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KHN First Edition: June 7, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, June 07, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Study Suggests Federal Standard May Be Thwarting Some Transplant Patients
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews write: "For the roughly 15,000 people who need a liver transplant, it’s a waiting game. With demand for donated livers far outstripping supply, patients may spend months or years on a transplant waitlist, their position in the line gradually improving as they get sicker. A recent study suggests that this system may be changing but not necessarily for the better. In an effort to get or keep a good performance rating from the federal government, transplant centers have been labeling some patients “too sick to transplant” and dropping from the waitlist some who may been viable candidates, the researchers found. In addition, despite removing more sick patients from the waiting list, one-year survival rates for patients who received transplants didn't improve." (Andrews, 6/7)

Kaiser Health News: Students Fill A Gap In Mental Health Care For Immigrants
WFAE's Michael Tomsic, in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Patricia Becerril comes to Bethesda Health Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, every other week. And it's a slog. "It takes her two hours to get here," said Katherine Wilkin, a University of North Carolina at Charlotte master's student, translating for Becerril. "She takes two buses, so coming here, she's definitely devoted to getting this treatment. She comes every time." Wilkin is also Becerril's mental health counselor, and Becerril says Wilkin has helped her deal with depression." (Tomsic, 6/7)

Kaiser Health News: Senate Nixes Bill Requiring Disclosures From Disciplined Doctors
Kaiser Health News staff writer Ana B. Ibarra reports: "The state Senate this week rejected legislation that would have required medical practitioners to notify their patients if they were on probation for serious infractions. The bill’s supporters said consumers were ill-served by the Senate’s decision. “Today’s vote means that most Californians will remain in the dark when their doctor is on probation for offenses that could jeopardize their health,” said Lisa McGiffert, manager of the Safe Patient Project at Consumers Union." (Ibarra, 6/7)

Reuters: From 'Hillarycare' Debacle in 1990s, Clinton Emerged More Cautious
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich remembers the day 23 years ago when Hillary Clinton, notebook in hand, came to see him and other senior Republicans to talk about "Hillarycare." It was early 1993. Clinton, on behalf of her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, was leading a healthcare reform drive that vaulted her onto the national stage. Hillarycare would famously collapse after a fierce debate. In interviews with Reuters, some participants looked back on it as a crucible for the Democratic presidential front-runner that helped shape her approach to politics and governing. (Drawbaugh and Milliken, 6/6)

The Washington Post: Biden Unveils Launch Of Major, Open-Access Database To Advance Cancer Research
Vice President Biden on Monday announced the launch of a first-of-its kind, open-access cancer database to allow researchers to better understand the disease and develop more effective treatments. The Genomic Data Commons, a part of the National Cancer Institute, contains the raw genomic and clinical data for 12,000 patients, with more records to come as researchers contribute to it, he said. Besides detailed analyses of the molecular makeup of cancers, the database has information on which treatments were used and how patients responded. (McGinley, 6/6)

The New York Times: For His Latest Trick, John Oliver Forgives $15 Million In Medical Debt
For his latest trick, Mr. Oliver, the host of the HBO show, formed a company called Central Asset Recovery Professionals — or CARP, named after the bottom-feeding fish — and purchased $14.9 million worth of medical debt for just under $60,000. Mr. Oliver said it had cost $50 to create his company, after which he received the portfolio offering the names, current addresses and Social Security numbers of about 9,000 people. Mr. Oliver then gave the debt away, bragging that his giveaway was bigger than Ms. Winfrey’s — her car giveaway was estimated at $7 million — and completed the show by pressing a giant red button that triggered a rain shower of dollar bills. (Rogers, 6/6)

USA Today: John Oliver Buys And Forgives $15 Million Of Debt
"It is pretty clear by now (that) debt buying is a grimy business, and badly needs more oversight, because as it stands any idiot can get into it," Oliver said. "And I can prove that to you, because I'm an idiot, and we started a debt-buying company. And it was disturbingly easy." How easy? Well back in April they spent just $50 to start the company. "We called it Central Asset Recovery Professionals, or CARP, after the bottom-feeding fish." With an official company and a website at his disposal, Oliver was offered nearly $15 million of medical debt from Texas for less than half a cent on the dollar, or less than $60,000. (Lawler, 6/6)

The Washington Post: Few People Realize This Big Risk When They Go To The Hospital
More than three decades ago, emergency rooms could kick you out if doctors didn’t think you could pay. You might be suffering from a stroke, a gunshot wound or a broken spine, but if your insurance wasn’t good enough, many hospitals could slam the door in your face. This hot-potatoing of patients caused gruesome and unnecessary deaths before the practice was outlawed in 1986. Today, if you go to the hospital with an emergency, doctors pretty much have to treat you. If you have insurance, great. But even if you can’t pay, they’ll patch you up all the same. You’ll just leave the hospital with potentially crippling medical debt. Because of the health-insurance expansions under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, millions fewer Americans are likely to face that debt. (Guo, 6/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Why Many Hospitals Are Banning Flowers And Balloons
The next time you plan to bring a gift to a friend in the hospital, check the visitor policy first. Some health-care facilities are tightening restrictions on where flowers, plants, balloons and other cheery items are allowed, citing concerns about the potential for infection, among other risks. Most intensive-care units have been no-flower zones for decades. Many hospitals now have banned latex balloons out of concern for latex allergies. Now, some are extending limitations to ICU step-down units, cardiac-care units, pediatrics, labor and delivery units. (Beck, 6/6)

The New York Times: New Opioid Limits Challenge The Most Pain-Prone
If you’ve come to rely on opioids for chronic pain, as a growing proportion of older adults has, you may have noticed that the drugs are becoming more difficult to get. Something had to be done, surely: More than 165,000 people died from overdoses from 1999 to 2014. But recent restrictions on access to these painkillers are likely to disproportionately affect the elderly — despite the fact that abuse and misuse of these painkillers have historically been lower among older patients than younger ones. (Span, 6/6)

The Associated Press: New Synthetic Drug U-47700 Has States Rushing To Stop Spread
A new synthetic drug that can be purchased online and is connected to at least 50 deaths nationwide has several states scrambling to stop its spread, with Kansas law enforcement agencies seeking an emergency ban. At least three other states — Ohio, Wyoming and Georgia — already have taken action to ban U-47700 after it was connected to overdoses. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said that the agency is studying the opioid but hasn't yet moved to control it. (6/6)

The Washington Post: Behind The Scenes Of A U.S. Superbug Discovery That Made Headlines Around The World
Microbiologist Patrick McGann knew he had identified a dangerous germ. He just didn’t know how dangerous. In mid-May, a colleague had found a strain of E. coli bacteria from a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman that tested positive for resistance to a drug called colistin. That’s the antibiotic used when all others fail. McGann, whose job is to prevent outbreaks of new pathogens in the U.S. military’s sprawling health-care system, wasn’t yet alarmed. Sometimes mutations occur spontaneously that make bacteria resistant to an antibiotic. It would be a completely different problem, though, if the bacteria turned out to carry a certain ­colistin-resistant gene called mcr-1. (Sun, 6/6)

The Washington Post: The Sobering Thing Doctors Do When They Die
In "How Doctors Die," a powerful essay that went viral in 2011, a physician described how his colleagues meet the end: They go gently. At the end of life, they avoid the mistakes — the intensive, invasive, last-ditch, expensive and ultimately futile procedures that many Americans endure until their very last breath. "Of course, doctors don’t want to die; they want to live. But they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits," Ken Murray wrote. A new study reveals a sobering truth: Doctors die just like the rest of us. (Johnson, 6/6)

The Associated Press: Pfizer's Opioid Painkiller Can Be Manipulated For Abuse: FDA
Pfizer Inc's experimental long-acting opioid painkiller has some abuse-resistant properties but addicts can still extract oxycodone from the drug using certain solvents, a preliminary review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded on Monday. Pfizer is seeking approval to claim the drug, whose proposed trade name is Troxyca ER, deters abuse. It wants to market the drug for patients with pain severe enough to require around-the-clock treatment for whom other drugs are not enough. (Grover, 6/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Sarepta Shares Climb As FDA Requests Additional Information On Experimental Drug
Shares of Sarepta Therapeutics Inc. rose sharply late Monday after the drugmaker said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had requested additional information on the company’s experimental treatment for muscular dystrophy. Shares jumped 31% after hours to $21.05. Last month, the FDA, the government agency charged with approving new medicines, said it was delaying its decision on the drug, eteplirsen, stirring expectations that the agency could approve the treatment despite the recommendation by an advisory panel that the treatment be rejected. (Minaya, 6/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Alexion Drug Misses Goal In Neuromuscular Disease Study
A late-stage study of Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s Soliris drug to treat a rare neuromuscular disease didn’t meet its primary goal, the company said. In the study of patients with refractory generalized myasthenia gravis, which causes muscle weakness throughout the body, the primary endpoint was related to a patient-reported assessment of activities of daily living. Alexion said that as of week 26, any improvement seen in the assessment wasn’t statistically significant. (Beckerman, 6/6)

Reuters: Genentech, OSI to Pay $67 Million Over Drug Claims: U.S. Justice Dept
Pharmaceutical companies Genentech and OSI Pharmaceuticals LLC will pay $67 million to resolve allegations they made misleading statements about the effectiveness of lung cancer drug Tarceva, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday. The claims alleged that between 2006 and 2011, the companies misrepresented the effectiveness of Tarceva to physicians and other healthcare providers to treat certain patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the department said in a statement. (Beech and Medhor, 6/6)

The Associated Press: Pharma Exec Shkreli Pleads Not Guilty To Securities Fraud
A pharmaceutical executive who came under fire for jacking up the price of a lifesaving malaria medication has pleaded not guilty to new charges in his securities fraud case. Martin Shkreli appeared Monday in federal court in New York City. He declined to speak to reporters as he left the courthouse. A revised indictment filed last week alleged Shkreli and his former attorney Evan Greebel schemed to defrauded potential investors of his former drug company Retrophin Inc., based in San Diego. Greebel also pleaded not guilty Monday. (6/6)

The Washington Post: Martin Shkreli Pleads Not Guilty To New Conspiracy Charge
Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli pleaded not guilty Monday to a new conspiracy charge filed by Brooklyn federal prosecutors. Last week, prosecutors added an eighth criminal count against Mr. Shkreli, who was arrested last December and accused of plotting with his former lawyer to defraud pharmaceutical company Retrophin Inc., in an attempt to cover losses suffered by investors in Mr. Shkreli’s hedge funds. At the time, Mr. Shkreli was the chief executive at Retrophin. (Hong, 6/6)

Reuters: Medtronic Expects Revenue From Surgical Robot In Fiscal 2019
Medtronic Plc, the world's largest standalone medical device maker, said on Monday it expects a robotic surgical system it is developing to make a meaningful contribution to company revenue beginning in fiscal 2019. Medtronic will launch the surgical robot before the 2019 fiscal year, with the first systems to roll out in India, said Bryan Hanson, head of the minimally invasive therapies group. The robot will generate "material revenue" in fiscal 2019, Hanson said in the company's investor day presentation. (Kelly, 6/6)

NPR: Febrile Seizures After Childhood Vaccines Are Rare, Study Finds
A seizure caused by a fever in a young child can be terrifying, and some parents worry that the occasional fever that can follow a vaccine may cause one. But febrile seizures after vaccines are rare, a study finds, affecting 3 children out of 10,000. And children almost always recover completely. The study, published Monday in Pediatrics, found that only a few vaccines or vaccine combinations increase the risk of febrile seizures. The pneumococcal vaccine given alone increases the risk, and so does the flu vaccine if given at the same time as either the pneumococcal vaccine or DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccine. (Haelle, 6/6)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Seeks To Block Medicaid Cutoff In Kansas
Planned Parenthood attorneys are asking a federal judge to prevent Kansas from cutting off Medicaid funding for the organization, arguing that the state is attempting to punish its affiliates for providing abortions. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson was having a hearing Tuesday in a lawsuit filed last month by two Planned Parenthood affiliates against the state health department's top administrator. The agency plans to cut off funding July 7 for services such as health exams and cancer screenings provided to poor Kansas residents whose health coverage is provided by the state's Medicaid program. (6/7)

The New York Times: New York Attorney General Seeks To Halt Sale Of 2 Nursing Homes Amid Inquiries
Citing misrepresentations and broken promises, the New York State attorney general’s office is seeking to prevent the purchase of two nursing centers by a company that was involved in transactions that put a Manhattan nursing home in the hands of luxury condominium developers. In letters sent on Monday to lawyers representing nursing care providers in Harlem and Coney Island, Brooklyn, an official from the charities bureau of the attorney general said that the office was objecting to “any proposed sales of not-for-profit organizations, in particular nursing homes, to the Allure Group.” (Goodman, 6/6)

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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