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KHN First Edition: October 3, 2016


First Edition

Monday, October 03, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Young Boy’s Struggle To Survive Sparked Push For Drugs For Terminally Ill
Kaiser Health News staff writer Liz Szabo reports: "At age 7, Josh Hardy became the poster child for a movement to help desperately ill or dying patients access experimental therapies which, they hope, will save their lives. People around the world rallied 2½ years ago when a small biotech company refused to provide the Fredericksburg, Va., boy, who had battled cancer since infancy, with an experimental drug that doctors believed could save Josh from a life-threatening infection. Within days, a social media campaign called #SaveJosh, sparked by his mother’s anguished Facebook post and propelled by well-connected supporters, spurred thousands of people to contact the company, Chimerix Inc. of North Carolina, prompting it to release the drug." (Szabo, 10/3)

California Healthline: When The Blues Won’t Let You Be
Anna Gorman, for California Healthline, reports: "Rini Kramer-Carter has tried everything to pull herself out of her dark emotional hole: individual therapy, support groups, tai chi and numerous antidepressants. The 73-year-old musician rattles off the list: Prozac, Cymbalta, Lexapro. “I’ve been on a bunch,” she said. “I still cry all the time.” She has what’s known as “treatment-resistant depression.” (Gorman, 10/3)

Kaiser Health News: Video-Chat? In Rural Areas Combating Drug Addiction, A New Way To Connect With Help
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "An older, unemployed man with chronic back pain recently visited Dr. Robert Devereaux, a family physician in this Southwest corner of Virginia. Devereaux recalled that months earlier, during a routine exam, he found crushed fragments of painkiller pills inside the patient’s nose. Though he refused to prescribe more, Devereaux worries that the man is still getting the drugs and has not recognized his problem or gotten treatment for his addiction." (Luthra, 10/3)

Kaiser Health News: Many Doctors Treating Alcohol Problems Overlook Successful Drugs
Emma Yasinski, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "As millions of Americans battle alcohol abuse problems each year, public health officials suggest that two often overlooked medications might offer relief to some. More than 18 million people abuse or are dependent on alcohol, yet a key study funded by the federal government reported last year that only 20 percent will ever receive treatment of any kind. In fact, just slightly more than 1 million seek any type of formal help, ranging from a meeting with a counselor or a doctor to entering a specialized treatment program." (Yasinski, 10/3)

The New York Times: Ailing Obama Health Care Act May Have To Change To Survive
The fierce struggle to enact and carry out the Affordable Care Act was supposed to put an end to 75 years of fighting for a health care system to insure all Americans. Instead, the law’s troubles could make it just a way station on the road to another, more stable health care system, the shape of which could be determined on Election Day. Seeing a lack of competition in many of the health law’s online insurance marketplaces, Hillary Clinton, President Obama and much of the Democratic Party are calling for more government, not less. (Pear, 10/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Administration Ends Drive To Ban Bare-Bones Health Plans
The Obama administration has ended a bid to ban the sale of bare-bones health plans after losing a court fight on the issue this summer. Government lawyers told a federal court earlier this month they would accept its decision that they had overstepped by seeking to effectively end so-called fixed indemnity plans, which are low-cost but pay out only set cash amounts for medical events such as a hospital visit or prescription purchase. (Radnofsky, 9/30)

The Washington Post: Drinks, Junkets And Jobs: How The Insurance Industry Courts State Commissioners
When the Arkansas insurance commissioner weighed the merits of a hospital’s billing complaint against United Healthcare, her interactions with one of the nation’s largest health insurers extended far beyond her department’s hearing room. During months of deliberations, Commissioner Julie Benafield Bowman met repeatedly with United Healthcare lawyers and lobbyists over lunch and drinks at venues such as the Country Club of Little Rock. (Mishak, 10/2)

Reuters: Anthem Judge Considering Splitting Merger Trial Into Two Sections
The judge who will rule on whether the government may stop health insurer Anthem from buying competitor Cigna said Friday that she was considering splitting the trial into phases. Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said that she was mulling hearing separately about the effect of the merger on the national market in one phase and on local markets in a second phase with a potential decision after the first set of arguments. (Bartz, 9/30)

The Associated Press: Consider A Second Opinion On That Medical Bill
If a medical bill shows up, don’t pay it right away. At least that’s the advice of some experts who say you should closely review all your medical billing information for any errors first. The American Medical Association estimates that 7.1 percent of bills paid by commercial health insurers contain errors, while others estimate errors are far more common than that.(Sell, 10/2)

The Washington Post: U.S. Health Officials Are Itching To Use The Zika Funds They’ve Begged For All Year
Congress took nearly eight months to send money to help fight a dire public health threat. Now that lawmakers have approved $1.1 billion, health officials say the funds can't arrive quickly enough to make up for lost time. "The point is to make sure that it reaches the local health department,” said Dallas County Health Director Zach Thompson. “When it gets down to it, all public health is local when you are responding to an outbreak.” (Sun and Dennis, 9/30)

NPR: CDC Tells Men Exposed To Zika To Delay Getting A Partner Pregnant
Men who may have been exposed to the Zika virus should wait at least six months before trying to conceive a child with a partner, regardless of whether they ever had any symptoms, federal health officials are recommending. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously recommended that only men with Zika symptoms had to wait that long. Those who may have been exposed to Zika but never developed any symptoms were told to hold off on trying to conceive for just eight weeks. (Stein, 9/30)

The Washington Post: There’s A Reason Many Antiabortion Leaders Support Trump: His Running Mate
In January, Marjorie Dannenfelser and nine other antiabortion activists urged Iowa voters to support anyone but Donald Trump. Now she is fully backing the Republican nominee, chairing the pro-life coalition of a man the activists said “cannot be trusted.” The dramatic about-face for Dannenfelser and other religious and social conservatives who were once leery of supporting a brash, thrice-married New Yorker who supported abortion rights and called Holy Communion a “little cracker” is due in large part to one man: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. (Zezima, 10/1)

NPR: Japanese Biologist Wins Nobel Prize In Medicine Or Physiology
According to statement from the Nobel prize committee, Ohsumi's work opened the path to understanding how cells adapt to starvation or respond to infection. Mutations in the genes that control the process of autophagy can lead to several conditions, including cancer and neurological disease. Each Nobel prize is worth about $930,000. In most years, the prize is shared among two or more scientists. This year's prize goes to Ohsumi alone. (Stein, 10/3)

Politico: The White House Drug Czar On Fighting Addictions — Including His Own
Some prominent politicians — think Donald Trump — say that to fight the nation's drug problems, we need to put up more walls. Michael Botticelli believes in tearing them down. "In the past, we’ve criminalized people with addiction," the White House drug czar told POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast, arguing that aggressive prosecution of some drug users was "really bad public policy." Instead, he says the nation needs a kinder, gentler approach to fighting drug misuse — and as a recovering alcoholic, Botticelli argues he's just the man for the job. (Diamond, 9/30)

The New York Times: A Death On Staten Island Highlights Heroin’s Place In ‘Mainstream Society’
The man entered the Red Robin restaurant inside the Staten Island Mall two minutes after 6 p.m. on a Friday. He walked straight past the booths and tables and entered the men’s room. A manager would find him there seven minutes later, lying on the floor with a needle and foaming at the mouth. His name was Jonathan Ayers, 27, and he was declared dead within the hour that evening, Sept. 9, apparently of a heroin overdose. (Wilson, 10/2)

Los Angeles Times: Thousands Of Deaths From Hospital Superbugs Are Going Unreported, Research Shows
Many thousands of Californians are dying every year from infections they caught while in hospitals. But you’d never know that from their death certificates. Sharley McMullen of Manhattan Beach came down with a fever just hours after being wheeled out of a Torrance Memorial Medical Center operating room on May 4, 2014. A missionary’s daughter who worked as a secretary at Cape Canaveral, Fla., at the height of the space race, McMullen, 72, was there for treatment of a bleeding stomach ulcer. Soon, though, she was fighting for her life. (sen, 10/2)

The Associated Press: Insider Q&A: A Front-Row Seat For The Drug Pricing Battle
Dr. Steve Miller, the chief medical officer of Express Scripts, sits at the center of the storm over rising drug prices. ... Miller has watched super-sized drug prices infuriate patients and strain the health care system with growing frequency, starting when a new hepatitis C drug hit the market at $84,000 for a course of treatment and continuing through the recent revelation that the price of Mylan's EpiPen rose more than 500 percent since 2007. (10/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Drugmakers Point Finger At Middlemen For Rising Drug Prices
As U.S. drug prices rise, drugmakers are playing down their role, instead heaping blame on the middlemen who help determine how medicines are priced. Some of the sharpest criticism has come from drug-industry executives who have been grilled by lawmakers or skewered on social media over sharp price increases on their products. They include the chief of Mylan NV, maker of the lifesaving EpiPen, who says her company is being tarred unfairly for a dysfunctional system in which wholesalers, pharmacies and pharmacy-benefit managers take their own cut of each prescription. (Walker, 10/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Novo Nordisk Bets On Riskier Insulin Research
Nearly 10 years ago, executives at Novo Nordisk A/S wondered whether the company’s decadeslong quest to make ever-better insulin had finally come to an end. The trigger was an impressive set of results for the company’s newest insulin that suggested the product would be difficult to improve upon. (Roland, 10/2)

The New York Times: New Drug For Severe Eczema Is Successful In 2 New Trials
The disease is characterized by an itching, oozing rash that can cover almost all of the skin. The constant itch, to say nothing of the disfigurement, can be so unbearable that many patients consider suicide. There has never been a safe and effective treatment. On Saturday, the results of two large clinical trials of a new drug offered hope to the estimated 1.6 million adult Americans with an uncontrolled, moderate-to-severe form of the disease, atopic dermatitis, which is a type of eczema. (Kolata, 10/1)

The Associated Press: Hope, Relief For Transgender Military Families In New Policy
Like many transgender teens, Jenn Brewer faced bullying when she came out. Some classmates called her "tranny," and a few teachers refused to address the 13-year-old by anything other than her male birth name, she said. But she and her family found that the biggest difficulty came from her father's employer: the U.S. military. Jenn's father is an Army staff sergeant at Virginia's Fort Belvoir, and his military health insurance refused to cover private counseling to support the changes his daughter was embracing. (10/2)

USA Today: Police Departments Struggle To Get Cops Mental Health Training
Police departments and policymakers around the country are grappling with how to bolster training for cops on mental health issues in the midst of a string of high-profile fatal incidents involving suspects believed to be in the throes of mental breakdowns. The current debate on policing in America has largely focused on whether inherent racial bias has led to police disproportionately using deadly force against African-Americans. (Madhani, 10/2)

NPR: Hill-Burton Act: A Health Care Milestone Worth Remembering
People might be forgiven for thinking that the Affordable Care Act is the federal government's boldest intrusion into the private business of health care. But few know about a 70-year-old law that is responsible for the construction of much of our health system's infrastructure. The law's latest anniversary came and went without much notice in August. (Schumann, 10/2)

The Washington Post: Ask A MacArthur Genius: What Do Ancient Rocks And Cystic Fibrosis Have In Common?
Ask Caltech microbiologist Dianne Newman what she does for a living, and she’ll answer with a chuckle: “I study weird forms of metabolism.” She has spent a career studying the strange ways in which microscopic organisms get the food and energy they need in environments without oxygen — a quest that has taken her from geology to biology and from Earth’s most ancient origins to the pathogens of today. (Blakemore, 9/30)

NPR: Scientists Find No Evidence That Brain Games Make You Brainier
Want to be smarter? More focused? Free of memory problems as you age? If so, don't count on brain games to help you. That's the conclusion of an exhaustive evaluation of the scientific literature on brain training games and programs. It was published Monday in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest. (Hamilton, 10/3)

NPR: Contaminated Water Can Infect Dental Patients, Though Cases Are Rare
When people go to the dentist, they generally expect to leave in better health than when they walked in. But the water that dentists use to rinse teeth sometimes carries infectious bacteria. The Orange County Health Care Agency in California says that nearly two dozen children who received so-called baby root canals, or pulpotomies, are thought to have developed dangerous bacterial infections. Dentists perform pulpotomies to remove infected pulp inside a baby tooth so the rest of the tooth can be spared. (Ross, 9/30)

The Washington Post: Here’s What Dentists Recommend, Including Flossing Your Teeth
Maintaining oral health means following advice so familiar it’s almost boring: Brush for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Clean between teeth once a day with floss, a small brush or pick. And visit your dentist regularly. (The American Dental Association, commenting on recent reports that evidence doesn’t support flossing, says that doesn’t mean such cleaning isn’t effective.) (Levingston, 10/1)

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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