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KHN First Edition: August 5, 2016


First Edition

Friday, August 05, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Zika Is ‘Game-Changer’ For OB-GYN Doctors In Florida
WLRN's Sammy Mack, in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "Late last fall, Dr. Christine Curry was at a faculty meeting with her colleagues when the conversation turned to new reports linking the Zika virus to a surge in microcephaly in infants in Brazil. ... Curry, an obstetrician with a background in virology, volunteered to look into it for the rest of the staff. ... Since raising her hand at that meeting, Curry estimates her practice has seen about half of the 55 pregnant Floridians who have screened positive for Zika infection. For Curry and her colleagues, discussing Zika risks with patients has become a standard part of prenatal care." (Mack, 8/5)

Kaiser Health News: Depressed Teen’s Struggle To Find Mental Health Care In Rural California
KQED's April Dembosky, in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "There’s no psychiatric hospital that specializes in adolescents in Redding, the small city in far northern California where [Shariah] Vroman-Nagy lives. So she was taken from the local ER to a hospital in Sacramento, an hour and a half drive to the south. She was there for eight days. The doctors diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. They wanted to keep her longer, but they told her the insurance company wouldn’t cover it. “I didn’t feel like I was ready because I had just been put on new medications,” she said. “In the past I’ve had reactions to medications, and some have not worked. So I wanted to wait and stay for observation a little bit longer.” (Dembosky, 8/5)

Politico: Obama Blasts Congress Over Zika Funding
President Barack Obama on Thursday blasted Congress for skipping town for August recess without approving emergency funding for Zika response amid a local outbreak in a Miami neighborhood. The president said the news of 15 locally acquired cases of Zika in South Florida was both “predicted and predictable” and blamed members of Congress for not approving the administration’s request of $1.9 billion to fight the mosquito-borne virus. (Ehley, 8/4)

Politico: Scott Bashes Others Over Zika Funding, But Slashed Mosquito Control Money
As the Zika virus spreads in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has toured the state, talked up his administration’s commitment to fighting the mosquito-borne ailment and frequently criticized Congress and President Obama for not spending enough to help out. But Scott is far less eager to talk about his own record of cutting mosquito-control programs over the years, including the elimination of a state-funded pesticide-testing facility that was once known as “the mosquito lab.” (Caputo and Sexton, 8/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Blood Banks Step Up Efforts Against Zika Contamination
As concerns rise about the spread of Zika in the U.S., regulators and blood banks are moving to protect the safety of the blood supply. To guard against accidental transmission of the mosquito-borne virus through blood transfusions, the Food and Drug Administration on July 27 told banks in Florida’s Miami-Dade and Broward counties—where officials are investigating the first cases in the continental U.S. of local transmission of the virus—to stop collecting blood until they can screen each donation for Zika. (Beck, 8/4)

The New York Times: Spraying Begins In Miami To Combat The Zika Virus
Aerial spraying of insecticide began Thursday in the one-mile-square area of Miami where mosquitoes have infected people with the Zika virus, and officials reported some glimmers of progress. “We are very encouraged by the initial results, which showed a large proportion of the mosquitoes killed,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a news conference here. But Dr. Frieden added, “This is going to take an intense effort.” (Alvarez and Belluck, 8/4)

Los Angeles Times: Two Babies In California Born With Microcephaly From Zika, Officials Say
Two babies in California were born with microcephaly after their mothers were infected with Zika virus, state health officials said Thursday. The mothers had traveled to countries with outbreaks of the illness before becoming infected. Officials would not release any more information about the women or the babies. “This is a sobering reminder for Californians that Zika can cause serious harm to a developing fetus,” said Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health. (Karlamangla, 8/4)

The Associated Press: Zika Vaccines Work In Monkeys, Boosting Hopes For People
Three experimental Zika vaccines protected monkeys against infection from the virus, an encouraging sign as research moves into studies in people. The success in monkeys, which involved a traditional vaccine and two more cutting-edge ones, “brings us one step closer to a safe and effective Zika vaccine,” said Dr. Dan Barouch of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “But of course, there’s a lot more work to do.” (Ritter, 8/4)

Los Angeles Times: Three Vaccines Prevent Zika Infection In Monkeys; Vaccine Trial In Humans Gets Underway
The vaccines assessed by researchers from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Harvard Medical School and elsewhere use three different methods to generate an immune response in patients. The first of them used a purified and inactivated version of the virus, which was too disabled to cause an infection but still caused the monkeys’ immune systems to make antibodies capable of fighting Zika. When deliberately exposed to the virus, none of the eight monkeys that received two doses of the vaccine showed any sign of infection. However, the eight monkeys that got the placebo became sick for about a week. (Kaplan, 8/4)

The Associated Press: Pregnant Women Are Fearful Living In Miami’s Zika Hot Zone
Jessica Ardente waited 36 years to have her first baby. Her parents will visit in two weeks to watch their grandson’s ultrasound. There are cribs and car seats to shop for, a nursery to decorate, and bottles, diapers and clothes to buy. And now, on top of everything else, there is Zika to worry about. Ardente lives in the one-square-mile section of Miami that health officials are urging pregnant women to avoid because of the mosquito-borne illness, which can cause severe birth defects, including stunted heads. (Kennedy and Sladky, 8/4)

Reuters: Judge For U.S. Lawsuits To Stop Insurance Mergers May Drop One Case
The judge assigned to rule whether the U.S. government can block the mega-mergers of health insurers Aetna Inc and Humana Inc, and Anthem Inc and Cigna Corp said on Thursday it would be difficult for him to decide both cases by the end of the year. The U.S. Department of Justice filed lawsuits in July to block the multibillion-dollar mergers, saying they would reduce competition, raise prices for consumers and stifle innovation if the number of large, national insurers were to fall from five to three. (Bartz, 8/4)

The Washington Post: High Prices Make Once-Neglected ‘Orphan’ Drugs A Booming Business
Three decades ago, Congress listened to the plight of Americans sick with diseases so rare many people had never heard of them. They were victims of a pharmaceutical market failure — “orphans” ignored by drug companies because, the thinking went, tiny groups of patients would lead to trifling sales. To make the business viable, Congress — pushed by patients and a popular television show that highlighted rare diseases — passed the Orphan Drug Act. The 1983 law offered drug companies attractive tax credits and monopolies to develop treatments for rare diseases, radically transforming the pipeline of orphan drugs. Now, rare diseases are no longer a neglected niche of the pharmaceutical business; they are a tantalizing moneymaking opportunity. (Johnson, 8/4)

The New York Times: Vexing Question On Patient Surveys: Did We Ease Your Pain?
The questionnaire arrives in the mail a few days after a patient’s discharge from the hospital. Did doctors treat you respectfully? Was your bathroom kept clean? Most of the queries seem mundane, but a backlash has been growing against one: Did staff members do everything they could for your pain? (Hoffman and Tavernise, 8/4)

NPR: Insurance Rules Can Hamper Recovery From Opioid Addiction
Twice a day, Angela and Nate Turner of Greenwood, Ind., put tiny strips that look like tinted tape under their tongues. "They taste disgusting," Angela says. But the taste is worth it to her. The dissolvable strips are actually a drug called Suboxone, which helps control an opioid user's cravings for the drug. The married couple both got addicted to prescription painkillers following injuries several years ago, and they decided to go into recovery this year. With Suboxone, they don't have to worry about how they'll get drugs, or how sick they'll feel if they don't. (Harper, 8/5)

The New York Times: N.I.H. May Fund Human-Animal Stem Cell Research
The National Institutes of Health announced on Thursday that it was planning to lift its ban on funding some research that injects human stem cells into animal embryos. The N.I.H. announced its proposal in a blog post by Carrie Wolinetz, the associate director for science policy, and in the Federal Register. The purpose is to try to grow human tissues or organs in animals to better understand human diseases and develop therapies to treat them. (Kolata, 8/4)

NPR: NIH Plans To Lift Ban On Research Funds For Part-Human, Part-Animal Embryos
The National Institutes of Health is proposing a new policy to permit scientists to get federal money to make embryos, known as chimeras, under certain carefully monitored conditions. The NIH imposed a moratorium on funding these experiments in September because they could raise ethical concerns. One issue is that scientists might inadvertently create animals that have partly human brains, endowing them with some semblance of human consciousness or human thinking abilities. Another is that they could develop into animals with human sperm and eggs and breed, producing human embryos or fetuses inside animals or hybrid creatures. (Stein, 8/4)

NPR: Medical Studies Involving Children Often Go Unpublished
Many medical studies involving children never end up being put to use because scientists frequently don't publish the results of their work, according to an analysis published online Thursday. The findings raise both scientific and ethical issues regarding research on this vulnerable population. (Harris, 8/4)

NPR: Testing Children For Lead Exposure, Explained
The water contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., has driven increased attention to the need to test for lead exposure. But children can be exposed to lead from other sources, including paint, soil, toys and candy. More than half a million children ages 1 to 5 had high blood lead levels in 2010, according to the CDC. But as [Connie] Hill discovered, lead testing can be confusing. We spoke with scientists and doctors to find out what Hill and other parents should know about lead testing in children. (Beans, 8/4)

The Associated Press: Rauner Surprises GOP With Action On Birth Control, Abortions
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has clashed with Illinois Democrats on big issues like the state budget and the influence of unions, but he recently he bucked the party line on legislation the GOP has fervently opposed: expanding birth control coverage and access to abortions. Not a single Republican voted in favor of either bill. So last week, Rauner surprised some Republican legislators and angered conservative groups when he signed both Democrat-sponsored measures. (8/4)

The Associated Press: No Prison Time For Ailing Doc Convicted In Federal Drug Case
A Frederick physician who fled to Panama amid allegations he overprescribed addictive painkillers won’t serve prison time for his federal fraud conviction. In a document filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, his lawyer says 81-year-old Nicola Tauraso is receiving hospice care and is medically incompetent to make decisions. Defense attorney Elizabeth Oyer says she and prosecutors have agreed to jointly recommend no prison time. (8/4)

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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