- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- Would California's Proposed Tobacco Tax Hike Reduce Smoking?
- Campaign 2016 2
- Potential Fallout From Calif. Ballot Initiative Has Pharma Sweating The Elections
- Ads From Supporters Of Hospital Fee Initiative Ring True
- Public Health and Education 3
- All Eyes Are On California To See If Raising Smoking Age Lives Up To 'Life-Saving' Promises
- New Generation Of Sperm Tests Aim To Feed 'Big Hunger' For Information On Male Infertility
- Doctor At UCSD Medical Center Utilizes New Technique For Abdominal Surgery
- Around California 1
- Private Firm Considered For LA County's Expansion Of Care For Inmates With Mental Illnesses
Latest From California Healthline:
When New York increased its cigarette tax, smoking rates declined. California's proposed increase of $2 a pack may, too, say researchers. The higher the tax, the more likely people are to quit. (April Dembosky, KQED, 10/17)
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Summaries Of The News:
A measure to curb drug prices, from such an influential state, could create a ripple effect for the industry that threatens its current status quo. Meanwhile, Valeant announces more price increases.
The Wall Street Journal:
The Biggest Pharma Election Risk Is In California
The possibility of Democrats capturing the presidency and Congress is worrying enough for pharmaceutical and other health-care investors. But that isn’t the full extent of risk that shareholders face this election season. ... Most of her proposals would require an act of Congress to enact, which becomes more likely the better Democrats do at the voting booths.There are risks elsewhere too, though. California voters are set to weigh in on a referendum known as Proposition 61. (Grant, 10/16)
The Wall Street Journal:
Valeant Sets Price Increases For Some Drugs
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. on Friday said it was raising the prices of its stomach, neurology and urology drugs from 2% to 9%, effective immediately. The company also said it wouldn’t increase the prices of its eye and skin drugs at all this year. Yet Wells Fargo Securities said Valeant raised the price of three eye drugs in September, each by 9.9%. (Rockoff and Steele, 10/14)
But they do leave the impression that lawmakers are salivating to divert the money generated by the fee to purposes other than Medi-Cal unless voters act to guarantee it, which an analysis by The Sacramento Bee finds no evidence of.
Ad By Hospital Fee Proponents Is Truthful
Supporters of Proposition 52 took to the airwaves in mid-August and have run a heavy rotation of ads meant to build support for the hospital industry-sponsored measure that would place in the California Constitution an existing state charge on hospitals. Some of the ads feature a theme common in a state in which lawmakers are usually held in low esteem: The measure will keep the Legislature from diverting the money. (Miller, 10/14)
The law requires pregnancy centers to inform patients about all their options, including abortion.
Los Angeles Times:
U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Law That Requires Religious Clinics To Inform Women Of Abortion Options
A federal appeals court Friday unanimously upheld the constitutionality of a new California law that requires religiously affiliated pregnancy clinics to inform women about abortion options. The law, which took effect in January, says licensed clinics must disseminate information to women about government programs that provide free or low-cost services for family planning, abortions and prenatal care. (Dolan, 10/14)
California Reproductive Clinics Must Inform Clients About Abortion Services
A federal appellate court on Friday rejected an attempt by reproductive health clinics to block enforcement of a California law requiring the clinics to inform patients that abortions are available elsewhere. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a December ruling by U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller of Sacramento, who denied a motion by three nonprofit clinic operators for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law pending a final resolution of the question on the merits. The clinics are run by abortion opponents. (Walsh, 10/14)
San Francisco Chronicle:
California Abortion-Information Law Upheld By Court
California can require hundreds of antiabortion clinics known as “crisis pregnancy centers” to notify their patients that the state makes abortion and other reproductive health care available at little or no cost, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. The law, which took effect in January, does not violate freedom of speech or religion because it merely requires the clinics to provide accurate information about health care that the patients have a right to receive, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. While the ruling only denied an injunction that would have halted further enforcement, the court made it clear that it saw no constitutional grounds for overturning the law. (Egelko, 10/14)
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Court: Pregnancy Counseling Centers Must Provide Abortion Info
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a California law that requires pregnancy counseling centers to provide information about the availability of abortion and birth control to patients. The lawsuit was filed in San Diego federal court by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, the Pregnancy Care Clinic in El Cajon and the Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center. Alternatives Women’s Center in Escondido also filed a lawsuit. (Davis, 10/14)
A departing employee took a flash drive with information on it, but returned it a few days later.
Orange County Register:
CalOptima Reports Breach Of Member Health Information
CalOptima announced Friday that the protected health information of thousands of its members could have been compromised when a “departing employee” took a flash drive containing the crucial information. According to a statement issued by CalOptima, the employee downloaded the data to a personal, unencrypted flash drive. The employee returned the flash drive to CalOptima within a couple of days, after being asked to, said spokeswoman Bridget Kelly. (Bharath, 10/14)
Latinos comprise nearly 40 percent of California's population, but just 4 percent of the state's physicians are Latinos.
California Needs More Latino Doctors, Group Says
The number of Latino doctors in California is not keeping pace with the state's growing Latino population, and that gap is only expected to widen, according to a physicians group. The group, Latino Physicians of California, published a policy brief Friday highlighting the problem and potential solutions, which include partnering with other medical associations to persuade young Latinos to pursue careers in health care. Latinos comprise nearly 40 percent of California's population, but just 4 percent of the state's physicians are Latinos, according to the California Health Care Foundation. (Plevin, 10/14)
It's too early to tell if the measure to raise the smoking age to 21 will have lasting health benefits.
Los Angeles Times:
California's Under-21 Smoking Ban Could Be A National Test Case
California this year became the second state after Hawaii to raise its minimum smoking age to 21. When the law took effect in June, state public health officials declared it would “literally be a life-saving measure. ”But experts say it’s too soon to know whether the law will live up to such claims, and there are few studies from elsewhere pointing the way. (Karlamangla, 10/17)
The traditional sperm tests don't actually reveal much, especially when it comes to men who have normal sperm counts yet can't conceive. A Pasadena-based company is looking to change that.
Sperm Test 2.0: New Diagnostics Aim To Clarify Male Infertility
Traditional sperm tests don’t reveal much.They can assess how many sperm a man produces, whether sperm are misshapen, and how well they swim. But that’s about it. Determined to extract more data, several startups are developing next generation tests that they hope will help men better understand their fertility. The goal: To explain why some men who have normal sperm counts still cannot conceive. (McFarling, 10/17)
Dr. Santiago Horgan says he is the first in the nation to do so.
San Diego Union-Times:
New Tool Shrinks Incision For Single-Site Abdominal Surgery
A new technique now in use at UC San Diego Medical Center reduces the amount of skin that must go under the knife for abdominal surgery. The procedure makes a roughly half-inch incision inside a patient’s belly button, creating an access port for up to four long, thin surgical instruments called laparoscopes that can bend and twist to reach internal organs. Dr. Santiago Horgan, director of the Center for the Future of Surgery at UC San Diego, said he is the first in the nation to extract a gallbladder using tools and techniques made by Netherlands-based Fortimedix Surgical to enable the smaller, single incision. (Sisson, 10/14)
In other news —
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Salk Scientist Wants To Solve Transplant Shortage By Growing Organs In Animals
Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte’s mission is provocatively ambitious: End the shortage of organs that causes nearly two dozen Americans — and many others around the world — to die each day while awaiting a transplant. The Salk Institute scientist’s strategy for fulfilling that mission is bold: Inject targeted human cells into designated animals’ embryos, then spurring those embryos to grow the desired human organs. The ultimate result would be pigs or other mammals born with human kidneys, livers, hearts or lungs — organs that can be transplanted into ailing people. (Fikes, 10/15)
Although the rate of young women diagnosed with breast cancer has been steadily increasing, many find it hard to cope with the feeling of isolation it brings.
When Breast Cancer Hits Young: Growing Numbers Of Women In Their 20s, 30s Confront The Disease
Each year, an estimated 12,000-plus women under 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Too young for mammograms, they’re often diagnosed at a later stage, affecting long-term survival outcomes and requiring more aggressive treatments. While new breast cancer diagnoses have stayed relatively flat among all U.S. women in the past decade, that’s not true for women ages 25 to 39. (Buck, 10/17)
The hope is that when the potential contract ends in November 2018, the county would fully take over the program.
LA County Eyes Private Firm For Expansion Of Care For Mentally Ill Inmates
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set to consider a motion Tuesday that would hire a private firm to manage the expansion of care for medium-security inmates with serious mental illness. County Department of Health Services Director Dr. Mitchell Katz proposed that the supervisors approve a two-year, $5.6 million contract with Liberty Healthcare Corporation to augment existing mental health services for that category of inmate. Under the contract, Liberty would hire a mix of county and private mental health workers to beef up the staff at the Pitchess Detention Center North Facility in Castaic. (Glickman, 10/17)
An early draft of the rule sparked an outcry from physician groups that feared doctors in small medical practices would suffer under the new formula, but Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials sought to allay those concerns by making it easy to avoid penalties in the first year.
The Associated Press:
Medicare Unveils Far-Reaching Overhaul Of Doctors' Pay
Changing the way it does business, Medicare on Friday unveiled a far-reaching overhaul of how it pays doctors and other clinicians. The goal is to reward quality, penalize poor performance, and avoid paying piecemeal for services. Whether it succeeds or fails, it's one of the biggest changes in Medicare's 50-year history. (10/14)
In other national health care news —
The Washington Post:
Biden’s Final ‘Cancer Moonshot’ Report Outlines Progress And Hurdles
Vice President Biden is expected to tell President Obama on Monday that the administration’s “cancer moonshot” effort infused new urgency in the fight against the disease but that formidable challenges remain, including a lack of coordination among researchers, an “antiquated” funding culture and unacceptably slow dissemination of important information about new treatments. (McGinley, 10/17)
The New York Times:
Living As A Man, Fighting Breast Cancer: How Trans People Face Care Gaps
A diagnosis of breast cancer at age 27 is shattering for anyone. But for Eli Oberman, it came with extra layers of anxiety. He is a transgender man, who was born female but began taking male hormones when he was 19 to change gender. Like many transgender people, Mr. Oberman switched gender without having surgery to change his body. The cancer was a stark reminder that he was still vulnerable to illnesses from his original anatomy — and that the medical world has blind spots in its understanding of how to take care of trans men and women. (Grady, 10/16)
The Washington Post:
The Drug Industry’s Answer To Opioid Addiction: More Pills
Cancer patients taking high doses of opioid painkillers are often afflicted by a new discomfort: constipation. Researcher Jonathan Moss thought he could help, but no drug company was interested in his ideas for relieving suffering among the dying. So Moss and his colleagues pieced together small grants and, in 1997, received permission to test their treatment. But not on cancer patients. Federal regulators urged them to use a less frail — and by then, rapidly expanding — group: addicts caught in the throes of a nationwide opioid epidemic. Suddenly, Moss said, investors were knocking at his door. (Cha, 10/16)