- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Marin Group Uses Local Data To Fight Fatal Prescription Overdoses
- Mortgages For Expensive Health Care? Some Experts Think It Can Work.
- Public Health and Education 2
- Prisons Plagued By Medical Staff Shortages
- A New Frontier: Scientists To Launch Fungi Into Space In Hopes Of Unlocking New Medical Properties
Latest From California Healthline:
New organizations are collecting fresh data to address current health problems. (Ana B. Ibarra, 3/29)
An MIT economist and Harvard oncologist propose offering loans to patients to cover the cost of expensive, curative drugs, financed by private sector investment in loan securities. (Michelle Andrews, 3/29)
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Summaries Of The News:
The measure would set up a network of sites where unused medication could be dropped off for disposal. The industry argues that the better route to take is to educate patients in how to dispose of their own medications safely.
Los Angeles Times:
Pharmaceutical Industry Is Lobbying Hard Against An L.A. County Drug Take-Back Proposal
Drug manufacturers have mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign against the county proposal, which would require pharmaceutical companies to finance a disposal program for unused medications and syringes. Proponents say the program would reduce chemicals ending up in the water supply, and would help curb prescription drug abuse by making sure that unused drugs are safely disposed of rather than stockpiled in medicine cabinets. The opponents say it would be costly and have little effect on the problem. (Sewell, 3/28)
In other pharmaceutical news —
Truvada, The Miracle HIV Drug Few People Take, Suffers Another Setback
The first documented case of HIV infection by someone adhering to the prescribed regimen for the preventive HIV drug Truvada was reported at a medical conference last month. Dr. David Knox, an HIV primary care physician at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Medical Clinic, reported the case at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston. (You can listen to his full presentation here.) (Brooks, 3/28)
The study concluded that Theranos’ results for total cholesterol were lower by an average of 9.3 percent than those produced by Quest and LabCorp.
The Wall Street Journal:
Theranos Results Could Throw Off Medical Decisions, Study Finds
A study by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai showed that results for cholesterol tests done by Theranos Inc. differed enough from the two largest laboratory companies in the U.S. that they could throw off doctors’ medical decisions. The Mount Sinai study was published online Monday in the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Investigation. The authors recruited 60 healthy adults in the Phoenix area and sent them for 22 commonly prescribed blood tests over a five-day period in July 2015. (Carreyrou, 3/28)
In other news, San Diego-based Trovagene has a shake-up at the highest levels —
Biotech Trovagene Fires, Sues Its CEO, CFO; Shares Tumble
Trovagene Inc., maker of cancer-DNA detection and monitoring tests, said it fired and sued its chief executive officer and chief financial officer. The shares plunged in extended trading. Thomas Adams, Trovagene’s chairman, will be interim CEO, succeeding Antonius Schuh, the San Diego-based company said Monday in a statement. (Chen, 3/28)
As technical gadgets become increasingly more sophisticated, doctors are often faced with the question of how to handle health data that they receive from patients' personal health monitors or trackers. More than 90 percent of those meeting about it said they believe patient-generated data should be included in a health system’s electronic medical records — as long as there are ways to verify it is accurate.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Should You Own All Your Medical Records?
There was a time when medical information flowed in only one direction — from doctor to patient. Those days are over. Today, patients are increasingly collecting their own data using an ever-expanding array of personal monitors that can record their heartbeat, steps and blood glucose levels in real time. Technologies just entering the picture will be able to analyze the contents of an individual’s sweat, providing a stream of data about the functioning of the body’s metabolism with each and every workout. (Sisson, 3/28)
Meanwhile, a new database is launched to track California women's health —
New Database Tracks Women’s Wellness Across California
The nonprofit California Budget and Policy Center has launched a new database detailing how California women are faring in a variety of areas. Among the categories it drills into are health, economic security and political empowerment. (Orr, 3/29)
Officials say better education about what constitutes a real emergency is pivotal to solving the problem.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Non-Emergencies Clog Local Hospital ERs
Local health care leaders sounded the alarm Friday about emergency room crowding, asking the community to help preserve a precious resource for patients who need it most. According to the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, 53 percent of ER visits made in the region between 2004 and 2014 were for non-emergencies. The volume of ER visits surged 40 percent during that time, dwarfing a 7 percent increase in the county’s population. (Sisson, 3/28)
In other hospital news —
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
New Gift Broadens Reach Of Rady's Genetic Institute
A new $10 million gift to support neuro-oncology research at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego focuses on opening more avenues of treatment for kids like 3-year-old Gemma Guion. Already, a genetic test has added precision to doctors’ efforts to shrink the slow-growing tumor on Gemma’s brain stem. But more can be done to connect the frontline neuro-oncologists at Rady to the geneticists, computer scientists and other specialists exploring the leading edge of a “precision medicine” revolution that seems to turn up important new findings with each passing day. (Sisson, 3/27)
Low salaries, grim working conditions and remote locations make it hard for the institutions to be competitive in wooing and retaining health care personnel.
Medical Care In Federal Prisons Is Found Wanting
Fewer than a quarter of federal prisons have maintained adequate medical staffs in recent years despite a nearly $200 million increase in funding for medical care, investigators said in a report issued Monday. Stymied by relatively low salaries, grim working conditions and remote locations, the prisons have a hard time competing for medical staff, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General notes. And though the investigators focused on federal institutions, the problems they identified exist in state facilities, too. (Bell, 3/28)
Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating the deaths of two mentally ill inmates —
Two Mentally Ill Inmates Died In One Month: What Can We Learn?
The final three weeks of Walter Roches’ life last September were, like much of his previous decade, violent and chaotic, complicated by mental illness and repeated encounters with law enforcement. Roches, 32, had completed a state prison sentence for domestic violence. Afterward, he was placed in the Evans Lane Wellness and Recovery Center, a San Jose facility that, among other things, treats mentally ill parolees. (Pickoff-White and Small, 3/29)
On Earth, scientists use stressed fungi to create medicine, like the antibiotic penicillin, and they hope that similar results will play out when the fungi are stressed by being in space.
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune:
How Fungi Sent To Space By USC, NASA Might Change Medicine Forever
A joint experiment by NASA and the University of Southern California that will send fungi to space could change the way medicine is produced, both here on Earth and on long distance journeys across our solar system. It sounds like the start of a clichéd horror film plot, but researchers from USC and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory hope the stresses of space will force the fungi to develop new medicinal characteristics never seen before on Earth. (Henry, 3/28)
Officials, who say five have died and another 15 have been treated in the recent bout of overdoses, blame fentanyl, a potent synthetic drug up to 50 times more powerful than heroin.
Capital Public Radio:
Sacramento County Reports A Rash Of Opiate Overdoses
Sacramento County officials suspect five people have died from an ongoing bout of prescription opioid overdoses beginning Thursday, 15 others have been treated for opioid overdoses. Health officials say the overdoses are caused by Norco tablets laced with fentanyl, a fast-acting synthetic opiate 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. (3/28)
Elsewhere in the state —
Pollution Near Preschools Is Impacting Nearly 10,000 L.A. County Kids
Culver City writer Tracey Moore loved everything about her daughter’s daycare. It was close to her family’s house, included some Spanish immersion, and her young child was smitten with the staff. So when the owner informed parents she was moving, there was unanimous consensus among families that they would all follow her. (Fernandes and Mendelson, 3/28)
LA Unified Declares 60 Schools' Water Fountains Lead-Safe In First Phase Of District-Side Cleanup
LAUSD's effort to eliminate lead contamination in tens of thousands of school water fountains is complete at 60 schools, while District officials say it will take another year-and-a-half to finish the process on all 986 L.A. Unified campuses. (Aguilera, 3/28)
The Desert Sun:
Zika Adds New Local Concern During Mosquito Season
There is no known case of the Zika virus in Riverside County but local public health officials are sending out a cautionary message to residents to be vigilant, as this is the time of year when the West Nile virus is typically the largest mosquito-borne threat in the area. (Newkirk, 3/28)
San Bernardinio County Health
San Bernardino County ranked 42 among 57 California counties when it comes to the health of its residents. (Steinberg, 3/28)
The proposed rule would double the number of patients to whom physicians can prescribe buprenorphine, a medication used to help addicted people reduce or quit their use of heroin or painkillers.
The Associated Press:
Obama To Address Nation’s Growing Opioid Problem
The Obama administration will issue a proposed rule Tuesday that aims to increase medication-based treatment for tens of thousands of people addicted to opioids. The proposed rule, along with a commitment from 60 medical schools to heighten training for prescribing opioids, will coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to Atlanta where he will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit. (Freking, 3/29)
Obama To Announce Steps To Fight Heroin, Opioid Epidemic
U.S. President Barack Obama is set to announce steps on Tuesday to expand treatment for people addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers, the White House said. Obama will travel to a summit in Atlanta to meet addicts in recovery, family members, medical professionals and law enforcement officials to talk about the opioid epidemic, which has become an issue in the 2016 presidential election campaign. (3/29)
Obama To Unveil Plan To Allow More Patients Access To Opioid Medication
The Obama administration on Tuesday will unveil a handful of measures intended to help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic, including a plan to permit doctors to double the number of patients who may receive a medication used to combat drug addiction. (Kaplan, 3/29)
Los Angeles Times:
Vilsack, At Drug Abuse Summit, Recalls His Mother's Struggles
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack remembers his adoptive mother struggling with alcohol and prescription drug addictions when he was growing up. She tried to commit suicide a couple of times. And he nearly flunked out of high school as his parents separated. The former Iowa governor and former Democratic presidential candidate said his mother eventually got help from a 30-day treatment program and never drank again. Vilsack's grades shot up and he landed on the honor roll when his parents reunited. The experience, he said, taught him drug and alcohol addictions are diseases not character flaws that require responses from whole communities. (Redmon, 3/28)