- Courts 1
- Justice Can't Prosecute Medical Marijuana Cases If State Law Not Broken, Appeals Court Rules
- Public Health and Education 1
- The Shining Promise Of Precision Medicine Often Disappoints, But Hope Remains
- Around California 2
- State Agency Takes Further Steps In Exide Cleanup Efforts For Local Schools
- Health Officials Make Last-Minute Push For Students To Get Vaccinated
Latest From California Healthline:
The opioid epidemic may be fueling a rise in the number of children in foster care. But a special family court is trying to keep families together by treating parents with substance abuse problems. (Jenny Gold, 8/17)
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Summaries Of The News:
A consumer activist wanted to add a sentence to a state report on the ballot measure to counter any "scare tactics" from opponents that would suggest the initiative could cause drug prices for veterans to rise. The judge, however, said he found nothing misleading about the current language.
Petition By Supporters Of California Drug Pricing Ballot Denied
Supporters of a California ballot measure, which is designed to lower drug prices, lost a state court bid on Monday to alter the wording of a key analysis that may affect the outcome of the closely watched battle. And the decision comes amid intensifying jockeying over a measure that is seen as a litmus test for public discontent over prescription drug costs. At issue is a report by a California state office that assessed the California Drug Price Relief Act, which would require the state Medicaid program and other state programs to pay no more for medicines than the prices negotiated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently, the VA gets a 24 percent discount off average manufacturer prices. The vote is scheduled for Nov. 8. (Silverman, 8/16)
The insurance provider had departing employees sign illegal severance agreements that stripped away their financial incentives to blow the whistle on any questionable activities.
Los Angeles Times:
Health Net Tried To Block Employee Whistleblowers, SEC Says
For years, insurance provider Health Net Inc. used illegal severance agreements to try to keep departing employees from talking to state and federal officials about company violations, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday. The Woodland Hills company agreed to pay a $340,000 penalty to settle the SEC’s allegations. It also agreed to contact former employees who had signed the severance agreements between Aug.12, 2011, and Oct. 22, 2015, and inform them that they were not prohibited from blowing the whistle about potential securities violations. (Petersen, 8/16)
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco orders that pot growers, suppliers and users cannot be prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice if their actions are not illegal under state law.
San Francisco Chronicle:
Court Says Feds Can’t Prosecute For Medical Pot Use OK'd By State
In a potential legal breakthrough for medical marijuana, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Justice Department cannot prosecute anyone who grows, supplies or uses the drug for medical purposes under state law because Congress has barred federal intervention. The decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was written by one of its most conservative judges, Diarmuid O’Scannlain, and was the first by any appeals court to prohibit federal prosecutions under spending restrictions enacted by Congress. First passed in 2014 and renewed through September, the budget amendment forbids the Justice Department to spend any money to prevent California and other states from “implementing their own state laws” that authorize the medical use of marijuana. (Egelko, 8/16)
In other news —
The Desert Sun:
Desert Hot Springs Approves Another Medical Marijuana Cultivation Facility
The Desert Hot Springs City Council approved a conditional use permit for another medical marijuana cultivation facility Tuesday, adding to its list of approved, but unopened, cultivation centers. The city turned to marijuana cultivation in 2014 as a way to mitigate financial woes and became one of the first cities in California to allow large-scale grow facilities. However, due to the extensive work required to get these facilities off the ground, many of those approved have not yet commenced operation. (Kennedy, 8/16)
Starboard Value is calling for a special meeting of Depomed's shareholders to replace the board of the drugmaker because it "lacks the leadership, objectivity and perspective to act in the best interests of shareholders."
San Francisco Business Times:
Why A Hedge Fund Wants This East Bay Drug Company To Run Like Olive Garden
A New York hedge fund wants a fresh order of growth from Depomed Inc. — like a never-ending pasta bowl. In appealing to shareholders to clear the kitchen of the Newark pain drug developer's board of directors, Starboard Value LP says it has a history of success with flipping boards and grilling up value at none other than the parent company of Olive Garden. (Leuty, 8/16)
A new poll's aim was to help leaders understand what Latinos and other Americans find most important in creating opportunity for their communities.
Los Angeles Daily News:
Healthcare, Holding Politicians Accountable Among Top Concerns For US Hispanics
Quality affordable healthcare and holding elected officials accountable for their decisions are among the highest priorities for Hispanics in the U.S., according to a new Harris Poll survey. Seventy-seven percent of Hispanics surveyed rated quality affordable healthcare as “absolutely essential/extremely important” to improving opportunity in their community while 76 percent rated holding elected officials accountable as “absolutely essential/extremely important,” said Abigail Golden-Vazquez, executive director of The Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program, at the institute’s second annual America’s Future Summit on Tuesday at the California Endowment in downtown Los Angeles. (Gazzar, 8/16)
For cancer patients enrolled in precision medicine trials, the results are often underwhelming because the technique is just not precise enough yet. But, still, it offers a tantalizing glimpse of what could be possible.
Precision Medicine: Little Benefit So Far, But Lots Of Hope
When doctors tailor treatments based on the genetics, environment and lifestyle of individual patients, they are attempting what is now known as “precision medicine.” The concept grows out of a longstanding frustration in tackling disease: Some patients just do not respond to a treatment that normally works. Not only does this failure necessitate a different remedy, it also puts someone who is ill through a costly and often painful process for no benefit. So being able to choose the right treatment from the start would be an enormous advance. (Venton, 8/16)
The Department of Toxic Substance Control has collected more samples and recommended setting up temporary fencing to protect the children attending the schools.
More Soil Tests For Lead-Tainted Schools Near Exide
Kids returning to school Tuesday at four LAUSD campuses were met with temporary fencing around some grass and dirt areas to keep them from walking through or playing on lead-tainted soil. KPCC reported in July that over the past two years, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control has found elevated levels of lead at five L.A. Unified schools near the old Exide lead battery recycling plant in Vernon. Until now, the agency hasn’t removed the contaminated soil. Last week, Toxic Substances Control took another step: It collected additional soil samples from four of the schools: Lorena Street Elementary School, Rowan Elementary School and Eastman Avenue Elementary School in Boyle Heights; and Fishburn Avenue Elementary School in Maywood. (Agullera, 8/16)
In the Bakersfield area, more than a thousand children haven't received their vaccinations, which a new state law requires.
The Bakersfield Californian:
Local Health Officials Urge Updated Immunization Records This Fall
Local health officials are urging students to update their immunization records before Wednesday. Without their shots, students can register for classes but wouldn’t be allowed to attend, according to Debbie Wood, coordinator for Bakersfield City School District’s Health Programs. More than a thousand kids have yet to receive their immunizations as of two days before school begins, Wood said. (Cleveland, 8/16)
“The exchanges are a mess as they exist today,” says Aetna's CEO Mark Bertolini. The company is the latest insurer to announce it is pulling out of most markets.
Obamacare’s In Trouble As Insurers Tire Of Losing Money
Last November, when UnitedHealth Group said it expected to post big losses on its Obamacare policies in 2016, rivals such as Anthem and Aetna signaled their Affordable Care Act businesses were doing fine. The Obama administration used that as evidence to refute claims that systemic problems were brewing in its landmark insurance program. Now, there’s no denying it. The four biggest U.S. health insurers admit they’re each losing hundreds of millions of dollars on their Obamacare plans. Rather than expand coverage, many are pulling out of the exchanges that were set up by the ACA so people can shop for insurance plans, often with the help of government subsidies. (Tracer, 8/17)
San Diego Union-Tribune:
Does Aetna Exit Signal Deeper Obamacare Problems?
The announcement, made Monday night, was the latest blow to the Affordable Care Act, which had already suffered the departure of top-five insurers Humana and UnitedHealthcare and has seen double-digit premium increases for many of the carriers that will continue to sell through health exchanges such as Covered California next year. In general, carriers have said too many sick patients are the main reason they’re dropping out of exchanges or raising rates. With not enough young and healthy enrollees to balance out the claims ledgers, the three companies that are pulling out or downscaling said they have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. (Sisson, 8/16)
The Wall Street Journal:
Health-Law Setback Becomes Campaign Fodder
The decision by the nation’s third-largest health insurer to pull out of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges in nearly a dozen states is a double whammy to President Barack Obama’s signature health law, increasing financial strains on the program while dragging the debate over its merits into the presidential campaign. Republicans opposed to the law immediately pointed to Aetna Inc.’s decision, which followed similar moves by other major insurers, as evidence that the law isn’t working as intended and sought to rally voters. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign labeled the Aetna move a sign that “this broken law…is slowly imploding under its regulatory red tape.” (Armour and Wilde Mathews, 8/16)
In other national health care news —
The Wall Street Journal:
Fed Survey: Obamacare Causing Companies To Cut Jobs
Many companies are cutting jobs in response to rising health care costs spurred by the Affordable Care Act, according to a new survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Roughly one-fifth of service sector and manufacturing company executives said they are reducing the number of workers in response to provisions in the healthcare law, according to the Empire State Manufacturing Survey and the Business Leaders Survey. The New York fed surveyed about 100 executives in the manufacturing sector and roughly 150 executives in the services sector located in New York State, Northern New Jersey and Fairfield County, Connecticut earlier this month. (Monga, 8/16)
The Washington Post:
The Abortion Rights Movement Is Bolder Than It’s Been In Years. That’s Cecile Richards’s Plan.
On the morning of one of the most important days in her career, Cecile Richards waited anxiously in her office at Planned Parenthood headquarters in Manhattan, texting furiously with friends across the country. A few minutes past 10 a.m., a message from her daughter flashed across the screen. A single word: Yay! “That was when I knew we’d won,” Richards says, recalling the moment when she learned of the decision in the biggest abortion-related case to come before the Supreme Court in more than two decades. In a 5-to-3 vote, the justices had ruled that Texas’s restrictions on abortion clinics placed an “undue burden” on women seeking to end their pregnancies. (Gibson, 8/16)
The Wall Street Journal:
Medicating Children With ADHD Keeps Them Safer
While some bumps and scares are inevitable for active guys like him, serious misadventures with long-lasting repercussions are often par for the course for a subset of them—those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But a new article suggests that early medication can significantly cut the odds of bad things happening later. ... Indeed, accidents are the most common cause of death in individuals with ADHD, with one 2015 study of over 710,000 Danish children finding that 10- to 12-year-olds with ADHD were far more likely to be injured than other children their age. Drug treatment made a big difference, however, nearly halving the number of emergency room visits by children with ADHD. (Pinker, 8/16)