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KHN First Edition: December 8, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Thursday, December 08, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Senate Approves Landmark Mental Health Bill As Part Of 21st Century Cures Act
Liz Szabo reports: "The Senate passed the first major mental health legislation in nearly a decade, sending the 21st Century Cures Act to President Barack Obama, who has promised to sign it. The Senate voted 94-5 to approve the act, which sailed through the House of Representatives last week. Although the 21st Century Cures Act has been championed as a way to speed up drug development, it also includes provisions aimed at improving mental health care for millions of Americans and fighting the opioid epidemic. Mental health advocates have described it as the most significant piece of mental health legislation since the 2008 law requiring equal insurance coverage for mental and physical health." (Szabo, 12/7)

Kaiser Health News: You’re Not Just ‘Growing Old’ If This Happens To You
Judith Graham reports: "When Dr. Christopher Callahan examines older patients, he often hears a similar refrain. “I’m tired, doctor. It’s hard to get up and about. I’ve been feeling kind of down, but I know I’m getting old and I just have to live with it.” This fatalistic stance relies on widely-held but mistaken assumptions about what constitutes “normal aging.” (Graham, 12/8)

California Healthline: Drug Price Transparency Before California Lawmakers Again
Pauline Bartolone reports: "A key California lawmaker has reintroduced legislation intended to make drug price increases more transparent, vowing to take up arms again with the pharmaceutical industry over runaway costs. Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, this week announced a measure that would require pharmaceutical companies to notify state health programs and private insurers before they increase prices. Hernandez dropped a similar bill last session because he was dissatisfied with amendments that raised the threshold for reporting." (Bartolone, 12/7)

The Associated Press: Congress Approves Biomedical Bill As Leaders Eye Adjournment
With an atypical burst of bipartisanship, the Senate shipped legislation to President Barack Obama on Wednesday lowering hurdles for government drug approvals as the 114th Congress bumped toward the end of a two-year run highlighted by upheaval and stalemate. A week after the House easily approved the biomedical bill, senators passed it by a similarly overwhelming 94-5 margin. (12/7)

The New York Times: Sweeping Health Measure, Backed By Obama, Passes Senate
In many ways the bill, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, is a return to a more classic approach to legislation, with policy victories and some disappointments for both parties, and potential benefits for nearly every American whose life has been touched by illness, drug addiction and mental health issues. Years in the making, the measure passed 94 to 5 after being overwhelmingly approved by the House last week. (Steinhauer and Pear, 12/7)

The Washington Post: Congress Passes 21st Century Cures Act, Boosting Research And Easing Drug Approvals
The bill provides for $4.8 billion in new funding for the National Institutes of Health; of that, $1.8 billion is reserved for the “cancer moonshot” launched by Vice President Biden to accelerate research in that field. Another $1.6 billion is earmarked for brain diseases including Alzheimer’s. Also included are $500 million in new funding for the Food and Drug Administration and $1 billion in grants to help states deal with opioid abuse. (DeBonis, 12/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Clears Bill To Ease FDA Drug And Device Approvals
Republicans have been pushing for the changes for the past few years, arguing that the FDA takes too long to study scientific evidence and sometimes wrongly insists on large, multiyear clinical studies that delay important treatments to patients. The bill’s mechanisms allow the FDA to use shorter and simpler studies more widely. Under the measure, certain new antibiotics could see shorter trials, and a fairly wide range of drugs could get additional approvals for new uses based on relatively low amounts of evidence, such as data summaries and data from company registries. (Burton, 12/7)

Los Angeles Times: Senate Passes $6.3-Billion Medical Research Bill And Sends To Obama
The legislation has generated concerns among many consumer advocates, who have warned that provisions that would speed federal regulatory review of new drugs and medical devices could expose patients to new risks. “The bill has been sold erroneously as a common sense, bipartisan compromise that enables scientific innovation and medical breakthroughs for America,” said Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “But in reality, the legislation includes a grab bag of goodies for Big Pharma and medical device companies that would undermine requirements for ensuring safe and effective drugs and medical devices.” (Levey, 12/7)

Politico: Biden’s Farewell Gift: Cancer Moonshot Helps Pass $6.3 Billion Research Bill
Two months after the Obama administration promised a “moonshot” to accelerate the fight against cancer, Vice President Joe Biden summoned top health care lawmakers to a meeting in the Old Executive Office building. Biden, whose son, Beau, died from brain cancer less than a year earlier, saw a path to fund the initiative in Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton’s 21st Century Cures bill — a measure designed to boost funding for research on cancer and other diseases while making sweeping regulatory changes at the FDA that easily passed the House but was struggling to gain momentum in the upper chamber. (Karlin-Smith, Norman and Haberkorn, 12/7)

Politico: Liberals Mount Campaign To Save Obamacare
Liberal groups plan to mount a campaign to save Obamacare, sharing the personal stories of thousands of Americans who would lose health insurance in a last-ditch effort to block Republicans’ agenda to gut the law early next year. The goal of the campaign is to take back the narrative from Republican critics who depict the law as a government boondoggle by spotlighting how it has helped millions of Americans who wouldn’t otherwise have health insurance. (Pradhan, 12/7)

Politico: Obamacare Repeal Could Be 'Akin To Armageddon' For People With Mental Illness
Millions of Americans, including many struggling with opioid addiction, risk losing access to mental health treatment if Republicans make good on their promise to do away with Obamacare. Full repeal of the health law would gut major benefits and protections for what HHS estimates is 60 million people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders — creating barriers to treatment at a time when opioid abuse is epidemic, suicide rates are at a record high and there's a severe shortage of psychiatric beds. (Ehley, 12/7)

The Washington Post: U.S. Life Expectancy Declines For The First Time Since 1993
For the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy for Americans declined last year — a troubling development linked to a panoply of worsening health problems in the United States. Rising fatalities from heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, accidents and other conditions caused the lower life expectancy revealed in a report released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics. In all, death rates rose for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death. (Bernstein, 12/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Nation’s Death Rate Rises As Progress Against Heart Disease Stalls
Americans are dying from heart disease at a faster rate, stalling four decades of gains against the nation’s leading killer and driving up the U.S. mortality rate overall.The death rate from heart disease rose 0.9% last year, according to U.S. mortality data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death rate also rose 3% for stroke, the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S. (McKay and Winslow, 12/8)

Los Angeles Times: Life Expectancy In The U.S. Was 36.5 Days Shorter In 2015 Than In 2014
The main reason for this decline is that eight of the nation’s 10 leading causes of death were deadlier in 2015 than in years past, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease and suicide all claimed more lives last year. (Kaplan, 12/8)

NPR: U.S. Life Expectancy Declines
Now, there's a chance that the latest data, from 2015, could be just a one-time blip. In fact, a preliminary analysis from the first two quarters of 2016 suggests that may be the case, says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the new report. Anderson says government analysts are awaiting more data before reaching any definitive conclusions. (Stein, 12/8)

Reuters: EpiPen Maker Mylan To Restructure, Cut Workforce
Generic drugmaker Mylan NV, which has been under fire for price hikes on the life-saving EpiPen allergy treatment, said on Wednesday that it expected to cut less than 10 percent of its workforce in a restructuring to integrate acquisitions. Mylan, whose shares were down more than 3 percent in mid-afternoon trading, has been under investigation by the U.S. government, and its chief executive officer was called before Congress to testify on raising the price of a pair of EpiPens to more than $600 from $100 in 2008. (Grover, Pierson and Humer, 12/7)

The Washington Post: Trump Takes Aim At Drug Companies: ‘I Don’t Like What Has Happened With Drug Prices’
Biotech and pharmaceutical stocks rose after the election, reflecting investor optimism that a Trump presidency would mean less focus on drug prices. Not so fast, president-elect Trump said in his interview for Time 'Person of the Year.' “I’m going to bring down drug prices,” Trump told Time in an interview in his dining room after the election. “I don’t like what has happened with drug prices.” (Johnson, 12/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Stocks Take Hit On Trump Comments
While most U.S. stocks rallied on Wednesday, shares of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies retreated after President-elect Donald Trump vowed in a magazine article to crack down on drug prices. Drug stocks fell after Mr. Trump was quoted in a Time Person of the Year article as saying: “I’m going to bring down drug prices.” Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson and  Merck & Co. were the only three stocks in the 30-member Dow Jones Industrial Average to lose ground, though each repaired the worst of early-day declines. (Dieterich and Loftus, 12/7)

The Washington Post: Trump’s DHS Pick Is Cool With Medical Marijuana
President-elect Donald Trump will soon announce the selection of retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security, The Washington Post has confirmed. Kelly served as the head of the U.S. Southern Command, a posting that gave him oversight of U.S. security operations for Central America, the Caribbean and the entirety of South America. Trump settled on Kelly in part for his Southwest border expertise, according to people familiar with the deliberations. In that role, Kelly grappled with issues relating to the international illicit drug trade and the flow of narcotics, including heroin and cocaine, from countries in the Southern Hemisphere to markets in the United States. (Ingraham, 12/7)

The New York Times: Use Of E-Cigarettes By Young People Is Major Concern, Surgeon General Declares
Soaring use of e-cigarettes among young people “is now a major public health concern,” according to a report being published Thursday from the United States Surgeon General. It is the first comprehensive look on the subject from the nation’s highest public-health authority, and it finds that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youths, surpassing tobacco cigarettes. (Richtel, 12/8)

The Wall Street Journal: E-Cigarettes Pose ‘Major’ Risks, Surgeon General’s Report Warns
The report joins a public debate about the potential benefits and risks of e-cigarettes, which are battery-powered devices that heat nicotine-laced liquid into a vapor. Some groups, including industry advocates and the Royal College of Physicians in the U.K., have argued that e-cigarettes should be promoted as a means to help adults quit smoking conventional cigarettes. (Maloney, 12/8)

The Associated Press: Texas Eyes Immunizations As More Kids File Exemptions
Texas could be the epicenter for the nation's next major fight over stricter requirements for immunizations as rates of schoolchildren who refuse shots for non-medical reasons climb in America's second-largest state. The number of Texas kindergarten through 12th grade students who reported filing conscientious exemptions for at least one immunization last school year increased 19-fold since 2003 — though that is still less than 1 percent of enrolled students, according to the Immunization Partnership, a pro-vaccination Texas nonprofit. (12/7)

The New York Times: 1 Patient, 7 Tumors And 100 Billion Cells Equal 1 Striking Recovery
The remarkable recovery of a woman with advanced colon cancer, after treatment with cells from her own immune system, may lead to new options for thousands of other patients with colon or pancreatic cancer, researchers are reporting. Her treatment was the first to successfully target a common cancer mutation that scientists have tried to attack for decades. Until now, that mutation has been bulletproof, so resistant to every attempt at treatment that scientists have described it as “undruggable.” (Grady, 12/7)

Los Angeles Times: Flickering Lights May Illuminate A Path To Alzheimer's Treatment
New research demonstrates that, in mice whose brains are under attack by Alzheimer’s dementia, exposure to lights that flicker at a precise frequency can right the brain’s faulty signaling and energize its immune cells to fight off the disease. Light therapy for Alzheimer’s is miles from being ready to treat patients — even those with the earliest signs of the disease. But the new research has already prompted creation of a start-up company — Cognito Therapeutics Inc. — to approach the Food and Drug Administration about clinical trials, and to explore ways to deliver precisely calibrated flickers of light to human research subjects. (Healy, 12/7)

NPR: Being Optimistic Could Be The Key To A Longer, Happier Life
Older women who look on the bright side of life were less likely to die in the next several years than their peers who weren't as positive about the future. The research, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Epidemiology, is the latest to find an association between a positive sense of well-being and better health, though it's not yet clear whether one causes the other. (Hobson, 12/7)

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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