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KHN First Edition: May 27, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Friday, May 27, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

NOTE TO READERS: KHN's First Edition will not be published May 30. Look for it again in your inbox May 31. Here's today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Blue Shield ‘Lifts The Veil’ On Executive Pay
Kaiser Health News' Chad Terhune reports: "In its first detailed disclosure on executive pay, nonprofit Blue Shield of California said Chief Executive Paul Markovich made $3.5 million last year – a 40 percent increase since he took the top job in 2013. The San Francisco-based health insurer has faced criticism for years from consumer advocates about its lack of transparency on executive compensation, and the issue attracted even more scrutiny after a state audit raised questions about the insurer’s big pay increases and large financial reserves. Following that audit, in 2014, California revoked Blue Shield’s state tax exemption, which it had held since its founding in 1939." (Terhune, 5/26)

Kaiser Health News: Va. Insurer’s Decision To Drop Bronze Plans Prompts Concerns
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "News that a CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield subsidiary will stop selling bronze level plans on the Virginia marketplace next year prompted some speculation that it could signal a developing movement by insurers to drop that level of coverage altogether. The reality may be more complicated and interesting, some experts said, based on an analysis of plan data. Bronze plans provide the least generous coverage of the four metal tiers offered on the insurance marketplaces, paying 60 percent of benefits on average, compared to 70 percent for silver plans, which are far more popular. During the 2016 open enrollment period, 23 percent of marketplace customers signed up for a bronze plan, compared with 68 percent who chose silver, 6 percent who picked gold and 2 percent who chose a platinum plan." (Andrews, 5/27)

The New York Times: Infection Raises Specter Of Superbugs Resistant To All Antibiotics
American military researchers have identified the first patient in the United States to be infected with bacteria that are resistant to an antibiotic that was the last resort against drug-resistant germs. The patient is well now, but the case raises the specter of superbugs that could cause untreatable infections, because the bacteria can easily transmit their resistance to other germs that are already resistant to additional antibiotics. The resistance can spread because it arises from loose genetic material that bacteria typically share with one another. (Tavernise and Grady, 5/26)

The Washington Post: The Superbug That Doctors Have Been Dreading Just Reached The U.S.
For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotic of last resort, an alarming development that the top U.S. public health official says could signal "the end of the road" for antibiotics. The antibiotic-resistant strain was found last month in the urine of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. Defense Department researchers determined that she carried a strain of E. coli resistant to the antibiotic colistin, according to a study published Thursday in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. The authors wrote that the discovery "heralds the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria." (Sun and Dennis, 5/26)

The Associated Press: FDA Approves First Drug-Oozing Implant To Control Addiction
Federal health officials on Thursday approved an innovative new option for Americans struggling with addiction to heroin and painkillers: a drug-oozing implant that curbs craving and withdrawal symptoms for six months at a time. The first-of-a-kind device, Probuphine, arrives as communities across the U.S. grapple with a wave of addiction tied to opioids, highly-addictive drugs that include legal pain medications like OxyContin and illegal narcotics like heroin. Roughly 2.5 million Americans suffer from addiction disorders related to the drugs, according to federal estimates. (5/26)

The Washington Post: FDA Approves New Way To Treat Opioid Addiction – Under The Skin
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the first implantable drug to deliver long-lasting medication to people addicted to opioids such as OxyContin and heroin. "Opioid abuse and addiction have taken a devastating toll on American families," FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in a news release. "Today's approval provides the first-ever implantable option to support patients' efforts to maintain treatment as part of their overall recovery program." The implant, which has four matchstick-size rods that are inserted under the skin of the upper arm, administers the anti-addiction drug buprenorphine in a continuous dose for six months. That medication is available now only as a daily pill or a thin film that dissolves under the tongue. The implant, called Probuphine, is intended for people who are already stable on low doses of the drug. (McGinley, 5/26)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Approves New Arm Implant To Treat Opioid Dependence
Behshad Sheldon, chief executive of the implant’s marketer, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, said Probuphine would cost less than $6,000 for a six-month supply. She declined to be more specific. Titan Pharmaceuticals Inc. co-developed the device with Braeburn, and will receive royalties on sales. Buprenorphine is already available in tablet form, or as films that dissolve in the mouth, but addicts sometimes run out of doses, or skip them and use illegal narcotics instead. Some also sell their buprenorphine to other addicts. The implant makes this behavior impossible, and so has won support from some addiction experts. (Whalen, 5/26)

The Associated Press: House-Senate Talks Begin On Obama’s Zika Funding Request.
The GOP-controlled House has moved to officially begin talks on legislation to fund the fight against the Zika virus, but lawmakers immediately left town for the Memorial Day recess with no visible progress toward a compromise. The chamber adopted a procedural motion to begin a House-Senate conference panel on a Senate measure that combines $1.1 billion to fight Zika with broader spending bills for transportation, housing and veterans. (Taylor, 5/26)

The Associated Press: CDC Urges Speed On Zika As House Moves To Negotiate Funding
The U.S. must act more quickly to protect pregnant women from birth defect-causing Zika, a top health official said Thursday even as the House left town for its Memorial Day recess with no visible progress toward a congressional compromise on emergency funding to battle the virus."In a public health emergency, speed is critical. A day, a week, a month can make all of the difference," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the National Press Club. (5/26)

NPR: To Kill Mosquitoes That Spread Zika, Strike Before They Fly
In the marshy woods of Secaucus, N.J., a mosquito can make a happy home. With water and shade under a canopy of maple trees, you could barely ask for more to start your own bloodsucking family. For Gary Cardini, though, this is a battleground. "You want to get them in the water before they're flying," explains Cardini, who supervises the field team for Hudson County Mosquito Control. "In the water, they're captive. You know where they are." (Lo Wang, 5/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Rejected Joint Takeover Approach From Takeda, TPG
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. received a joint takeover approach this spring from Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and private-equity firm TPG that the beleaguered drugmaker rejected, according to people familiar with the matter. The approach came a month or two ago, before Valeant named Joseph Papa as its new chief executive, and didn’t include a firm price, the people said, adding that there are no current talks. The board is seeking to give Mr. Papa, who was hired in late April, time to chart a course for the company, the people said. (Benoit, Mattioli and Rockoff, 5/26)

Thomson Reuters Foundation: U.S. Women Get Creative In Fighting Abortion Stigma
For Amelia Bonow, having an abortion left her relieved that she was not forced to become a mother but, still, she kept her story mostly to herself. Amid a nationwide wave of political vitriol about abortion and the realization that she and her friends had long kept their abortions secret, however, she reached a tipping point and broke her Omerta-like silence. "Hi guys! Like a year ago I had an abortion," she posted on Facebook last fall. Once a friend shared the post on Twitter, the deshaming campaign #ShoutYourAbortion was unleashed. (Malo, 5/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Cellphone-Cancer Link Found In Government Study
A major U.S. government study on rats has found a link between cellphones and cancer, an explosive finding in the long-running debate about whether mobile phones cause health effects. The multiyear, peer-reviewed study, by the National Toxicology Program, found “low incidences” of two types of tumors in male rats that were exposed to the type of radio frequencies that are commonly emitted by cellphones. The tumors were gliomas, which are in the glial cells of the brain, and schwannomas of the heart. (Knutson, 5/27)

The Associated Press: Report: Police Departments Need Mental Health Programs
A U.S. Justice Department report prompted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre urges police chiefs around the country to put mental health programs in place in to help officers cope with on-the-job trauma, including the aftermath of mass shootings. The report, offered as a best practices guide, was prepared with help from officials including retired Newtown police chief Michael Kehoe, who led the response to the 2012 school shooting and worried over the following weeks that some of his officers might kill themselves. (Collins, 5/26)

The Associated Press: New York Makes It Easier To Sign Up To Be An Organ Donor
A new law in New York state aims to make it easier to sign up to be an organ or tissue donor. The measure, signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will ask anyone signing up for coverage through the state's health insurance exchange if they'd like to register as a donor. Currently, only one in four eligible New Yorkers is registered. That's the second lowest participation rate in the nation. (5/26)

The Associated Press: Medicaid Officials Surprised By Budget Language
State Medicaid officials say they opposed Medicaid language temporarily inserted in the 2013 budget that could have benefited a client of [Alabama] House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar testified Thursday that Medicaid officials were caught off guard by language added in the House setting requirements for any pharmacy benefit manager the state might hire. Former State Health Officer Don Williamson testified that he was "surprised" when he learned Hubbard had a consulting contract with the only company that would qualify for the work. Williamson said Hubbard agreed to remove the language when Medicaid officials raised concerns. (5/26)

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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