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KHN First Edition: May 19, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, May 19, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Inspectors Find Calif. Hospital's Pharmacy Posed Infection Risk
Kaiser Health News staff writer Chad Terhune reports: "More than 7,300 patients at a San Diego-area hospital may have been exposed to infection from contaminated medications last year, state records show. The problems were traced to the compounding pharmacy lab at Paradise Valley Hospital in National City, California, where inspectors found “dust, stains and foreign material” in a supposedly sterile environment in which thousands of intravenous medications were prepared over eight months — from Jan. 1 to Aug. 18. During their investigation into the pharmacy, California health inspectors found that oversight of infection control was lacking throughout the hospital, according to documents obtained by a reporter through the California Public Records Act." (Terhune, 5/19)

Kaiser Health News: Rushing To Move Excluded Immigrants Into Obamacare — Before Obama Exits
CALmatters' Pauline Bartolone, in partnershipt with Kaiser Health News, reports: "California state legislators and advocates are racing to get federal approval in the waning months of the Obama administration for a proposal to allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally onto the California insurance exchange. Fearful that a new administration will torpedo their plans, they are working hard to win legislative support in California and clear other hurdles at the state and federal level. California state Sen. Ricardo Lara is carrying a bill to allow people living in the country illegally to purchase health insurance — on their own dime — through the state exchange." (Bartolone, 5/19)

Kaiser Health News: Georgia Women Weigh Zika Risks As Mosquito Season Arrives
WABE's Michell Eloy, in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: “'Careful' describes the approach many women in the South say they’re taking as mosquito season starts up in the region. The CDC has linked Zika to microcephaly, a birth defect where babies are born with smaller heads and smaller brains that don’t develop properly. The World Health Organization says as of the middle of May 2016, more than 1,300 cases of microcephaly and other neurological disorders believed to be Zika-related had been reported from nine countries, including the U.S. Georgia has seen 13 Zika cases so far, all of them in people who have traveled to one of the 55 countries where the WHO says Zika is active. None of the cases were in pregnant women." (Eloy, 5/19)

The Associated Press: House Passes $622 Million Bill To Fight Zika
House Republicans on Wednesday pushed through a $622 million bill to battle the Zika virus, setting up challenging negotiations with the Senate and the White House. The 241-184 House vote broke mostly along party lines as Democrats lined up in opposition, heeding a White House veto threat and a warning from a top government health official that the bill wouldn’t do enough to respond to the growing threat from Zika. “It’s just not enough,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said of the House measure. (5/19)

The Associated Press: Tricky Talks Ahead On Measures To Battle Zika
Democrats and the White House have been hammering at Republicans for dragging their feet on Zika, but the political tempest in Washington hasn't been matched by fear among the public, at least according to recent polling. GOP leaders see a political imperative to act as the summer mosquito season heats up. The House bill, however, provides one-third of the request and limits the use of the money to the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30. It cuts funds provided in 2014 to fight Ebola to help offset the additional Zika money. (5/19)

Politico: Ebola Czar: America Failing On Zika
The man who led the successful White House response to the Ebola outbreak says the Zika virus is a slow-motion public health disaster — and Congress is to blame. Ron Klain, who served as White House Ebola czar and as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, told POLITICO's “Pulse Check” podcast that Congress has failed to heed the lessons of the Ebola epidemic and that the Zika funding battle has become unforgivably partisan in the face of such dire human costs, including severe brain defects in infants. “The babies being born are neither Democrats or Republicans,” he said. “They're babies.” (Diamond, 5/18)

The New York Times: Actions By Congress On Opioids Haven’t Included Limiting Them
Ed White has had a devilish time getting his painkiller prescription filled for intense back pain since a federal crackdown on opioid sales battened down the pharmacy shelves at the Walgreens near his home in Port Richey, Fla. Across the state in Fort Lauderdale, Maureen Kielian just put her son into a residential treatment facility to try to break his life-threatening opioid addiction. To suggest that the federal authorities have been too aggressive amid an opioid epidemic killing 29,000 people a year is absurd, she said. Faced with these competing stories, Congress has whipsawed between ensuring access to narcotic painkillers for people like Mr. White and addressing the addiction epidemic linked to those drugs. (Harris and Huetteman, 5/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Voids Two Years Of Edison Blood-Test Results
Theranos Inc. has told federal health regulators that the company voided two years of results from its Edison blood-testing devices, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Edison machines were touted as revolutionary and were the main basis for the $9 billion valuation attained by the Palo Alto, Calif., company in a funding round in 2014. But Theranos has now told regulators that it threw out all Edison test results from 2014 and 2015. The company has told the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that it has issued tens of thousands of corrected blood-test reports to doctors and patients, voiding some results and revising others, according to the person familiar with the matter. (Carreyrou, 5/18)

The New York Times: A Supreme Court Not So Much Deadlocked As Diminished
The Supreme Court has gone into hibernation, withdrawing from the central role it has played in American life throughout Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s decade on the court. The court had leaned right until the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. According to the conventional wisdom, the court is now evenly divided and large numbers of 4-to-4 ties are inevitable. But the truth is more complicated. The court is not deadlocked so much as diminished. The justices will continue to issue decisions in most cases, but many will be modest and ephemeral, like Monday’s opinion returning a major case on access to contraception to the lower courts for further consideration. (Liptak, 5/18)

The Associated Press: Premium Hikes Proposed By NY Health Insurers
New York health insurers have proposed premium increases averaging 17 percent for next year in the market for individuals and 12 percent for small groups. The Department of Financial Services often reduces proposed increases before approving them. Approved rates are expected in early August. The amounts posted Wednesday by the department are averages for an insurer's various plans, including those offered on the New York Health Exchange. (5/18)

Los Angeles Times: Abortion Opponents Gain Momentum As South Carolina Becomes 17th State To Enact Restrictions
South Carolina has become the latest state to restrict women’s access to abortion, with legislators passing a bill that bans women from obtaining an abortion at 20 weeks or later, even if she has been raped or is a victim of incest. ... Sixteen other states, including Alabama and Wisconsin, have passed legislation similar to South Carolina's. Most have applied the limit at 20 weeks post-fertilization (22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period), but two states – Arizona and Mississippi – have banned abortions after 18 weeks. ... Momentum has reached an unprecedented level in the last six years, as conservative legislators, predominantly in the Southeast and the Midwest, have drawn up an unprecedented number of laws that limit women’s abortion access – from tightening clinic regulations, introducing mandatory waiting periods, and placing limits on minors’ access to abortion. (Jarvie, 5/18)

The Associated Press: Ohio Officials Grapple With Planned Parenthood Restrictions
An Ohio law that strips government funding from Planned Parenthood is forcing some local health officials to scramble to find replacement providers for certain services. The law targets the more than $1 million that Planned Parenthood gets through Ohio's health department. The money, which is mostly federal, supports a variety of programs including initiatives that seek to reduce infant mortality and provide cancer screenings. The law bars such public funds from going to entities that perform or promote abortions. (5/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Amgen Researchers Discover Gene Associated With Lower Risk Of Heart Disease
Researchers from Amgen Inc.’s deCode genetics unit said they have discovered a rare genetic variation that is associated with a 34% lower-than-average risk of heart disease, potentially opening up a new front in the battle against the world’s leading killer. Carriers of the variant, in a gene called ASGR1, had substantially lower levels of harmful cholesterol, which researchers said likely accounted for a portion of the lower heart risk. Amgen is now working on several potential agents designed to mimic the effect of this genetic trait in hopes of converting discovery of a rare mutation into a drug that could have broad impact against a common disease. It expects to begin testing one of the candidates in people within two years. (Winslow and Rockoff, 5/18)

The Wall Street Journal: New Hope For Melanoma Patients
A new study reinforces the potential of a new class of expensive immune-boosting drugs to prolong the lives of people with a deadly form of skin cancer. An estimated 40% of 655 people who took Merck & Co.’s Keytruda in a clinical trial to treat advanced melanoma were still alive three years after starting treatment, the Merck-funded study shows, according to results released online by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Researchers said three-year survival rates for older melanoma treatments were about 10% to 20%. The median overall survival among patients in the study was about two years. (Loftus, 5/18)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Approves Roche Immunotherapy For Bladder Cancer
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Roche Holding AG’s Tecentriq for advanced bladder cancer, which uses the body’s immune system to fight the disease. The FDA said Tecentriq—also known as atezolizumab—is the first product in its class to get U.S. regulatory approval to treat advanced cases of a common type of bladder cancer called urothelial carcinoma. The treatment will cost about $12,500 a patient a month. The FDA also approved a diagnostic to determine which patients may be most responsive to treatment with Tecentriq from Ventana Medical Systems Inc., which is part of Roche Group. (Stynes, 5/18)

NPR: In Search For Cures, Scientists Create Embryos That Are Both Animal And Human
A handful of scientists around the United States are trying to do something that some people find disturbing: make embryos that are part human, part animal. The researchers hope these embryos, known as chimeras, could eventually help save the lives of people with a wide range of diseases. One way would be to use chimera embryos to create better animal models to study how human diseases happen and how they progress. (Stein, 5/18)

NPR: Autism Can Be An Asset In The Workplace, Employers And Workers Find
As the population of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder keeps growing, so does the number of people with that diagnosis who aren't finding employment. Though many young adults on the spectrum are considered high functioning, recent research shows 40 percent don't find work — a higher jobless rate than people with other developmental disabilities experience. Research scientist Anne Roux, of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute in Philadelphia, studies young adults with autism and was the lead author of that study. (Noguchi, 5/18)

The New York Times: H.I.V. Rates Among Gay Men Are Higher In South, Study Finds
More than a quarter of gay and bisexual men in some cities and states in the South are living with H.I.V., according to a new study — a far higher rate than in the country as a whole. The study shows how much more common H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, is among gay black men, especially in the South, as well as how little is being done to prevent its spread in a group whose members face discrimination and are less likely to have medical insurance. (McNeil, 5/18)

The Associated Press: Amid Budget Deficit, Illinois Considers Taxing Sugary Drinks
Lawmakers scrambling to find money to fix Illinois' multibillion dollar deficit are looking to sugary drinks as one potential source of revenue. Taxing distributors of sodas, energy drinks and other sugary beverages was among the revenue-generating ideas a group of lawmakers proposed to Gov. Bruce Rauner and other legislative leaders last week to try to finally end a nearly yearlong impasse that's left the state without a budget. (5/18)

USA Today/St. Lucie (Fla.) News-Tribune: Man Says He Killed Sick Wife Because He Couldn't Afford Her Medication
A Florida man killed his wife earlier this week because he said he could no longer pay for her medication, according to authorities. William Hager, 86, told the St. Lucie County sheriff’s officials that his wife of more than 50 years was in poor health and pain. He said he could no longer afford to pay for Carolyn Hager's medication, so he shot her in the head on Monday with a .32-caliber revolver as she slept. He put the gun down, drank coffee and then contacted family members and told them that he killed the 78-year-old. (Greenlee, 5/18)

NPR: Complain All You Want, But Your Busy Schedule May Help Your Brain
Single mothers, untenured professors, young reporters and on-call doctors might have a thin silver lining for their hurried days and response for the people who insist on slowing down: All that hustling may translate into superior brain power as you get older, as a study finds that the busiest people perform best on cognitive tests. Sara Festini, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas, Dallas, and her adviser, Denise Park, published the study in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience on Tuesday. They tested over 300 people between the ages of 50 and 89 on cognitive functions including memory, reasoning and mental quickness. (Chen, 5/18)

NPR: Should Pediatricians Ask Parents If They're Poor?
A single question asked at an annual checkup — whether parents have trouble making ends meet — could help pediatricians identify children at risk for serious health problems associated with poverty and the chronic levels of stress that often accompany it. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges members to ask if their patients' families are struggling financially and then commit to helping them get the resources they need to thrive. And some communities are trying to make that happen. Since almost half of young children in the United States live in poverty or near poverty, it's no small challenge. (Korry, 5/18)

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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