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KHN First Edition: August 31, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Cardiac Rehab Improves Health, But Cost And Access Issues Complicate Success
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "Mario Oikonomides credits a massive heart attack when he was 38 for sparking his love of exercise, which he says helped keep him out of the hospital for decades after.While recovering, he did something that only a small percentage of patients do: He signed up for a medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation program where he learned about exercise, diet and prescription drugs.“I had never exercised before,” said Oikonomides, 69, who says he enjoyed it so much he stayed active after finishing the program." (Appleby, 8/31)

Kaiser Health News: Did It Hurt Or Help? Researchers Analyze Ohio’s 2011 Abortion Law
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "Did a law regulating drug-induced abortions keep women safe or block them from access to this procedure? A study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine suggests an Ohio law limiting how women can obtain medical abortions may have led to a higher rate of complications. But the law’s defenders said these conclusions should be viewed with skepticism, and that researchers detected more need for follow-up care because the law resulted in more careful patient monitoring, unearthing problems they say were already there." (Luthra, 8/30)

California Healthline: UC Davis To Launch Gun Violence Research Center
Cynthia H. Craft, for California Healthline, reports: "University of California officials Monday announced  that UC Davis will establish the West Coast’s first research center dedicated to preventing gun violence. UC President Janet Napolitano said the center will be led by Dr. Garen Wintemute, an internationally known epidemiologist and emergency room physician who gathers and analyzes gun violence data with an eye toward prevention. The new California Firearm Violence Research Center will be funded by $5 million in taxpayer funds allocated over five years, and will build on Wintemute’s existing efforts." (Craft, 8/30)

The Associated Press: 20 Democratic Senators Blast Steep Price Hike For EpiPens
In a sign of growing concern in Congress, 20 Democratic senators are demanding answers about steep price hikes for the life-saving EpiPen injector device. The senators said in a letter Tuesday that price hikes of more than 500 percent have jeopardized access to emergency allergy shots for many Americans. The letter was addressed to Heather Bresch, CEO of the pharmaceutical company that makes the devices, Mylan N.V. Bresch is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Manchin did not sign the letter. (8/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Senators See ‘Shell Game’ In EpiPen Maker Mylan’s Bid To Ease Access To Allergy Drug
A group of 20 senators called the recent price-lowering overtures from the company that makes the EpiPen emergency auto-injector a “well-defined industry tactic to keep costs high through a complex shell game.” The sheer number of senators – 19 Democrats plus independent Sen. Bernie Sanders – represents a ratcheting-up of the stakes over the dramatic price increases of the emergency epinephrine product from Mylan NV. Mylan has sought recently to quell criticism by announcing discount programs and, on Monday, other plans soon to offer a generic version at half price. (Burton, 8/30)

Morning Consult: Senate Democrats Blast Mylan’s Affordability Moves
The senators, 19 Democrats and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, wrote that the company’s decision to offer a generic version of EpiPens and offer a discount coupon for patients paying the full list price out-of-pocket still results in high costs for patients through insurance premiums. (McIntire, 8/30)

Los Angeles Times: State Senator Introduces Resolution To Condemn EpiPen Price Hikes
State Sen. Ed Hernandez's attempt to push through a drug pricing transparency bill sputtered this year, but the West Covina Democrat still wants his colleagues to weigh in on the latest controversy in the cost of prescription drugs: the surging price of EpiPens. Hernandez is introducing a resolution that excoriates the anti-allergy device's manufacturer, Mylan, joining a chorus of federal lawmakers who have accused the company of price-gouging. (Mason, 8/30)

The Washington Post: Obamacare Exchanges Are Shedding Insurer Options In Lots Of Close 2016 States
One of the assets Hillary Clinton has at her disposal as the 2016 campaign hits the home stretch is that she's supported by a fairly popular incumbent president. Granted, most politicians are popular compared to Clinton and Donald Trump, but President Obama's popularity — at or above 50 percent in 17 of the last 20 weeks of Gallup surveys — means that she can position herself as his heir in a way that appeals to enough people to make up a majority of voters. But there's a risk to that strategy. Obama's signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare), is having the roughest year of its existence. (Bump, 8/30)

USA Today: As Obamacare Choices Dwindle, Feds Face Consumer, Political Backlash
Up to 2.1 million people will likely have to change plans for 2017 due to insurers leaving states' Affordable Care Act marketplaces, up from more than 1.2 million who had to find new insurers last year. That doesn't include the millions who bought new plans because they found a better deal. The new estimates, from data expert Charles Gaba of, come as another analysis shows five states are expected to have just one company selling insurance on the 2017 Obamacare exchanges. Consumers in most counties in nine other states won't find any competition for their exchange business either, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (O'Donnell, Alltucker, Ungar and Leys, 8/30)

Los Angeles Times: After Ohio Passed Abortion Law, Risk Of Complications Nearly Tripled
Women seeking medical abortions in Ohio experienced a higher rate of complications after the state implemented a law that put new restrictions on doctors who performed the procedure, according to a study published Tuesday. The law, which took effect in 2011, requires abortion providers to adhere to specific guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when giving patients a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. The drugs have been shown to terminate early pregnancies safely and effectively. (Netburn, 8/30)

The New York Times: U.S. Funding For Fighting Zika Virus Is Nearly Spent, C.D.C. Says
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Tuesday that federal funds to fight the Zika virus were nearly exhausted, and that if Congress did not replenish them soon, there would be no money to fight a new outbreak. As of Friday, the C.D.C. had spent $194 million of the $222 million it was allocated to fight the virus, said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the agency. Congress left for its summer recess without approving additional funding. Now that the virus is actively circulating in Florida, Dr. Frieden is pressing his case for funding with new urgency. (Tavernise, 8/30)

The Washington Post: Centers For Disease Control Will Run Out Of Money To Fight Zika In U.S. Next Month
The federal agency leading the public health response to the Zika threat in the United States will run out of funding to combat the mosquito-borne virus by late September, its director said Monday. "The cupboard is bare," said Tom Frieden, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Basically, we're out of money, and we need Congress to act to allow us to respond effectively." Of the $222 million that the CDC allocated for domestic Zika response this year, about $200 million has been committed, Frieden said during a media roundtable in Washington. "The rest will be gone by the end of September." (Sun, 8/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Halts New Zika Test After FDA Inspection
Theranos Inc. withdrew its request for emergency clearance of a Zika-virus blood test after federal regulators found that the company didn’t include proper patient safeguards in a study of the new test, said people familiar with the matter. The move is another setback for the Palo Alto, Calif., company as it tries to recover from crippling regulatory sanctions that followed revelations by The Wall Street Journal of shortcomings in Theranos’s technology and operations. Theranos has said it is appealing. (Carreyrou and Weaver, 8/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Hoosick Falls Hearing Grills Health Officials
Health officials in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration faced sharp questioning Tuesday at the first legislative hearing examining the water contamination crisis in the upstate village of Hoosick Falls. The hearing, held by the state Senate at a school in Hoosick Falls, is the first of three planned to examine an issue that has dogged Mr. Cuomo’s administration during the past year and led to some of the toughest criticism the Democratic governor has faced since he took office in 2011. (Vilensky, 8/30)

The New York Times: After Months Of Anger In Hoosick Falls, Hearings On Tainted Water Begin
It did not take long for Michael Hickey to find a connection between his father’s cancer and a toxic chemical in this riverside village. “All I typed in was Teflon and cancer, because that’s what was in the factory that was in Hoosick Falls where my father worked,” said Mr. Hickey, an insurance underwriter and lifelong resident here. “It took about five minutes,” he said. It took far longer for government officials to take notice, let alone action, which came partially in response to Mr. Hickey’s efforts to bring attention to the village’s polluted water. (McKinley, 8/30)

The Associated Press: Health Commissioner: State Acted Properly On Tainted Water
The state followed federal guidelines in addressing industrial chemical contamination of a village's drinking water, but the Environmental Protection Agency gave "confusing, changing and inconsistent guidance," New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Tuesday. At a state Senate hearing on the state's handling of PFOA contamination of the municipal water supply in Hoosick Falls, Zucker said EPA guidelines on maximum levels of the Teflon-related chemical in drinking water are intended to trigger action to reduce it, not to warn against drinking the water. (8/30)

The New York Times: Their Soil Toxic, 1,100 Indiana Residents Scramble To Find New Homes
Stephanie King, a single mother of five, has adopted a grim routine over the past month: mopping with bleach twice a day and sweeping even more often to remove any dirt her family might have tracked inside. She has a haunted look, and for good reason. Ms. King and other residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex here learned recently that much of the soil outside their homes contained staggering levels of lead, one of the worst threats to children’s health. (Goodnough, 8/30)

The Associated Press: Feds To Distribute $53 Million To States To Fight Opioids
The Obama administration says it will distribute $53 million to 44 states in an effort to curb opioid abuse. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says the funding will focus on reducing over-prescribing of pain killers, increasing access to treatment and making sure the antidote naloxone is widely available. The administration is also calling on Congress to provide $1.1 billion in new money, saying legislation recently signed into law didn't do enough to expand treatment. That bill authorized $181 million in new spending. (8/31)

The Associated Press: Novartis Wins US OK For Biosimilar Version Of Amgen’s Enbrel 
U.S. regulators on Tuesday approved the first lower-cost version of Enbrel, a blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug from Amgen that is among the top-selling drugs in the world. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the near-copy of the drug, dubbed Erelzi, developed by Swiss drug giant Novartis, which would not disclose the planned list price for the drug. A month’s supply of Enbrel costs roughly $4,000 or more in the U.S., according to figures from GoodRx, a drug pricing website. Enbrel was the fourth best-selling prescription drug in the world for 2015, according to health data firm IMS Health. (Johnson and Perrone, 8/30)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Approves Novartis’s Biosimilar To Amgen’s Enbrel
Novartis AG’s lower-priced replica of Amgen’s rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis drug Enbrel has been approved in the U.S. to treat multiple inflammatory diseases, the company said Tuesday. The so-called biosimilar to etanercept will be sold under the name Erelzi. It is the third biosimilar approved in the U.S. (Armental, 8/30)

The Washington Post: Ebola Stayed In The Semen Of One Man For 565 Days
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned late Tuesday that Ebola lingers in semen much longer than previously believed, underscoring how much we still don't understand about the virus. Researchers initially thought that once people survived Ebola they were immune and could no longer get sick and transmit the virus to others, as is the case with many other infectious diseases we're familiar with, such as chickenpox and even the bubonic plague. Then cases emerged like that of Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who was thought to have recovered but then had several relapses. American physician Ian Crozier's left eye turned from blue to green because of the virus that remained in his body. (Cha, 8/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Arkansas Lawyers Go To Court To Stop Fee And Damages Caps In Medical Injury Suits
A November ballot proposal in Arkansas would impose new limits on attorneys’ fees and pain-and-suffering damages in medical-malpractice claims. Lawyers in the state are fighting the initiative by relying on an essential tool of the trade: they’re suing. The battle over the so-called Lawsuit Reform Amendment of 2016, also known as Issue 4, pits the state’s bar association against health-care interests, including nursing homes, that helped finance the effort to get the proposal on the ballot. (Gershman, 8/30)

The Associated Press: Hospital, Hepatitis C Outbreak Victims Reach Settlement
Trinity Health and its hospital in Minot have agreed in principal on a legal settlement with 21 victims of the largest hepatitis C outbreak in recent U.S. history, though Trinity’s legal fight with a nursing home where most people were sickened will continue. Trinity attorneys filed a request asking state Judge Todd Cresap to dismiss the lawsuit, saying Trinity recently reached a confidential settlement resolving the plaintiffs’ claims. They asked Cresap to allow a connected legal dispute between the hospital and the former ManorCare nursing home to be resolved in federal court, where it originated. Cresap has not yet ruled. (Nicholson, 8/30)

Los Angeles Times: Compromise Struck On Planned Parenthood-Backed Bill On Secret Recordings
A deal has been struck on a controversial bill sponsored by Planned Parenthood to create new penalties for distributing illegal recordings in the wake of high-profile secret videos circulated by anti-abortion activists. The bill, by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Echo Park), had sought to create a new crime for distributing video or audio recordings involving a healthcare professional that were taken without a person's consent. In California, it is already illegal to make such recordings without all parties' authorization. (Mason, 8/30)

The Associated Press: Negotiations Resume Friday As Minnesota Nurses Strike Looms
Negotiators will return to the bargaining table Friday in hopes of averting a nurses' strike at five Twin Cities hospitals. The Minnesota Nurses Association represents 4,800 nurses at the affected hospitals. Union officials and Allina Health representatives said Tuesday that federal mediators have called both sides back together. The union is scheduled to strike at 7 a.m. Monday, Labor Day, in a dispute over health insurance, workplace safety and staffing. (8/30)

NPR: In Philadelphia, Learning How To Keep Shooting Victims Alive
When a young African-American man dies in the city of Philadelphia, more than half the time there's one main reason why, says Scott Charles. "It's because somebody pointed a gun at him and pulled that trigger. It's not because of cancer; it's not because of car accidents; it's not because of house fires. It's because somebody pointed a trigger," he says. Charles is trauma outreach coordinator at Temple University Hospital. The medical center now offers bystander first-aid training, called Fighting Chance, to give friends and family something to do in the minutes before help arrives. (English, 8/30)

The Washington Post: These Futuristic Contact Lenses Dispense Drugs While You Wear Them
If you’ve ever struggled with trying to get those tiny eyedrops in just the right spot, read on. A team of researchers has come up with a new type of contact-lens system that gradually delivers medication to your eye while you wear them. That’s right: no more fumbling for the vials on your overcrowded bathroom counter and squinting into the air as the first few drops plop on your face, nose, ears and anywhere but where they are supposed to go. (Cha, 8/30)

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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