- KFF Health News Original Stories 2
- As Links to MS Deepen, Researchers Accelerate Efforts to Develop an Epstein-Barr Vaccine
- Kids’ Mental Health Care Leaves Parents in Debt and in the Shadows
- Political Cartoon: 'Abstinence Only?'
- Prescription Drug Watch 2
- Johnson & Johnson, A Health Care Bellwether, Likely To Cut Workforce
- Perspectives: Too Many News Articles Have Conspiratorial Tone About Covid
From KFF Health News - Latest Stories:
Recent leaps in medical research have lent urgency to the quest to develop a vaccine against Epstein-Barr, a ubiquitous virus that has been linked to a range of illnesses, from mononucleosis to multiple sclerosis and several cancers. (Liz Szabo, )
A youth mental health crisis and a shortage of therapists and other care providers who take insurance are pushing many families into financial ruin. But it's rarely acknowledged as medical debt. (Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, )
KFF Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Abstinence Only?'" by Clay Bennett.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
SEND IN YOUR HALLOWEEN HAIKU SOON!
Friday's the day that
Halloween haiku are due —
Don't miss the DEADline!
- KHN Staff
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if we can include your name. Haikus follow the format of 5-7-5 syllables. We give extra brownie points if you link back to an original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KFF Health News or KFF.
We’re excited to share that our new Rural Desk is up and running. Meet our team. On Oct. 25, we will launch a monthly newsletter featuring KHN stories from across the country that dive into the health issues and policies impacting people who live in America’s rural reaches. Sign up for the Rural Dispatch
Summaries Of The News:
The Biden administration's new national biodefense strategy unveiled Tuesday adopts lessons learned from the covid pandemic. Among its key measures are plans to expedite future vaccines, smooth interagency disputes, and detect threats earlier.
Biden’s Next Pandemic Plan Eyes Vaccine Supply Within 130 Days
President Joe Biden’s strategy for the next deadly pandemic calls for the US to produce a test for a new pathogen within 12 hours of its discovery and enough vaccine to protect the nation within 130 days. (Griffin, 10/18)
Coronavirus Pandemic Prompts Biden To Focus On Biological Threats
Biden signed three documents on biodefense security aimed at establishing a strategy and an implementation plan to gird for the next time a virus spreads widely in the United States. The National Biodefense Strategy, released by the White House, said the United States must address the "accidental release of biological agents, and threats posed by terrorist groups or adversaries seeking to use biological weapons." (10/18)
Biden Admin Offers A New Strategy To Prepare For Future Pandemics
The new biodefense strategy envisions recruiting, training, and sustaining a public health workforce — including laboratory technicians, veterinarians, and community health workers — to not only better detect emerging diseases but respond to them. Public health departments in the United States have long warned they’re underfunded and overworked, a dynamic only exacerbated by the pandemic. But administration officials said the goal was not only to build up such a public health army in the United States, but that they were also committed to helping at least 50 countries strengthen their own local capacities. (Joseph, 10/18)
President Joe Biden told voters on Tuesday that securing national abortion access would be his top legislative priority next year — if Democrats secure enough seats in November to pass. If Republicans retake congressional control though, the president warned that they would try to push a federal ban.
Biden Vows Abortion Legislation As Top Priority Next Year
President Joe Biden promised Tuesday that the first bill he sends to Capitol Hill next year will be one that writes abortion protections into law — if Democrats control enough seats in Congress to pass it — as he sought to energize his party’s voters just three weeks ahead of the November midterms. Twice over, Biden urged people to remember how they felt in late June when the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion, fresh evidence of White House efforts to ensure the issue stays front of mind for Democratic voters this year. (Kim, 10/18)
On abortion medication —
Crain's Chicago Business:
Walgreens, CVS Investigated For Post-Roe Prescription Denials
Walgreens Boots Alliance, CVS and other pharmacy chains are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services after the agency received complaints about pharmacists not filling prescriptions for medications that could harm a pregnancy. (Davis, 10/18)
Abortion Pill Startups Face Fundraising Challenges—Even Post-Roe
Startups that provide abortion pills by mail saw a groundswell of attention after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year. Today, though, the founders of two abortion pill companies say that raising money from investors has been complicated. (Anand, 10/19)
In other abortion updates —
S Carolina Senate Again Rejects Abortion Ban; Bill Not Dead
South Carolina senators again Tuesday rejected a proposal to ban nearly all abortions in the state but left open a small chance that some compromise could be reached in the less than four weeks the General Assembly has left to meet this year. The stalemate in the Republican-dominated Legislature hasn’t changed over the past month. The Senate voted 26-17 to insist on its bill keeping South Carolina’s current ban on abortions after cardiac activity is present, which is usually around six weeks. (Collins, 10/18)
The Texas Tribune:
Abortion Rights Supporters Struggle To Keep Issue Top Of Mind In Texas
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, hundreds of people flooded the streets of downtown Fort Worth, marching, rallying, venting and promising that they’d never stop fighting to restore abortion access in Texas. But by mid-October, on the eve of the voter registration deadline, just a faithful few dozen gathered downtown for a Saturday evening rally. Lee Gaudreau, 49, said she was disappointed by the turnout. (Klibanoff, 10/19)
Abortion Access Looms Over Medical Residency Applications
Students in obstetrics-gynecology and family medicine — two of the most popular medical residencies — face tough choices about where to advance their training in a landscape where legal access to abortion varies from state to state. In some cases, applicants who want to perform abortions as part of their career are pursuing residencies in states with more liberal reproductive laws and perhaps continuing their careers there, too — potentially setting up less permissive states for a shortage of OB-GYNs, observers said. (Pollard, 10/19)
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra revealed millions of dollars in grants, which will go toward all-hour mental health care and substance abuse care across the U.S. Separately, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy also spoke on the issue of mental health care for young people in need.
Biden Administration Seeks To Expand 24/7 Mental Health Care
The government announced plans Tuesday to award millions of dollars in grants to expand all-hours mental health and substance abuse care in more communities around the country. “Today we’re talking about providing to Americans 24/7 support for crisis care,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “That’s something that’s only been available to some, in some places. But depending on your income and ZIP code, you could be totally out of luck. That’s going to start to change.” (Seitz, 10/18)
In Columbus, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Urges Mental Health Care
"How do we answer the question: Are we taking care of our kids?" said Murthy, a doctor and vice admiral who was the first surgeon general of Indian descent when he first served as U.S. surgeon general under President Obama. "... Right now, our kids are telling us very clearly that they are struggling and it's up to us to collectively respond." (Filby, 10/18)
How pandemic lockdowns affected mental health —
The Wall Street Journal:
Inmate Suicides Rose Sharply In U.S. Prisons, Jails During Pandemic
Suicides in prisons and jails across the U.S. have risen sharply over the past two years, data collected by The Wall Street Journal show, a trend that officials and inmate advocates say is driven in part by the increased isolation of inmates during the pandemic, more abuse of drugs including fentanyl and staff shortages. (Maher and Frosch, 10/18)
Study: Early State Lockdowns Not Tied To Worse Mental Health
New research from the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that various state restrictions and lockdowns imposed during the first 6 months of the pandemic were not related to worsening mental health. The study is published in Health Psychology. (10/18)
On the high cost of mental health care —
Kids’ Mental Health Care Leaves Parents In Debt And In The Shadows
Rachel and her husband adopted Marcus out of Guatemalan foster care as a 7-month-old infant and brought him home to Lansing, Michigan. With a round face framed by a full head of dark hair, Marcus was giggly and verbal — learning names of sea animals off flashcards, impressing other adults. But in preschool, Marcus began resisting school, throwing himself on the ground, or pretending to be sick — refusals that got more intense and difficult to deal with. His parents sought therapy for him. Rachel and her husband had some savings for retirement, college, and emergencies; at first, the cost of Marcus’ therapy was not an issue. “We didn’t realize where it was going,” Rachel said. (Noguchi, 10/19)
The Boston Globe:
Healey To Provide Settlement Money To Ease ER Boarding Crisis
The $2.9 million grant program will hand out awards of up to $250,000 over a two-year period to non-profits to create, expand or sustain the mental health services they provide. The goal is to ease the crisis of mental health patients boarding, sometimes for days, in hospital emergency rooms as they wait for a psychiatric inpatient bed to become available. (Bartlett, 10/18)
In related news about health insurance coverage and the ACA —
Hill Dems Frustrated With Biden Inaction On "Junk" Health Insurance
The Biden administration is catching flak from congressional Democrats upset that it hasn't limited "short-term" health insurance plans that can erode the Affordable Care Act's insurance markets. (Sullivan, 10/19)
The U.K.'s Daily Mail tabloid newspaper stirred controversy by saying Boston University had engineered an artificial covid variant with an "80% kill rate," the Boston Globe notes. The university has responded aggressively, and noted its experiments actually made the virus less dangerous.
The Boston Globe:
BU Calls Report That It Created A More Dangerous COVID Strain ‘False And Inaccurate’
Boston University on Tuesday denied news reports that it had created what a British tabloid breathlessly described as a COVID strain “with an 80% kill rate,” a headline picked up by other media outlets that stirred fears that a dangerous new pathogen could be unleashed. (Saltzman, 10/18)
BU Lab Wasn’t Required To Clear Covid Study With NIH, Director Says
The director of a Boston University laboratory that conducted potentially controversial research on the viruses that cause Covid-19 said his institution didn’t clear the work with the National Institutes of Health because it wasn’t funded by the federal agency. (Branswell, 10/18)
Lab-Made SARS-CoV-2 Study Prompts Gain-Of-Function Questions
Media reports claimed that the study included gain-of-function experiments, which have sparked concerns about dual-use and accidental release, especially in light of safety lapses at federal research facilities. In 2016, a federal advisory group commissioned an extensive risk assessment that it used to issue its final guidance. Gain-of-function research involves manipulating organisms to increase their transmissibility, virulence, immunogenicity, or other capabilities. "Dual-use" refers to experiments that can be used for both good and ill. (Schnirring, 10/18)
Experts are warning of a variant storm —
The Washington Post:
XBB, BQ.1.1, BA.2.75.2 — A Variant Swarm Could Fuel A Winter Surge
Instead of a single ominous variant lurking on the horizon, experts are nervously eyeing a swarm of viruses — and a new evolutionary phase in the pandemic. This time, it’s unlikely we will be barraged with a new collection of Greek alphabet variants. Instead, one or more of the multiple versions of the omicron variant that keep popping up could drive the next wave. They are different flavors of omicron, but eerily alike — adorned with a similar combination of mutations. Each new subvariant seems to outdo the last in its ability to dodge immune defenses. (Johnson, 10/18)
New COVID Variants Are Emerging: BA.4.6, BQ.1, BQ.1.1 & BF.7 Explained
At one point in August, the highly transmissible variant made up over 99% of new coronavirus infections. But now, BA.5 only accounts for about 67% of new cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Rodriguez, 10/18)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Is XBB Really A ‘Nightmare Variant’? Here’s What COVID Experts Say
Some more sensationalist reports have called XBB a “ nightmare variant ” due to its apparent ability to evade immunity and dampen some therapies. But infectious disease experts say it is too soon to jump to such broad conclusions. (Vaziri, 10/18)
Researchers have, for the first time, detected the monkeypox virus in testes of non-human primates during acute infection, CIDRAP reports. This has implications for how the disease may be sexually transmitted between humans. Other news includes Epstein-Barr vaccine efforts.
Primate Study Shows Monkeypox Virus In Testes
For the first time, researchers said they detected monkeypox virus in the testes of non-human primates during the acute phase of infection, according to a study in Nature Microbiology. Though the study involved macaques, it provides more evidence that the monkeypox virus could be transmitted sexually in humans. (Soucheray, 10/18)
Could Monkeypox Infections Have Long-Term Consequences?
Since the world began confronting a global outbreak of monkeypox in the spring, the scientific community has had plenty of reasons to rue the fact that for decades this virus has been understudied. Here’s another one: Because of that oversight, doctors treating people who have been infected with monkeypox can’t answer with certainty whether some of them will face any long-term health consequences, referred to as sequelae in the field of medicine. (Branswell, 10/19)
NYC Has Almost Eliminated Monkeypox. An NYU Biology Prof On What The City Needs To Reach Zero
Dr. Joseph Osmundson, a professor of biology at New York University and a health equity expert, spoke with WNYC host Michael Hill about where things stand with the disease. Osmundson said communities still need better access to care, especially with their sexual health, to quash monkeypox for good. (Ebertz, Hill and Akpan, 10/18)
In other news about viruses —
As Links To MS Deepen, Researchers Accelerate Efforts To Develop An Epstein-Barr Vaccine
Maybe you’ve never heard of the Epstein-Barr virus. But it knows all about you. Chances are, it’s living inside you right now. About 95% of American adults are infected sometime in their lives. And once infected, the virus stays with you. Most viruses, such as influenza, just come and go. A healthy immune system attacks them, kills them, and prevents them from sickening you again. Epstein-Barr and its cousins, including the viruses that cause chickenpox and herpes, can hibernate inside your cells for decades. (Szabo, 10/19)
Kaiser Permanente and the National Union of Healthcare Workers have agreed on terms for a four-year contract to close the work stoppage primarily carried out in northern California. The union will hold two days of votes on the proposal.
Kaiser Permanente, Union Ink Contract For Mental Health Workers
Kaiser Permanente and the National Union of Healthcare Workers inked a proposed four-year contract Tuesday, ending the 10-week standoff between mental health workers and the Oakland-based integrated health system. (Kacik, 10/18)
In other health care industry news —
‘Flawed’ Employer-Backed Insurance Skews CT, MRI Prices: Study
More than a 10-fold gap exists between the highest and lowest negotiated price for common imaging services provided at the same hospital, new research shows. (Kacik, 10/18)
Health System Ransomware Attack Highlights Patients' Vulnerability
A crippling ransomware attack on the second-largest U.S. nonprofit health system is showing how much patients can be left in the dark when critical health care infrastructure goes down. (Reed, 10/18)
Supreme Court Denies Molina's Medicaid Whistleblower Appeal
The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from Molina Healthcare that would have ended a False Claims Act lawsuit brought by a former business partner and could have raised the bar for future whistleblower cases. (Tepper, 10/18)
Carolina Public Press:
No Internet, No Telehealth: Rural North Carolina Residents Struggle To Connect With Doctors Virtually
Two summers ago, Lee Berger sat in her Macon County, N.C., home hunched over a laptop — pulling the small computer closer to her face. It was Berger’s first telehealth appointment, a routine check-up with her primary care physician, and she couldn’t hear what the doctor was saying. Berger thought about telling the doctor to speak up, but then she remembered her house, fastened at the end of a 17-house subdivision in the small town of Franklin, doesn’t often invite steady internet connection. (Harris, 10/18)
Federal data shows how common marijuana use is becoming. For example, although recreational marijuana became legal only recently in Vermont, young users outnumber abstainers. Vape shop marketing and naloxone in Los Angeles County libraries are also in the news.
Marijuana Use Is Becoming A New Normal Among Young Adults
More than two-fifths of young men and women nationwide now use cannabis at least on occasion, according to federal data, a quotient that has risen steadily in a decade of relentless legalization. Much of the trend is driven by young women, who have all but closed a decadeslong gender gap in marijuana use. (de Vise, 10/18)
In other pharmaceutical news —
FDA, DOJ Sue Vape Shops For Ignoring Warnings About Illegal Sales
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday said it is taking legal action against six e-cigarette manufacturers to stop them from selling and promoting their products. The agency for the first time asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to seek permanent injunctions against vaping companies, after the companies repeatedly ignored warnings that some of their products are illegal, the FDA and DOJ said in a joint release. (Weixel, 10/18)
Los Angeles Times:
L.A. County Libraries Could Soon Supply Narcan For Overdoses
Los Angeles County libraries could supply the overdose reversal drug naloxone and teach librarians how to administer the lifesaving medication under a proposal unanimously approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors. (Hernandez, 10/18)
New research finds racial disparities in the risk of newborn infants dying after their conception process was aided by fertility technology. Meanwhile, another study shows people of color are at much higher risk of hospitalization because of flu.
Black Infants Born Through Assisted Reproductive Technology At Significantly Higher Risk Of Death Than White Infants Born Through Same Means, Study Suggests
It has been well-known in research that Black babies are about twice as likely to die as White babies before their first birthday. Now, a new study suggests that that disparity is even larger when babies are conceived by in vitro fertilization or other forms of assisted reproductive technology. (Howard and Charles, 10/19)
On race and the flu —
People Of Color Face Higher Risk Of Flu Hospitalization, CDC Says
eople of color are hospitalized with the flu at far higher rates than white Americans, according to a large multiyear study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Kimball, 10/18)
A new study found that getting a good night's rest may be as important for heart health as good diet and exercise regimes, CNN reports. A Press Association story notes that sleeping less than five hours a night may be linked to risks of multiple diseases, including heart issues, later in life.
Sleep May Be Just As Important To Heart Health As Diet And Physical Activity, Research Finds
If you want to keep your heart healthy, add a good night’s rest to your to-do list, a new study says. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Someone in the US dies from cardiovascular disease every 34 seconds. (Christensen, 10/19)
Sleeping Less Than Five Hours Linked To Multiple Diseases In Later Life - Study
Evidence from self-reported data indicates that compared to those who slept for up to seven hours a night, people who reported getting five hours or less shut eye were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with diseases - such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease - over the span of 25 years. (Marshall, 10/18)
Work From Home Jobs Boost Sleep, Save 60 Million Commuting Hours
Americans who are working from home have reclaimed 60 million hours that they used to spend commuting to an office each day. They’re now using that time to get more sleep instead. (Constantz, 10/18)
In other news about health and nutrition —
The Washington Post:
At Any Age, A Healthy Diet Can Extend Your Life
No matter how old you are, or how much junk food you consume, it’s never too late to start undoing the damage caused by a poor diet. That’s the message from scientists who study how our food choices affect our life spans and our risk of developing diseases. They have found that people can gain sizable health benefits at any age by cutting back on highly processed foods loaded with salt, sugar and other additives and replacing them with more nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, lentils, seafood and whole grains. (O'Connor, 10/18)
America’s Teeth Grinders Are Turning To Botox
Across the country, patients dealing with the meddlesome condition are now turning to Botox—yes, Botox. “It’s a very popular treatment” for people who grind and clench their teeth, Lauren Goodman, a L.A.-based cosmetic nurse, told me. (Francis, 10/18)
The WHO Says Physical Inactivity Is Costing Us $27 Billion A Year
A lack of physical activity is exacting a high price on the global economy, driving rising and costly rates of illness, according to the World Health Organization. (John Milton, 10/18)
Read about the biggest pharmaceutical developments and pricing stories from the past week in KHN's Prescription Drug Watch roundup.
The Wall Street Journal:
Johnson & Johnson Likely To Make Some Cuts To Workforce Despite Higher Sales, Profit
The New Brunswick, N.J., healthcare-products company's financial results are considered a bellwether for many health sectors. (Loftus and Feuer, 10/18)
FDA Approves Single-Vial Version Of GSK's Menveo Vaccine
GSK has won FDA approval for a single-vial formulation of its meningococcal disease vaccine Menveo, thereby ending the need for reconstitution that has existed since the product came to market in 2010. (Taylor, 10/18)
Roche's COVID Drugs Tumble $1B As New Products Disappoint
Roche’s COVID-19 therapies Ronapreve and Actemra gave the drugmaker a sales boost a year ago amid a surge in infections. But as cases ebb and new coronavirus variants emerge, sales of the drugs are falling sharply. (Liu, 10/18)
Viatris Weighs $3B Sale Of European OTC Drugs
Viatris has been trying to reinvent itself since it formed through the merger between Mylan and Pfizer’s Upjohn, in part by selling non-core assets. Now, the company reportedly has a new divestment target in mind. (Liu, 10/11)
Read recent commentaries about pharmaceutical and drug-cost issues.
Paxlovid Coverage Wrongly Suggests The Experts Blew It Again On Covid-19
What is alarming, at least to me, is the tone of some news articles that suggest the problem is new and has somehow been overlooked until now — rather than as a “Review Topic of the Week,” as the medical journal categorizes it. In medical journal parlance, a “review” denotes a roundup of existing work synthesized into a readable whole. It’s certainly not anything new or edgy. Yet the implication seems to be that somehow the experts have exposed the unwitting world to another of their mistakes — more boneheaded, uncaring care. (Sepkowitz, 10/17)
Inflation Is High, Why Do Republicans Want You To Pay More For Medicine?
Americans just won the long-fought battle to finally allow Medicare to negotiate the soaring cost of prescription drugs this August, but extreme Republicans are already working to put money back in Big Pharma's pocket by reversing this huge achievement. (Reps. Susan Wild, Chris Pappas and Steven Horsford, 10/18)
Why The U.S. Needs A Public Benefit Biopharma Industry
Because most disease indications are not blockbuster markets, the industry produces a narrow sector of all the “cures” needed. There are no treatments for 90% of all known diseases, and the health care economy is crumbling beneath the cost of the drugs that are produced. Moreover, few methods exist for prevention and early detection of common killers, and the industry has all but abandoned low-margin products like vaccines and antibiotics — until a crisis causes a stampede of reckless investment to push emergency development of products, as has occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic with testing, vaccines, and antiviral treatments. (Barbara Handelin and Sandra Heibel, 10/13)
The New York Times:
What A.L.S. And Alzheimer’s Drug Approvals Have In Common
When faced with an incurable disease, many people are willing to try anything that may help. This is especially true when the person’s disease profoundly changes their way of life, such as with paralysis or memory loss, or if it could lead to early death. (Alison Bateman-House, 10/14)
Editorial writers examine this issue and more.
The US Needs More Nurses. Here's How To Fix The Shortage
The US health-care system needs more nurses. Nursing schools aren’t producing enough graduates, young workers are quitting, and older ones are retiring early. (10/18)
How To Fix American Health Care, According To 6 Experts
With over 1 million deaths in the US from Covid-19, and close to 100 million cases of infection since the pandemic began, almost everyone in the nation has been touched by the disease in some way. CNN Opinion asked health care and policy experts about their proposed solutions to refine our health care system so that it best serves all Americans. (10/18)
Where An 1864 Law Denies My Patients Reproductive Health Care
“I’m sorry, I can no longer legally perform your abortion,” I said to the young woman sitting in front of me, whose ultrasound had confirmed her pregnancy at 11 weeks. (Natalie Cheung-Jones, 10/17)