- California Healthline Original Stories 3
- Gas Relief Drops, Often Added To Medical Scopes, May Pose Danger
- California Lawmakers Aim To Tackle Rural Health Challenges
- Another Reason To Diet: Experts Find Additional Evidence Of Obesity-Cancer Link
- Pharmaceuticals 2
- Proposition 61 Offers State One More Chance To Rein In Drug Prices
- EpiPen Pricing Backlash Spurs Mylan To Offer More Discounts
- Sacramento Watch 1
- California In-Home Caregivers Look To Legislative Measure For Hope Of Financial Help
- Public Health and Education 3
- Should A Breast Cancer Patient Skip Chemo? Gene Testing May Provide Answer
- Nonprofit Pediatric Dental Surgery Center Has Special Chairs For Special Needs Kids
- Public Health Roundup: Petaluma Student Defies Medical Odds; Berkeley's Soda Tax Drives Up Water Consumption
Latest From California Healthline:
In a small study, Minnesota researchers found that the infant drops used to increase visibility during procedures may create a "perfect habitat" for bacteria and make scopes harder to clean. (Chad Terhune, 8/25)
Two measures seek to ease patients’ transportation woes and doctor shortages. (Pauline Bartolone, 8/25)
A review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer reaffirms earlier findings that excess body fat increases the risks for certain cancers. (Zhai Yun Tan, 8/24)
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Summaries Of The News:
As the national controversy continues surrounding the high cost of EpiPens -- the most recent to focus attention on drug costs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports on this November ballot measure, which would prohibit state agencies from paying more for drugs than does the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
San Francisco Chronicle:
Reining In Drug Prices Now Up To Voters With Prop. 61
There is one move still in play, and it’s up to the voters. A ballot measure in November would prohibit state agencies from paying more for drugs than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The campaign for Proposition 61, backed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles, is shaping up to be the most expensive one for a measure in California’s history. (Colliver, 8/25)
The drugmaker announces that it will increase its copay savings card amount and expand eligibility for financial assistance. The move comes after a flurry of news stories questioning Mylan's pricing spike for the lifesaving allergy medication, as well as pressure from lawmakers including Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times:
Mylan To Lower EpiPen Cost For Some Patients
Responding to a growing furor from consumers and politicians, the pharmaceutical company Mylan said on Thursday that it would lower the cost to some patients of the EpiPen, which is used to treat life-threatening allergy attacks. The company said it would take immediate action, including providing a savings card that would cover up to $300 of the cost of a pack of two EpiPens, an increase from the $100 savings card it had been offering. (Pollack, 8/25)
The Wall Street Journal:
Mylan Boosts Assistance For EpiPen After Pricing Backlash
After widespread criticism recently, Mylan said Thursday it would expand access and increase benefits to programs that it uses to help consumers pay less, but those changes wouldn’t alter the prices that insurers and employers pay. Those institutions will still face the brunt of the impact from the price hikes, though they are frequently able to privately negotiate cheaper prices than the ones listed. (Hufford and Rockoff, 8/25)
Mylan May Have Violated Antitrust Law In Its EpiPen Sales To Schools
Schools across the country keep EpiPens in their nurses’ offices in case a student has a severe allergic reaction. For years, Mylan Pharmaceuticals has been selling the devices to schools at a discounted price, giving them a break from rising costs. But the program also prohibited schools from buying competitors’ devices — a provision that experts say may have violated antitrust law. (Swetlitz and Silverman, 8/25)
Mylan Price Hikes On Many Other Drugs Eclipsed EpiPen Increases
EpiPen price hikes may be causing outrage, but those pale in comparison to the huge increases that Mylan Laboratories took on dozens of other medicines earlier this year. For instance, the company raised the price of ursodiol, a generic medicine used to treat gallstones, by 542 percent. There was also a 400 percent boost in the price for dicyclomine, which combats irritable bowel syndrome, and a 312 percent increase for metoclopramide, a generic drug that treats gastroesophageal reflux disease. (Silverman, 8/24)
Clinton’s Attacks On Drug Pricing Leave Health Stocks Reeling
Drugmakers are learning to duck for cover when Hillary Clinton puts them in her sights. The Democratic presidential nominee’s influence was on display again Wednesday, when she sent Mylan NV’s shares plummeting as much as much as 6.2 percent within minutes of calling for the company to drop prices of its EpiPen emergency allergy shot. It marked the third time over the past year that Clinton’s comments roiled drug stocks. (Edney, 8/24)
The Senate this week passed a rewritten bill that would create an advisory committee to look at the situation of caregivers. In other action from Sacramento, Gov. Jerry Brown signs climate legislation that could have environmental health implications.
The [San Bernardino County] Sun:
California Legislature Approves Bill To Help In-Home Caregivers
Barstow resident (Cathyleen) Williams spent nine and a half years caring for her son, Caleb Lucas. He was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, with half of his heart doing all the work. ... But when Caleb died from influenza on March 18, there was a second blow for Williams: Due to a loophole in state law, she cannot collect unemployment for being an In-Home Supportive Services worker because the person she was taking care of was her child, rather than another relative or someone unrelated. The loophole also applies to those taking care of their spouses. (Yarbrough, 8/24)
Los Angeles Times:
'A Real Commitment Backed Up By Real Power': Gov. Jerry Brown To Sign Sweeping New Climate Legislation
The second measure, Assembly Bill 197 from Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), includes a mix of proposals to increase legislative oversight of state regulators and focus their attention on disadvantaged communities. In particular, the California Air Resources Board would be asked to prioritize steps to reduce emissions from refineries and other facilities, an approach favored by advocates who are concerned about the health effects of pollution. (Megerian, 8/25)
The county votes to take a $3.1 million state grant to help pay for building renovations and start-up costs. The new facilities aim to alleviate caseloads at local hospitals and provide better psychiatric care. In other news, federal government award money goes to 163 health centers in California.
The Orange County Register:
County To Get First Emergency Centers For Psych Patients, Unburdening Hospitals
Orange County is set to get its first emergency medical centers dedicated to treating people who suffer sudden psychiatric episodes, addressing a void that critics say long has burdened local hospitals and left mentally ill patients with inadequate treatment. County supervisors voted Tuesday to accept a nearly $3.1 million competitive state grant that will help pay for building renovations and program start-up costs for the expanded care at two undetermined locations. (Graham, 8/23)
Valley Health Centers Awarded For High Performance
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued 163 awards to California totaling $13,074,002 to invest in health center quality improvements. California health centers will use the money to expand current quality improvement systems and infrastructures as well as improve primary care service. The funding came from the Affordable Care Act’s Community Health Center Fund. (Martin, 8/24)
Dr. Boyao Huang also has to pay $1.3 million in restitution after being convicted in a Medicare and Medi-Cal fraud.
Los Angeles Times:
Pasadena Doctor Who Falsely Claimed Patients Were Terminally Ill Is Sentenced To Four Years For Fraud
A Pasadena doctor convicted of falsely certifying that more than 79 patients were terminally ill as part of a scheme to bilk Medicare and Medi-Cal was sentenced by a federal judge to four years in prison. U.S. District Judge S. James Otero also ordered Boyao Huang, 43, to pay $1,344,204 in restitution last week. (Winton, 8/24)
The appellate court panel said the allegations that the genetic testing company misled consumers belong in arbitration. Also in the news, some tech workers in Silicon Valley are using nootropic "smart pills" to give them an edge.
23andMe Escapes California Class Action For Arbitration
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that genetic testing company 23andMe can't be sued over allegations that it misled customers about its test kit because the claims belong in arbitration. A unanimous panel at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed a lower court's decision the class-action claims belonged in arbitration thanks to 23andMe's terms of service agreement. The plaintiffs sued back in 2013 alleging the Silicon Valley startup lied about its DNA test kit's health benefits, breached its warranty and used unfair business practices. (Teichert, 8/24)
Nootropics, Biohacking And Silicon Valley’s Pursuit Of Productivity
Nootropics are trending right now. A crop of new companies are selling these so-called productivity or smart pills. The major customer base is a community of “biohackers” in Silicon Valley who hope nootropics will give them an edge in work and life. (Harnett, 8/24)
“You would have to treat 100 of those [patients] with chemotherapy for the benefit of one,” says Dr. Laura van’t Veer, a leader of the breast oncology program at the University of California, San Francisco, who helped develop the test.
With Gene Test, Some Breast Cancer Patients Can Skip Chemo: Study
In a boost for the concept of precision medicine and genetic testing, a major study published in The New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday has found that some early-stage, post-operative breast cancer patients can avoid potentially dangerous and expensive chemotherapy with only a slightly lower survival rate and without the cancer spreading. The study found that 46 percent of women who were classified as high-risk clinically but low-risk genetically could skip chemo with just a slightly higher chance – 1.5 percent — of not surviving or their cancer having metastasized after five years. (Brooks, 8/24)
Using DNA Tests To Let Women With Breast Cancer Skip Chemo
It’s a dilemma more and more cancer patients will face as genetic testing becomes part of everyday health care: When a DNA test indicates low risk of a tumor spreading, but traditional tests show a high risk, which do you believe? According to a large European study of 6,693 patients published on Wednesday, many women with early breast cancer can safely believe the genetic test. (Begley, 8/24)
At PDI, Northern California’s only nonprofit dental surgery center for kids on Medi-Cal, these chairs make dental care possible for kids who have a variety of special needs, such as cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, autism and developmental disabilities. In other related news, a study concludes that black and Latino children are less likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
In Windsor, Specialized Dental Chairs For Special-Needs Kids
Since last September, [PDI Surgery Center] has seen about six to eight special-needs kids a month, providing them with such things as deep cleanings, sealants and fillings. Special-needs children often require more intensive dental care because of their disabilities, said Julie Tucker, PDI’s administrator who helped put together the once-a-month service. Sometimes, said Tucker, staff will make the most of the time special-needs patients are under anesthesia, cutting fingernails and toenails and even shaving older boys. (Espinoza, 8/24)
ADHD In Black And Latino Children Not Diagnosed, Treated As Often As Whites
While a higher percentage of black children show the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than white kids, they are less likely to be diagnosed or treated for the disorder, researchers report. The new study showed a similar trend when it came to Latino children: They were as likely as their white peers to exhibit the signs of ADHD, but less likely to be diagnosed or treated for it. “There are multiple places where we are missing out for diagnosis and treatment of African American and Latino children,” said study author Dr. Tumaini Coker ... [of] the David Geffen School of Medicine and Mattel Children’s Hospital at the University of California, Los Angeles. (Bernstein, 8/24)
And the latest research on the impact of Zika on infants' brains —
Can Zika Virus Damage An Infected Infant’s Brain After Birth?
A new report from Brazil raises questions about whether the Zika virus can continue to damage an infected infant’s brain after birth. An infant in Sao Paulo whose mother was infected late in her second trimester was born without any visible birth defects. But testing showed the baby had the Zika virus in his blood; the virus remained in his system for at least a couple of months. At six months, it became apparent that the child had suffered Zika-related brain damage. He had severe muscle contractions — a common sign of brain damage — on one side of his body. (Branswell, 8/24)
California news organizations also cover public health stories on the aging paradox and veganism.
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Brock Albee Couldn’t Walk, Now He Runs Cross Country At Dominican University
[Brock] Albee’s story could begin with Bell’s palsy or being bound to a wheelchair or relearning how to speak or the seizure or being held out of school for two months or being teased in Little League, but we might as well start with the first of his four brain surgeries. Brock was 3. Caroline, his mother, received a call from a day-care provider on Nov. 1, 2000. Her young son was unconscious. Two hours after that, Brock underwent emergency brain surgery at Children’s Hospital in Oakland. In the space of just two hours, Brock went from your normal fun-loving, active kid to surgeons taking three hours to save his life. (Padecky, 8/24)
San Jose Mercury News:
Soda Tax Drives Poor To Water, UC Berkeley Study Finds
Consumption of soda and other sugary drinks in the city's low-income neighborhoods has dropped by more than a fifth since the enactment of a voter-approved excise tax, a UC Berkeley study shows. Measure D, a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the distribution of sugary beverages, passed Nov. 4, 2014 by a better than 3-1 margin, despite a more than $2.4 million campaign by the soda industry to derail it. (Lochner, 8/25)
Los Angeles Times:
The Aging Paradox: The Older We Get, The Happier We Are
Yes, your physical health is likely to decline as you age. And unfortunately, your cognitive abilities like learning new skills and remembering things is likely to suffer too. But despite such downsides, research suggests that your overall mental health, including your mood, your sense of well-being and your ability to handle stress, just keeps improving right up until the very end of life. (Netburn, 8/24)
Italian Lawmakers Consider Ban Of Veganism For Kids — What Are The Pros And Cons?
Restricting kids to a vegan diet could be considered child abuse punishable by jail time in Italy if a new proposal by a lawmaker in that country passes.The new law is in response to the mayor of Turin, Italy, saying she wanted her town to be Italy’s first “vegan city.” The text of the bill (in Italian) says that parents who force their kids to eat vegan are imposing a diet that is “devoid of essential elements for healthy and balanced growth.” While it doesn’t outright ban veganism country-wide, if passed it would make it difficult for parents to impose the diet on their children. (8/24)
The government analysis finds that subsidies to help pay premiums will protect people buying coverage on the health law's marketplaces even as the number of insurers offering plans decreases and insurers set steep premium increases.
Obamacare Subsidies Preserve Access As Premiums Climb, U.S. Says
Most buyers of Obamacare plans won’t see their costs jump, even if premiums increase next year, because of government subsidies, the U.S. said in a study that pushes back on reports of challenges facing the health-coverage overhaul. Government contributions to premiums will mask the rise in costs for most buyers on the program’s exchanges, according to the report from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. The study comes amid mounting reports of skyrocketing premiums. (Tracer, 8/24)
HHS Says 2017 Obamacare Plans Will Still Be Affordable Despite Insurer Exits
The Obama administration is fighting the notion that recent bad news for the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, including multiple insurers pulling out and reports of skyrocketing premium rates, will sink the exchanges. HHS released an analysis Wednesday arguing that expected increases in premiums for 2017 plans in the ACA marketplaces will not make the plans unaffordable. (Muchmore, 8/24)