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KHN First Edition: August 25, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Thursday, August 25, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

California Healthline: Gas Relief Drops, Often Added To Medical Scopes, May Pose Danger
Chad Terhune reports for California Healthline and Kaiser Health News: "A surprising ingredient — infant gas relief drops — may be contributing to the contamination of medical scopes nationwide and putting more patients at risk of infection, according to a small but provocative study. Researchers in Minnesota unexpectedly found cloudy, white fluid inside several colonoscopes and gastroscopes after they had been disinfected and deemed ready for use on the next patient." (8/25)

Kaiser Health News: Doctors Raise Concerns For Small Practices In Medicare’s New Payment System
Steve Findlay reports for KHN: "The focal point of their angst is a 2015 federal law that changes the way Medicare pays doctors. The Medicare Access & CHIP Reauthorization Act — is Congress’ boldest step since the 2010 Affordable Care Act to push the health care system to reward quality over quantity. It replaces a reimbursement system that was widely criticized by doctors and regularly ran into budget problems on Capitol Hill." (8/25)

Kaiser Health News: Giving Birth In Georgia Is Too Often A Deadly Event
Virginia Anderson reports for KHN: "Georgia enjoys its image as the Empire State of the South, a leader among its Deep South neighbors, the first to have an Olympic city and the first to send a native son to the White House.But for all of its firsts, the state is worst — or at least among the very worst — in a key measure: its rate of maternal mortality." (8/25)

The Wall Street Journal: States Start To Approve Steep Increases In Health Premiums
The first handful of states have released approved 2017 rates for people who buy health insurance on their own and the results so far are consistent with what many expected: There are significant increases in premiums for next year. The Obama administration, seeking to reassure consumers who could be concerned by increases in more states in the coming weeks, released an analysis showing financial help from the government could soften the blow for people who qualified. Some insurance regulators have begun announcing their approval of rate increases, including an average jump of 62% for the biggest plan in Tennessee and increases of around 43% in Mississippi and 23% in Kentucky for large carriers. (Radnofsky and Armour, 8/24)

The New York Times: Mylan Raised EpiPen’s Price Before The Expected Arrival Of A Generic
In 2012, the company behind the EpiPen settled a lawsuit by agreeing to allow a generic competitor into the market in 2015, potentially cutting into a big part of its business. The company, Mylan, had already been steadily increasing the price of EpiPen, an injector containing a drug that can save people from life-threatening allergy attacks. After the settlement, it started to raise the price even faster. (Pollack, 8/24)

The Washington Post: CEO At Center Of EpiPen Price Hike Controversy Is Sen. Joe Manchin’s Daughter
The growing congressional scrutiny of pharmaceutical giant Mylan over the high cost of EpiPens could prove awkward for Sen. Joe Manchin. The West Virginia Democrat’s daughter, Heather Bresch, is chief executive of the company, which appears to have hiked the price of the epinephrine auto-injector by 400 percent since 2007. The device, which is used to treat severe allergic reactions, now costs more than $600 per dose. (Ho, 8/24)

The Associated Press: Sen. Manchin Mum On EpiPen Hikes By Daughter's Drug Company
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin remained mum Wednesday as a pharmaceutical company run by his daughter faced mounting criticism for hiking prices on life-saving allergy injection pens. ... His silence contrasted with a growing number of leaders crying foul on the ballooning prices, including fellow senators and the presidential candidate Manchin has endorsed, Hillary Clinton. (Mattise , 8/24)

The New York Times: The Complex Math Behind Spiraling Prescription Drug Prices
The soaring cost of prescription drugs has generated outrage among politicians and patients. Some cancer drugs carry price tags of more than $100,000 a year, and health plans are increasingly asking people to shoulder a greater share of the cost. The latest outrage involves the price of EpiPen, a lifesaving injection device for people with severe allergies, which has risen to more than $600 for the list price of a two-pen set, from less than $100 when Mylan acquired the product in 2007. (Thomas, 8/24)

NPR: Latest Target In The Drug Price Wars? The Ubiquitous EpiPen
EpiPens are in your friend's purse and your kid's backpack. The school nurse has a few, as does Grandma. The medicine inside — epinephrine — has been around forever, and the handy gadget that injects it into your leg is not particularly new either. So members of Congress, responding to their angry constituents, want to know why the price of the EpiPen, which can reverse a life-threatening allergic reaction, has risen about fivefold in the past decade. (Kodjak, 8/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Mylan Faces Scrutiny Over EpiPen Price Increases
Mylan pointed to a statement saying it was committed to ensuring patients have affordable access to the drug, and the company has given away more than 700,000 EpiPens to schools while paying all the out-of-pocket costs of 80% of commercially insured patients. The criticism has taken a toll on Mylan, whose stock fell 5.4% on Wednesday after a 4.8% drop the day before. (Rockoff, 8/24)

The New York Times: In Florida Keys, Some Worry About ‘Science And Government’ More Than Zika
So when, several years ago, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District offered up the peninsula of Key Haven, a tiny suburb of Key West, for the first United States test of genetically modified mosquitoes built to blunt the spread of dengue and Zika, it was only a matter of time before opposition mounted. Today, even as federal officials have told pregnant women to stay away from parts of Miami-Dade County because of the Zika virus, Key Haven’s hardened position against the trial — or the experiment, as they call it — is hard to miss amid the bougainvillea and hibiscus flowering on lawns here. “No Consent to Release of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes,” red-and-white placards declare. (Alvarez, 8/24)

NPR: Florida Doctors Outline Zika Risks In Treating Pregnant Patients
Being pregnant can be stressful. ... And now, some women and their partners have to consider the risks of Zika, especially in Florida where local mosquitoes have transmitted the virus. Elizabeth Etkin-Kramer is hearing more and more questions about Zika from her patients. She is an OB-GYN whose office is in Miami Beach which is one of the affected areas. (McEvers, 8/24)

The Associated Press: Clinton Proposes New Federal Fund To Combat Zika Virus
As the Zika virus continues to spread, Hillary Clinton is proposing a new fund to improve the federal government's response to major public health crises. The Democratic presidential nominee says the U.S. is failing to sufficiently invest in public health preparedness, not only for Zika, but health threats from potentially pandemic diseases, climate change and possible bioterrorism. (Lerer, 8/24)

The Washington Post: Trump Wanted To Keep Americans Critically Ill With Ebola Out Of The U.S.
Two years ago this month, the Ebola crisis in West Africa burst into American consciousness when a pair of U.S. health workers became critically ill battling the epidemic and health officials raced to bring them home for treatment. The pair, physician Kent Brantly and nurse Nancy Writebol, almost surely would have died if they hadn’t been airlifted from Monrovia, Liberia, to a special facility in Atlanta, where they eventually regained their health. Or if U.S. officials had listened to one of the loudest voices of opposition to that move: Donald Trump. (Bernstein, 8/24)

The Washington Post: Gene Test Can Reduce Chemo Use Among Breast-Cancer Patients, Study Says
Doctors have long known that many early-stage breast cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy don't actually need it to prevent recurrence of the disease after surgery. But they haven't known exactly which patients might safely skip the toxic treatment. A European study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine sheds new light on the issue, concluding that many such patients might be able to avoid chemo. (McGinley, 8/24)

NPR: Precision Test For Breast Cancer Treatment Remains Imprecise
A major study about the best way to treat early-stage breast cancer reveals that "precision medicine" doesn't provide unambiguous answers about how to choose the best therapy. "Precision doesn't mean certainty," says David Hunter, a professor of cancer prevention at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. That point is illustrated in a large study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, involving decisions about chemotherapy. (Harris, 8/24)

The New York Times: Obesity Is Linked To At Least 13 Types Of Cancer
This new review, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, links an additional eight cancers to excess fat: gastric cardia, a cancer of the part of the stomach closest to the esophagus; liver cancer; gallbladder cancer; pancreatic cancer; thyroid cancer; ovarian cancer; meningioma, a usually benign type of brain cancer; and multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. (Bakalar, 8/24)

The Washington Post: How Emergency Rooms Treat Poorer Kids Differently
During emergency-room visits, children on public health insurance are less likely than children on private insurance to be admitted to the hospital. This is not because poorer children visit different kinds of hospitals or because poorer children are less sick when they visit the emergency room. As Princeton economists Diane Alexander and Janet Currie show in a recent paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, hospitals just seem to prefer children with private insurance. (Guo, 8/24)

The Associated Press: Pfizer On Buying Spree With AstraZeneca Antibiotics Deal
Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. is continuing its shopping spree with its fourth acquisition since the April collapse of its planned $160 billion megadeal to buy rival Allergan PLC and move its headquarters, on paper, to Allergan's base in lower-tax Ireland. In its second deal this week, New York-based Pfizer said it's buying rights to Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC's portfolio of approved and experimental antibiotic and antifungal pills, a move to boost Pfizer's business in one of its priority areas. (Johnson, 8/24)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Rejects Amgen Hormonal-Imbalance Treatment
Amgen Inc. said Wednesday that government regulators have rejected its new drug application for its therapy for a hormonal imbalance common in patients on dialysis. ... Amgen said it expects to meet with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to discuss the agency’s decision sometime later this year. The company said it was reviewing the government response but didn’t provide specifics. (Minaya, 8/24)

The New York Times: Few Homeless Shelter Workers Are Trained To Administer Heroin Antidote
Overdoses were the leading cause of death among homeless people in shelters during the last fiscal year, accounting for 30 percent of fatalities, according to an annual report by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Yet only a fraction of the 272 city shelters — about 18 percent — have staff members who have been trained by the Department of Homeless Services to administer the antidote, which is available as nasal spray or an injection. Slightly more than half of the 84 shelters for single adults, where overdoses occur more frequently, have trained the staff. (Jula, 8/24)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Why Doctors Who Sexually Abuse Patients Get Therapy And Return To Practice
Increasingly, private therapists, rather than regulators or police investigators, try to unearth the extent of a doctor’s transgressions, the Journal-Constitution found as part of a broad investigation of sexual misconduct by physicians. The newspaper’s full report is at doctors.ajc.com. The Journal-Constitution reviewed public disciplinary orders for 2,400 physicians accused of sexual misconduct with patients since 1999. The AJC found that, with rare exceptions, all of the 1,200 who are still licensed were ordered to undergo treatment, training, or both. (Hart, 8/24)

The Washington Post: Orlando Hospitals Say They Won’t Bill Survivors Of Pulse Nightclub Shooting
The Orlando hospitals that treated dozens of people injured in the Pulse nightclub shooting said Wednesday that they would not bill the survivors. One hospital said it would not bill for any treatment it provided Pulse victims, while Orlando Regional Medical Center, the hospital that treated most of the survivors, said it would seek payment from other resources such as insurance plans and a victims fund set up by city officials. Authorities there said they expect the “total unreimbursed costs” could top $5 million. (Berman, 8/24)

The Associated Press: Soldier Who Killed 5 Dallas Officers Showed PTSD Symptoms
The Army reservist who killed five Dallas police officers last month showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after returning home from Afghanistan in 2014, but doctors concluded that he presented no serious risk to himself or others, according to newly released documents from the Veterans Health Administration. (Burke, 8/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Paid Sick Leave Reduces The Flu Rate ‘Significantly,’ Paper Says
Everyone knows staying home from work when you have the flu helps protect your co-workers from getting sick. Unfortunately, not everyone does it. A new National Bureau of Economic Research paper argues that one reason for that is access to paid sick leave. The paper by Stefan Pichler and Nicolas R. Ziebarth argues that the general flu rate “decreases significantly” when employees have access to paid time off due to illness. It also found that more people play hooky, or stay home when they aren’t actually contagious. (Raice, 8/24)

The New York Times: Living Near A Fracking Site Is Tied To Migraines, Fatigue
Living near a natural gas hydraulic fracturing site is associated with increased rates of sinus problems, migraines and fatigue, according to new research. Scientists had 7,785 randomly selected participants in a large Pennsylvania health system fill out health questionnaires. About a quarter met criteria for one or more of three disorders: chronic rhinosinusitis, migraine headaches and severe fatigue. (Bakalar, 8/24)

The Washington Post: The World Is Closer Than Ever To Eradicating Guinea Worm
A year ago, when former president Jimmy Carter told the world that he had been diagnosed with cancer, he announced a dying wish: He wanted the last Guinea worm to die before he did. Carter was referring to a parasite that plagued 3.5 million people across 21 African countries as recently as 1986. Today, Carter’s cancer is in remission, and Guinea worm infections have never been more rare. (Love, 8/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Women Have More Allergies To Common Medications
A study of more than 1.7 million patients found that women had significantly more allergies to common medications than men. The study, reported in the journal Allergy, analyzed allergies to individual drugs and classes of drugs in patients treated at two hospitals in Boston over more than two decades. None of the reported allergies was more prevalent among men, it found. The research also showed that white patients had significantly more drug allergies than other racial groups. (Lukits, 8/24)

Los Angeles Times: Illegal Drugs Are Flowing Into California's Most Guarded Prisons — And Killing Death Row Inmates
The condemned inmates on California's death row are among the most closely monitored in the state. Death row’s 747 inmates spend most of their time locked down, isolated from the rest of the prison system under heavy guard with regular strip searches and checks every half-hour for signs of life. Still, six death row inmates died between 2010 and 2015 with detectable levels of methamphetamines, heroin metabolites or other drugs in their system, according to Marin County coroner records. (St. John, 8/24)


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