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KHN First Edition: August 30, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: ‘America’s Other Drug Problem’: Copious Prescriptions For Hospitalized Elderly
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "An increasing number of elderly patients nationwide are on multiple medications to treat chronic diseases, raising their chances of dangerous drug interactions and serious side effects. Often the drugs are prescribed by different specialists who don’t communicate with each other. If those patients are hospitalized, doctors making the rounds add to the list — and some of the drugs they prescribe may be unnecessary or unsuitable. “This is America’s other drug problem — polypharmacy,” said Dr. Maristela Garcia, director of the inpatient geriatric unit at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. “And the problem is huge.” (Gorman, 8/30)

Kaiser Health News: Screening Positive For Depression Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get Treatment, Study Finds
Zhai Yun Tan, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "Getting treatment for depression may sometimes be a regular part of health care for the “worried well” that leaves those who cannot afford it to suffer by themselves. A new study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine illustrates that phenomenon. Most Americans who screen positive for depression don’t receive treatment — while most who did receive treatment don’t actually have the condition." (Tan, 8/29)

Kaiser Health News: A Young Woman Dies, A Teen Is Saved After Amoebas Infect The Brain
WMFE's Abe Aboraya and WFAE's Michael Tomsic, in partnership with KHN and NPR, write: "Doctors describe 16-year-old Sebastian DeLeon as a walking miracle — he is only the fourth person in the U.S. to survive an infection from the so-called brain-eating amoeba. Infection from Naegleria fowleri is extremely rare but almost always fatal. Between 1962 and 2015, there were only 138 known infections due to the organism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just three people survived. This summer, two young people, one in Florida and one in North Carolina, became infected after water recreation. Only one had a happy ending." (Aboraya and Tomsic, 8/29)

The New York Times: Mylan Tries Again To Quell Pricing Outrage By Offering Generic EpiPen
In its latest move to quell outrage over its price increases, the maker of the EpiPen has resorted to an unusual tactic — introducing a generic version of its own product. The company, Mylan, said on Monday that the generic EpiPen would be identical to the existing product, which is used to treat severe allergic reactions. But it will have a wholesale list price of $300 for a pack of two, half the price of the brand-name EpiPen. (Pollack, 8/29)

The Washington Post: Mylan To Introduce A Half-Price Generic Version Of EpiPen
Joshua Sharfstein, a professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, called it a face-saving move by the company. The generic offers a way of dropping the price of one version of the drug, while also bringing the company some benefits. It will allow Mylan to segment the market, because some people will continue to buy the brand-name product. (Johnson, 8/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Mylan To Launch Cheaper Generic EpiPen Alternative
The EpiPen price increases exploded over social media and on Capitol Hill, in part, because many children depend on the drug-injection device to reverse severe allergic reactions.Most consumers pay less than $100 out-of-pocket for EpiPen, according to Mylan. But a sizable minority are covered by high-deductible health-plans that require buyers to pay a much larger share of the drug’s full list price. (Walker, Winslow and Steele, 8/29)

NPR: Maker Of EpiPen To Sell Generic Version For Half The Price
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch has spent the past week trying to shift blame for the increased cost of the product away from Mylan and onto insurance companies. The company argued that more people have high-deductible health plans and high copayments on medications now, so they are feeling the pain of price hikes more than they would have in the past. She repeated that Monday in a statement posted on the company's website. (Kodjak, 8/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Mylan’s New Generic Causes Stock Market Ripple
Mylan isn’t the only company riding the EpiPen roller coaster of late. The pharmaceutical company announced Monday that it plans to sell a generic version of EpiPen, its best-selling product. This news came after a national uproar over the drug’s high price. Generic EpiPen will cost $300 for a pack of two, a more than 50% cut to the sticker price of the branded version, and will be available in the next several weeks. That news, however, caused a sharp selloff in the shares of Adamis Pharmaceuticals, a small drug company aiming to develop its own generic version of EpiPen. (Grant, 8/29)

Reuters: House Committee Requests EpiPen Documents From Mylan
U.S. representatives Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Mylan NV Chief Executive Heather Bresch on Monday asking for documents and communications related to the fast-increasing price of allergy auto-injector EpiPens. (Bengaluru, 8/29)

The Associated Press: Last Chance? Obama Administration Proposes Health Law Fixes
In one of its last chances to tinker with the president's signature health care law, the Obama administration Monday proposed a series of fixes and adjustments for 2018, when the White House will have a new occupant. The changes are detailed in a highly technical draft regulation, nearly 300 pages long. Insurers and consumer advocates were trying to decipher its implications Monday evening. (8/29)

The Associated Press: McConnell: Obamacare 'Crashing;' Next President Must Fix It
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted Monday that the federal health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama is likely to undergo changes next year, regardless of who wins the White House and which party has the upper hand in Congress. The Kentucky Republican, who has long advocated repealing the Affordable Care Act, told a business audience in his hometown that the law "can't possibly go on like it is." He predicted the overhaul "will be revisited by the next president, whoever that is." (8/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Potential Zika Virus Therapies Identified By Researchers
Scientists have identified several potential therapies for the Zika virus from among 6,000 drugs already commercially available or undergoing clinical trials, according to a new study. The research, published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine, could help quicken discovery of medications for Zika and help prevent the neurological disorders associated with it, including microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads associated with improper brain development. (Hernandez, 8/29)

The Washington Post: Scientists Find Drugs For Cancer, Hepatitis C Can Kill Zika In Petri Dish. But Will They Work In Humans?
Scientists have discovered three existing drugs — used for cancer, hepatitis C and for parasitic infections — that they say appear promising against the Zika virus. The experiments were conducted only in lab-grown human cells in petri dishes, but the results were dramatic. Zika is so devastating that the damage it does has been thought to be irreversible. But the researchers said some of the compounds that the group tested not only allowed cells to live longer in the face of infection — but also in some cases fully recover from them. (Cha, 8/29)

The New York Times: Zika Can Be Transmitted By Female Mosquito To Her Eggs, Study Says
The Zika virus can be transmitted by a female mosquito to her eggs, eventually infecting her adult daughters, researchers reported on Monday. But mother-daughter transmission happens so rarely among mosquitoes that it is probably not an important factor in the global Zika epidemic, according to the lead author of the study, published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. (McNeil, 8/29)

The New York Times: In Reaction To Zika Outbreak, Echoes Of Polio
Now that the Zika virus has landed in the continental United States, and now that polio has re-emerged in Africa after two years without a case, it may be instructive to look back at New York’s early epidemic. It featured many of the problems that have bedeviled our response to the Zika epidemic: false rumors, ethnic prejudice and ineffective measures. (McNeil, 8/29)

USA Today: Clinton Rolls Out Plan To Improve Mental Health Care
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for putting mental health care on par with other types of health care Monday as part of a wide-ranging plan to address key problems in the treatment of people with mental illness. The proposal calls for expanding early intervention in mental illness; a national initiative to prevent suicide, which kills more than 40,000 Americans a year; increasing training for police who are called to the scene of a mental health crisis; providing mental health care for non-violent offenders to help them avoid going to jail for minor offenses; and investing in brain and behavioral research to develop better treatments. (Szabo, 8/29)

The Washington Post: In Latest Policy Rollout, Clinton Puts Forward Agenda To Combat Mental Illness
Hillary Clinton put forward a package of initiatives Monday aimed at improving the plight of tens of millions of Americans coping with mental illness and pledged, if elected president, to hold a White House conference on the issue within her first year in office. The plan, the Democratic nominee said, seeks to fully integrate mental health services into the nation’s health-care system during her tenure as president. Measures include a national suicide prevention initiative, higher payments for providers in the Medicaid program, an emphasis on treatment over jail for low-level criminal offenders with mental health issues and the creation of new housing and job opportunities. (Wagner, 8/29)

The Associated Press: Justice Dept. Focuses On Police Treatment Of Mentally Ill
Justice Department lawyers investigating police agencies for claims of racial discrimination and excessive force are increasingly turning up a different problem: officers' interactions with the mentally ill. The latest example came in Baltimore, where a critical report on that department's policies found that officers end up in unnecessarily violent confrontations with mentally disabled people who in many instances haven't even committed crimes. (8/29)

Los Angeles Times: California Representatives Call For Congressional Investigation Into Purdue Pharma And Other Opioid Makers
Two California representatives called Monday for a congressional investigation of opioid manufacturers, citing a Los Angeles Times investigation that found that the maker of OxyContin collected extensive evidence of criminal trafficking of its drug but in many cases did not alert law enforcement. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), both members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a letter to the committee chairs that an immediate investigation was necessary “to fully understand the implications and consequences of pharmaceutical companies that do not fulfill their legal and ethical requirements to restrict the sale of opioids in circumstances that raise suspicion regarding inappropriate prescribing practices.” (Ryan, 8/29)

The Associated Press: Unprecedented Overdose Spike Slows In Cincinnati
An unprecedented spike of drug overdoses in the Cincinnati area seem to be leveling off, although are still at higher than normal levels, after a stunning wave last week, authorities said. Newtown Police Chief Thomas Synan, who heads the Hamilton County Drug Coalition task force, said reports show heroin overdoses dropped to 10 to 15 a day over the weekend. Just Friday, emergency rooms reported 174 overdose cases over six days, for an average of 29 per day, although Synan said some likely were not from heroin. But he said 20 to 25 overdoses in a week would be more typical. (8/29)

The Washington Post: For Latinos, Cancer Risks Can Depend On Heritage
If you’re Latino, you could be at risk for colorectal cancer. But the degree of that risk could depend on whether your ancestry traces to Puerto Rico or to Mexico or another Latin American country. A paper published in the September issue of Current Epidemiology Reports discusses the health implications of classifying Latinos as a homogeneous entity while analyzing existing research about their cancer risks and outcomes and those of various subpopulations. (Kelly, 8/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Stem-Cell Treatments Become More Available, And Face More Scrutiny
In two days of hearings next month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will consider if clinics offering stem-cell treatments should be more closely regulated. Stem-cell treatments aren’t approved by the FDA and not long ago, Americans had to travel to Mexico, China or elsewhere to receive them. Now, with the regulatory environment murky, clinics offering them are spreading rapidly across the U.S. A recent report in the journal Cell Stem Cell counted 570 clinics advertising stem-cell therapies directly to consumers. Many claim to treat a long list of disorders, from arthritis to Alzheimer’s disease, even though the stem-cell treatment for many of the conditions hasn’t yet been tested on humans. Treatment typically costs thousands of dollars. (Beck, 8/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Walgreens Forms Alliance With Prime Therapeutics
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. has struck a partnership with Prime Therapeutics to help it capture a greater share of the prescription-drug market and better compete with CVS Health Inc. On Monday, Walgreens announced it is partnering with Prime, a St. Paul, Minn.-based pharmacy benefit manager owned by 14 leading Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans. The two companies will combine their specialty and mail-service businesses, and Walgreens will become the preferred pharmacy where Prime’s members could pay less to fill their prescriptions. (Ziobro and Stynes, 8/29)

The New York Times: Free Care A ‘Blessing’ For Victims Of Orlando Nightclub Attack
Rodney Sumter had three gunshot wounds, including one that seemed to be “a hole the size of a baseball.” But during the 16 days he was in a Florida hospital, and in the weeks after a gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, he never worried about the cost of healing his bullet-ravaged body. He had insurance, as well as a hunch: Some manner of charity care was probably in the offing. His intuition was proved correct this month when Florida Hospital and Orlando Regional Medical Center said they would not bill victims of the June 12 siege, which left 49 people and the gunman, Omar Mateen, dead. (Blinder, 8/29)

The Associated Press: Family Of Marine Who Died At Wisconsin VA Center Files Suit
The family of a Marine veteran who died from a toxic mix of more than a dozen drugs at a U.S. Veterans Affairs facility in Tomah, Wisconsin, filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against the U.S. government Monday. The federal lawsuit filed in Madison, Wisconsin, alleges VA caregivers improperly prescribed and administered drugs to Jason Simcakoski, who was 35 when he died in 2014. It also alleges the VA failed to provide adequate emergency care for Simcakoski when he was found unresponsive and did not properly diagnose his mental health and substance abuse problems. (8/29)

The New York Times: In Expansion, New York’s Medical Marijuana Program Will Offer Home Delivery
Moving to address complaints about New York’s new medical marijuana program, the state’s Health Department is making substantial changes to expand access to the drug, including allowing home delivery, quite likely by the end of September. The program, which saw its first dispensaries open in January, has struggled to gain broad traction in the medical community and with potential patients. Advocates for the medical use of marijuana have said the program, allowed by a 2014 law signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, was too restrictive, and its regulations too cumbersome to fulfill its mandate. (McKinley and Saint Louis, 8/29)

The Washington Post: Study: Medical Marijuana Changes How Employees Use Sick Time
"Fact #1: Legalizing marijuana is bad for the workplace." That's the stark warning from the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace, a nonprofit that works to combat drug use among American employees. "The impact of employee marijuana use is seen in the workplace in lower productivity, increased workplace accidents and injuries, increased absenteeism, and lower morale," the institute writes. "This can and does seriously impact the bottom line." Does it really, though? (Ingraham, 8/29)

NPR: Your Gut's Gone Viral, And That Might Be Good For Your Health
Everywhere you turn, it seems, there's news about the human microbiome. And, more specifically, about the bacteria that live in your gut and help keep you healthy. Those bacteria, it turns out, are hiding a big secret: their own microbiome. A study published Monday suggests some viruses in your gut could be beneficial. And these viruses don't just hang out in your intestines naked and homeless. They live inside the bacteria that make their home in your gut. (Doucleff, 8/29)

The New York Times: The Decline Of Tube Feeding For Dementia Patients
Dementia from Parkinson’s disease was taking its toll on Joan Jewell. She could still respond to music ... but she spent most of her time in bed. ... She had trouble swallowing. Last year, her doctor pointed out that she was losing weight and that a feeding tube, surgically inserted through her abdominal wall, might help her regain a few pounds. Her son James, who served as her surrogate decision maker, responded the way a growing number of family members do: He said no. The proportion of nursing home residents with advanced dementia who receive a feeding tube has dropped more than 50 percent, a new national study has found. (Span, 8/29)

The Associated Press: Transgender Inmate Latest To Push For Hormone Treatment
A transgender inmate is suing the Missouri prison system for refusing to provide hormone therapy as she transitions to a woman, adding her voice to those of prisoners in other states who argue that denying such treatment amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in federal court in St. Louis last week on behalf of Jessica Hicklin, a 37-year old inmate serving life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder at age 16, when she went by her birth name, James. She is challenging a state Department of Corrections policy that bars hormone therapy for inmates who weren't receiving it before being incarcerated. (8/29)

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