California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: Murky World Of Pharmacy Benefits Managers Needs More Transparency

A selection of opinions on health care developments from around the state.

Sacramento Bee: Transparency Needed On Companies That Manage Prescription Drugs
If you’re like most Californians who have health insurance, you know two things about how prescription drugs fit into your health plan. You know that you receive some level of coverage for medications, and you know that soaring prices for prescription drugs are a major cost-driver that have caused insurance premiums to soar. What you don’t know is how your coverage for prescription drugs works, who determines which drugs are covered, or who gets how much from the money you pay for your prescription drugs. The fact is, almost no one knows those things. (Jim Wood, 4/17)

San Francisco Chronicle: Require Drugmakers To Report When They Raise Prices 
Big Pharma wants us to believe that such costs reflect the expensive nature of research and development. But what the pharmaceutical companies spend on research, clinical trials and their 24/7 advertising campaigns is kept hush-hush. One study found that for every $1 drug companies spend on R&D, they spend $19 on advertising. (Ed Hernandez and Tom Steyer, 4/18)

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Base Their New Obamacare Repeal On A Maine Program They Call A Success. Don't Believe Them
When our hard-working members of Congress return to work next week refreshed from their 18-day Easter recess, they’re planning to take up healthcare reform again. This time, their Affordable Care Act repeal effort has been dressed up with a new provision known as “invisible risk sharing,” based on what they assert was a successful program in Maine. They’re blowing smoke. (Michael Hiltzik, 4/18)

Los Angeles Times: The Ignoble History Of The 3-Drug Death Penalty Cocktail
When Ohio announced in 2009 that it planned to abandon the three-drug lethal injection protocol that virtually all jurisdictions had employed for the past three decades, many assumed that most other states would soon follow suit. After all, Ohio’s new protocol, which involved an overdose of a single barbiturate, was touted as being easier to administer and less risky. Eight years later, however, the three-drug protocol is still very much in use, and its current application likely violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. (Ty Alper, 4/20)

Los Angeles Times: My Mom's Dementia Has Stripped Her Of All But Her Least-Endearing Personality Trait: Worry
Before dementia, my sweet 90-year-old mama taught elementary school, sang in a Yiddish chorus, told great stories, had lots of friends, entertained often and with ease, and did volunteer work. Her one aggravating quality was the watchful worrier that lurked within, ready to explode into full, undistractable panic at any moment. ... And now that she has forgotten so much and lost so many parts of herself — her charm, her humor, her musicality and her ability to befriend — you’d think it only fair she’d finally be rid of her anxiety. But no. The last reverberation of her personality is the one trait that brought her and those she loved the most unhappiness. Like a cruel joke, she has been whittled down to her core, and her core is worry. (Amy Koss, 4/20)

Orange County Register: Opioid Epidemic In OC’s Low-Income Residents
County reports show that drug overdoses have killed 1,769 Orange County residents in the past five years. In 2016 alone, there were more than 400 fatal drug overdoses. More than two-thirds of these involved opioids, including common prescription painkillers such as Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin. And as controls tighten on these medications, those addicted often turn to heroin and deadly synthetic heroin analogues like Fentanyl. Given these realities, a strong, unified community response to combat soaring addiction and fatality rates is required. (Richard Bock, 4/21)

The New York Times: A Focus On Health To Resolve Urban Ills
On a crisp morning in the struggling Bay Area city of Richmond, Calif., Doria Robinson prepares a community vegetable garden for an onslaught of teenagers who will arrive that afternoon. Beyond the farm, a Chevron refinery pumps plumes of smoke into the atmosphere. The farm won’t remove the pollution, but Robinson believes it can make the city’s residents healthier in other ways, specifically by showing them that “their actions have an impact.” (Amy Maxmen, 4/19)

The Bakersfield Californian: Don't Overlook Focus On Valley Fever Prevention 
We like to think we’re winning the battle against valley fever, and in some ways we are. Educational outreach efforts are gaining momentum; more people know of the illness than perhaps ever before. For the decades of work researchers have done, however, the reality is that in many ways we haven’t gotten very far. There’s still no treatment developed specifically for valley fever, no vaccine and little funding to turn the tide on the disease. Treatments for some forms of valley fever are so bad that they cause photosensitivity and patients develop skin cancer. Big pharma won’t commit money to developing suitable treatments because valley fever is considered an orphan disease. The government doesn’t provide a steady funding stream because it’s not spread from person to person. (4/18)

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Thumbs Up: More Kids Getting A Shot At Immunity
Despite all the controversy surrounding the issue at the time, we applauded the state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015 for adopting legislation making it mandatory that children who enter school, or day care, be vaccinated. At the time, we called it a “shot in the arm for common sense.” Well, the legislation is starting to pay off. According to state health data, the percentage of fully immunized children who started kindergarten in the fall was 95.6 percent, up from 92.8 percent in 2015. That’s the highest rate of immunization since 2002. It’s also paying off here in Sonoma County, which had one of the lowest immunization rates, causing an increase in such communicable — and preventable — diseases as measles and whopping cough. The portion of fully immunized kindergartners here rose from 92.1 percent to 93.4 percent. (4/18)

Los Angeles Times: Global Health Efforts Are In Jeopardy: A Polio Survivor Reflects On Proposed Cuts To Foreign Aid
In 1988, my family traveled from America to India to visit the homeland of my birth. At age 11, I vividly remember seeing beggars crippled by polio, crawling on the ground. I remember them staring at me. I, too, have polio, but I am able to walk with leg braces and crutches. I contracted polio as a baby in India. I was adopted from an orphanage at age 3 and moved to America. (Minda Dentler, 4/18)

This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.