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KHN First Edition: September 20, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Hitch Keeps Many High-Deductible Plans From Covering Chronic Care Up Front
KHN consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "As the number of people covered by high-deductible health plans soars, some insurers and employers are easing the strain on consumers’ wallets by covering certain benefits like doctor visits or generic drugs before people have reached their plan’s deductible. But there’s a hitch: Under Internal Revenue Service rules, high-deductible plans that are set up to link to health savings accounts can only cover preventive services like vaccines and mammograms until patients buy enough services on their own to pay down their deductible." (Andrews, 9/20)

Kaiser Health News: FDA Approves First Drug To Treat Rare Form Of Muscular Dystrophy
Kaiser Health News staff writer Liz Szabo reports: "The Food and Drug Administration Monday approved the first drug to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare and lethal muscle weakening disorder that affects about 15,000 Americans. The FDA’s approval of the drug, Exondys 51, also known generically as eteplirsen, came over the objections of its own advisory committee, which voted not to approve the medication earlier this year. Patients and their families had lobbied hard for the drug, made by Sarepta Therapeutics of Cambridge, Massachusetts, noting that people with the disease have few treatment options." (Szabo, 9/19)

Kaiser Health News: Kratom Defenders Fight Plan To Ban Herb Used By People In Recovery
KERA's Lauren Silverman, in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "Since 2014, Karisa Rowland has gotten up every morning, removed a bag of kratom powder from her fridge, stirred about a teaspoonful into a mug of water and drunk it.In the past, Rowland, who lives a half hour south of Fort Worth, Texas, struggled with a serious prescription opioid dependence. After several back surgeries, she was using pills — hydrocodone, fentanyl and oxycodone — to deal with her chronic pain. Her morning ritual with kratom has helped her handle her pain without taking opioid drugs, she said. (Silverman, 9/20)

The Washington Post: Republicans Seize On Obamacare Woes To Help Save Congressional Majority
Republicans have found an issue on which they can play a rare bit of offense in their quest to hang on to their Senate and House majorities: Obamacare.Criticism of the landmark health-care law has been a staple of GOP campaigns since its party-line passage in 2010. But unlike six years ago, in the first election after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans aren’t running a national campaign against federal government overreach. Instead, they’re lobbing localized attacks in key states on issues plaguing the state insurance exchanges mandated by the law. (DeBonis and Weigel, 9/19)

The New York Times: Deaths, Fraud Allegations And An Inquiry Into A Long Island V.A. Hospital
Along the winding drive through the 300-acre compound of Long Island’s only veterans’ medical center, banners line the road stating the presumed values of the institution: integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence.But in recent months, a series of troubling failings and allegations of wrongdoing have called into question the care being provided to thousands of the nation’s military personnel by the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Northport, N.Y., with charges of abuse that include widespread billing fraud and the failure to report the death of a patient for months after his body was found in a building on the complex. (Rebelo and Santora, 9/19)

The Washington Post: CDC Lifts Zika Travel Advisory For One Florida Zone
Federal health officials on Monday lifted their Zika travel advisory that had urged pregnant women to avoid an area north of downtown Miami called Wynwood. They made the call because no new cases of locally transmitted virus have been reported there since early August. The announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes after Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced earlier in the day that no evidence of Zika's spread has been documented in the Wynwood area for 45 days. The CDC's travel advisory remains in effect for the state's other active zone of transmission, Miami Beach. The area covered by that travel warning was tripled in size late Friday to cover nearly two-thirds of that tourist hot spot. (Sun, 9/19)

The Associated Press: Miami's Wynwood Cleared Of Zika; Focus Shifts To Miami Beach
With health authorities declaring a win against Zika in Miami's Wynwood arts district, their emphasis shifts to the remaining transmission zone on nearby Miami Beach, where residents have objected to the aerial pesticide spraying crediting with halting infections. No new cases of Zika have been reported in Wynwood since early August, and on Monday health officials declared it to be no longer a zone of active local transmission. (9/20)

The New York Times: Predict Zika’s Spread? It’s Hard Enough To Count The Cases
How far will the Zika outbreak spread, and for how long? Predicting Zika’s course in the continental United States is difficult. Health experts have never confronted a virus quite like this one: a mild infection that can nonetheless devastate unborn infants, and that is transmitted by both mosquitoes and sex. Even tracking cases is hard because so few cause symptoms. (McNeil, 9/19)

The New York Times: Could It Be Sepsis? C.D.C. Wants More People To Ask
Between one million and three million Americans are given diagnoses of sepsis each year, and 15 percent to 30 percent of them will die, Dr. Frieden said. Sepsis most commonly affects people over 65, but children are also susceptible. ... Sepsis develops when the body mounts an overwhelming attack against an infection that can cause inflammation in the entire body. ... Sepsis appears to be rising. The rate of hospitalizations that listed sepsis as the primary illness more than doubled between 2000 and 2008, according to a 2011 C.D.C. study. (Rabin, 9/19)

The Wall Street Journal: CDC Study Finds Increased Use Of Powerful Antibiotics At U.S. Hospitals
A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more widespread use by U.S. hospitals of powerful antibiotics designed to fight infections when less-robust antibiotics fail, a “worrisome” development as bacteria grow increasingly immune to treatment, the researchers said. Medical experts said the study, which examined prescribing between 2006 and 2012, appeared to be the first national, multiyear estimate of U.S. hospital antibiotic use. The results underscore other studies that point to the rising use of antibiotics once considered a last resort, even as calls for cautious prescribing grow more urgent. Antibiotic overuse gives evolving bacteria more opportunities to adapt and develop drug resistance. (Evans, 9/19)

The New York Times: F.D.A. Approves Muscular Dystrophy Drug That Patients Lobbied For
The Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug to treat patients with the most common childhood form of muscular dystrophy, a vivid example of the growing power that patients and their advocates wield over the federal government’s evaluation of drugs. The agency’s approval went against the recommendation of its experts. The main clinical trial of the drug was small, involving only 12 boys with the disease known as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and did not have an adequate control group of boys who had the disease but did not take the drug. A group of independent experts convened by the agency this spring said there was not enough evidence that it was effective. (Tavernise, 9/19)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Approves Sarepta’s Muscular Dystrophy Drug
The circumstances of the approval at the agency were highly unusual, and included sharp internal protests that were ultimately resolved by FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf. An advisory committee to the FDA in April voted 7-3, with 3 abstentions, that the data for the drug weren't enough for agency approval. ... Sarepta officials said Monday that the drug’s cost would be based on the patient’s weight. For the average-size child, the company said, the annual cost would be $300,000. (Burton, 9/19)

Los Angeles Times: FDA Asks Coders To Create An App That Matches Opioid Overdose Victims With Lifesaving Rescue Drug
In a bid to stanch the death toll of the nation’s epidemic of opioid drug use, the Food and Drug Administration is calling for the development of a cellphone app that could quickly bring lifesaving medication to the rescue of a person in the throes of a potentially deadly overdose.The FDA on Monday challenged computer programmers, public health advocates, clinical researchers and entrepreneurs to create an application that can connect opioid users and their friends and loved ones to someone nearby who has a dose of the prescription drug naloxone. (Healy, 9/19)

The Washington Post: Federal Drug Testing Rules Race To Catch Up To Illegal Prescription Drugs
The federal drug-testing program had its beginnings one cloudy January afternoon when two men shared a joint. At the time, they were operating three 130-ton locomotives. A few minutes later, after blowing through a railroad signal light just north of Baltimore, they collided with an Amtrak train packed with passengers, many of them college students heading back to school after their winter break. Three Amtrak passenger cars were destroyed, 16 people died and 174 were injured. ... Twenty-five years later, the test remains the same, but illegal drug use has changed significantly. The 21st century has become the era of addiction to prescription painkillers — drugs with familiar brand names such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Fentanyl and Valium. (Halsey, 9/19)

The Washington Post: Opioid Epidemic Encourages States To Open Recovery High Schools
This summer, Melvin Matos did something that he once thought he would never do: graduate from high school. He’d started drinking at 14 and quickly moved on to pills and pot. By the time he turned 16, Matos could see where his life was heading: Some of his buddies already had died because of drugs and drink. After a stint in rehab, Matos enrolled at the William J. Ostiguy High School in Boston, one of five public “recovery high schools” in Massachusetts. There, in addition to his academic classes, he participated in group therapy and 12-step meetings, submitted to regular drug tests and formed friendships with kids facing struggles similar to his. (Wiltz, 9/19)

Politico: House Panel To Vote On Contempt Charges For StemExpress
A House panel will vote Wednesday on whether to begin contempt proceedings against StemExpress, a human tissue procurement company that used to work with Planned Parenthood. The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives will vote to hold the company and CEO Cate Dyer in contempt of Congress for not complying with subpoenas to turn over documents on its fetal tissue processing, Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) announced Monday evening. The panel would have to vote to send the resolution to the full House — a matter that is unlikely to take place until after the November election. (Haberkorn, 9/19)

Reuters: GlaxoSmithKline Names Insider Emma Walmsley As New CEO
GlaxoSmithKline said on Tuesday it had chosen its head of consumer healthcare, Emma Walmsley, as its new chief executive, after considering internal and external candidates.She will become the first woman to head a top global pharmaceutical company and only the seventh to lead a business in Britain's FTSE 100 index. (Hirschler, 9/20)

The New York Times: Common Blood-Pressure Drug May Work On Malaria, Too
Giving malaria victims a common blood-pressure drug along with regular treatment may save lives by preventing lethal brain hemorrhages, scientists reported on Monday. The experiments were done only in infected mice and may not predict success in humans. But substantially more mice were saved when given the drug, according to scientists at NYU Langone Medical Center and their colleagues in Spain and Germany. (McNeil, 9/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Study Raises New Questions About Fetal Ultrasounds
A new study suggesting that first-trimester fetal ultrasound may contribute to the severity of autism symptoms heightens a dilemma facing obstetricians: How to halt the widespread overuse of fetal ultrasound without scaring women away from this important medical procedure. The study, published Sept. 1 in the journal Autism Research, is the latest in a series of highly limited studies that raise questions about the safety of fetal ultrasound. (Helliker, 9/19)

The Washington Post: Your Sweat Could Tell You When To Make A Baby — And More
You are ovulating. You are dehydrated. Your cholesterol  is too high. Or too low. You are depressed, stressed or your muscles are cramping. Time to get off the golf course and get the heart checked. Or keep playing, you are fine. A Cincinnati start-up is working on advanced wristbands, headbands and skin patches that will read markers and diagnose your health risks — or opportunities — from the sweat your body secretes. “This is the hard-science end of wearables,” said Robert Beech, chairman and co-founder of Eccrine Systems. (Heath, 9/19)

Los Angeles Times: Bright Light Boosts Testosterone In Men With Low Libido, Study Says
For men whose sex drive has stalled, Italian researchers have found in a small study that early morning exposure to bright light – a treatment widely used for seasonal depression --  revs up testosterone production and boosts sexual function and satisfaction. In a pilot trial that recruited 38 men diagnosed with problems of sexual desire and arousal, researchers at Italy’s University of Siena found that after two weeks, participants who spent a half-hour each morning in front of specially designed light box experienced increases in testosterone and a three-fold improvement in sexual satisfaction. (Healy, 9/19)

The Washington Post: If Probiotics Work For A Friend, Why Won’t They Work For You, Too?
Consumers can find probiotic supplements with such brand names as “Nature’s Bounty,” “Healthy Origins” and “Garden of Life” on store shelves.They claim to restore balance to the bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract, thereby keeping your digestive system healthy and happy. Skeptics say many probiotics disappear after entering the digestive system. They affect different people in different ways. They note that research about the products hasn’t been done, hasn’t backed up manufacturers’ claims or might not be reliable because it was paid for or conducted by the manufacturers themselves. (Niiler, 9/19)

The Washington Post: Your Dog Can Make You Feel Better, And Here’s Why
Wayne Pacelle has a demanding job as president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States. This is one of the reasons he brings Lily, his beagle mix, to work with him. He is convinced that animals “are a necessary ingredient in our emotional well-being,’’ he says. “I deal with many stressful issues, and I see terrible cruelty,’’ he adds. “But when Lily puts her head on my lap, it calms me.’’ Pacelle can’t scientifically document the positive effects he gains from his connection with Lily (and Zoe, his cat.) But his experience supports what researchers who study human/animal interaction have concluded: Pets, especially dogs, seem to be good for our health. (Cimons, 9/19)

The Associated Press: Oregon Orders Woman Spoon-Fed Despite Advanced Directive
Oregon officials are requiring a nursing facility to spoon-feed a woman despite her making clear that measures should not be taken to prolong her life. When former librarian Nora Harris was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, she and her husband hired an attorney to create an advance directive, a legal document used to guide medical care in case someone becomes incapacitated. Harris’ advance directive specifically addressed “tube” or intravenous feeding. She is now unable to communicate, and a judge says the facility must help her eat. (9/19)

The Associated Press: Maryland Health Connection Introduces New Mobile App
Marylanders can now enroll in Maryland Health Connection health coverage right from their cellphone or tablet. The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange announced a new mobile app on Monday, ahead of open enrollment. Using the free “Enroll MHC” app, officials say consumers can apply, compare prices and ratings of various plans. They can also log in to view their notices and upload documents for verification using the camera on their devices. (9/19)

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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