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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Health Law Expanded Coverage For Ex-Inmates, But Gaps Remain

The health law’s Medicaid expansion and its requirement that employer medical plans cover dependents up to age 26 had a significant impact on coverage for this population. The portion of young adult ex-inmates without insurance fell from 40 percent to 32 percent. (Jay Hancock, 9/19)

5. Political Cartoon: 'Something's Going Around'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Something's Going Around'" by Mike Keefe.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Rising drug prices
Are something to talk about.
But is there a fix?

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Summaries Of The News:


6. Investigation Reveals Drugmakers' Deep Influence On Nation's Response To Opioid Crisis

The Associated Press and The Center for Public Integrity find that drugmakers set in place a strategy to continue to profit off of doctors' aggressive overprescribing, even as they claim to play an important role in curbing the epidemic.

The Center for Public Integrity/The Associated Press: Pharma Lobbying Held Deep Influence Over Policies On Opioids
The Associated Press and The Center for Public Integrity teamed up to investigate the influence of pharmaceutical companies on state and federal policies regarding opioids, the powerful painkillers that have claimed the lives of 165,000 people in the U.S. since 2000. The news agencies tracked proposed laws on the subject and analyzed data on how the companies and their allies deployed lobbyists and contributed to political campaigns. (9/18)

The Center For Public Integrity/The Associated Press: Pro-Painkiller Echo Chamber Shaped Policy Amid Drug Epidemic
For more than a decade, members of a little-known group called the Pain Care Forum have blanketed Washington with messages touting prescription painkillers' vital role in the lives of millions of Americans, creating an echo chamber that has quietly derailed efforts to curb U.S. consumption of the drugs, which accounts for two-thirds of the world's usage. In 2012, drugmakers and their affiliates in the forum sent a letter to U.S. senators promoting a hearing about an influential report on a "crisis of epidemic proportions": pain in America. Few knew the report stemmed from legislation drafted and pushed by forum members and that their experts had helped author it. The report estimated more than 100 million Americans — roughly 40 percent of adults — suffered from chronic pain, an eye-popping statistic that some researchers call deeply problematic. (Perrone and Wieder, 9/19)

The Center for Public Integrity/The Associated Press: Politics Of Pain: Drugmakers Fought State Opioid Limits Amid Crisis
The makers of prescription painkillers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, the drugs at the heart of a crisis that has cost 165,000 Americans their lives and pushed countless more to crippling addiction. The drugmakers vow they're combating the addiction epidemic, but The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that they often employ a statehouse playbook of delay and defend that includes funding advocacy groups that use the veneer of independence to fight limits on their drugs, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and fentanyl, the narcotic linked to Prince's death. (Whyte, Mulvihill and Wieder, 9/18)

Meanwhile, a major gaffe from two pharmaceutical companies comes at an inopportune time —

Stat: FDA Chastises Companies For Touting An Opioid Painkiller On The Web
At a time when selling opioid painkillers is fraught with challenges, two companies committed an unnecessary blunder. The US Food and Drug Administration decided that Pain Therapeutics and Durect were jointly touting an experimental drug on their web sites in a way that appeared so misleading that the agency issued a rare letter to criticize their marketing practices.According to the Sept. 8 letter, which the FDA posted on its website this week, the companies made statements that consumers might construe to mean the drug, Remoxy ER, is already approved for use. The agency pointed to certain language on the company websites — such as “long-acting” and “tamper-resistant” — that gave the impression these were “established facts” pertaining to an approved drug. (Silverman, 9/16)

7. Ohio's Opioid Crisis: 'If It Can Happen Here ... It Can Happen Anywhere'

The Columbus Dispatch offers a look at different ways the opioid epidemic is hitting Ohio.

The Associated Press: Village Police Chief In Spotlight Of Ohio's Heroin Battle
The veteran police chief in a bucolic Ohio village, where the last murder was two decades ago and he can just about count the number of drug cases on both hands, finds himself in the spotlight on the front lines against heroin overdoses in one of the nation's hardest-hit states. Thomas Synan Jr., of Newtown, with some 2,700 people tucked among suburban cities and townships just east of Cincinnati, has led the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition task force during a stunning spike of overdoses that saw 174 reported in one six-day period last month. He has also publicly challenged Ohio's governor to do more to help an area that's "bleeding profusely." (Sewell, 9/18)

Columbus Dispatch: Ohio At Epicenter Of Heroin Epidemic Killing Thousands 
Every day, 78 people in the United States die from an opiate overdose — 29 of them from heroin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's more than 10,500 deaths a year attributed to heroin and more than 28,000 deaths from opiate overdoses. The number of fatal overdoses in Ohio that involve heroin has soared from 87 in 2003 to 1,424 last year. It was a factor in 47 percent of all fatal overdoses, higher than any other drug. (Viviano, 9/18)

Columbus Dispatch: Hospitals Try To Heal, Soothe Growing Number Of Babies With Drug Dependency 
Between 2004 and 2014, nearly 3,900 infants statewide were found to have been exposed to heroin or other opioids, either during pregnancy or through breast milk, according to the most recent data from the Ohio Department of Health. Hospitalizations for opioid exposure in infants jumped 1,427 percent during that time, from 63 in 2004 to 962 by 2014. Many are born dependent and need extended treatment to help wean them from the drugs; a few are harmed later when the adults around them abuse heroin or opioid pain medications. (Price, 9/19)

Columbus Dispatch: Parents’ Addictions Put Too Many Kids In Foster Care
After a decade of steeply declining foster-care rates, Ohio now has about 14,000 children in agency custody. That's an increase of nearly 13 percent since the end of 2012, and it doesn't include the likely faster-growing number of kids taken in by relatives. Some hard-hit counties report that more children are being adopted than reunited with their parents. And the state's hospitalization rate for neonatal abstinence syndrome — a set of symptoms suffered by infants born dependent on drugs — has soared from 14 for every 10,000 live births in 2004 to 134 per 10,000 by 2014. (Price, 9/19)

Columbus Dispatch: Opiates Make The Brain Think It Can’t Survive Without Them 
Many heroin addicts graduate to the drug after taking opiate-based medications prescribed for pain or sold on the street. These drugs can change the way nerve cells work in the brain in a relatively short period of time, creating an unprecedented craving. The brain is chemically set up to maximize one's ability to function in society, but adding a drug into the mix changes the brain and the user's reality, said Brad Lander, clinical director of addiction medicine at Talbot Hall at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. (Viviano, 9/18)

Meanwhile, other media outlets offer coverage of the crisis out of Tennessee, New York and Virginia —

Nashville Tennessean: There Are More Opioid Prescriptions Than People In Tennessee
Health care professionals in Tennessee last year wrote more than 7.8 million opioid prescriptions — or 1.18 for every man, woman and child — even as the state grapples with a scourge of painkiller addiction and abuse.The total places Tennessee second in the nation, behind only Alabama in prescriptions of the drugs, according to IMS Health data. Even though the number of scripts has fallen by 724,070 since 2013 when there were over 8.5 million total prescriptions, the state remains ensconced as a leader in prescribing oxycodone, hydrocodone and Percocet. (Fletcher, 9/19)

The Associated Press: NY Lower Than Most States In Rate Of Opioid Prescriptions
New York ranked fourth among states whose lawmakers drew the most contributions from the opioid industry but was near the bottom in prescriptions per capita, according to data compiled by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity. Lobbyists for a loosely affiliated group of drugmakers and nonprofits in the Pain Care Forum show they had 206 registered lobbyists in Albany last year, donating $288,500 to state candidates and committees last year, and $3.7 million over the past decade. (9/18)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: In Virginia, Teens Account For Small Amount Of Fatal Overdoses; Majority Are Younger Adults 
Even when including overdoses on popular benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Valium alongside opioids, people younger than 20 made up about 2 percent of overdose deaths from the drugs from 2007 to 2014, according to data from the state medical examiner’s office. Although those numbers may seem encouraging, the ones that follow are not: Adults ages 25 to 44 accounted for more than half of all deaths during that time frame — in large part casualties of the intersection between genetic predisposition to substance abuse and the widespread availability of prescription painkillers, treatment experts say. (Evans, 9/18)

Capitol Hill Watch