January 29, 2023
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA

First Edition: May 3, 2022


Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Medicare Surprise: Drug Plan Prices Touted During Open Enrollment Can Rise Within A Month

Something strange happened between the time Linda Griffith signed up for a new Medicare prescription drug plan during last fall’s enrollment period and when she tried to fill her first prescription in January. She picked a Humana drug plan for its low prices, with help from her longtime insurance agent and Medicare’s Plan Finder, an online pricing tool for comparing a dizzying array of options. But instead of the $70.09 she expected to pay for her dextroamphetamine, used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, her pharmacist told her she owed $275.90. (Jaffe, 5/3)

States Watching As Massachusetts Takes Aim At Hospital Building Boom And Costs

A Massachusetts health cost watchdog agency and a broad coalition including consumers, health systems, and insurers helped block the state’s largest — and most expensive — hospital system in April from expanding into the Boston suburbs. Advocates for more affordable care hope the decision by regulators to hold Mass General Brigham accountable for its high costs will usher in a new era of aggressive action to rein in hospital expansions that drive up spending. Their next target is a proposed $435 million expansion by Boston Children’s Hospital. (Meyer, 5/3)

Abortion Politics Lead To Power Struggles Over Family Planning Grants

In a busy downtown coffee shop, a drawing of a ski lift with intrauterine devices for chairs draws the eyes of sleepy customers getting their morning underway with a caffeine jolt. The flyer touts the services of Bridgercare, a nonprofit reproductive health clinic a few miles up the road. The clinic offers wellness exams, birth control, and LGBTQ+ services — and, starting in April, it oversees the state’s multimillion-dollar share of federal family planning program funding. (Houghton, 5/3)

Supreme Court Has Voted To Overturn Abortion Rights, Draft Opinion Shows

The Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court and obtained by POLITICO. The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes. “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he writes in the document, labeled as the “Opinion of the Court.” (Gerstein and Ward, 5/2)

The New York Times:
Abortion Rights Supporters Used Strong Language To Say The Procedure Was Under Threat

In the immediate aftermath of a leaked draft opinion that suggests the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, supporters of abortion rights emphasized that the procedure was still legal — but under serious threat. “We need to brace for a future where more and more people are punished and criminalized for seeking and providing abortion care,” Mini Timmaraju, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said. Cecile Richards served as president of Planned Parenthood from 2006 to 2018, a period during which Congress and state legislatures increasingly tightened restrictions on reproductive health. She blamed the Republican Party for the current climate, saying it had rigged the Supreme Court and used its political power to take away women’s rights. “Ending legal abortion will not end abortion,” she said. “It simply will mean that women are no longer safe in this country.” (Zernike and Dias, 5/3)

The New York Times:
Democrats Promise A Fight If A Draft Of The Decision Becomes Law

Democrats denounced the Supreme Court’s private vote to strike down Roe v. Wade, with some promising to fight to preserve abortion rights. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, the top Democrats in Congress, called the draft obtained and published by Politico “one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.” In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Twitter that the state would always guarantee the right to abortion. Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, said on Twitter that the potential move by “right-wing extremists” against “a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions” could not stand. (Mendell, 5/3)

Salt Lake Tribune:
Utah’s Abortion Trigger Law Or 18-Week Ban Could Come Back Depending On How U.S. Supreme Court Rules

If Politico’s reporting holds and the Supreme Court overturns Roe V Wade, two Utah laws — one banning abortions after 18 weeks, and another outlawing the procedure except in limited circumstances — could come into play again, after being put on hold. Women in the Beehive State may also have to travel hundreds of miles to neighboring states to get an abortion. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains will be ready, according to Teter. “If you live in Utah and you need an abortion, come to Colorado, come to Nevada, we will take care of you,” Teter said. “We have patient assistance funds. We can help people with gas money. We can help people with hotels. We can help people pay for their procedures. No one need go without care.” (Jacobs, 5/3)

Los Angeles Times:
Newsom, Lawmakers Want California Constitution To Explicitly Protect Abortion Rights

In a swift response to news that the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to overturn the nation’s landmark abortion rights protections, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced Monday night they will ask voters in November to place permanent protections for the procedure in the California Constitution. “California will not stand idly by as women across America are stripped of their rights and the progress so many have fought for gets erased,” Newsom said in a written statement, co-signed by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). “We will fight.” (Myers, 5/2)

Federal Judge Extends Ban On New Kentucky Abortion Law

A federal judge in Kentucky has extended a temporary ban on the enforcement of a new state law that effectively ended abortions because the state’s two clinics said they can’t comply with all its requirements. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings is giving the clinics more time to explain their objections to the law. Jennings extended a temporary restraining order until May 19, after the existing one expires Thursday. Jennings said, however, some parts of the law not in dispute by the two clinics and state officials would go into effect. “I think there are pieces of this legislation that can be complied with right now,” Jennings said. The judge is planning an order on those parameters this week. (Lovan, 5/2)

Fox News:
VP Harris To Headline Pro-Choice Conference After Testing Negative For COVID-19

On Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris’ office announced that she will return to her official duties on Tuesday, after she tested negative for the COVID-19. Her first scheduled event will be an appearance at a pro-choice conference Tuesday evening. Harris will deliver remarks at the 30th Annual We Are EMILY National Conference and Gala. The event comes on the heels of a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court, showing it could potentially overturn Roe v. Wade in its upcoming decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Roe v. Wade legalized abortion across the country in 1973. (Richard, 5/3)

The New York Times:
Vice President Harris Tests Negative For The Coronavirus And Will Return To Work

Vice President Kamala Harris received a negative result on a rapid antigen test for the coronavirus on Monday, clearing her return to the White House on Tuesday, her office said. She had tested positive for the virus last Tuesday, becoming the highest-ranking official in Washington to be infected amid renewing concern about President Biden’s potential exposure. Kirsten Allen, Ms. Harris’s press secretary, said that the vice president would return to work on Tuesday in person, wearing “a well-fitting mask while around others through the 10-day period,” which began last week. (Hassan, 5/2)

The Boston Globe:
Survey Finds 4 In 10 American Adults Know Someone Who Died Of COVID-19

With the nation poised to reach the tragic milestone this month of 1 million official deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, 40 percent of American adults say they know 1 or more people who have died of the disease, according to a survey released last week. That included 20 percent who knew 1 person who had died from the virus, 13 percent who knew 2, and 7 percent who said they knew 3 or more, according to the survey conducted by the COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States, which includes Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers, and Northwestern universities. (Finucane, 5/2)

Most Americans Have Now Had Covid-19 — But Experts Are Predicting The Next Surge 

While it’s tempting to say much of life is getting back to normal, it’s probably more accurate to say it feels more comfortable and normal living alongside Covid-19. For many of those who are vaccinated or were previously infected, learning of a close contact with the disease is less frightening than frustrating. Testing is more and more normal. Masks are less and less visible. Kids in the US who are between 6 months and 5 years old could be eligible for vaccines by June, a huge relief to many parents. Many others might not get their small children vaccinated. Just over a third of children ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated. (Wolf, 5/2)

Idaho Health Care Provider Reports Climbing COVID Cases

Coronavirus cases are again edging upward in parts of Idaho, prompting some health care officials to urge renewed caution for big gatherings. “The data in the last 10 days is quite striking,” said Dr. David Peterman, the CEO of Primary Health Medical Group, which includes 22 urgent care and family medicine clinics in southwestern Idaho. “While there are many different ways you look at coronavirus in a pandemic, the goal is to get a positivity rate of less than 5%.” (Boone, 5/3)

The New York Times:
New York City Enters Higher Coronavirus Risk Level As Case Numbers Rise

New York City entered a higher risk level for the coronavirus on Monday, a troubling reminder that the pandemic is not over and that the virus still has the power to harm New Yorkers. The city moved into the medium, or yellow, risk category for virus transmission as cases continued their steady rise, a development that could trigger the return of public health restrictions, although they are not required to be reinstated at this point. (Otterman and Fitzsimmons, 5/2)

Moderna COVID Vaccine May Have Slight Edge Over Pfizer In Infections Only

Relative to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the Moderna version confers slightly more protection against infection—but not hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, or death—90 days after the second dose, suggests a modeling study of more than 3.5 million fully vaccinated Americans published today in Nature Communications. Optum Labs scientists in Minnesota compared the effectiveness of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines by analyzing healthcare claims from fully vaccinated Americans insured by a single US insurer (Medicare Advantage and commercial insurance). Among 8,848 infected participants, 35% had received the Moderna vaccine, and 65% had received Pfizer. (Van Beusekom, 5/2)

The Washington Post:
Pharmacies In Most States Can’t Administer Covid Vaccines To Babies And Toddlers

It’s been a difficult road to get coronavirus shots for children under 5, but a vaccine could become available next month. But unlike prior age groups, many kids likely won’t be receiving their vaccines in pharmacies. That’s partly because the majority of states prohibit pharmacists from vaccinating children under 3. Even in areas where it’s allowed, pharmacies are wrestling with whether to administer shots to the youngest kids. Some may decide not to, depending on the comfort level of their staff, corporate rules and whether they have the space for such a setup. (Roubein, 5/2)

COVID Vaccine Uptake At Minnesota Workplace Rose After $1,000 Incentive

The rate of full COVID-19 vaccination among employees of a private Minnesota medical device manufacturer rose 10.4 percentage points after the company began offering $1,000 incentives for immunization, finds a study published late last week in JAMA Network Open. Researchers from Starkey Hearing Technologies and the University of Minnesota studied COVID-19 vaccination outcomes at Starkey from the incentive period of Aug 6 to Sep 30, 2021. Employees who agreed to watch and acknowledge an online educational program and show proof of two doses of an mRNA vaccine received $1,000 in October. (5/2)

NBC News:
A Major Threat To The Next Pandemic: Vaccine Hesitancy

“There’s all this emphasis on science and labs. It’s one thing to do that, but it’s a whole other thing to get what you develop in the lab into people’s arms,” said Richard Carpiano, a public health scientist who studies issues surrounding vaccine uptake at the University of California, Riverside. Scientists at the World Vaccine Congress acknowledged that, for all of their education and training, one issue has remained frustratingly hard to overcome: the growing anti-vaccine movement. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told NBC News that there is no doubt that vaccine misinformation is harming Americans, and could be detrimental in years to come. (Edwards, 5/2)

The Hill:
White House’s Paxlovid Push Hits Hurdles

The White House has said it will nearly double the amount of Paxlovid available around the country and that it is working to set up more Test-to-Treat locations in pharmacies and other locations. But the administration faces a number of obstacles in really making Paxlovid, and a similar treatment from Merck and Ridgeback known as molnupiravir, easily accessible to Americans. Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams even made note of the difficulty people have had in acquiring antivirals on Monday, sharing a thread on Twitter about the many steps one COVID-19 advocate had to go through to get Paxlovid for her eligible child. (Choi, 5/2)

Crain’s Detroit Business:
Michigan Expands Medicaid Coverage For New Mothers For A Year Postpartum

Medicaid coverage for new mothers in Michigan can continue for up to a year postpartum under a new expansion of Medicaid approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The program expansion is budgeted for an additional $20 million and is estimated to benefit 35,000 pregnant and postpartum residents annually, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office announced Monday. Under the existing program, Medicaid enrollee pregnancy coverage runs through the end of the month of birth or end of pregnancy with an additional 60 days postpartum. (Walsh, 5/2)

Columbus Dispatch:
Prescription Drug Costs: Biden Plan To Save Seniors Money On Hold

Millions of U.S. seniors were supposed to get price relief soon on their prescription drugs under a revamp of Medicare fees by a federal agency. But even as pharmacy benefit managers were devising ways to dodge that multibillion-dollar fix, the Biden administration suddenly backed down late Friday afternoon. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services delayed proposed changes until 2024 at least. “CMS has once again bowed to PBMs and their corporate-affiliate insurers,” said the head of a national group that treats cancer patients, Ted Okon. (Rowland, 5/2)

The New York Times:
As Dianne Feinstein Declines, Democrats Wrestle With Open Secret

At 88, Ms. Feinstein sometimes struggles to recall the names of colleagues, frequently has little recollection of meetings or telephone conversations, and at times walks around in a state of befuddlement — including about why she is increasingly dogged by questions about whether she is fit to serve in the Senate representing the 40 million residents of California, according to half a dozen lawmakers and aides who spoke about the situation on the condition of anonymity. On Capitol Hill, it is widely — though always privately — acknowledged that Ms. Feinstein suffers from acute short-term memory issues that on some days are ignorable, but on others raise concern among those who interact with her. (Karni, 5/2)

Dallas Morning News:
Doctors, Researchers Say AG Ken Paxton’s Opinion On Trans Health Care ‘Inaccurate And Misleading’

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s opinion classifying pediatric gender-affirming care as child abuse was based off inaccurate medical claims, a team of experts in child and adolescent health said in a new report. “The repeated errors and omissions in the AG Opinion are so consistent and so extensive that it is difficult to believe that the opinion represents a good-faith effort to draw legal conclusions based on the best scientific evidence,” wrote the research team. “It seems apparent that the AG Opinion is, rather, motivated by bias and crafted to achieve a preordained goal: to deny gender-affirming care to transgender youth.” (McGaughy and Wolf, 5/2)

Lawmakers In 18 States Plan Refuge Bills For Trans Youth

Democratic lawmakers in more than a dozen states are following California’s lead in seeking to offer legal refuge to displaced transgender youth and their families. The coordinated effort being announced Tuesday by the LGBTQ Victory Institute and other advocates comes in response to recent actions taken in conservative states. In Texas, for example, Gov. Gregg Abbott has directed state agencies to consider placing transgender children in foster care, though a judge has temporarily blocked such investigations. And multiple states have approved measures prohibiting gender-affirming health care treatments for transgender youth. (Ramer, 5/3)

The Boston Globe:
‘The More You Dig Into It, You Think, Oh, God.’ A Growing Mission Seeks To Reduce Toxic Chemicals In Schools

The image is seared in Jack McCarthy’s mind: a group of pre-kindergarteners gathered for story time, sitting in a circle on the carpet of a classroom, amid an invisible witches’ brew of chemicals lurking in the dust on the floor. Ever since he heard a talk a couple of years ago about health problems linked to flame retardants, stain repellents, and other potent building chemicals, McCarthy, executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, has been on a mission to slash the number of such substances in the state’s schools. His vision is taking hold in a $305 million construction project for a new Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School, the first time the authority has embarked on a project-wide initiative to reduce chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and other health problems. (Lazar, 5/2)

The Boston Globe:
Housing Remains Top Issue In R.I. Among Families Of Color, Babies, Says National Report

More than 10 percent of Rhode Island babies are living in “crowded housing,” which is when homes have “numerous people who live in close quarters,” according to a new report on the well-being of babies in the US, which published Tuesday. According to “The State of Babies Yearbook: 2022,” which is part of the Zero to Three’s Think Babies, there are greater crowded housing disparities among families of color. In Rhode Island, which still ranked high in the report among the rest of the US for how the state was supporting babies and families, reported that about 15 percent of babies in low-income families live in “crowded housing,” compared to 32 percent of Asian babies and more than 34 percent of Black babies. (Gagosz, 5/3)

Alaska, Oklahoma Report First Avian Flu Outbreaks In Poultry

Over the weekend, federal agriculture officials reported the first highly pathogenic avian flu outbreaks in Alaska and Oklahoma, raising the number of affected states to 32. Also, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued recommendations to help health departments investigate and response to potential human cases, and earlier-affected states, several of them in the Midwest, reported more outbreak in poultry. (Schnirring, 5/2)

The Boston Globe:
A Red Sox Joint Philanthropic Effort Targets Mental Health Of Athletes And Fans

Despite the efforts of a few brave souls such as Naomi Osaka, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and Kevin Love, plus a PSA here and there, the perception remains that elite athletes possess a superior immune system when it comes to mental health. A joint philanthropic effort is going to try hard to lay bare that myth, with the hope that more honesty can bring about more healing — not just among the athletes, but among those who look up to them. Citing statistics that 26 percent of the general population in the US has a diagnosed mental disorder and 35 percent of elite athletes live with a mental health condition, Shira Ruderman, executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said athletes “are significantly less likely to seek mental health than the general public” via Zoom at a Fenway Park event Monday. (Silverman, 5/2)

CBS News:
Mental Health Shouldn’t Be “Treated Like A Stepchild” To Physical Health, Says HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra

The comments by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, on the eve of National Mental Health Awareness Month, come as the Biden administration has urged Congress to pour billions into a variety of behavioral health efforts. “One of the things that we’re doing that I hope will be instrumental in letting all of us, including these children, get through COVID is that we’re going to be devoting far more resources towards mental health care, making sure that families and these children have access to the mental health services they need,” Becerra told CBS News correspondent Enrique Acevedo in a wide-ranging interview taped on Friday. (Tin, 5/2)

The Hill:
Naomi Judd’s Death Spotlights A National Mental Health Crisis Worsened By COVID-19

Millions of Americans struggled with their mental health well before COVID-19, but the pandemic hasn’t made shouldering mental illness any easier – an issue brought to light over the weekend after the death of country music star Naomi Judd. Judd was 76 years old and the mother of the country music duo The Judds, performing for decades alongside her daughter Wynonna. On Saturday, Wynonna and her sister Ashley announced their mother had died, “to the disease of mental illness.”  (Ali, 5/2)

ABC News:
Navy Allowing Many USS George Washington Sailors To Move Off Ship After Deaths And Suicides

After a series of deaths and suicides among the crew of the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier dry-docked in Virginia for maintenance since 2017, the Navy will begin allowing hundreds of sailors to live off ship this week. Within the last year, seven sailors assigned to the ship have died, four of them likely suicides. “The 7 deaths are for the following reasons: 2 health-related death, 1 undetermined, 1 confirmed suicide, and 3 apparent suicides that remain under investigation,” a Naval Air Force Atlantic official told ABC News in a statement. (Seyler, 5/2)

U.S. FDA Declines To Approve Two More China-Tested Drugs

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration declined to approve two China-tested cancer treatments on Monday, saying one of the companies – Hutchmed Ltd (0013.HK) – needs to test its drug for the U.S. population in a diverse multi-regional trial. This is the second time the U.S. regulator has declined to approve a drug that was tested mainly in China. In March, it declined to approve Eli Lilly (LLY.N) and partner Innovent Biologics Inc’s (1801.HK) lung cancer drug that had been studied only in China. (5/2)

Dallas Morning News:
Vaxxinity Vaccine To Treat Alzheimer’s Wins FDA Fast-Track Designation

It’s been a promising month for Vaxxinity, the Dallas biotech company testing a new wave of vaccines to treat chronic diseases. The company announced Monday its vaccine candidate to treat Alzheimer’s disease, called UB-311, received fast-track designation from the Food and Drug Administration that will expedite the review process through more frequent discussions between Vaxxinity and the federal regulatory agency. (Wolf, 5/2)

Flu Vaccination Associated With 34% Lower Risk Of Cardiac Events

A new meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials finds that seasonal influenza vaccination was associated with a 34% lower risk of major adverse cardiovascular events, and people with a recent acute coronary event had a 45% lower risk. The study also appeared in JAMA Network Open. The studies took place from 2000 to 2021 and included participants who were randomized to receive either a flu vaccine or placebo. The studies included 9,001 patients at an average age of 65.5 years; 52.3% had a previous cardiac event. (5/2)

The New York Times:
Deadly Venom From Spiders And Snakes May Also Cure What Ails You

Efforts to tease apart the vast swarm of proteins in venom — a field called venomics — have burgeoned in recent years, and the growing catalog of compounds has led to a number of drug discoveries. As the components of these natural toxins continue to be assayed by evolving technologies, the number of promising molecules is also growing. “A century ago we thought venom had three or four components, and now we know just one type of venom can have thousands,” said Leslie V. Boyer, a professor emeritus of pathology at the University of Arizona. “Things are accelerating because a small number of very good laboratories have been pumping out information that everyone else can now use to make discoveries.” (Robbins, 5/3)

Follow-Up Blood Cultures Tied To Longer Hospital Stays, Antibiotic Duration

In a study published late last week in the same journal, researchers found that follow-up blood culture (FUBC) practices for gram-negative bacilli (GNB) bacteremia were associated with prolonged length of hospital stay and duration of antibiotic treatment. To evaluate the value of routine FUBC for GNB bacteremia, which has been questioned because of the increased risk of false-positive results, researchers conducted a retrospective observational study at four acute-care hospitals in New York City, comparing length of hospital stay, antibiotic duration, and in-hospital mortality in patients with GNB bacteremia who had FUBCs performed and those who didn’t. Of the 376 hospitalized patients with GNB bacteremia who met eligibility, 271 (72%) had FUBCs performed. (5/2)

Mouse Study: Brain ‘Learns’ To Have Seizures More Efficiently And Frequently

Calculus. Ballroom dancing. The words to your favorite song. There’s practically no limit to what your brain can learn. But a new study suggests that the same process that allows you to hold onto new information and skills could also make certain neurological diseases worse. Scientists found that mice and rats that suffered from seizures commonly seen in people with epilepsy developed changes in the wiring of their brains that advanced the disease. A closer look showed that the cementing of these signals was driven by a process that also supports learning, memory, and attention. (Wosen, 5/2)

7 Hours May Be The Ideal Amount Of Sleep Starting In Middle Age 

The optimum amount of sleep is not too little but not too much — at least in middle and old age. New research has found that around seven hours of sleep is the ideal night’s rest, with insufficient and excessive sleep associated with a reduced ability to pay attention, remember and learn new things, solve problems and make decisions. Seven hours of slumber was also found to be linked with better mental health, with people experiencing more symptoms of anxiety and depression and worse overall well-being if they reported sleeping for longer or shorter stints. (Hunt, 5/2)

Guardant Health Launches Early-Detection Test For Colon Cancer 

Bay Area biotech Guardant Health announced the commercial launch of its early-detection colon cancer test on Monday, marking the latest twist in an escalating race to spot cancer sooner and more accurately. The company’s test, known as Shield, is available to adults 45 and older who aren’t up to date with current screening guidelines, don’t have symptoms, and are at average risk of colon cancer. Shield is a lab-developed test, meaning that it hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and that each sample (about a tablespoon of blood) must be sent to Guardant’s lab. (Wosen, 5/2)

The Wall Street Journal:
Cerebral’s Preferred Pharmacy Truepill Halts Adderall Prescriptions For All Customers

Online pharmacy company Truepill Inc. said it is temporarily halting prescriptions for Adderall and other controlled substances used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and partner Cerebral Inc. told its clinicians to direct those orders to patients’ local pharmacies. Cerebral, an online mental-health company based in San Francisco that describes Truepill as its preferred pharmacy, informed its clinicians of Truepill’s decision in a Friday email viewed by The Wall Street Journal. The email said Truepill would no longer support mailing Schedule 2 controlled substances, including Adderall and Vyvanse, “to any of their customers.” (Winkler, 5/2)

Modern Healthcare:
UnitedHealthcare To Limit Aduhelm Access

UnitedHealthcare will restrict coverage of Biogen’s Aduhelm, the nation’s largest health insurance company notified providers Sunday. The UnitedHealth Group subsidiary will only cover the costly Alzheimer’s disease treatment also known as aducanumab for patients enrolled in clinical trials and will require prior authorization. The medication is “unproven and not medically necessary for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease due to insufficient evidence of efficacy,” the insurer wrote in bulletins sent to providers. The rules apply to the insurer’s commercial, individual and Medicare members and take effect June 1. (Tepper, 5/2)

Modern Healthcare:
Stanford Health Nurses Approve Contract, Will End Weeklong Strike

Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children’s Health nurses have agreed to a three-year contract following a strike that began a week ago, the union said Monday. Nurses will return to work Tuesday. Members of the Committee for the Recognition of Nursing Achievement, or CRONA, on Sunday voted 83% in favor of the contract, the union said. The union represents 5,000 nurses employed by the southern California hospitals. The union disclosed a tentative agreement Saturday. (Christ, 5/2)

Modern Healthcare:
Optum’s $236 Million Atrius Health Deal Scores Final Regulatory Approval

Massachusetts’ highest court approved UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum’s $236 million proposed acquisition of Atrius Health, one of the largest not-for-profit physician groups in the state. Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Dalila Argaez Wendtland ruled the proposed transaction was in the public interest and that it was impracticable for Atrius to continue to operate as a not-for-profit. Atrius Health had been struggling financially. The state attorney general approved the decision in late April and, with Friday’s judicial review, the companies have completed all the legal steps necessary for the deal to go forward. (Tepper, 5/2)

Modern Healthcare:
Not-For-Profit Hospitals’ Investment Income Covers Operating Losses

Large not-for-profit health systems are recording investment income windfalls that are offsetting significant operating losses. St. Louis-based Ascension recorded a $640.1 million operating loss on $19 billion in revenue through the first nine months of its 2022 fiscal year, according to the 142-hospital system’s earnings statement released Friday. Nearly $900 million in non-operating income, $736.4 million of which was attributable to investment income, more than offset those losses. That was down from nearly $4.5 billion in non-operating gains in the same prior-year period. (Kacik, 5/2)

Astorg Agrees $2.6 Billion Acquisition Of ICIG’s CordenPharma

Astorg Partners will acquire contract drug development and manufacturing company CordenPharma, in one of the year’s largest private equity deals in European health care. The French private equity firm is buying the business from International Chemical Investors Group, according to a statement Monday that confirmed an earlier Bloomberg News report. Under the terms of the deal, CordenPharma’s founders will reinvest as partners with Astorg. (Foerster, Henning and Nair, 5/2)

WVU Receiving $11M For Research On Visual Disabilities

West Virginia University is receiving $11 million in federal dollars for research on treating and slowing the progression of incurable eye diseases. West Virginia has the second-highest rate of visual disability in the U.S., according to a university news release. A visual disability is a disability that cannot be treated with corrective glasses. “The idea is to think collaboratively,” West Virginia University biochemistry Chair Visvanathan Ramamurthy said. “How can we make change? How can we translate our basic science findings to clinical practice that helps people?” (5/3)

California’s Population Fell Again Amid Pandemic’s 2nd Year

The nation’s most populous state is shrinking. California’s population declined again in 2021 for the second consecutive year, state officials said Monday, the result of a slowdown in births and immigration coupled with an increase in deaths and people leaving the state. With an estimated 39,185,605 residents, California is still the U.S.’s most populous state, putting it far ahead of second-place Texas and its 29.5 million residents. But after years of strong growth brought California tantalizingly close to the 40 million milestone, the state’s population is now roughly back to where it was in 2016 after declining by 117,552 people this year. (Beam, 5/3)

Los Angeles Times:
L.A.’s Anti-Camping Law Is A Patchwork Of Compliance

The posted deadline for every tent and shanty to be gone arrived on a Monday. Yet by noon, life continued at its desultory pace as people began to stir in the dozen structures pressed against the guardrail over the 101 Freeway in downtown L.A. “Tomorrow,” said Harvey Hernandez, 58, a longtime denizen of downtown streets who displayed his awareness of the city’s anti-camping law with a button pinned to his shirt citing the ordinance by its number: “41.18 = Death.” (Smith, Oreskes, Zahniser and Vives, 5/2)

Salt Lake Tribune:
83 Former Patients Of Provo OB-GYN Allege He Inappropriately Touched Them

Lying in her hospital bed at Utah Valley Hospital in 2010, a woman panicked when she saw the doctor who would be delivering her baby. “Don’t let him touch me,” the woman said she begged her husband and the nurse. Three weeks earlier, while working as a nurse at Timpanogos Regional Hospital, that same woman said she had witnessed Dr. David H. Broadbent ignore the cries and pain of another woman getting ready to give birth. The situation disturbed her so much, she said, she warned Broadbent she would report him to the chief of the obstetrics department if it happened again. (Jacobs, 5/2)

USA Today:
Wisconsin Babies Born During COVID Experiencing Developmental Delays

When Eli Niemi was 6 months old, he’d only rolled from his stomach to his back one time. Most babies that age are able to do that, but Eli’s mom, Allie, said he wasn’t doing it regularly until he was closer to 10 months old. Eli held his head up well, but Allie said he didn’t otherwise have much desire to move around. Later, he wasn’t stacking blocks or climbing on furniture like expected. The Niemis are grateful they were connected with local child development resources at the hospital soon after Eli was born, helping them chart his progress and catch him up on gross motor skills, which strengthen muscle groups that allow children to move with balance and confidence as they age. (Hilton and Heim, 5/2)

Anchorage Daily News:
Anchorage COVID-19 Clinic That Operated Out Of Former Hotel Faces Scrutiny

Not many people had heard of an Anchorage company called WEKA before it set up shop at a makeshift clinic in a former hotel owned by the city last fall, administering a coronavirus treatment called monoclonal antibodies at the height of a crushing pandemic surge. Until then, the private security and transport company, owned by Todd and Crystal Herring, had operated largely behind the scenes, escorting mental health patients around Alaska and providing security to hospitals and other facilities. That changed last October, when Anchorage mayor Dave Bronson made WEKA an offer: A rent-free space to give monoclonal antibody infusions to the public. (Theriault Boots, Goodykoontz, 5/2)

Supreme Court Asks India To Disclose Vaccine Trial Data

India’s Supreme Court directed the government to disclose results and data on Covid vaccine trials and ruled that people can’t be forced to take vaccines. Disclosures must include reporting on adverse events, key findings of past trials and all data from future trials, a two-judge panel said Monday. It upheld the government’s vaccination policy and grant of emergency-use approvals to vaccines. India has administered 1.89 billion shots as on May 2, fully vaccinating 85% of its adult population. The South Asian nation recently allowed children older than five years to receive Covid shots. (Trivedi and Chaudhary, 5/2)

EU Plans To Cut Unneeded Medical Tests With Data Health Plan

The European Commission wants to make health data easier to access for patients, medics, regulators and researchers in a bid to improve diagnoses, cut unnecessary costs from duplication of medical tests and boost medicine research, an EU document says. The document, seen by Reuters and to be published later on Tuesday, outlines the EU executive’s plans for a European health data space which Brussels estimates would lead to large savings and economic gains of more than 10 billion euros ($10.51 billion) in 10 years. (Guarascio, 5/3)

The New York Times:
South Africa’s Latest Surge Is A Possible Preview Of The Pandemic’s Next Chapter

Coronavirus cases are surging again in South Africa, and public health experts are monitoring the situation, eager to know what’s driving the spike, what it says about immunity from previous infections and what its implications are globally. South Africa experienced a decline in cases after hitting an Omicron-fueled, pandemic peak in December. But in the past week, cases have tripled, positivity rates are up and hospitalizations have also increased, health officials said. The surge has the country facing a possible fifth wave. The spike is linked to BA.4 And BA.5, two subvariants that are part of the Omicron family. (Petri, 5/2)

Denmark To Destroy Excess Soon-To-Expire COVID-19 Vaccines

Danish health officials said Monday that 1.1 million excess COVID-19 vaccines will be discarded in the coming weeks because their expiration date is near, and efforts to donate them to developing countries have failed. Statens Serum Institut, a government agency that maps the spread of COVID-19 in Denmark, said the epidemic in the Scandinavian country “is currently under control, and the vaccine coverage in the Danish population is high.” Around 81% of Denmark’s population of 5.8 million has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while nearly 62% have received a booster shot. (5/2)

Ukrainian Girl, 5, Gets Lifesaving Heart Treatment In Israel

Five-year-old Karina Andreiko wasn’t hurt in the war in Ukraine. In some ways, she was saved because of it. Stressed by the long search for why her daughter was smaller than other kids — and by the war with Russia — Karina’s mother last month sought help from an Israeli field hospital about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the family’s home near the Ukrainian-Polish border. A doctor there listened to Karina’s heart, heard a murmur and conducted an ultrasound. The diagnosis was a congenital defect between Karina’s heart chambers treatable with a simple procedure available in Israel, but not in Ukraine, doctors said. (Edri, 5/2)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.


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