against former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli and his onetime lawyer Evan Greebel, prosecutors have told defense lawyers. Lawyers for. Messrs. Shkreli and Greebel, who were arrested on fraud charges last year, told a federal judge on Tuesday that prosecutors informed them of the possible new charges in a recent meeting. Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Paes confirmed during the hearing the government is considering filing new charges related to the pair’s alleged defrauding of pharmaceutical company Retrophin Inc., where Mr. Shkreli was previously chief executive. (Matthews, 5/3)

The Associated Press: Prince's Death: The View From Front Lines Of Drug Epidemic
On the front lines of America's fight against a drug-abuse epidemic, there have been emotional, sometimes contradictory reactions to news that investigators are looking into whether Prince died of an overdose. Those engaged in the fight say a celebrity's death can help raise awareness of the problems yet also overshadow the other victims dying by the hundreds every week. Others suggest the attention to celebrity deaths is transitory and has limited impact. (5/3)

NPR: Getting High From This Drug For Diarrhea Can Be Fatal
Some people addicted to oxycodone and other opioids are now turning to widely available diarrhea medications to manage their withdrawal symptoms or get high. The results can be dangerous to the heart — and sometimes fatal — warn toxicologists in a study recently published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The researchers describe two case studies where people who were addicted to opioids tried to ease their withdrawal symptoms by taking many times the recommended dose of loperamide, a drug commonly used treat diarrhea. Both patients died. (Kodjak, 5/3)

The Washington Post: Pondering ‘What It Means To Be Human’ On The Frontier Of Gene Editing
People in pain write to Jennifer Doudna. They have a congenital illness. Or they have a sick child. Or they carry the gene for Huntington’s disease or some other dreadful time bomb wired through every cell in their body. They know that Doudna helped invent an extraordinary new gene-editing technology, known as CRISPR. But they don’t all seek her help. One woman, the mother of a child with Down syndrome, explained: “I love my child and wouldn’t change him. There’s something about him that’s so special. He’s so loving in a way that’s unique to him. I wouldn’t change it.” The scientist tears up telling this story. “It makes you think hard about what it means to be human, doesn’t it?” she says. (Achenbach, 5/3)

NPR: An Online Program May Help Prevent Depression In Some People
Working through a self-help program online can prevent or delay major depression disorder in people who are vulnerable, a study finds. Similar programs have been used to treat depression, but this may be the first one tested to prevent it, the researchers say. Online programs for mental health problems can be as effective as face-to-face treatment and offer some advantages: Low cost, available at any time and customizable. But they're not panaceas. (Du, 5/3)

The Associated Press: Jimmy Carter’s Cancer Treatment Inspires New Georgia Law
Georgia’s governor has signed a bill inspired by former President Jimmy Carter’s cancer treatment. The measure signed Tuesday by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal prevents insurance companies from limiting coverage of drugs for stage four cancer patients. Supporters of the bill say patients sometimes cannot get certain drugs unless they first try other treatment options. Carter, now 91, announced in August that he had been diagnosed with skin cancer that had spread to his brain and would begin receiving doses of Keytruda. The newly approved drug helps the immune system seek out cancer cells appearing in a patient’s body. (5/3)

The Associated Press: Dozens Escaped From Mental Hospital Since 2013
When a man accused of torturing a woman to death broke out of Washington state's largest mental hospital with another patient in early April, officials called it a rare occurrence and cited only two other escapes in the past seven years. But a review of police reports and interviews by The Associated Press reveal 185 instances in which patients escaped or walked away over just the past 3 1/2 years or so. (5/3)

Reuters: New York City To Pay U.S. $4.3 Million In Medicare Fraud Case
New York City agreed to pay the U.S. government $4.3 million to settle a civil fraud lawsuit accusing the city's fire department of accepting tens of thousands of improper Medicare reimbursements for emergency ambulance services. The accord signed on Tuesday resolves claims that the city cheated the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services out of millions of dollars from October 2008 to October 2012 by submitting claims for services that were not medically necessary, violating the federal False Claims Act. (5/3)

The Washington Post: D.C. Launches Lead-Testing Blitz Of Water Sources At Schools, Recreation Centers
In the current academic year, 17 water sources at 12 D.C. public schools tested positive for elevated lead levels. And in recent weeks, the school system has come under fire for not communicating to parents when their children’s school tested positive for the elevated levels. Now, the District says it is responding with more lead testing out of an “abundance of caution” and vows to be upfront about any elevated levels. (Stein, 5/3)

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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