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KHN First Edition: July 6, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, July 06, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Unintended Consequence: Blood Banks Could Feel The Squeeze From Zika Advisories
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "Enhancing mosquito control. Encouraging safe sex. Advising people to minimize travel to infected areas. As public health officials hustle to implement strategies like these to undermine the threat of the Zika virus, one such tactic could exacerbate a different health concern: maintaining the nation’s supply of donated blood. The Food and Drug Administration is encouraging blood banks -- which already often struggle to meet demand -- to turn away potential donors who might be at risk. Specifically, people who have traveled to a country where the disease is being spread, or had sex with someone else who did, should not donate for four weeks. The protocol is being followed by clinics across the country." (Luthra, 7/6)

Kaiser Health News: If You Want To Spend A Bundle On Your Bundle Of Joy, Go To Northern California
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "Everyone knows that real estate is no bargain in Northern California. It turns out that giving birth ain’t cheap either. New research on the cost of childbirth in the nation’s 30 largest metropolitan areas ranks Sacramento and San Francisco as the two most expensive for both vaginal delivery and Cesarean sections. Sacramento is No. 1, San Francisco No. 2." (Gold, 7/6)

The New York Times: Court Strikes Down Obama Health Care Rule On Insurance Standards
A federal appeals court has ruled that consumers must be allowed to buy certain types of health insurance that do not meet the stringent standards of the Affordable Care Act, deciding that the administration had gone beyond the terms of federal law. The court struck down a rule issued by the Obama administration that barred the sale of such insurance as a separate stand-alone product. (Pear, 7/5)

The Associated Press: Report: VA Health Care Still Has 'Profound Deficiencies'
Two years after a scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs still has "profound deficiencies" in delivering health care to millions of veterans, a congressional commission says in a new report. The Commission on Care says in a report to be released Wednesday that the VA delivers high-quality health care but is inconsistent from one site to the next, and problems with access remain. (7/6)

USA Today/The Arizona Republic: VA Panel Calls For Broader Health Care Choices For Vets
An independent commission assigned to come up with reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs is calling for a transformation in health care for veterans with expanded options for community medical treatment and a new governing board to oversee the nation's largest health-care system. The report from the VA's Commission on Care contains 18 recommendations to achieve a "bold transformation of a complex system that will take years to fully realize," adding, "We believe these recommendations are essential to ensure that our nation's veterans receive the health care they need and deserve, both now and in the future." (Wagner, 7/5)

The Wall Street Journal: VA Health-System Overhaul Urged By Commission
The commission is recommending that the VA health-care system set up community networks staffed in part by independent providers that are credentialed by the agency. Facilities that have been identified for closing should be immediately sold or used for new purposes, according to the report. “The commission’s report includes a number of specific proposals that I look forward to reviewing closely over the coming weeks,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “We will continue to work with veterans, Congress and our partners in the veteran advocacy community to further our ongoing transformation of the veterans’ health care system.” (Armour and Kesling, 7/5)

The Associated Press: US To Raise Cap For Docs Prescribing Opioid Addiction Drug
The Obama administration is increasing the number of patients whom doctors can treat for opioid addiction with a medication called buprenorphine. The cap is being raised from 100 patients per doctor to 275 as the White House tries to pressure Congress to approve funds for opioid abuse treatment. Doctors seeking the higher cap will have to apply. The modest step being announced Wednesday comes the same day that House-Senate bargainers plan to meet to finalize a compromise package on drug abuse. (7/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Administration Loosens Controls On Medication To Ease Opioid Cravings
The limits were put in place to try to keep tight control of the medication, which addicts sometimes buy and sell on the black market because it prevents painful withdrawal symptoms from heroin and other drugs. Federal officials believed that keeping a tight lid on prescribing would thwart this black-market trade. But the limits have left many patients unable to find a doctor who can prescribe them buprenorphine, a medication public-health officials call an important tool in combating the growing epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose deaths. (Whalen, 7/6)

The Washington Post: Pfizer Agrees To Truth In Opioid Marketing
Pfizer, the world’s second- ­largest drug company, has agreed to a written code of conduct for the marketing of opioids that some officials hope will set a standard for manufacturers of narcotics and help curb the use of the addictive painkillers. Though Pfizer does not sell many opioids compared with other industry leaders, its action sets it apart from companies that have been accused of fueling an epidemic of opioid misuse through aggressive marketing of their products. (Bernstein, 7/5)

The Associated Press: FDA Approves First Dissolving Stent For US Patients
A medical implant that slowly dissolves into the body could be the answer to long-standing safety concerns with devices used to treat clogged arteries. But not so fast, say experts. Abbott Laboratories’ newly-approved Absorb stent comes with one important caveat: it hasn’t yet been shown to be safer than older metal implants. (Perrone, 7/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Sanofi Teams Up With U.S. Army On Zika Vaccine
Sanofi SA has formed a partnership with the U.S. Army to expand research and development of an experimental Zika vaccine that has shown promise in early laboratory studies and is among a few candidates expected to be tested on humans in the coming months. At least 15 companies and entities, including Sanofi, are racing to develop vaccines against the Zika virus, which is behind an epidemic in the Americas that the World Health Organization says constitutes a public health emergency because the virus is linked to birth defects in multiple countries. (McKay and Bisserbe, 7/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Brazilian Researchers Join With U.S. In Hunt For Zika Vaccine
A leading Brazilian biomedical research center is teaming up with the U.S. and the World Health Organization in the latest effort to develop a vaccine for the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The Butantan Institute here has said it would partner with a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop the new vaccine for the virus, which spread across the Americas and raised concerns ahead of next month’s Rio Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro. (Johnson and Jelmayer, 7/5)

The Associated Press: Apple Urges Organ Donation Via New iPhone Software
Apple wants to encourage millions of iPhone owners to register as organ donors through a software update that will add an easy sign-up button to the health information app that comes installed on every smartphone the company makes. CEO Tim Cook says he hopes the new software, set for limited release this month, will help ease a critical and longstanding donor shortage. He said the problem hit home when his friend and former boss, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, endured an "excruciating" wait for a liver transplant in 2009. (7/5)

The Associated Press: Judge: Kansas Can't Cut Planned Parenthood's Medicaid Money
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson in Kansas City, Kansas, issued the temporary ruling in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and the organization's St. Louis regional affiliate. Robinson wrote that Medicaid patients have "the explicit right to seek family planning services from the qualified provider of their choice." The court also noted that Planned Parenthood is likely to succeed on their claim that the state violated a free-choice provider provision in the Medicaid Act. (7/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant’s New CEO Brings Familiar Prescription
Upon taking the helm of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., Joseph Papa promised to start a “new chapter” at the struggling company. But Wall Street is questioning whether the man hired to effect change can succeed after drawing from a playbook similar to Valeant’s at his previous company. While piloting Perrigo Co., Mr. Papa took steps akin to those that put Valeant on the hot seat. He raised prices of prescription drugs—by more than many rivals did—including boosting lice treatment permethrin and a steroid called desonide by about 530% apiece. Much of Perrigo’s growth came from deals, rather than organically, including an “inversion” that moved the U.S. company’s legal home abroad to lower its tax rate. (Rockoff and Rapoport, 7/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Bristol-Myers Buys Swedish Firm With Immunotherapy Treatment
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said Tuesday that it had acquired Sweden-based Cormorant Pharmaceuticals for up to $520 million, the drugmaker’s latest deal involving products that harness the immune system to attack cancerous tumors. Under the deal, Bristol-Myers will pay $95 million in upfront and near-term payments to the privately held company, plus up to $425 million in possible additional milestone payments. (Laryea, 7/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Insys Therapeutics: FDA Approves Treatment For AIDS Symptoms
Insys Therapeutics Inc. said Tuesday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its Dronabinol oral solution for treating certain conditions related to cancer and AIDS, nearly two years after the regulator rejected an earlier application. ... The drug, Syndros, is approved for treating anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS as well as nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who haven't responded to conventional treatments. (Jamerson, 7/5)

The Washington Post: Could Your Cavity-Filled Tooth Repair Itself With Stem Cells In The Future?
Walking into a dentist’s office could be less of a frightening thing in the future if scientists Kyle Vining, of Harvard, and Adam Celiz, of the British University of Nottingham, have anything to do with it. ... Vining and Celiz have just won a prize at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s emerging technology competition for creating a synthetic biomaterial that stimulates stem cells native to your teeth to repair them. That’s right — the substance appears to somehow make that area regenerate pulp tissue and the critical bony material of your tooth known as dentin. (Cha, 7/5)

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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