Wednesday, August 17, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

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Kaiser Health News Original Stories
Shelter Sickness: Migrants See Health Problems Linger and Worsen While Waiting at the Border
U.S. immigration policies, an increasing number of migrants, and the covid-19 pandemic have led to the growth of the Mexican shelter system, in which people are getting sick and medical care is limited. (Renuka Rayasam, )
Public Health Agencies Adapt Covid Lessons to Curb Overdoses, STDs, and Gun Violence
Know-how gained through the covid pandemic is seeping into other public health areas. But in a nation that has chronically underfunded its public health system, it’s hard to know which changes will stick. (Katheryn Houghton, )
Political Cartoon: 'Be-Have?'
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Be-Have?'" by Bob and Tom Thaves.
Administration News
Historic Medicare Drug Pricing Changes Signed Into Law
During the White House signing ceremony Tuesday, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats stressed the long path to passage for the sweeping budget reconciliation bill. “The American people won, and the special interests lost," Biden said of the new law that gives Medicare negotiating powers for some drug prices and extends ACA premium aid.
AP: Biden Signs Massive Climate And Health Care Legislation
President Joe Biden signed Democrats’ landmark climate change and health care bill into law on Tuesday, delivering what he has called the “final piece” of his pared-down domestic agenda, as he aims to boost his party’s standing with voters less than three months before the midterm elections. The legislation includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change — some $375 billion over the decade — and would cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 out-of-pocket annually for Medicare recipients. It also would help an estimated 13 million Americans pay for health care insurance by extending subsidies provided during the coronavirus pandemic. (Miller and Min Kim, 8/16)
The Washington Post: Biden Signs Democrats' Sweeping Bill To Tackle Climate Change, Lower Health-Care Costs
According to the White House, Biden will in the coming weeks hold a Cabinet meeting focused on implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as travel across the country to promote the ways the new law is expected to help Americans. The White House is also planning an event Sept. 6 to celebrate the bill’s enactment. (Wang, 8/16)
The Hill: Obama: Climate, Health Care Bill ‘A BFD’
“This is a BFD,” Obama wrote in a tweet on Tuesday, quoting his former vice president’s tweet on the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act. Obama made the reference to a moment in 2010 when Biden was caught on a hot mic telling Obama that signing the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as ObamaCare, was a ”big f—— deal.” (Oshin, 8/16)
On how the bill may impact medical care and costs, as well as environmental health  —
NBC News: Inflation Reduction Act Becomes Law: How It Will Affect Your Health Care
The changes are “significant,” especially for anyone in need of high-cost drugs, said Stacie Dusetzina, a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. People on Medicare are expected to benefit the most from the new law, though health experts say some of the changes could eventually find their way into the commercial insurance market. However, the changes won’t be immediate; many provisions aren’t slated to take effect for a few years. (Lovelace Jr., 8/16)
CBS News: Inflation Reduction Act Could Be "Game-Changing" For Millions Of U.S. Seniors
"This is going to be game-changing," said Rena Conti, an associate professor at Boston University's Questrom School of Business who studies drug pricing. While the law only addresses how Medicare, the health care program for seniors, sets drug prices, advocates of drug reform hope it will set a roadmap for other payers to lower soaring drug costs. (Ivanova, 8/16)
AP: Scientists Say New Climate Law Is Likely To Reduce Warming
Even with nearly $375 billion in tax credits and other financial enticements for renewable energy in the law, the United States still isn’t doing its share to help the world stay within another few tenths of a degree of warming, a new analysis by Climate Action Tracker says. The group of scientists examines and rates each country’s climate goals and actions. It still rates American action as “insufficient” but hailed some progress. (Borenstein, 8/16)
And on future health care legislation —
Axios: Congress Isn’t Done With Messy Health Care Fights
The Inflation Reduction Act is law. But that doesn't mean major health care interests are done testing their lobbying clout. Many are already lining up for year-end relief from Medicare payment cuts, regulatory changes and inflation woes. (Knight, 8/17)
Public Health
Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids Could Be Available By October After FDA OK
In a move that could make hearing aids more affordable and accessible for an estimated 30 million Americans, the Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule Tuesday allowing the devices to be sold without a prescription. President Joe Biden said that over-the-counter aids could be purchased as early as October.
NPR: Millions Of Americans Will Soon Be Able To Buy Hearing Aids Without A Prescription
Adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing impairment will be able to buy hearing aids directly from stores, pharmacies and online retailers — no prescription or doctor's appointment required — as soon as mid-October. That's thanks to a final rule issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday and set to take effect in two months, following years of campaigning by lawmakers and advocates. It creates a new category of over-the-counter hearing aids, which the Biden administration says will make the devices more accessible and affordable for millions of Americans. (Treisman, 8/16)
AP: Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids Expected This Fall In US
The devices are intended for adults with mild to moderate hearing problems. The FDA estimates that nearly 30 million adults could potentially benefit from a hearing aid, though only about one-fifth of people with hearing problems currently use one. “Today’s action by the FDA represents a significant milestone in making hearing aids more cost-effective and accessible,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, told reporters Tuesday. (Perrone, 8/16)
On the potential price impact of the changes —
Newsweek: How Much Less Will Hearing Aids Cost With Over-The-Counter Option?
In a report from 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said that "the average retail price for a pair of hearing aids in 2013 was $4,700, which reflected the cost of both the hearing aids and professional services." The announcement by the FDA on Tuesday comes after Congress passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act in 2017, which called on the agency to allow for the over-the-counter sale of hearing aids. Biden issued a similar executive order in 2021. (Impelli, 8/16)
USA Today: FDA Allows Retail Sales Of Hearing Aids To Lower Cost, Broaden Access
The agency estimates the new class of devices would save consumers about $2,800 for a pair of hearing aids, officials said. Some hearing aids cost more than $5,000 between the price of the device and a professional fitting. Medicare covers a diagnostic test but does not pay for the device. … The agency made changes from a proposed rule last October based on public comments from consumers, stakeholders and experts. The final rule requires retail hearing aids to lower maximum sound and to include a user-adjustable volume control. The final rule also limits how deep the devices can be placed in the ear canal. (Alltucker, 8/16)
Outbreaks and Health Threats
Questions Grow Over Possible Wider Spread Of Monkeypox
The case of a California man who tested positive for monkeypox, as well as a recent study, raise concerns over potential asymptomatic transmissions or ones outside of sexual networks. Other news stories report on the 8th pediatric case in the U.S., vaccinations, and more.
San Francisco Chronicle: Stanford Monkeypox Case Raises Questions About Transmission Beyond Sexual Networks
The man had recently traveled to the United States from the United Kingdom, and his highest-risk exposure was attending a crowded outdoor event, where he had close contact with others, including dancing, for a few hours, researchers said. He did not come into contact with anyone who appeared sick, or who had visible lesions. It was not an event attended specifically or mostly by gay and bisexual people, the letter said. (Ho, 8/16)
CIDRAP: Study Heightens Concerns About Asymptomatic Monkeypox Spread
Of 200 asymptomatic people who were screened and were negative for two STIs, 13 (6.5%) were positive for monkeypox. Two of them developed monkeypox symptoms later. The authors said it's not clear if viral shedding can lead to transmission. If so, they wrote that postexposure ring vaccination around people with probable or confirmed infections might not be enough to contain the spread of the virus. (Schnirring, 8/16)
On other monkeypox matters in the news —
ABC News: 8th Child In US Tests Positive For Monkeypox
At least eight children in the U.S. have now tested positive for monkeypox, after health officials in Harris County, Texas, confirmed to ABC News that a presumptive case had been identified in a child under the age of 2. (Mitropoulos, 8/16)
Houston Chronicle: People Living With HIV Can Receive Monkeypox Vaccine In Houston
Houston-area officials decided to include about 26,000 people living with HIV, as well as people diagnosed with chlamydia, to the vaccination priority list based on the impression that a new national vaccination strategy would bring a five-fold increase in the number of doses coming to Houston. But on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed state and local health departments that the number of incoming doses would be unchanged, ensuring that demand will continue to outstrip supply. (Gill, 8/16)
The Washington Post: D.C. To Publish Monkeypox Data Online After Critique From Council Members
The dashboard, which officials said will go live at 6 p.m. Wednesday, appears to address council members’ concerns about making sure the city’s limited number of vaccine doses go to underserved communities, and parents’ concerns about safety before the upcoming school year. (Brice-Saddler and Portnoy, 8/16)
Bloomberg: Monkeypox Outbreak: CDC Says Pets Should Be Isolated If Possibly Infected
Pets exposed to people with monkeypox should be isolated to ensure they don’t spread the virus to other people or animals, US health officials said after a dog was reported to be infected with the virus in Paris. (Muller, 8/16)
In news on why monkeypox vaccines are so sparsely available —
NPR: Why Monkeypox Vaccines Are So Hard For Countries To Get
NPR spoke with two people in a position to know: Matt Linley is with Airfinity, an independent, London-based analytics company that has been tracking production and deliveries of monkeypox vaccine. Dr. Phiona Atuhebwe coordinates the introduction of new vaccines in Africa for the World Health Organization. Here are eight takeaways. (Aizenman, 8/16)
Covid-19 Crisis
White House Said To Plan Extending Covid Health Emergency
Another three months of special powers are incoming if the Biden administration goes ahead, as reports say it will, and renews the covid public health emergency. Meanwhile, the Atlantic notes that even as fall is incoming — bringing potentially more covid — people think the pandemic is over.
Axios: COVID Public Health Emergency Appears To Be Headed For Extension
The Biden administration appears headed toward extending the COVID-19 public health emergency for another three months, allowing special powers and programs to continue past the midterm election. (Bettelheim, 8/16)
The Atlantic: Even The CDC Is Acting Like The Pandemic Is Functionally Over 
All of this is happening as the Northern Hemisphere barrels toward fall—a time when students cluster in classrooms, families mingle indoors, and respiratory viruses go hog wild—the monkeypox outbreak balloons, and the health-care system remains strained. The main COVID guardrail left is a request for people to stay up to date on their vaccines, which most in the U.S. are not; most kids under 5 who have opted for the Pfizer vaccine won’t even have had enough time to finish their three-dose primary series by the time the school year starts. (Wu, 8/16)
On the rise of the BA.5 subvariant —
CIDRAP: Omicron Subvariant BA.5 Now Makes Up 89% Of US COVID-19 Infections
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Nowcast variant tracker estimates that BA.5 now accounts for 88.8% of new US COVID-19 cases, while BA.4 accounts for 5.3% and BA.4.6 accounts for 5.1% of new cases. Four weeks ago BA.5 made up 74.0% of COVID-19 cases, and 2 weeks ago it accounted for 84.5%. (8/16)
In other covid news —
The Hill: Most In New Poll Say They Didn’t Take COVID Precautions Before Vacations
Few Americans who reported taking a vacation in the past three months took extra steps to avoid a COVID-19 infection prior to their trip, according to a new Axios-Ipsos poll. The poll found that exactly half of the respondents reported taking a vacation or trip in the past three months. (Schonfeld, 8/16)
AP: California Appeals Court Rejects COVID-19 Fines For Church
A California church that defied safety regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic by holding large religious services won’t have to pay about $200,000 in fines, a state appeals court ruled. (8/17)
On developments in vaccines —
Bloomberg: What Is Bivalent Vaccine? New Moderna Omicron Covid Booster Explained
Moderna says the drug triggered a strong immune response against the original virus and BA.1 subvariant. It also generated a good immune response against omicron’s latest subvariants BA.4 and BA.5., according to the UK government. However, these are findings from laboratory studies that look at levels of disease-fighting antibodies, which is just a proxy for protection in the real world. There’s no solid data yet from human trials showing this booster demonstrates superior protection against omicron infections compared to the existing shots. (Millson and Lyu, 8/16)
The New York Times: Why A Century-Old Vaccine Offers New Hope Against Pathogens
The results were dramatic: only one — or slightly more than 1 percent — of the 96 people who had received the B.C.G. doses developed Covid, compared with six — or 12.5 percent — of the 48 participants who received dummy shots. Although the trial was relatively small, “the results are as dramatic as for the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines,” said Dr. Denise Faustman, the study’s lead author and director of immunobiology at Massachusetts General Hospital. (Caryn Rabin, 8/16)
Reproductive Health
Biden Administration Plans Push For Abortion Rights, Aiming At Men Too
The White House is planning a serious effort to emphasize abortion access ahead of the midterms, and its campaign will also try to sway men's opinions. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is reportedly planning a record spend of $50 million on advocacy ahead of the elections.
Reuters: Exclusive: New Biden Abortion Rights Push Addresses Both Women And Men
Cheered by a decisive win for abortion rights in a Kansas vote and eyeing November midterm elections, the White House is launching a push for abortion access that aims to influence men as well as women, sources with direct knowledge told Reuters. The Biden administration's three-prong playbook leans on two specific federal statutes to target states that limit abortion, communicates to voters the impact on women, and accentuates how forced pregnancies negatively affect both women and men. (Bose, 8/16)
AP: Planned Parenthood To Spend Record $50M In Midterm Elections
The effort, which breaks the group’s previous $45 million spending record set in 2020, comes months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that created a constitutional right to have an abortion. It will be waged by the organization’s political and advocacy arms and will focus on governor’s offices, U.S. Senate seats and legislative races in nine states where abortion rights could be restricted or expanded depending on the outcome at the ballot. (Slodysko, 8/17)
Bloomberg: US Defends Emergency Abortion Rule In Texas AG’s Lawsuit
The Biden administration asked a judge to throw out a Texas lawsuit challenging a federal mandate that emergency abortions in hospitals take priority over state bans on such procedures, calling the rule “reasonable and reasonably explained.” (Larson, 8/16)
Meanwhile, worries rise about abortion-related app data —
Los Angeles Times: How Pregnancy App Data Could Be Used To Prosecute Abortions
After studying 20 of the most popular period-tracking and pregnancy-tracking apps, researchers from the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation found that 18 of them had data collection practices that raised privacy or security concerns. The report also considered five wearable devices that track fertility but did not raise concerns about their data collection. (Masunaga, 8/17)
On other abortion matters in the news —
Politico: Poll: Abortion Enters Top 5 Latino Issues
For the first time, abortion has entered the top-five issues concerning Latino voters, according to a new poll from two Latino civil rights organizations which showed Democrats with a 2-to-1 edge in the chase for Latinos’ midterm votes. (Martinez, 8/16)
AP: Court: Parentless Girl, 16, Not 'Mature' Enough For Abortion
An appellate court has upheld a lower court ruling that a parentless 16-year-old girl in the Florida Panhandle was not “sufficiently mature” to end her pregnancy while seeking a waiver from a state law that requires minors to get parental consent for an abortion. (8/16)
The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Joins Multistate Coalition In Defending Abortion As Emergency Medical Care
Maryland joined a multistate coalition supporting the federal government’s moves to prevent Texas and Idaho from exempting abortion from a law requiring hospitals to provide emergency care, Attorney General Brian Frosh said Tuesday. (Jensen, 8/16)
KCUR: Midwest 'Ghost Story’ Gives Insight Into Abortion Bans In 1800s 
Missouri lawmakers first passed a law restricting abortions in 1825 — becoming the second state in the U.S. to do so. In 1907, they expanded the penalties, making it a felony offense. As a result, we don't know much about the doctors who provided these health care services. With one major exception: Doctor Annie Smith. (Martin, 8/16)
Columbus Dispatch: Leaving Ohio For An Abortion? Planned Parenthood Can Help
Before Planned Parenthood's Leah Mallinos tackles the practical needs of Ohioans seeking abortions in other states, she pauses to acknowledge a basic truth. "I always like to start off with acknowledging the emotional impact that someone has when they are learning that they cannot receive care in the state of Ohio, in their home state and in their communities," Mallinos said. "It's absolutely devastating." (Balmert, 8/16)
AP: Abortion Ban Goes To S. Carolina House Floor For Big Fight
A near total abortion ban in South Carolina that does not include exceptions for pregnancies’ caused by rape or incest was sent to the state House floor Tuesday but not without hints and warnings that the lack of exceptions could cause a big legislative fight in a few weeks. (Collins, 8/16)
Also —
NPR: Supreme Court Abortion Ruling Has Birth Control Advocates Worried
Advocates like Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association in Washington, D.C., are now calling for Democrats to use every tool at their disposal to increase financial support for Title X, which they say has long been underfunded. (Paviour, 8/16)
Stat: Once Routine, Pre-Surgical Pregnancy Testing Now Is Anything But
The Supreme Court’s decision has raised the stakes of a positive pregnancy test in the states where abortion is banned or sharply restricted. (Pasricha, 8/16)
Capitol Watch
Jill Biden Tests Positive For Covid
The first lady experienced symptoms on Monday and is taking Paxlovid. Meanwhile, after refusing to testify before the House Oversight Committee, gunmaker Smith & Wesson's CEO blames politicians for the surge in gun violence. Also: J&J's bankruptcy, faulty Philips respirators and more.
AP: Jill Biden Tests Positive For COVID-19, Has 'Mild' Symptoms
The Bidens have been vacationing in South Carolina since Aug. 10, and the 71-year-old first lady began experiencing symptoms on Monday. Jill Biden, like her husband, has been twice-vaccinated and twice-boosted with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. She has been prescribed the antiviral drug Paxlovid and will isolate at the vacation home for at least five days. (Miller, 8/16)
On gun violence —
The Washington Post: Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith Blames Politicians For Gun Violence
In the statement posted Monday on Twitter, he accused “a number of politicians and their lobbying partners in the media” of trying to “disparage” his company and shift blame to gunmakers. Smith, who refused to testify before the House Oversight Committee, said politicians had “vilified, undermined and defunded law enforcement” and “generally promoted a culture of lawlessness,” causing a wave of crime. (Shammas, 8/16)
In other political, legal and governmental news relating to health —
Axios: Medicaid Expansion Sees New Life In Longtime GOP Holdout States
Republican-led states that have resisted expanding Medicaid for more than a decade are showing new openness to the idea. (Sherman and Hurt, 8/16)
Modern Healthcare: FTC Wants States To Scrap Certificate Of Public Advantage Laws
States are not equipped to oversee hospital mergers under certificate of public advantage laws, a new paper from the Federal Trade Commission concluded. Some states have allowed hospitals to merge via COPAs, shielding the merging parties from federal antitrust scrutiny in exchange for prolonged state oversight. While hospital executives and state officials claim that mergers under COPAs will lead to lower costs and better outcomes, some transactions have produced the opposite results, the FTC said Monday in an analysis of hospital deals. (Kacik, 8/16)
Reuters: Plaintiff In First Zantac Lawsuit Set For Trial Drops Case
The plaintiff in the first lawsuit over the heartburn drug Zantac scheduled to go to trial has agreed to drop his case, according to his attorney and drugmakers named as defendants. The news on Tuesday came days after shares of GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L), Sanofi SA (SASY.PA), Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and Haleon Plc (HLN.L) were hit by investor concerns about thousands of lawsuits claiming the drug, which U.S. regulators pulled from the market in 2020, causes cancer. (Pierson, 8/16)
The Wall Street Journal: J&J Unit Tells Appeals Court Only Bankruptcy Can Settle Talc Claims
A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary urged a federal appeals court to uphold the controversial legal strategy it used to move to bankruptcy roughly 38,000 lawsuits linking its talc-based products to cancer. The subsidiary, LTL Management LLC, said in court papers filed on Monday that chapter 11 is the only option for compensating all claimants relatively quickly. (Randles, 8/16)
Reuters: U.S. FDA Gets Over 48,000 Reports Of Faulty Philips Respiratory Devices In May-July
he U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it had received more than 48,000 reports of faulty Dutch medical equipment maker Philips' (PHG.AS) ventilators and respiratory devices between May and July, which included 44 deaths. This was more than twice the number of reports it had received in over a year until April, the agency said on Tuesday. (8/16)
Public Health
As Polio Circulates In New York, Doctors Tell Parents: Vaccinate
The New York Times reports on findings out of the CDC that an April wastewater sample from Orange County, N.Y., tested positive for polio and that the virus may have been circulating for up to a year elsewhere in the world. Other public health news is on baby formula, overdoses and migrant health.
The New York Times: Polio Is Worrying Parents. Doctors Say Vaccination Is the Answer
The news that the poliovirus has been found circulating in New York City wastewater fueled a wide range of reactions in city parents on Monday. Some were unfazed. Others were terrified. Public health officials, however, had a simple message for them: Get your children vaccinated. If they are vaccinated, they are safe. (Otterman and Schweber, 8/15)
The New York Times: Polio May Have Been Spreading In New York Since April
Changes in the genome of the virus suggest that this version has been circulating, somewhere in the world, for up to a year. Genetically similar versions of the virus were detected in Israel in March and in Britain in June. (Anthes, 8/16)
NBC News: Polio Vaccine Coverage Is As Low As 37% In N.Y. County Where Paralysis Case Was Found
Low polio vaccination rates plus the presence of the virus in wastewater in a New York county suggest that others are at risk following a case of paralysis from polio in a young adult this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. (Edwards, 8/16)
In other public health news, baby formula supplies improve —
Reuters: Baby Formula Supplies Improving, Say U.S. Retailers Walmart And Target
Two big U.S. retailers Walmart Inc (WMT.N) and Target Corp (TGT.N) said on Tuesday that supplies of baby formula were improving, months after the country faced acute shortages that had caused a panic among parents. Considering the still-existing supply constraints, Target said it will continue with the purchase restrictions both at its stores and online. (8/16)
On curbing overdoses —
KHN: Public Health Agencies Adapt Covid Lessons To Curb Overdoses, STDs, And Gun Violence
Shannan Piccolo walked into a hotel with a tote bag full of Narcan and a speech about how easy it is to use the medicine that can reverse opioid overdoses. “Hopefully your business would never have to respond to an overdose, but we’d rather have you have some Narcan on hand just in case,” Piccolo, director of Park City-County Health Department, said to the hotel manager. (Houghton, 8/17)
Also —
KHN: Shelter Sickness: Migrants See Health Problems Linger And Worsen While Waiting At The Border
Two days after arriving at a temporary migrant shelter at the border with the U.S. in June, Rosa Viridiana Ceron Alpizar’s 9-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son fell ill. Most of the kids in the converted gym had stomach issues after being served a meal of sausage and beans, she recalled. Alpizar’s daughter quickly got better, but her son didn’t. José had a fever and diarrhea and was throwing up. When the shelter nurses couldn’t help, Alpizar sought out a private doctor, who prescribed antibiotics. (Rayasam, 8/17)
Science And Innovations
Health Workers Who Wore Respirators Were 40% Less At Risk From Covid
A study reported at CIDRAP looked at roughly 3,000 health care workers and found that wearing a respirator during the pandemic definitely offered benefits. A separate study links a covid infection to higher risks of vein blood clots than is found for flu infections.
CIDRAP: Healthcare Workers Wearing Respirators 40% Less Likely To Contract COVID
A study of more than 2,900 healthcare workers (HCWs) shows that those who wore a respirator were more than 40% less likely to be infected with COVID-19 than those wearing a surgical mask. (8/16)
CIDRAP: Higher Risk Of Vein Blood Clots In COVID Vs Flu Patients
Hospitalized adult COVID-19 patients before and after SARS-CoV-2 vaccine availability had significantly higher odds of venous—but not arterial—thromboembolism than those hospitalized for influenza before the pandemic, finds a study published today in JAMA. (Van Beusekom, 8/16)
USA Today: Next Generation COVID Antibody Tests May Show When A Booster Is Needed
Antibody tests have been on the market since early in the pandemic, but they do little more than tell people whether they have been previously infected with COVID-19. A newer generation test would look specifically at the levels of neutralizing antibodies and either give a precise level or a "low," "medium," "high" reading, providing more actionable information. (Weintraub, 8/17)
In research and innovation news not related to covid —
Reuters: Sanofi Trial Failure Ends Development Of Breast Cancer Treatment Amcenestrant
French healthcare company Sanofi (SASY.PA) said it would stop further work on amcenestrant, once seen to have large potential against breast cancer, after a second trial failure dealt a major blow to its drug development prospects. (Burger and Hummel, 8/17)
Axios: Most American Diets Need More Vitamin E
Nearly all of us aren't getting enough of a critical vitamin that supports vision, brain health and even developing fetuses — vitamin E. (Pandey, 8/16)
Stat: Frustrated By Known Cancer Biomarkers, Biologists Make Their Own
The hunt for cancer cures has, to a large degree, been a hunt for biomarkers — DNA, peptides, RNA, proteins or more — that might set tumor cells apart from healthy tissue. The trouble is that for many cancers, the known biomarkers have been a disappointment, particularly for early cancer detection. (Chen, 8/17)
The Hill: Children Who Live Near Fracking Sites At Birth Face Increased Risk Of Leukemia: Study
Pennsylvania children living near fracking sites at birth are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with leukemia during early childhood than those who did not live near such facilities, a new study has found. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives on Wednesday, explored the connection between the development of cancer and proximity to such unconventional oil and gas development — also known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” (Udasin, 8/17)
NBC News: Childhood Lead Exposure Is Linked To Low Test Scores For Black Students, Study Finds
The findings, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), are based on surveys of more than 25,000 fourth graders in North Carolina. The data shows that Black students are disproportionately exposed to lead in racially segregated neighborhoods and that these stressors are linked to poor test scores in reading among Black youth relative to their white peers. (Bellamy-Walker, 8/16)
On a startling study into climate and nuclear war —
CBS News: Nuclear War Between The U.S. And Russia Would Kill More Than 5 Billion People – Just From Starvation, Study Finds
The toll of nuclear war would be instantly catastrophic for those who are within the immediate path of the weapons. But a new study shows just how deadly the scope of such a war would be. A nuclear blast would cause worldwide famine, according to the study, published in Nature Food on Monday, as massive amounts of soot would block sunlight, disrupt climate systems and limit food production. (Cohen, 8/16)
Health Industry
Study Shows Unscrutinized Hospital Mergers Can Push Prices Up
State regulations can shield hospital mergers from federal scrutiny, Stat notes, and this can ultimately lead to substantial price rises. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal covers a report saying that hospital finances are deteriorating due to rising labor and supply costs.
Stat: Study: Hospital Mergers Without Antitrust Scrutiny Lead To Higher Prices
Hospitals that merge under state regulations that shield them from federal scrutiny tend to eventually break free of those controls and raise prices substantially, new research finds. (Bannow, 8/17)
The Wall Street Journal: Hospital Finances Are Deteriorating, Fitch Says
Rising labor and supply costs will land many nonprofit hospitals in violation of debt covenants to bondholders this year, according to an analysis released Tuesday by Fitch Ratings. Salaries for nurses are particularly competitive, with Covid-19 driving up demand. Labor costs and other inflation pressures are squeezing budgets at senior-living facilities as well. (Gillers, 8/16)
Stat: Cepheid Faces Fresh Criticism Over The Pricing Of Its TB Diagnostics
A controversy has broken out over a diagnostic for tuberculosis that, until recently, had been subsidized by the World Health Organization — the latest flare-up over access to a medical product in mostly poor countries. (Silverman, 8/16)
Stat: Merck, A Loser In Covid Vaccine Race, Invests In Cambridge MRNA Startup
Among the most notable aspects of the Covid-19 vaccine race was who won it: Pfizer and two small biotechs, while most of the world’s largest and oldest vaccine makers either waited too long or picked older and ultimately less effective technologies. Since then, there’s been a minor gold-rush for mRNA among legacy makers. (Mast, 8/16)
Modern Healthcare: Providence's Net Loss Nears $2B As Industry Trends Dent Results
Providence, a not-for-profit health system based in Washington, on Tuesday reported a first-half net loss of $1.84 billion, as the industry's higher expenses and staff shortages plague another heath system. (Hudson, 8/16)
In news on health care staffing matters —
Crain's Detroit Business: Michigan Nurses Association Sues UM Over Workload Expectations
The Michigan Nurses Association at the University of Michigan filed a lawsuit against the university on Tuesday over the workload its members are facing. The MNA alleges UM is breaking the law by refusing to bargain over nurses' workloads in its contract negotiations with the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council. (Fifelski, 8/16)
AP: Minnesota Nurses Authorize Strike Against 7 Health Systems
Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against seven health systems in the Twin Cities and Duluth, union officials say. The vote Monday gave nurse negotiators the ability to call a strike, with a 10-day notice to employers. The union represents 15,000 nurses. The next negotiation session is set for Aug. 30. (8/16)
State Watch
Telehealth Access Boosted In Atlanta Schools
Many of the city's public schools are reportedly responding to the pandemic's impact on children's mental health, giving all students telehealth access to doctors and therapists. Meanwhile in Wyoming, a faith-based organization is boosting access to mobile ultrasound for rural areas.
AP: Atlanta Schools To Give More Students Access To Telehealth
Responding to the pandemic’s toll on student health, Atlanta’s public schools are launching a new program to give most of their schoolchildren remote access to doctors and therapists. The telehealth services should be available to all students — from kindergarten through 12th grade — at 64 of the district’s 87 schools by the end of the school year after the Board of Education last week approved a contract with provider Hazel Health, the district said in a news release. (8/16)
Wyoming Public Radio: Faith-Based Organization Provides Mobile Ultrasounds For Rural Pregnancies
Elevation Healthcare is located in Riverton and has been sending out a mobile care unit to serve pregnancies in small Wyoming communities like Arapaho, Thermopolis, and Shoshoni. Elevation Healthcare is a rebranding of Abba’s House, a faith-based pregnancy crisis center. (Stagner, 8/16)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis County Is Paying Extra To Store Bodies At Funeral Homes And In A Trailer
A lack of space at the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office is forcing the county to spend thousands of dollars to transport and store bodies at other locations, including area funeral homes. (Landis, 8/16)
North Carolina Health News: NC's State Of Emergency Has Expired. Now What?
There no longer is a state of emergency for COVID-19 in North Carolina even as 61 counties still have high community levels of illness related to the virus and strained health care systems. (Blythe, 8/17)
Roll Call: Democrats Take Insulin Prices To The Airwaves In Nevada 
A top Democratic political action committee launched new campaign ads Tuesday about the ongoing effort to reduce out-of-pocket costs for insulin. (Lesniewski, 8/16)
Detroit Free Press: E.Coli Cases Reach A High During The Month Of August
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have flagged an increase in the number of E.coli related illnesses this month. So far, there have been 98 recorded cases in the month of August. This is a significant increase compared to the 20 reported cases from the same time last year. (Webb, 8/16)
CBS News: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Signs Executive Order To Protect LGBTQIA+ Community From Conversion Therapy
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed Executive Order 2022-2 on Tuesday, which aims to protect the LGBTQIA+ community in the state from the harmful practices of conversion therapy. Wolf tweeted Tuesday that the bill directs commonwealth agencies to "1) Do everything in their power to discourage conversion therapy 2) Actively promote evidence-based medical treatment for LGBTQIA+ individuals 3) Update policies and procedures to better support LGBTQIA+ Pennsylvanians." (Mandler, 8/16)
Houston Chronicle: Texans Trust GOP For Border And Economic Policy, But Not On Abortion And Guns, Polls Show
In a statewide survey conducted earlier this month by the University of Texas at Tyler and Dallas Morning News, 82 percent of voters voiced support for rape and incest exceptions, while more than seven in 10 said cases should be exempted if the baby is likely to be born with “severe disabilities or health issues.” (Scherer, 8/17)
The Boston Globe: 3 Police Departments Will Share Mental Health Clinician
Three small police departments South of Boston — in Norfolk, Plainville, and Wrentham — are joining forces with a social services agency to avoid arresting people with mental health or substance abuse problems and to get them help instead. (Seltz, 8/16)
And finally, on states’ reactions to heat in the workplace —
Stateline: Scorching Summer Tests States' Workplace Heat Rules
More than 130 labor and environmental organizations, led by the nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen, have called on OSHA to issue emergency rules. The Biden administration in 2021 directed the federal agency to develop workplace regulations for heat exposure, but that process takes on average seven years to implement and could be stalled if the next occupant of the White House is less open to such rules. (Bolstad, 8/16)
Prescription Drug Watch
Dupilumab Improves Covid Outcomes; Xofluza Approved For Treating Flu In Kids 5 And Older
Read about the biggest pharmaceutical developments and pricing stories from the past week in KHN's Prescription Drug Watch roundup.
ScienceDaily: Eczema Treatment Cuts Risk Of Death From COVID-19, Study Suggests
A monoclonal antibody used to treat asthma and eczema can improve survival for patients with moderate to severe COVID-19, a clinical trial suggests. (University of Virginia Health System, 8/16)
CIDRAP: FDA green-lights baloxavir use for flu in kids as young as 5
Roche recently announced that the FDA has approved the use of baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza) for treating flu in children ages 5 to 12. Also, the FDA approved the drug for postexposure prophylaxis (prevention) in kids ages 5 to 12 who had contact with someone with flu. (8/15)
ScienceDaily: Old Drug, New Trick: Researchers Find Combining Antiviral Drugs And Antibody Therapy Could Treat Seasonal Flu And Help Prevent Next Flu Pandemic 
Researchers have found a class of well-known antiviral drugs could be part of a one-two punch to treat seasonal influenza and prevent a flu pandemic when used in combination with antibody therapies. (McMaster University, 8/16)
Stat: BrainStorm To Seek FDA Approval For ALS Drug, Despite Agency Objections
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration issued a rare public statement to inform the ALS community that a negative clinical trial involving an experimental stem-cell therapy from Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics did not support the filing of a marketing application. (Feuerstein, 8/15)
CIDRAP: BD, Accelerate Announce Collaboration On Rapid ID, Susceptibility Tests
Under the agreement, BD will market and sell through its global sales network the Food and Drug Administration–approved Accelerate Pheno system, which delivers rapid pathogen identification and antibiotic susceptibility test results from blood cultures 1 to 2 days faster than traditional laboratory methods. The agreement also covers the Accelerate Arc module. (8/16)
FiercePharma: Pharma Exec Misled FDA In Hopes Of Marketing Sanorex, DOJ Says
After being charged with deceiving the FDA last fall, purported New Jersey pharma CEO Alain Bouaziz had his day in court. Now, the 69-year-old French citizen faces up to five years in prison—plus a maximum fine of $250,000—over a plot to get his hands on Novartis’ former weight loss med Sanorex. Bouaziz submitted forged documents and made false statements to the FDA in a bid to “fraudulently gain control of Sanorex,” a stimulant-based weight loss drug that Novartis pulled from the market more than 10 years ago, the DOJ says. (Kansteiner, 8/15)
Stat: Sales From Controversial Drug Discount Program Rose To $44 Billion Last Year
Prescription medicines purchased in the U.S. under a controversial government discount program amounted to $44 billion in 2021, a nearly 16% increase from the previous year, according to the Health Resources & Service Administration, which oversees the program. (Silverman, 8/15)
Stat: Novartis Reports Two Children Died From Acute Liver Failure After Treatment With Zolgensma Gene Therapy
Two children have died from acute liver failure after being administered Zolgensma, a pricey gene therapy sold by Novartis to treat a rare disease. (Silverman, 8/11)
Perspectives: How Will The Inflation Reduction Act Impact Drug Prices?
Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.
NBC News: The Democrats Are Overselling How Much Their Bill Helps Cut Drug Prices
Congressional Democrats are on the precipice of achieving their long-standing goal of empowering Medicare to essentially set the prices of some drugs. While the political significance is undeniable, the ultimate implications for consumers and drug markets are far more uncertain than many supporters (and detractors) are implying. (Benedic Ippolito, 8/12)
Des Moines Register: Citizens United Left Us Subject To These Deceptive Ads
A grim-faced doctor walks into an examining room where an anxious white-haired woman sits on the table, awaiting news. “Mrs. Smith, I have your test results here,” the doctor announces as the woman smiles up at him. “The news isn’t good." (Rekha Basu, 8/13)
The Washington Post: Work Remains On Drug Prices 
Finally. Congress might allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Albeit limited in extent, it is a start. But this alone will not impede the pharmaceutical industry from inflicting unjust price hikes. Other industry abuses will also need to be addressed. (8/12)
CentralMaine.Com: In The Inflation Reduction Act, A Much-Needed Step Toward Lowering Prescription Drug Costs 
The legislation will limit Medicare recipients’ out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs to $2,000 annually, which will be a huge blessing to the 1.4 million beneficiaries with cancer or other debilitating diseases who spend much more than that every year. (8/13)
Bloomberg: GSK’s Got Heartburn That £50 Billion From Unilever Could Probably Fix
Investors are waking up to the risk of litigation against the makers of Zantac, once a blockbuster treatment for heartburn. All of a sudden, GSK Plc’s decision to spin off rather than sell its consumer-healthcare business, Haleon Plc, is looking costly. (Chris Hughes, 8/12)
Editorials And Opinions
Viewpoints: CDC Worsens Covid Confusion; Is Religion Really A Barrier To Polio Shots?
Editorial writers delve into these public health topics.
Los Angeles Times: The CDC Loosened Its COVID Rules. Who Fills In This Public Health Vacuum?
“We have been waiting for three summers for some higher authority to tell us how to navigate Covid. There is none,” wrote the directors of an overnight camp one of our children attended. “There is no local, state or federal authority mandating that we do anything in terms of Covid and our unique congregate-living environment. …We’ve been left to our own devices.” (Wendy Netter Epstein and Daniel Goldberg, 8/17)
The New York Times: Religion Is Not A Real Barrier To Polio Vaccination
Polio has re-emerged in New York. The virus was identified in late July in an unvaccinated Rockland County man and has since been detected in wastewater samples in at least two counties. It’s too early to tell whether a limited outbreak — or worse, a full-blown epidemic — is brewing, but experts have been concerned about the virus spreading in communities with low vaccination rates. (Jeneen Interlandi, 8/17)
USA Today: Do Our Elected Leaders Know How It Feels To Choose Between Food And Medicine? I Do
Like so many others, the exorbitant cost of my medications and health care has pushed my family into poverty and, at times, endangered my life. I have several serious health conditions that require medication, including an irregular heartbeat due to atrial fibrillation. I also have high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome and gastroesophageal reflux disease. (Angelina Scott, 8/16)
CNN: Insulin Rationing Killed My Son. Here's What Needs To Be Done 
On February 7, 2018, my son Jesse Lutgen, 32, was found dead in his home. Unbeknownst to me, he'd been rationing his insulin, after losing his full-time job and health insurance the previous November. Jesse had looked into Obamacare marketplace health plans for coverage, but he simply could not afford a policy on his part-time pay from a local YMCA. (Janelle Lutgen, 8/16)
Modern Healthcare: Partnering With Higher Education To Diversify The Staffing Pipeline
Increasing the diversity of America’s professional workforce is becoming more important in all industries, but especially so in healthcare, where having employees who better reflect the population can improve care outcomes. I am encouraged to see the progress that health systems are making on this front, but there is still much more work to do. (Sherri Neal, 8/16)
Stat: Medical Error: An Epidemic Compounded By A Culture Of Silence 
Dire as it has been, the pandemic brought an unexpected paradigm shift: States suspended malpractice liability. Doctors could say aloud, “I think this treatment hurt my patient” without shame or fear. (Antonio Dajer, Christie Lech and Lucy Willis, 8/17)
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