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KHN First Edition: September 6, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, September 06, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Gaps In Care Persist During Transition From Hospital To Home
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "For elderly patients like Rodgers, leaving the hospital is fraught with risk. Most are sent home or to nursing facilities after just a few days, still reeling from acute illnesses — not to mention the chronic conditions they are also confronting.“Just because they have had four days in a hospital doesn’t mean they are better,” said Mary Naylor, a gerontology professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. It’s during that critical time when problems can occur. Patients may get sicker because they don’t have access to medications, transportation, food or crucial equipment such as oxygen tanks. And many don’t have relatives or caregivers to help with the daily tasks that they were able to perform unassisted before being hospitalized." (Gorman, 9/6)

Kaiser Health News: EpiPen Controversy Fuels Concerns Over Generic Drug Approval Backlog
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sydney Lupkin reports: "Consumers and Congress members pushing for cheaper alternatives to the EpiPen and other high-priced drugs are seeking answers about a stubborn backlog of generic drug applications at the Food and Drug Administration that still stretches almost four years. As of July 1, the FDA had 4,036 generic drug applications awaiting approval, and the median time it takes for the FDA to approve a generic is now 47 months, according to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, or GPhA. The FDA has approved more generics the past few years, but a flood of new applications has steadily added to the demand." (Lupkin, 9/6)

Kaiser Health News: Experts Say Stepped-Up Monitoring Is Crucial As Zika’s Threat Lasts Beyond A Baby’s Birth
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "As the Zika virus spreads both at home and abroad, new information is bringing to light how children — even those who at birth do not show obvious signs of impairment — are likely at a greater risk than previously believed. This possibility, experts say, is highlighting a need to better track the development and well-being of babies who may have been exposed to the virus in utero." (Luthra, 9/6)

California Healthline: Tossing Unused Surgical Supplies Wastes Millions Of Dollars, Study Finds
California Healthline staff writer Ana B. Ibarra reports: "It’s long been a problem for the nation’s hospitals: A staggering number of medical supplies — from surgical gloves to sponges to medications — go unused and are discarded after surgeries. A recent study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco has put a price tag on that waste: almost $1,000 per procedure examined at the academic medical center." (Ibarra, 9/6)

The New York Times: Progress Slows On Uninsured As Health Law Blame Game Goes On
Progress in reducing the number of people without health insurance in the U.S. appears to be losing momentum this year even as rising premiums and dwindling choice are reviving the political blame game over President Barack Obama's health care law. The future of the Affordable Care Act hinges on the outcome of the presidential election, and it's shaping up as a moment of truth for Republicans. (9/6)

Reuters: Clinton Offers Plan To Curb 'Unjustified' Price Hikes On Life-Saving Drugs
Hillary Clinton said on Friday that if elected to the White House she would create an oversight panel to protect U.S. consumers from large price hikes on long-available, lifesaving drugs and to import alternative treatments if necessary, adding to her pledges to rein in overall drug prices. Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, would seek to give the panel an "aggressive new set of enforcement tools," including the ability to levy fines and impose penalties on manufacturers when there has been an "unjustified, outlier price increase" on a long-available or generic drug, her campaign said. (Becker and Pierson, 9/2)

The Washington Post: Clinton Unveils Plan To Stop Price-Gouging On Old Drugs
Hillary Clinton has been quick to criticize drug companies that raise the prices of old drugs to boost their profit margins, calling the EpiPen price hikes "outrageous" and accusing embattled pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli of "price gouging" on a decades-old anti-parasitic drug. On Friday morning, Clinton's campaign unveiled her plan to prevent companies from exploiting these kinds of older drugs, using measures such as fines and the threat of importing alternative treatments. Clinton's plan is carefully delineated to target "excessive, outlier" price hikes on "long-standing" treatments that haven't had any major improvements and have little or no competition. That's a clear attempt to reassure the pharmaceutical industry that government intervention won't squelch the development of new, pricey treatments. According to the campaign, the initiative will be focused on drugs without patent protection. (Johnson, 9/2)

Politico: New Clinton Drug Plan Targets Price Hikes, Citing EpiPen
Clinton proposed creating a federal consumer oversight body that would investigate and respond to price hikes of older drugs with limited competition, as was the case with Mylan's EpiPen. The board could wield enforcement power when it determines a price increase is unjustified. Offending companies would be fined or charged increased rebates. That money would be used to support new programs to make lower-cost alternatives available and increase approval of competing treatments. (Karlin-Smith, 9/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Hillary Clinton’s Drug Plan: Only Minor Side Effects
At first blush, this is scary talk for investors. Any action to curb price increases on older drugs would hurt manufacturers that rely on them to generate growth. But their share prices already have taken a beating over the past year. In addition, the plan offers familiar solutions such as enabling Medicare to negotiate drug prices and eliminating tax deductions for drug advertisements directed at patients. Those policies, if enacted, would have a more comprehensively negative effect on the industry. Yet a closer look suggests that scenario is unlikely to come to pass. For instance, Mrs. Clinton’s plan notes the need to “ensure that there are proper incentives for real innovations that bring effective products to market.” (Grant, 9/2)

Reuters: U.S. Lawmakers Question Mylan's Medicaid EpiPen Rebates
Two key U.S. congressional committee members on Friday called for an investigation into whether Mylan NV, under fire for raising the price of its EpiPen device, overcharged the government's low-income healthcare program for the allergy treatment. In a letter to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Frank Pallone, both Democrats, seek clarification of whether EpiPen was classified as a generic, "non-innovator" drug, or a brand-name drug by the Medicaid program. (Beasley, 9/2)

The New York Times: Drug Linked To Ohio Overdoses Can Kill In Doses Smaller Than A Snowflake
Mr. Hatmaker became one of more than 200 people to overdose in the Cincinnati area in the past two weeks, leaving three people dead in what the officials here called an unprecedented spike. Similar increases in overdoses have rippled recently through Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, overwhelming ambulance crews and emergency rooms and stunning some antidrug advocates. ... In Cincinnati, some medical and law enforcement officials said they believed the overdoses were largely caused by a synthetic drug called carfentanil, an animal tranquilizer used on livestock and elephants with no practical uses for humans. ... Experts said an amount smaller than a snowflake could kill a person. (Healy, 9/5)

The Associated Press: 4 Hours In Huntington: How The Heroin Epidemic Choked A City
He found the woman slumped over the steering wheel, an empty syringe on the floorboard and her skin dulling to a purplish blue. Dave McClure, an EMS supervisor, counted four faint breaths per minute. Without the antidote he carried, she'd be dead in five minutes. It was 3:25 p.m. on what was, so far, an ordinary Monday. For an EMT in this struggling city, bringing an addict back from the brink of opiate-fueled death counts as routine. But as McClure searched for an unscarred vein in the young woman's arm, dozens of others were shooting or snorting the same toxic powder she'd just taken. (9/4)

The Wall Street Journal: States Fight Opioid Epidemic With Prescription Databases
Prescription databases are playing an increasingly useful role in the battle against the U.S. opioid epidemic, federal and state officials say. A number of states are analyzing the data to probe doctors for practices that could jeopardize their medical licenses. Nationally, the number of opioid prescriptions fell by about 12% from 2012 to 2015, according to drug-research firm IMS Health, though last year’s total was still 39% higher than the total in 2000. At the same time, the abuse of heroin and other illicit street drugs has skyrocketed in the U.S. in recent years. (Calvert and Campo-Flores, 9/2)

The Associated Press: Minnesota Conference Will Address US Opioid Epidemic
Law enforcement, health professionals and addiction specialists from around the country will convene in Minnesota next week to talk about ways to address the growing number of deaths from heroin, prescription painkillers and other opioids. The two-day conference, beginning Wednesday, will also address the emerging problem of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that's blamed for a surge of deaths in some parts of the country — including the April 21 overdose death of Prince at his suburban Minneapolis home.  (9/2)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S., China Reach Agreement To Stem U.S.-Bound Flow Of Fentanyl
The Obama administration on Saturday announced new “enhanced measures” it will take with China to potentially stem the U.S.-bound flow of fentanyl, the powerful narcotic drug linked to the deaths of thousands of Americans in the past several years. The steps—which included a Chinese commitment to target exported substances that are controlled in the U.S., but not China—also cover drugs that are analogues of fentanyl. (Kamp, 9/3)

The Washington Post: Cincinnati Has New Plans To Fight Heroin After Overdoses
Cincinnati officials on Friday announced new plans to fight heroin in the aftermath of an unprecedented spike in overdoses in the area. Mayor John Cranley says the city wants to expand efforts to keep users alive and get them into treatment. The city is working with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and the state has shipped more overdose-reversing naloxone. (Sewell, 9/2)

Politico: Rubio Hit For Opposing Abortions For Women With Zika
A prominent abortion rights group is attacking Marco Rubio over his opposition to abortion rights for women infected with the Zika virus. NARAL Pro-Choice America is spending $175,000 to air a TV ad in Orlando and West Palm Beach targeting the vulnerable incumbent starting Monday, according to a source familiar with the buy. While the Republican senator has voted for every Zika funding proposal to come through the Senate, the GOP majority has failed to approve new emergency spending to combat the mosquito-borne disease. (Everett and Gass, 9/6)

The Wall Street Journal: New Drugs For Ovarian Cancer Patients
A new class of drugs could be a significant step forward in the treatment of ovarian cancer, one of the most lethal forms of the disease. The drugs, known as PARP inhibitors, are thought to help the body slow the disease’s progression by helping to prevent cancer cells from repairing themselves after chemotherapy treatment, thereby shrinking tumors and delaying relapses. (Walker, 9/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Risky Health Behaviors Don’t Necessarily Stop With A Cancer Diagnosis
A cancer diagnosis doesn’t automatically lead to an overhaul of unhealthy habits, says a study in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship. People who had survived various cancers had similar rates of physical inactivity, unhealthy eating habits and other risky health behaviors as people not diagnosed with cancer, the study found. Some habits, such as smoking, were more prevalent among survivors, particularly women. (Lukits, 9/5)

The Washington Post: There’s New Hope For Blood Cancers, And It Comes From Umbilical Cords
Jessie Quinn of Sacramento was 36 years old when loss of appetite, weight loss, some eye issues and finally pelvic pain sent her to the emergency room in 2010. Tests quickly revealed she had acute myeloid leukemia — a type of blood cancer that progresses quickly — and doctors told her that chemotherapy would probably not be enough; she would need a bone-marrow transplant. Quinn, who has a science background, knew that finding a donor would be difficult. In college, she had donated to a bone-marrow registry after learning that people like her, with a mixed racial heritage, have a much harder time than others finding a match. (Berger, 9/5)

NPR: FDA Examines Safety And Effectiveness Of Stem Cell Treatments
Hundreds of clinics around the country are offering to treat a long list of health problems with stem cells. The clinics claim that stem cells found in fat tissue, blood, bone marrow and even placentas can help people suffering from arthritic joints and torn tendons to more serious medical problems, including spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and strokes. Some even claim the cells can help children with autism. But leading stem cell researchers say there's not enough evidence to support the clinics' claims. (Stein, 9/5)

NPR: FDA Bans Triclosan And 18 Other Chemicals From Soaps
Consumers don't need to use antibacterial soaps, and some of them may even be dangerous, the Food and Drug Administration says. On Friday, the FDA issued a rule banning the use of triclosan, triclocarban and 17 other chemicals in hand and body washes, which are marketed as being more effective than simple soap. Companies have a year to take these ingredients out of their products or remove the products from the market, the agency said. (Kodjak, 9/2)

NPR: Bariatric Surgery Can Help With Long-Term Weight Loss
Researchers with the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Carolina recently tracked the progress of 1,787 veterans who underwent gastric bypass surgery. They found that one year after surgery patients lost 98 pounds on average. Ten years later they gained back only about 7 pounds. Earlier studies have tracked gastric bypass patients for relatively short periods of time, about 1 to 3 years. That has led to the assumption that most people who have gastric bypass surgery will eventually regain the weight. (Neighmond, 9/5)

The Washington Post: ‘A Lot Of Our Plaintiffs Have Died Waiting To Get Out Of The Nursing Home’
As a television blasted on the other side of the curtain of his shared nursing home room in the District, 87-year-old Edward Stith sat near his prosthetic leg and wondered if he would ever get out of there. In March, the retired hotel maintenance worker and veteran, whose leg was amputated four years ago, had a glimmer of hope. He was accepted through a lottery into a federal program that helps Medicaid recipients move out of nursing homes and receive services in the community. He had submitted the paperwork and knew he had until Sept. 30 to use the voucher. But here it was, the end of August, and nothing had changed. (Bahrampour, 9/4)

The Washington Post: Loneliness Can Be Depressing, But It May Have Helped Humans Survive
Loneliness not only feels nasty, it can also make you depressed, shatter your sleep, even kill you. Yet scientists think loneliness evolved because it was good for us. It still is — sometimes. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that being lonely ruins health. In one recent study, the risk of dying over a two-decade period was 50 percent higher for lonely men and 49 percent higher for lonely women than it was for those who did not experience feelings of isolation. According to some research, loneliness may be worse for longevity than obesity or air pollution. Yet according to scientists such as John Cacioppo, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, loneliness has evolved to protect us. (Zaraska, 9/4)

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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