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KHN First Edition: August 11, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, August 11, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Teaching In-Home Caregivers Seems To Pay Off
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "Low-income Californians who are elderly and disabled were less likely to go to the emergency room or be hospitalized after their in-home caregivers participated in an intensive training program, according to a report. Under a pilot program, nearly 6,000 aides in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Contra Costa counties were trained in CPR and first aid, as well infection control, medications, chronic diseases and other areas. All were workers of the In-Home Supportive Services program, who are paid by the state to care for low-income seniors and people with disabilities, many of them relatives." (Gorman, 8/11)

Kaiser Health News: Insurance Rules Can Hamper Recovery From Opioid Addiction
Side Effects Public Media's Jake Harper, in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "A body of evidence now shows that medications such as Suboxone are effective in putting the brakes on opioid use disorder, when used in conjunction with counseling. For the Turners, the treatment means Angela can take care of their 3-year-old and Nate can hold down a job. But because of some companies’ insurance rules, getting started on Suboxone — and staying on it — can be difficult." (Harper, 8/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Under Criminal Investigation
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. defrauded insurers by shrouding its ties to a mail-order pharmacy that boosted sales of its drugs, people familiar with the matter said. The lawyers, in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, are pursuing an unusual legal theory, previously unreported, that Valeant and a closely linked mail-order-pharmacy, Philidor Rx Services LLC, allegedly defrauded insurers by hiding their close relationship, the people familiar with the matter said. (McNish and Matthews, 8/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Judge To Start Aetna-Humana Merger Trial Dec. 5
A federal judge said Wednesday that he would begin trial proceedings on Dec. 5 in the Justice Department’s antitrust challenge to the proposed merger of Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. The start date is a compromise between the proposals of the two sides, but it also amounted to a setback for the insurance companies. When he opened a scheduling hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John Bates said he was leaning toward an early November trial, which would have allowed him to decide the case before the end of the year. (Kendall, 8/10)

NPR: Puerto Rico's Efforts To Stop Zika Are Hampered By Mistrust
Puerto Rico is in the midst of one of the worst Zika outbreaks of any region in the northern hemisphere. The island has been reporting roughly 1,500 new cases of Zika each week. Hundreds of pregnant women are already infected, and public health officials say the outbreak in Puerto Rico probably won't start to subside until September or October. Yet health officials also say efforts to stop the spread of the virus are being hampered by mistrust, indifference and fatigue among residents, over what some view as just the latest tropical disease to hit the island. (Beaubien, 8/10)

The Washington Post: Zika May Be Linked To The Disability That Donald Trump Mocked
One of the lowest points of Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency has involved accusations that he mocked a reporter with a disability. “Now, the poor guy — you've got to see this guy," Trump said while jerking his arms in front of his body at a rally in South Carolina in November. ... [It] drew worldwide attention to a rare congenital joint condition known as arthrogryposis. Arthrogryposis typically affects development of the arms and legs and results in the joints being fixed in a bent or straightened position. ... A new study published in the BMJ on Tuesday suggests another intriguing possibility — that arthrogryposis may be yet another condition linked to Zika. (Cha, 8/10)

The Washington Post: Pundits, Take Note: Narcissists Aren’t 'Crazy.' They Also Aren’t Likely To Change
Donald Trump has spawned a new industry, what might be called Trumpology — the study of his mental state and personality. Numerous pundits have suggested that the Republican presidential nominee has some kind of mental illness or medical condition that explains his boastfulness, intemperate outbursts and thin-skinned response to criticism. A recurring theme among these commentators is that Trump displays textbook signs of what psychiatrists call "narcissistic personality disorder." Not that Hillary Clinton has been spared the long-distance psychiatric evaluations. ... But psychiatric kibitzing is a slippery business. Largely lost in the conversation about Trump is the fact that a personality disorder is not a mental illness, strictly speaking. (Achenbach and Nutt, 8/10)

The New York Times: Obama Administration Set To Remove Barrier To Marijuana Research
The Obama administration is planning to remove a major roadblock to marijuana research, officials said Wednesday, potentially spurring broad scientific study of a drug that is being used to treat dozens of diseases in states across the nation despite little rigorous evidence of its effectiveness. The new policy is expected to sharply increase the supply of marijuana available to researchers. (Saint Louis and Apuzzo, 8/10)

The Washington Post: U.S. Will Affirm Its Prohibition On Medical Marijuana
The government on Thursday will refuse again to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, reaffirming its conclusion that the drug's therapeutic value has not been proved scientifically, according to government officials, and defying a growing clamor to legalize it for the treatment of a variety of conditions. In an announcement scheduled to be in the Federal Register, the Drug Enforcement Administration will turn down requests to remove marijuana from "Schedule I," which classifies it as a drug with "no currently accepted medical use" in the United States and precludes doctors from prescribing it. (Bernstein, 8/10)

Politico: Marilyn Tavenner On Implementing Obamacare — And Then Lobbying To Change It
At the start of 2015, Marilyn Tavenner held one of the most important jobs in health care: Implementing Obamacare, as the head of CMS. Six months later, she'd swapped it for a completely different major role: Lobbying to change Obamacare, as the head of America's Health Insurance Plans. It's an unusual career shift, and it's given Tavenner — a long-time government official turned top lobbyist — a rare perspective on the changes unfolding in the industry. (Diamond, 8/10)

NPR: Alive But Ruled Dead By Social Security 'Data Entry Error'
A few months ago, when Dr. Thomas Lee logged in to his patients' electronic medical records to renew a prescription, something unexpected popped up. It was a notice that one of them had died. Lee, a primary care doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, was scheduled to see the patient in three days."I was horrified," he says. ... He wanted to know what had happened, but he couldn't find anything in the medical records or in a Web search. "I just felt really guilty that I had not pushed harder to get him in sooner," says Lee. When he couldn't find out anything, he decided to phone the man's house to offer condolences — maybe even to apologize. "So I called, and to my shock he answered," says Lee. (Bichell, 8/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Eli Lilly’s Investigational Cancer Drug Hits Snag In Breast Cancer Trial
Eli Lilly & Co. said Wednesday its investigational cancer-fighting drug failed to meet efficacy criteria in an interim analysis of a phase-3 trial for treatment of breast cancer. Shares slipped 1.8% to $80.00 in premarket trading. Eli Lilly stock had climbed 6% in the past three months through Tuesday’s close. The pharmaceutical manufacturer said the trial of the drug, Abemaciclib, will continue into the first half of 2017, at which point a final analysis of its primary endpoint—progression-free survival—will be disclosed, as well as overall survival and safety data. (Jamerson, 8/10)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Approves Heron Therapeutics Anti-Nausea Drug Sustol
Heron Therapeutics Inc. shares rose as Sustol, the biotechnology company’s extended-release version of the chemotherapy anti-nausea drug granisetron, received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. The Redwood City, Calif., company’s shares, down 32% in the past year, rose 6.3%, to $21.12, in early trading. Leerink analysts said the approval of Sustol ends a long saga with the FDA and its review of the injectable therapy. (Stynes, 8/10)

The New York Times: Texas Women's Health Program Adds Abortion Opponent's Group
A revamped women's health program in Texas that ousted Planned Parenthood is giving a $1.6 million state contract to the nonprofit of an anti-abortion activist, who state officials said Wednesday submitted a "robust" proposal for helping low-income women in rural areas. The Heidi Group's Carol Everett has been a visible abortion opponent at the Texas Legislature. She supported two major anti-abortion restrictions the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in June, and last year, Republican lawmakers incensed by undercover video taken of Planned Parenthood operations and staffers invited her to discuss abortion clinics. (8/10)

Los Angeles Times: The Money Is Starting To Roll In On California's 17 Ballot Propositions. A Lot Of It.
The largest single block of campaign cash for November propositions is from the pharmaceutical industry in hopes of defeating Proposition 61. Drug companies, according to campaign records, have contributed more than $50 million this year. Of that amount, more than $35 million have been reported since July 1. Proposition 61 would ban state agencies from paying more for prescription drugs than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (Myers and Bollag, 8/11)

The Washington Post: New Law Will Expand Needle Exchange Program
A needle exchange program currently confined to the city of Wilmington is going statewide. Legislation being signed into law Thursday by Gov. Jack Markell authorizes the statewide expansion of the needle exchange program, which is aimed at reducing the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other diseases. Lawmakers approved the bill earlier this summer on the final night of this year’s legislative session. (8/11)

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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