- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- From A Negative To A Positive: Dems Use Health Care To Hammer GOP In Ads
- Around California 2
- San Diego Health Officials Say Hepatitis A Outbreak Among Homeless Is Over
- Transgender Activists Say Possible Rule Change By Trump Administration Is 'Cruel Attack'
- Marketplace 2
- Sutter Opens New Center In Sacramento To Expand Capacity For Senior Care
- Pfizer To Revert To 'Business As Normal' After Pricing Increase Pause, CEO Says On Earnings Call
Latest From California Healthline:
Democratic congressional hopefuls in the state’s toss-up districts say health care is a top election issue and the GOP’s weak point. They’re coming out strong with ads blasting their Republican opponents for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act last year. (Ana B. Ibarra, 10/31)
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Summaries Of The News:
County workers are supposed to determine if someone is eligible for health coverage under California's Medicaid program, and then send that information to the state. But the records don’t always match up.
Los Angeles Times:
California Spent $4 Billion On Medi-Cal For People Who May Not Have Been Eligible, Audit Finds
California spent $4 billion on Medi-Cal coverage between 2014 and 2017 for people who may not have been eligible for the government-funded health plan, according to a state audit released Tuesday. Medi-Cal provides health coverage to 13.1 million Californians, approximately one-third of the state’s population. To qualify, a single adult must make less than $16,754 annually. County workers typically determine whether someone is eligible for health coverage under Medi-Cal, then send that information to the state. But the records don’t always match up. (Karlamangla, 10/30)
The Associated Press:
Audit Finds California Paid $4B In Questionable Medi-Cal Claims
From 2014 through 2017, more than 450,000 people marked as eligible for Medi-Cal in the state's system were listed as ineligible in county systems, the California auditor's office said. Half of those discrepancies persisted for more than two years. "Some eligible individuals may have encountered unnecessary hardship and been inappropriately denied services," said a summary that accompanied the report. (10/30)
The pharmaceutical industry is bracing for what may come if Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) takes over leadership. "Democrats have made real action to lower prescription drug prices central” to the party’s campaign strategy. "It will be one of our first legislative priorities in the majority,” she tells Stat. And more news is reported on California's propositions 4 and 1.
Pharma Braces For A Pelosi Speakership And Democrats' Drug Pricing Agenda
Nancy Pelosi marched into PhRMA’s offices this July with the law on her side. Never mind that the law in question has never been put to use: Pelosi spoke in detailed terms of a federal statute that allows the U.S. government to effectively strip drug companies of exclusive licenses to some blockbuster medicines. It was a head-turning threat from the woman likely to serve as speaker of the House next year, delivered straight to the drug lobby’s board of directors — executives from many of the country’s largest and most politically powerful pharmaceutical manufacturers. (Facher, 10/30)
CBS News 8:
Sen. Feinstein Visits Rady Children's Hospital To Back Prop 4
Senator Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday paid a visit to Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego to discuss Proposition 4 - the Children's Hospital Bonds Initiative. The California representative voiced her support for the proposition, which, if voters approve on election day, will authorize $1.5 billion in bonds for the construction, expansion, renovation, and equipping of children's hospitals in California, including Rady Children's Hospital. (10/30)
Capital Public Radio:
Prop. 1 Would Allow California To Borrow Billions For Affordable Housing Programs
While California's Proposition 1 is called the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018, only a quarter of the money goes to housing programs for vets. The initiative is aimed at easing the state's housing crisis and has broad support throughout the state. If approved, it would authorize the state to borrow $4 billion for a variety of housing programs. (White, 10/30)
And in more news from the national elections stage —
Exclusive Poll: What Voters Want From “Medicare For All”
Voters like some form of “Medicare for All” but are divided over what it should look like, according to our latest Axios/SurveyMonkey poll — which is about the same situation Democratic candidates are in. (Baker, 10/31)
The nearly two-year outbreak killed 20, sickened nearly 600 and spurred a complete re-think of how the region handles homelessness. In Los Angeles, officials declare a shelter disaster so the county is eligible for new state funding for homeless programs.
San Diego Union-Tribune:
Two Years After It Started, San Diego Declares End To Deadly Hepatitis A Outbreak
Two years in, San Diego’s hepatitis A outbreak is finally over. Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said Monday that enough time has now passed to formally declare a curtain call for the contagion that killed 20, sickened nearly 600 and spurred a complete re-think of how the region handles homelessness. “Last Thursday, it was officially 100 days since the most-recent case, and, for hepatitis A, that’s the threshold we use that allows us to say it no longer meets the definition of an outbreak,” Wooten said. (Sisson, 10/30)
Los Angeles Times:
L.A. County Declares A Shelter Crisis, Providing Flexibility In How It Provides Beds And Assistance
County leaders on Tuesday declared a shelter crisis, giving the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority more flexibility in how it may spend $81 million in newly available state money for the homeless and the ability to bypass some regulations in order to provide emergency housing. The declaration, both symbolic and practical, applies to unincorporated parts of the county and to county-owned facilities in cities that have adopted their own crisis declarations, including Los Angeles. It will be in place for a year. (Agrawal, 10/30)
The New York Times:
A Novel Solution For The Homeless: House Them In Backyards
Now, as part of an unusual arrangement, [Melina] Chavarria may soon be welcoming some of those homeless people into her backyard. Ms. Chavarria is one of several Los Angeles residents who are building additions to their homes that would be used by people emerging from homelessness. Faced with a major housing crisis, Los Angeles is trying out an idea that some hope is so wild that it just might work: helping homeowners build small homes in their backyards and rent them to people who have spent months living in their cars, in shelters or on the streets. (Medina, 10/29)
Many say they are hurt that the White House is reported to be considering revising rules to apply a strict definition of sex based on people’s genitals at birth.
San Francisco Chronicle:
‘Denying Our Very Humanity:’ Trump Proposal Wounds Bay Area Transgender Community
Transgender people have fought for decades for the simplest of concessions: for recognition. For the right to be seen as their true selves. To be called by their chosen name, to be addressed by the appropriate pronouns, to see a gender on their driver’s license that matched their identity. Their successes are recent. ... The news last week, that the Trump administration was considering a policy change that wouldn’t just revoke certain rights but dismiss the identities of transgender people, was appalling, say transgender men and women and their supporters. (Allday, 10/30)
“We expect to serve about 1,000 with the new facility,” Phil Chuang, vice president of strategy for Sutter, tells the Sacramento Bee. In other industry news: Pfizer's hospital-drug problems and how immigration impacts the doctor shortage.
Sutter Expands To Serve More Of Sacramento’s Frailest Seniors
The Sutter health care team that serves the Sacramento region’s frailest senior citizens on Tuesday opened a $11.6 million center that will allow staff to care for roughly three times the patients now seen in two smaller facilities. ...The new Sutter facility, at 444 N. Third St. in Sacramento’s River District, is part of a federal health initiative known as PACE, Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, that treats the whole person rather than their set of medical conditions. (Anderson, 10/30)
Pfizer’s Hospital-Drug Problems Won’t Go Away
Buying Hospira was supposed to open a bright new pharmaceutical future for Pfizer Inc., but problems from the company’s past keep haunting the world’s largest drugmaker. When Pfizer agreed to pay $17 billion to take over Hospira in 2015, the deal was presented as a bet on biosimilars -- cheaper versions of brand-name biologic medications that could steal the thunder from some of Pfizer’s rivals’ biggest products. The move would position Pfizer as the biggest player in a burgeoning medical marketplace. (Koons, Langreth and Edney, 10/30)
Immigration Rhetoric Stokes Fears Of Doctor Shortages
The Trump administration’s actions and rhetoric on immigration are stoking fears among physician training experts that fewer foreign doctors will want to train and serve in the United States, where they make up a significant portion of a medical workforce that is already short-handed. The commission that certifies graduates of foreign medical schools who come here for their residencies says it is seeing a decrease in the number of people applying from foreign countries affected by Trump’s executive actions on immigrations. Its leaders worry that promising students or doctors from other countries will also think twice about whether to continue their medical training in the U.S. (Siddons, 10/30)
The pharmaceutical giant signaled that prescription drug price increases could return in 2019 after postponing planned hikes in July. The news was made during Pfizer's third-quarter earnings call, in which the drugmaker also said its profits were up but that revenue did not hit forecasts.
Pfizer CEO: 'Business As Normal' On Drug Prices Next Year Despite Trump Pressure
Pfizer CEO Ian Read said the company will return to “business as normal” on its drug pricing in January, after agreeing to hold off on price increases earlier this year following pressure from President Trump. Read noted on an earnings call that the agreement to hold off on price increases would end at the end of the year, at which point the company will return to pricing based on the market. “We price to the marketplace, we price competitively,” Read said. (Sullivan, 10/30)
The Wall Street Journal:
Pfizer Narrows Guidance On Tougher Pricing, Generic Competition
The company attributed the adjustments partly to lower-than-expected revenue from its “Essential Health” business selling products that have lost patent protection and sterile injectables, which are dealing with shortages. Pfizer also cited pricing pressures on the unit’s drugs, along with recent unfavorable foreign-exchange rates due to the weakening of some emerging-market currencies and the euro. (Chin and Rockoff, 10/30)
In other pharmaceutical company news, former executives at Valeant and mail-order pharmacy Philidor are sentenced to prison. And ex-employees at Genetech are arrested for allegedly stealing trade secrets —
Former Valeant And Philidor Executives Are Sentenced To One Year In Prison
The sentencing comes three years after the drug maker became enmeshed in scandals over its pricing and accounting practices, which led to congressional hearings, a loss of confidence among investors, and a subsequent turnover in management and the board. The Philidor episode was particularly explosive, though, because Valeant failed to properly disclose its relationship with the pharmacy. (Silverman, 10/30)
Former Genentech Employees Are Arrested On Charges They Stole Trade Secrets
Three former Genentech employees were arrested for allegedly stealing trade secrets and funneling the confidential information to a company in Taiwan, marking the latest episode in which a drug maker in the U.S. has purportedly encountered sensitive data being shipped overseas. In this instance, a former principal scientist named Xanthe Lam, who worked for Genentech from 1986 through 2017, helped to siphon information about four drugs — the Avastin, Rituxan, and Herceptin cancer treatments, as well as the Pulmozyme cystic fibrosis medication — to JHL Biotech, which was founded by former Genentech employees to develop biosimilars, according to court documents. (Silverman, 10/30)
Amgen, Sanofi and Rite Aid also make news —
Amgen Posts Higher Quarterly EPS, Repatha Sales Fall Short
Amgen Inc on Tuesday said stock buybacks lifted its third-quarter earnings per share, but operating income fell as expenses rose and sales of some key products declined. Total revenue for the quarter rose 2 percent from a year earlier to $5.9 billion. ... Amgen last week said it slashed the U.S. list price for cholesterol drug Repatha by 60 percent to $5,850 a year, mainly to reduce out-of-pocket costs for patients on Medicare, the federal government’s health plan for seniors. (Beasley, 10/30)
The Wall Street Journal:
Sanofi Returns To Growth
French pharmaceuticals heavyweight Sanofi SA reported a rise in key third-quarter metrics Wednesday, with its bet on higher-value drugs seeming to offset declining revenue from its diabetes division, long afflicted by the loss of exclusivity for former blockbusters. Net sales at the company increased to 9.39 billion euros ($10.67 billion) from EUR9.06 billion the year prior, buoyed by sales of vaccines and by the specialty-care division Sanofi Genzyme, which grew 36% on year. (Mancini, 10/31)
Rite Aid Shareholders Vote To Support Increased Oversight Of Opioid Sales
In the latest response to the opioid crisis, more than half of Rite Aid (RAD) shareholders voted to require the board of the pharmacy chain to report on how the addictive painkillers are monitored, and how the company is managing related financial and reputational risks. Specifically, 57 percent of shareholders supported the resolution, which also called for the Rite Aid board to describe senior executive compensation metrics or policies. The resolution was introduced by the UAW Retiree Benefits Trust, a member of Investors for Opioid Accountability, a coalition of institutional investors that has been pushing wholesalers and pharmacies to take steps to reign in the opioid crisis. (Silverman, 10/30)
National news outlets report on moves from the federal government.
The New York Times:
Trump Administration To Revise Birth Control Exemptions In Hopes Of Saving Them
Having lost in two federal courts and fearing more setbacks, the Trump administration is revising rules that allow employers to deny women insurance coverage for contraceptives based on religious or moral objections. Administration officials hope that the changes, the details of which remain unclear, will overcome the judges’ objections without fundamentally altering the purpose or the effects of the rules. ... It is unclear whether the administration intends to issue the final rules before the midterm elections next week. Opinion polls suggest that the birth control benefit, mandated by the Obama administration under the Affordable Care Act, is popular. (Pear, 10/30)
Obamacare Enrollment Opens Facing Pressure From New Trump Attacks
No deeply conservative state has done more than Idaho to make Obamacare work. But no other state is doing more to untangle itself from the health care law. On the eve of the 2019 open enrollment season, at least three insurers are selling plans in every corner of the sprawling state. It’s got one of the best enrollment rates in the country. The outgoing Republican governor is supporting a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid, which could improve the health of the Obamacare market. But Idaho officials are backing a radical plan to offer skimpier coverage options, sounding the alarm over their insurance marketplace. (Demko, 10/31)
FDA Says It Will Consider Approval Of First Dengue Vaccine, Despite Controversy
The Food and Drug Administration has agreed to consider Sanofi Pasteur’s application for Dengvaxia, the world’s first licensed vaccine that protects against dengue but one that brings with it considerable controversy and concern. The company announced Tuesday that it has received notice the regulatory agency will give the vaccine’s file a priority review, which means a decision must be rendered within six months. (Branswell, 10/30)
The Associated Press:
US Steps Up Scrutiny Of Funds For Asbestos Exposure Victims
The Trump administration has stepped up scrutiny of asbestos trust funds, concerned that the pots of money intended to help people exposed to the hazardous substance are being depleted by fraudulent claims, harming victims, businesses and the government. The Justice Department in the last two months has demanded trust documents as part of a civil investigation, opposed the creation of another trust it said lacked sufficient safeguards, and argued against the appointment of a lawyer it said was too conflicted to represent victims. (Tucker, 10/31)
New research shows that when adolescents cease using pot — even for one week — their verbal learning and memory improve. And in other news on teen health: Juul reportedly offers schools money to offer a vaping curriculum.
When Adolescents Give Up Pot, Their Cognition Quickly Improves
Marijuana, it seems, is not a performance-enhancing drug. That is, at least, not among young people, and not when the activity is learning. A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry finds that when adolescents stop using marijuana – even for just one week – their verbal learning and memory improves. The study contributes to growing evidence that marijuana use in adolescents is associated with reduced neurocognitive functioning. (Cohen, 10/30)
Juul Offered To Pay Schools As Much As $20,000 To Blame Vaping On Peer Pressure
Juul offered a number of schools and public school systems stipends of as much as $20,000 to adopt a vaping curriculum to be taught by Juul consultants, according to information from multiple school districts reviewed by BuzzFeed News. The ill-fated curriculum, which Juul pulled in mid-May, recently came under fire in an article published this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health that claims Juul failed to emphasize the harms caused by flavored pods and omitted information about how the e-cigarette industry markets to teens, the authors said. (Miranda, 10/30)
Clinics around the country are offering ketamine as a treatment for depression, though the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug for such use and there is little evidence as to its efficacy. Other public health news stories cover the impact of weight on risk of dying, "healthy" foods and 911 emergency services.
The Associated Press:
High Hopes & Hype For Experimental Depression Drug Ketamine
It was launched decades ago as an anesthetic for animals and people, became a potent battlefield pain reliever in Vietnam and morphed into the trippy club drug Special K. Now the chameleon drug ketamine is finding new life as an unapproved treatment for depression and suicidal behavior. Clinics have opened around the United States promising instant relief with their “unique” doses of ketamine in IVs, sprays or pills. And desperate patients are shelling out thousands of dollars for treatment often not covered by health insurance, with scant evidence on long-term benefits and risks. (Tanner, 10/31)
Obesity, Low BMI Linked To Increased Risk Of Death, Study Reveals
Excessively high or low body mass index measurements have been linked to an increased risk of dying from nearly every major cause except transport accidents, new research says. The study, published Wednesday in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology and conducted by scientists at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, revealed that BMI that's either too high or too low is tied to increased morbidity from a range of major diseases. (Robinson, 10/31)
The Associated Press:
Gum, Bottled Water, Pizza Bagels Want To Be Called 'Healthy'
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is revamping its definition of healthy to reflect our changing understanding of nutrition science. The push is fueling debate about eating habits and what the new standard should say. Frozen food-makers are seeking special rules for “mini meals,” citing little pizza bagels and dumplings as examples that might qualify. Chewing gum and bottled water companies say they should no longer be shut out from using the term just because their products don’t provide nutrients. Advocacy groups and health professionals are also weighing in, raising concerns about ingredients like sugar. (Choi, 10/30)
The Associated Press:
Why Is It So Hard To Text 911?
People can livestream their every move on Facebook and chatter endlessly in group chats. But in most parts of the U.S., they still can’t reach 911 by texting — an especially important service during mass shootings and other catastrophes when a phone call could place someone in danger. Although text-to-911 service is slowly expanding, the emphasis there is on “slow.” Limited funds, piecemeal adoption and outdated call-center technology have all helped stymie growth. (Anderson, 10/31)