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KHN First Edition: August 24, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: As The For-Profit World Moves Into An Elder Care Program, Some Worry
KHN correspondent Sarah Varney reports: "But this is no linoleum-floored community center reeking of bleach. Instead, it’s one of eight vanguard centers owned by InnovAge, a company based in Denver with ambitious plans. With the support of private equity money, InnovAge aims to aggressively expand a little-known Medicare program that will pay to keep older and disabled Americans out of nursing homes. Until recently, only nonprofits were allowed to run programs like these. But a year ago, the government flipped the switch, opening the program to for-profit companies as well, ending one of the last remaining holdouts to commercialism in health care. The hope is that the profit motive will expand the services faster." (8/24)

Kaiser Health News: Hidden Stroke Victims: The Young
KHN correspondent Anna Gorman reports: "[Jamie] Hancock is among a growing number of younger adults who’ve had strokes, which occur when blood flow to the brain is blocked or a vessel in the brain bursts. Because strokes are most often associated with old age, symptoms in younger adults may be overlooked, according to patients, advocates and physicians. And their need for rehabilitation — to return to active lives as parents and employees, for instance — can be underestimated." (8/24)

Kaiser Health News: California Court Helps Kids By Healing Parents’ Addictions
KHN correspondent Jenny Gold reports: "Hearing Officer Jim Teal sounded his gavel. “This is the time and place set for Early Intervention Family Drug Court,” he began, gazing sternly at the rapt faces of parents who sit before him. “Graduation from this court is considered a critical factor in determination that the children of participants will be safe from any further exposure to the danger and destructive impact of parental substance abuse.” Substance abuse is a factor in up to 80 percent of cases in which a child is removed from home. Recently, the number of children entering the foster care system has surged after years of decline. Roughly 265,000 kids entered foster care last year — the highest number since 2008, according to a recent government report. And there are signs that the opioid epidemic may be to blame." (8/24)

Kaiser Health News: Government-Protected ‘Monopolies’ Drive Drug Prices Higher, Study Says
KHN correspondent Sydney Lupkin reports: "The “most important factor” that drives prescription drug prices higher in the United States than anywhere else in the world is the existence of government-protected “monopoly” rights for drug manufacturers, researchers at Harvard Medical School report today. The researchers reviewed thousands of studies published from January 2005 through July 2016 in an attempt to simplify and explain what has caused America’s drug price crisis and how to solve it. They found that the problem has deep and complicated roots and published their findings in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.” (8/23)

NPR: Drug Manufacturers Use Patents To Protect High Prices
The U.S. could rein in rising drug prices by being more selective about giving patents to pharmaceutical companies for marginal developments, a study concludes. That's because brand-name drugs with patents that grant exclusivity account for about 72 percent of drug spending, even though they are only about 10 percent of all prescriptions dispensed, according to the study, published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. (Kodjak, 8/23)

The Washington Post: U.S. Lawmakers Demand Investigation Of $100 Price Hike Of Lifesaving EpiPens
EpiPen maker Mylan has become the new boogeyman of the pharmaceutical industry. Following complaints from consumers that the company had hiked the price of the emergency auto-injector by $100 in recent months for no obvious reason, members of Congress are calling for an investigation. ... The medication itself isn't expensive. Analysts calculate that the dosage contained in a single pen is worth about $1. It's the company's proprietary pen injector that makes up the bulk of the cost. (Cha, 8/23)

The Associated Press: Lawmakers Demand Information On EpiPen Price Increase
Two other senators, Democrats Mark Warner of Virginia and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, also wrote the company about the high prices. Warner said in a letter Tuesday that the issue is personal for him. "As the parent of a child with severe allergies, I am all too familiar with the life-or-death importance of these devices," Warner wrote.Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., on Tuesday asked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold a hearing on the issue. She is a co-chair of the Congressional Kids Safety Caucus. (Jalonick, 8/23)

The Associated Press: How EpiPen's Maker Raised Prices, And Hackles, So Much
Sky-high price hikes for EpiPen, the injected emergency medicine for severe allergic reactions to foods and bug bites, have made its maker the latest target for patients and politicians infuriated by soaring drug prices. The company, Mylan, has a virtual monopoly on epinephrine injectors, potentially life-saving devices used to stop a runaway allergic reaction. Mylan N.V., which has headquarters in Hertfordshire, England, and Pittsburgh, has hiked prices as frequently as three times a year over the past nine years, pushing its list price for a package of two syringes to more than $600.

USA Today: EpiPen's Steady Price Increases Masked Until Deductibles Rose
The prices insurers and employers negotiate with Mylan are up about 150% since 2009, according to Rx Savings Solutions, which represents businesses and insurance companies. The average wholesale price has increased nearly 500% in that time, says Michael Rea, a pharmacist and CEO of Rx Savings Solutions. As outrageous as the EpiPen increases seem, Rea says they aren't that unusual and are getting attention now because parents are stocking up before back to school and are increasingly facing higher out-of-pocket costs due to higher deductibles and cost sharing. (O'Donnell, Singer and Rudavsky, 8/23)

The Washington Post: Florida’s Zika Outbreak Is Spreading, With New Case In St. sburg Area
Florida state officials have reported five new cases of Zika, four in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, where the first locally transmitted cases in the country were reported, and the fifth on the other side of the state in Pinellas County. It’s that last case that’s the most worrisome because it might signal that mosquitoes infected with the virus are spreading. But it’s too soon to know, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have yet to issue a travel advisory indicating there is active local transmission in that area. (Cha, 8/23)

The New York Times: Florida Investigates New Zika Cases On Gulf Coast And In Miami
When Florida announced a new case of the Zika virus on Tuesday, this time in Pinellas County, which includes St. sburg, it raised an urgent question: Had local mosquitoes in yet another part of the state started to spread the virus? The short answer is probably not, scientists say. The announcement of the case in Pinellas, on the other side of the state from the current danger zone in Miami-Dade County, may sound scary, but the reality is that single cases are usually one-offs and do not necessarily mean that the virus is starting to spread in a new area. (Tavernise, 8/24)

The Washington Post: All The Reported Cases Of Zika In The United States
There are 10,314 confirmed Zika cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health. This includes 2,279 cases in the continental U.S. and 8,035 cases in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. The first local spread of Zika virus through infected mosquitoes in the continental U.S. occurred in Miami, Florida in late July. (Stamm and Cameron, 8/24)

The Washington Post: Heartbreaking Images Of How Zika Destroys Babies’ Brains
Much of the public alarm about Zika has focused on the dramatic, heartbreaking pictures of children with microcephaly, a condition characterized by an abnormally small head. But a paper published Tuesday from the epicenter of the epidemic in northeastern Brazil shows that the damage to a baby’s brain may be far more extensive and diverse than has been previously known. (Cha, 8/23)

The New York Times: Brain Scans Of Brazilian Babies Show Array Of Zika Effects
A study of brain scans and ultrasound pictures of 45 Brazilian babies whose mothers were infected with Zika in pregnancy shows that the virus can inflict serious damage to many different parts of the fetal brain beyond microcephaly, the condition of unusually small heads that has become the sinister signature of Zika. The images, published Tuesday in the journal Radiology, also suggest a grim possibility: Because some of the damage was seen in brain areas that continue to develop after birth, it may be that babies born without obvious impairment will experience problems as they grow. (Belluck, 8/23)

Reuters: Texas, Four Other States Sue Over U.S. Transgender Health Policy
Texas and four other states sued the Obama administration on Tuesday over extending its healthcare nondiscrimination law to transgender individuals, saying the move "represents a radical invasion of the federal bureaucracy into a doctor’s medical judgment." Texas, along with Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky and Kansas sued on behalf three medical organizations, two of which are affiliated with Christian groups. (Herskovitz, 8/23)

Politico: States Sue To Block Obamacare's Transgender Protections
The lawsuit challenges a section of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in health care programs. In May, HHS issued final regulations, which prevent insurers from having blanket bans on coverage of gender reassignment services and forbids providers from refusing care to transgender patients, among other protections. (Pradhan, 8/23)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Sued Over New Transgender Health-Care Regulation
The lawsuit marks religious conservatives’ growing engagement in the fight over transgender rights, which has rapidly emerged as one of the most explosive social debates of the Obama administration. The suit comes just one day after a Texas judge temporarily suspended new federal guidelines intended to expand bathroom access for transgender students at public schools. (Lovett and Radnofsky, 8/23)

KHN/The Washington Post: Could Medicare’s New Doctor Payment System Endanger Small And Rural Practices?
Lee Gross is worried. He has practiced family medicine in North Port, Fla., near Sarasota, for 14 years. But he and two partners are the last small, independent medical group in the town of 62,000. Everyone else has moved away, joined larger organizations or become salaried employees of hospitals or health companies. “We’re struggling to survive,” Gross said. “Our kind of practice is dying in this country, and medicine itself is changing so rapidly that doctors everywhere seem to be burning out.” (Findlay, 8/23)

ProPublica: Doctors Disciplined For Misconduct Still Get Hefty Consulting Fees
Hundreds of pharmaceutical and medical device companies continue to pay doctors as promotional speakers and advisers after they've been disciplined for serious misconduct, according to an analysis by ProPublica. One such company is medical device maker Stryker Corp. ... The company is one of more than at least 400 pharmaceutical and medical device makers that have made payments to doctors after they were disciplined by their state medical boards. (Huseman, 8/24)

The New York Times: New Clues In The Mystery Of Women’s Lagging Life Expectancy
It is now a grim fact that the life expectancy of American women is stagnant, but the reason for this remains a mystery. A team of researchers has now come up with an important clue: Where women live matters just as much as who they are. In fact, in a study to be published this week in SSM Population Health, they found that many common demographic traits — whether a woman is rich, poor, unemployed, working, single or married — might not be as important as the state in which she lives. (Tavernise, 8/23)

Reuters: U.S. Heart Group Sets Limit On Sugar For Kids And Teens
The vast majority of children and teens should have less than six teaspoons of added sugar in their diet each day, according to the American Heart Association. Until age 2, children should consume no added sugars at all, and between ages 2 and 18 they should limit added sugars to 25 grams per day, the organization says. (Seaman, 8/24)

NPR: Berkeley's Soda Tax Appears To Cut Consumption Of Sugary Drinks
The nation's first "soda tax" on sugar-sweetened beverages, which went into effect in Berkeley, Calif., last year, appears to be working. According to a new study, consumption of sugary drinks — at least in some neighborhoods — is down by a whopping 20 percent. (Charles, 8/24)

Los Angeles Times: Berkeley Sees A Big Drop In Soda Consumption After Penny-Per-Ounce ‘Soda Tax’
Five months after the city implemented its penny-per-ounce tax on all manner of sugar-sweetened beverages, lower-income residents had reduced their consumption by 21%, compared to the pre-tax days. Meanwhile, their counterparts in neighboring Oakland and San Francisco increased the amount of sugary drinks consumed by 4% during the same period, according to a study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Public Health. (Kaplan, 8/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Soda Consumption Falls After Special Tax In California City
Consumption of soda and other sugary drinks fell by more than a fifth in low-income neighborhoods of Berkeley after the California city became the first in the U.S. to introduce a special tax last year, according to a study published Tuesday. The peer-reviewed research is the first to measure the impact of the penny-per-ounce tax. It found that consumption declined 21% and many residents switched to water after the tax went into effect in March 2015, according to the study published online in the American Journal of Public Health. (Esterl, 8/23)

The New York Times: How Staten Island’s Drug Problem Made It A Target For Poaching Patients
At drug treatment centers on Staten Island, the calls disturb the daily routine. The solicitations interrupt meals, counseling sessions and support groups. Sometimes, staff members say, the callers make explicit offers: thousands of dollars to refer a person with a heroin or pain-pill addiction and good insurance. Other offers are more subtle — a recurring donation or a contract. (Jula, 8/23)

Los Angeles Times: Gov. Jerry Brown To Again Weigh Access To Experimental Drugs For The Terminally Ill
For the second consecutive year, Gov. Jerry Brown will have to decide on a measure that would allow gravely ill patient access to experimental drugs. The Assembly on Tuesday gave final legislative approval to Assemblyman Ian Charles Calderon's so-called "right-to-try" legislation, which authorizes drug and medical device manufacturers to make their products available to terminally ill patients, even if the products have not yet been cleared by the federal Food and Drug Administration. (Mason, 8/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Pfizer Buys Part Of AstraZeneca’s Antibiotics Business
Pfizer Inc. has agreed to buy part of AstraZeneca PLC’s antibiotics business for up to $1.575 billion plus royalties in a move the U.S. company said would boost the stable of older products it sells, some of which have lost patent protection. Under the terms of the deal Pfizer will pay Astra $550 million upfront plus an unconditional $175 million in January 2019. Then, depending on the progress and commercial success of the drugs in question, it will pay a further $850 million plus royalties. (Roland, 8/24)

WSJ: Valeant Pays Up For New CFO Herendeen
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International’s new chief financial officer, Paul Herendeen, is getting a big pay bump as part of his move from animal healthcare company Zoetis, according to regulatory filings. The executive will be paid a base salary of $1 million, and is eligible for a bonus as high as $2.4 million as part of his deal with Valeant. (Monga, 8/23)

The Washington Post: ‘To My Daughter’s Drug Dealer’: A Distraught Mother’s Viral Facebook Post
[Tina] Louden’s honest, raw confession is just the latest in a string of online posts and even death announcements that have dared to talk about topics long-held as taboos: addiction, drugs, mental illness. For decades in obituaries, mourners were expected to fill in blanks. “Died suddenly” or “passed away at home” became code phrases for “overdose” or “suicide.” But a new wave of parents, like Louden, are harnessing the Internet to turn their children’s deaths into something meaningful. (Mettler, 8/23)

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