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KHN First Edition: May 12, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, May 12, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: ‘Walking Wounded’ Share Jarring Stories For No-Smoking Campaign
Jocelyn Wiener, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "Felicita Soto remembers finding blood in the oddest places. On her pillow in the morning. In her sandwich after she took a bite. Once, a coworker whispered with disgust: “Felicita, you’re bleeding.” Soto felt mortified. She’d recently kicked a smoking habit she’d had since age 12. But it was too late for her teeth. Eventually, she found herself in a dentist’s chair, getting 23 extracted at once. ... Soto is one of a handful of former smokers sharing stories as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national Tips from Former Smokers campaign. Personal stories like Soto’s — emotional and sometimes jarring — run on television, radio, online and in print around the country. And they are intended to resonate with the nation’s major ethnic groups." (Wiener, 5/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Aetna Not Withdrawing From Any Health-Law Insurance-Exchange States
Aetna Inc. expects to continue selling Affordable Care Act exchange plans in 15 states, and the insurer said it may expand into new areas. The announcement adds to the mixed picture that the industry has been providing about companies’ willingness to stick it out on the exchanges, which have generated red ink for many insurers. Insurers’ moves on the exchanges are being closely watched after UnitedHealth Group Inc. said last month that it would withdraw from all but a handful of the 34 states where it is offering the marketplace plans, amid continued losses. ... But other big insurers have struck a guardedly optimistic tone. (Wilde Mathews and Armour, 5/11)

Reuters: Aetna Plans To Remain In Obamacare Markets, May Expand
Health Insurer Aetna Inc on Wednesday said it plans to continue its Obamacare health insurance business next year in the 15 states where it now participates, and may expand to a few additional states. "We have submitted rates in all 15 states where we are participating and have no plans at this point to withdraw from any of them," said company spokesman Walt Cherniak. But he noted that a final determination would hinge on binding agreements being signed with the states in September. (Pierson, 5/11)

The New York Times: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction at ‘Ground Zero’ for Opioids
The doctors wanted to talk about illness, but the patients — often miners, waitresses, tree cutters and others whose jobs were punishingly physical — wanted to talk only about how much they hurt. They kept pleading for opioids like Vicodin and Percocet, the potent drugs that can help chronic pain, but have fueled an epidemic of addiction and deadly overdoses. “We needed to talk about congestive heart failure or diabetes or out-of-control hypertension,” said Dr. Sarah Chouinard, the chief medical officer at Community Care of West Virginia, which runs primary care clinics across a big rural chunk of this state. “But we struggled over the course of a visit to get patients to focus on any of those.” Worse, she said, some of the organization’s doctors were prescribing too many opioids, often to people they had grown up with in the small towns where they practiced and whom they were reluctant to deny. (Goodnough, 5/11)

Reuters: House Passes Bill To Aid Children Born Into Opioid Dependency
The House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation to improve safety planning for children who are born dependent on opioid drugs. A similar bill is pending in the Senate. It is one of more than a dozen new measures that are aimed at addressing a U.S. epidemic of addiction to pain pills and cheap heroin. (5/11)

The Associated Press: Judge Unseals Records Of OxyContin Lawsuit In Kentucky
A judge has unsealed records from a Kentucky lawsuit against the maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, including the secret testimony of a former company president. Pike Circuit Court Judge Steven Combs ordered the records be released in 32 days. But Combs said he would delay his order if Purdue Pharma appealed the decision. Richard Silbert, the company’s chief litigation counsel, confirmed it would appeal. He declined further comment. (Beam, 5/11)

Los Angeles Times: Maker Of Painkiller OxyContin Loses Legal Battle To Keep Lawsuit Records Secret
Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, lost a legal battle Wednesday to keep records and testimony about its bestselling and widely abused painkiller secret. A judge in Pike County, Kentucky, a region hard-hit by prescription painkiller abuse, granted a motion by a news outlet to unseal records from a lawsuit by the state accusing the company of fraud, conspiracy and negligence in the development and marketing of the drug. Purdue settled that suit in December for $24 million without any admission of wrongdoing. (Kim and Ryan, 5/11)

NPR: When Time Behind Bars Cuts Addiction Treatment Short
Michael Burghardt couldn't sleep. His legs were shaking, his bones ached and he couldn't stop throwing up. Burghardt was in the Valley Street Jail in Manchester, N.H. This was his 11th stay at the jail in the last 12 years. ... Burghardt, 32, has been taking methadone for 10 years to help his recovery from heroin addiction. Each time he's been in the jail, he says, he hasn't been able to continue with the medication-assisted treatment. He hasn't been able to taper off the medicine either, which means he's had to go straight into detox. Four times after he was released from jail, Burghardt says, he relapsed and started using heroin again. (Corwin, 5/11)

The New York Times: Valeant Promised Price Breaks On Drugs. Heart Hospitals Are Still Waiting.
The Cleveland Clinic is widely seen as the top heart hospital in the country, so when Valeant Pharmaceuticals International pledged to Congress that it would offer hospitals breaks of as much as 30 percent on two of its expensive heart drugs, officials at the hospital figured they would hear from the company soon. “I think we definitely would be among the top users,” said Scott Knoer, the chief pharmacy officer at the Cleveland Clinic. The two drugs, Nitropress and Isuprel, are commonly used to treat heart patients, and their prices shot up last year after Valeant acquired them. The clinic spent more than $5.3 million on the two drugs in 2015. “I would assume we would be on that list.” Instead, there has been silence. (Thomas, 5/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Pricing: Get Used To The Anxiety
Worries about drug pricing aren’t new for investors. But Wednesday brought another reminder that the pressure is real. The health insurer Cignaid Wednesday it reached “value-based” contracts to cover Praluent and Repatha, two drugs that help lower cholesterol. The drugs, introduced last year by Amgen and Sanofi in partnership with Regeneron, are promising but pricey. Each costs at least $14,000 per year before discounts. Cigna’s contracts thus “modify the cost” based on how well patients respond to the medicines, the insurer said. (Grant, 5/11)

The New York Times: Embattled Blood Lab Theranos Makes A Bid To Regain Confidence
In the latest attempt to restore confidence in its business, the embattled Silicon Valley blood-testing company Theranos is replacing its chief operating officer and expanding its board, including the addition of a former senior Amgen executive. Theranos attracted the media spotlight with its claim of revolutionizing the laboratory business, offering simplified blood tests at a fraction of the cost of conventional methods. But the company, once valued at $9 billion, now faces growing skepticism over its technology and is under criminal investigation and intense regulatory scrutiny. (Abelson, 5/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Executive Sunny Balwani To Depart Amid Regulatory Probes
A top executive who helped build Theranos Inc. into a major blood-testing laboratory is leaving the company amid regulatory probes of the embattled Silicon Valley firm. The departure of Sunny Balwani as Theranos president and chief operating officer comes amid a broader board reorganization announced by the Palo Alto, Calif., firm. In a release late Wednesday, Theranos said it is expanding its board, adding three members to beef up its scientific and medical expertise. (Carreyrou, 5/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Experts Decry Tying Medical Research Funds To FDA Standards Changes
Moves in Congress to link billions of dollars in new medical research funding to revised standards for drug and medical-device approvals are troubling some public-health experts, who say the combination makes it too easy for lawmakers to support lower patient-safety standards. These safety advocates say legislation to beef up research funding for the National Institutes of Health should be separated from product-approval changes at the Food and Drug Administration. (Burton, 5/12)

Politico: Anti-Abortion Groups Moving — Reluctantly — Toward Trump
Anti-abortion groups that steadfastly opposed Donald Trump are coming around — though not with great enthusiasm. The thawing of relations comes as the Trump camp has made moves that anti-abortion leaders view as potentially promising that he will champion their causes if he becomes president. On Tuesday evening, the presumptive GOP nominee pledged to appoint “pro-life” judges, his clearest and most prominent effort to date to tap into one of the highest priorities of anti-abortion voters. (Haberkorn, 5/11)

The Associated Press: Federal Judge Rules In Favor Of Missouri Planned Parenthood
A federal judge on Wednesday ruled in favor of a Columbia, Missouri, Planned Parenthood clinic after the state last year tried to revoke its abortion license, a move the judge found likely was due in part to “political pressure.” U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey in a Wednesday ruling said the Department of Health and Senior Services treated the clinic “more harshly” than other ambulatory surgical centers. (Ballentine, 5/12)

The Associated Press: Kansas Again Delays Medicaid Cutoff For Planned Parenthood
Kansas has delayed cutting off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood a second time and postponed its action against the abortion provider until June 7. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri spokeswoman Bonyen Lee-Gilmore said Wednesday that the state sought another extension to prepare for the first hearing in a federal lawsuit challenging the cutoff and that the delays are sign of how the state's decision is "all political." (5/11)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Sues Over Ohio Law That Strips Funding
Planned Parenthood sued Ohio's health department on Wednesday, saying thousands of patients could be denied access to HIV tests, cancer screenings and other services under a law designed to strip public money away from the organization's affiliates in the state. The law targets the roughly $1.3 million in funding that Planned Parenthood gets through Ohio's health department. That money, which is mostly federal, supports certain health education and prevention programs. The state's law would bar such funds from going to entities that perform or promote abortions. (5/11)

The Associated Press: When Zika Hits, A Push For Birth Control And Abortion?
There's little doubt: Zika is coming to the continental United States, bringing frightening birth defects — and, most likely, newly urgent discussions about abortion and contraception. Fearful they might bear children who suffer from brain-damaging birth defects caused by Zika, more women are expected to look for ways to prevent or end pregnancies. But the highest risk of Zika spreading is in Southern states where long-lasting birth control and abortions are harder to procure, and where a mosquito that transmits the virus already is plentiful. (5/11)

The New York Times: Learning From The Lazarus Effect
For years, Grace Silva had experienced odd episodes with her throat — bouts of swelling and radiating pain that seemed to resolve with antibiotics — but her doctors couldn’t explain what was wrong. Finally, after a flare-up in the summer of 2010, Grace was referred to a specialist, an ear doctor who felt something amiss on the left side of her throat: a lump. The Silva family agreed that it was time to get Grace, then 54, to a thyroid specialist. Grace’s daughter Melanie tracked down the name of one at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a 90-­minute drive from Grace’s brown clapboard split-­level near New Bedford, Mass. In September 2010, the specialist delivered the diagnosis: anaplastic thyroid cancer. It was bad, he warned her, and she would need surgery. (Cook, 5/12)

The New York Times: An Old Idea, Revived: Starve Cancer To Death
The story of modern cancer research begins, somewhat improbably, with the sea urchin. In the first decade of the 20th century, the German biologist Theodor Boveri discovered that if he fertilized sea-urchin eggs with two sperm rather than one, some of the cells would end up with the wrong number of chromosomes and fail to develop properly. It was the era before modern genetics, but Boveri was aware that cancer cells, like the deformed sea urchin cells, had abnormal chromosomes; whatever caused cancer, he surmised, had something to do with chromosomes. (Apple, 5/12)

The New York Times: The Sisters Who Treat The Untreatable
At the beginning of the 20th century, sick Americans typically died at home. By the middle of it, they mostly died in hospitals. And yet this great transformation in the geography of death was, at first, of little interest to medical providers: In the 1960s, some doctors routinely chose not to inform terminal patients of their fate. Studies found hospitals stashing dying people at the ends of halls and largely ignoring them. Medicine, it was said, was about healing people. It had nothing to offer the already dying. That began to change with the broad acceptance of hospice, which spread in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s and turned the innovations of modern medicine toward helping those whose cures were beyond its reach. The physician Dame Cicely Saunders founded the first modern clinic in London; the term “hospice” had first been used by old sanctuaries for weary travelers. (Jarvis and photos by Laub, 5/12)

The Associated Press: Parents Turn To Doctors, Lawmakers To Save School Recess
When parents tell Dr. Gregory Fox their boisterous child was stuck in a classroom all day, the Rhode Island pediatrician takes out his notepad and writes a doctor's order to send to school. "Please do not take away this child's recess," Fox writes. So many kids are being deprived of unstructured play time during the school day that a note from the doctor is one way parents around the country have gone over the heads of principals and teachers who can't find time in the school day for recess. (5/11)

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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