Thursday, August 25, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News Original Stories
Congressman’s Wife Died After Taking Herbal Remedy Marketed for Diabetes and Weight Loss
Lori McClintock, the wife of U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock of California, died after ingesting white mulberry leaf, according to the Sacramento County coroner. The plant is generally considered safe and is used in herbal remedies that claim to lower blood sugar, boost weight loss, and combat high cholesterol. Her death highlights the potential dangers of dietary supplements. (Samantha Young, )
Rural Americans Have Difficulty Accessing a Promising Cancer Treatment
Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy has eliminated tumors in some late-stage cancer patients, but the cost and complexity of care mean rural Americans have trouble accessing the treatment. (Debby Waldman, )
Wastewater Surveillance Has Become a Critical Covid Tracking Tool, but Funding Is Inconsistent
Dashboards that rely on positive covid test results reported to local health departments no longer paint a reliable picture of how covid is spreading in an area. Some experts say wastewater surveillance is the most accurate way to measure viral activity. Meanwhile, some wastewater labs face funding shortfalls. (Lauren Sausser, )
Watch: Crashing Into Surprise Ambulance Bills
Three siblings were in the same car wreck, but their ambulance bills were very different. ( )
After Roe V. Wade
In Win For White House, Judge Blocks Part Of Strict Idaho Abortion Ban
The case centered around the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, known as EMTALA. Idaho's abortion law is still scheduled to take effect Thursday, minus the provision that the federal judge said the state cannot enforce for now.
NBC News: Judge Blocks Part Of Idaho’s New Abortion Law In First Post-Roe Lawsuit By The Biden Administration
A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked part of Idaho’s strict abortion law that's scheduled to take effect Thursday, handing the Biden administration a narrow courtroom win in its first lawsuit to protect reproductive rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. (Richards, 8/25)
The New York Times: Judge Halts Part Of Idaho’s Abortion Ban, Saying It Violates Health Law 
Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, said some of the Idaho law’s provisions required medical personnel to do “the opposite” of what their training dictates: “to effectively identify problems and treat them promptly so patients are stabilized before they develop a life-threatening emergency.” The pause on enforcement will continue until a lawsuit challenging the ban is resolved, the judge said.(Thrush, 8/24)
Politico: Judge Sides With Biden Admin, Blocking Part Of Idaho’s Abortion Ban
This particular case — one of many playing out across the country — concerns whether states enacting near-total abortion bans are preempting the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, known as EMTALA. That decades-old federal law requires health care workers provide treatment that stabilizes a patient experiencing a medical emergency, and the Biden administration released guidance in July warning doctors and hospitals that EMTALA applies even if the required treatment is an abortion — no matter what state law dictates. (Ollstein, 8/24)
Reuters: U.S. Judge Blocks Idaho Abortion Ban In Emergencies; Texas Restrictions Allowed
The conflicting rulings came in two of the first lawsuits over Biden's attempts to keep abortion legal after the conservative majority U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized the procedure nationwide. Legal experts said the dueling rulings in Idaho and Texas could, if upheld on appeal, force the Supreme Court to wade back into the debate. (Raymond, 8/24)
A Felony With Up To Life In Prison: Texas Abortion Law Takes Effect Today
On Tuesday night, a federal judge blocked Biden administration guidance that requires doctors to provide abortions in emergency medical situations — the same guidance that was upheld by a different judge in Idaho.
The Hill: Federal Judge In Texas Blocks Biden Administration’s Emergency Abortion Guidance 
A federal judge in Texas in a Tuesday night ruling blocked guidance issued by the Biden administration that requires doctors to provide abortions in emergency medical situations even if doing so would run afoul of state law. In a 67-page ruling, U.S. District Judge James Hendrix halted emergency abortion guidance that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued last month in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overruling of Roe v. Wade. (Kruzel, 8/24)
The Texas Tribune: Texas Trigger Law Making Abortion A Felony Goes Into Effect
Performing an abortion is now a felony punishable by up to life in prison in Texas after the state’s trigger law, which has only narrow exceptions to save the life of a pregnant patient, went into effect Thursday. (Klibanoff, 8/25)
Houston Chronicle: Texas ‘Trigger Ban’ Outlawing Nearly All Abortions Takes Effect Today
Texas’ new law prohibiting all abortions from the moment of fertilization, except if the mother’s life is at risk, takes effect today. Doctors now face life in prison and at least $100,000 in penalties if they perform the procedure. They could also lose their medical licenses. (Harris, 8/25)
In legal news from Michigan and Kansas —
Detroit Free Press: Michigan Appeals Court Stops Legislature's Move To Nix Abortion Order
The Michigan Court of Appeals denied a request from the Republican-controlled Legislature to consider reviewing and possible overturning a lower court's order that sought to bar county prosecutors from enforcing a state law criminalizing most abortions. (Boucher, 8/24)
AP: Kansas Activist Sues For A Statewide Abortion Recount 
A Kansas anti-abortion activist is suing for a complete hand recount of an election in which voters soundly rejected a proposal to remove abortion rights from the state’s constitution. Mark Gietzen is representing himself in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Sedgwick County District Court after a nine-county hand recount that his supporters largely funded wrapped up over the weekend. Fewer than 100 votes changed out of more than 500,000 cast in those counties. The measure failed by about 165,000 votes statewide. (8/24)
In other news about abortion and reproductive health —
St. Louis Public Radio: Missouri Sex Workers Fight To Protect Access To Abortions
On a busy corner in Wellston, volunteers recently passed out essential items — including bottled water and cellphones — to people in need. Under one tent, sex workers Miyonnee Hickman and Esmeralda, who uses the name for work, fill bags with condoms, pregnancy tests and emergency contraception. (Anderson, 8/24)
Bloomberg: From St. Louis To New Orleans, Cities And States Clash Over Abortion Access
Fights between state officials and local governments are escalating after the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, as cities start to use their own funding to support abortion access. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is suing St. Louis for allocating federal funds to support those traveling out of state for abortions. In Louisiana, the state’s bond commission voted twice to withhold a $39 million line of credit from the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans after city officials rebuked the state’s abortion ban. (Lowenkron, 8/24)
Elections
Ballot Box Abortion Debate Could Knock Manchin, Sinema Off Pedestals
The two Democratic senators have repeatedly stood in the way of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda. But their influence could wane in the next Congress if Democrats perform as strongly in the November elections as they have in recent primaries and special elections.
The Washington Post: Liberals Now Have A Path, Still Narrow, To Enacting Expansive Agenda 
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) have held leverage over the Biden agenda for 19 months now. … That would all change if Democrats hold the House and gain two seats in the Senate. It would also open the way for more-expansive liberal wish-list items through passage of party-line budget bills — Sinema was the lone Democrat to block higher taxes on private equity and certain fund mangers, while Manchin almost single-handedly blocked the expansion of the child tax credit that most Democrats believed was a policy game changer. (Kane, 8/24)
The Washington Post: GOP Prospects Narrow In House As Democrats Overperform In Special Elections
Democratic candidates now have outperformed President Biden’s 2020 margins in four special elections held since the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade. The starkest example came Tuesday in New York’s 19th Congressional District, where Democrat Pat Ryan — who made abortion access central to his campaign — defeated Republican Marc Molinaro by just over two percentage points. Biden won the district by little more than one percentage point in 2020. (Knowles, Weigel and Kane, 8/24)
The Washington Post: Democrats Show Momentum Coming Out Of Special Elections 
The state of play suggests Democrats should lose at least one chamber of Congress and probably both. That’s when you consider the narrowness of their majorities (fewer than 10 seats in the House and a 50-50 Senate), President Biden’s dim political fortunes and the history of the party opposite the White House very often gaining ground in midterm elections. It still might happen, but multiple special elections have given Democrats increasing license to believe they can beat the fundamentals. (Blake, 8/24)
The New York Times: Growing Evidence Against A Republican Wave 
One special election would be easy to dismiss. But it’s not alone. There have been five special congressional elections since the court’s Dobbs ruling overturned Roe, and Democrats have outperformed Mr. Biden’s 2020 showing in four of them. In the fifth district, Alaska’s at-large House special, the ranked-choice voting count is not complete, but they appear poised to outperform him there as well. On average, Republicans carried the four completed districts by 3.7 percentage points, compared with Donald J. Trump’s 7.7-point edge in the same districts two years ago. The results aren’t merely worse than expected for Republicans; they’re straightforwardly poor. Republicans need to fare better than Mr. Trump, who lost the national vote by 4.5 points in 2020, to retake the House — let alone contemplate winning the Senate. (Cohn, 8/24)
The New York Times: N.Y. Special Election Shows Power Of Abortion Debate To Move Democrats
Within an hour of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June, Pat Ryan, a combat veteran, released an ad for his congressional campaign, stressing his support for abortion rights. After Kansans overwhelmingly voted to defend abortion protections this month, Mr. Ryan cast his upcoming race as the next major test of the issue’s power. And on Wednesday, hours after Mr. Ryan won his special election in a battleground district in New York’s Hudson Valley, he said that the lessons from his contest were clear. (Glueck, 8/24)
In related news about President Biden’s legislative agenda —
Politico: Biden’s Yet To Fill The Job That May Soon Matter More Than Any Other 
The fate of President Joe Biden’s agenda could soon rest with the administrator of a tiny office deep within the White House. But first, Biden needs to decide who that administrator will be. After leaving the office without a permanent leader for the first 18 months of Biden’s presidency, the White House is closer to picking someone to run its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The obscure unit is nonetheless poised to wield outsized influence over the administration’s policy ambitions, especially if Democrats lose control of either congressional chamber this fall. (Cancryn, 8/24)
Coverage And Access
Amazon To Shutter Telehealth 'Care' Business In Surprise Move
Stat reminds us it's less than a month since Amazon acquired One Medical, a "blockbuster" deal, but the retail giant will still shut down Amazon Care at the end of the year. The senior vice president of Amazon Health Services said it wasn't "the right long-term solution" for enterprise customers.
Stat: Amazon To Shut Down Telehealth Venture Amazon Care By End Of Year
Amazon announced Wednesday it will shut down its medical venture Amazon Care at the end of the year, a surprising move less than a month after the tech giant’s blockbuster announcement that it plans to acquire One Medical. (Palmer and Aguilar, 8/24)
The Wall Street Journal: Amazon To Shut Down Amazon Care Telehealth Unit 
The move reflects the difficulty tech companies continue to face as they seek to disrupt the healthcare industry. Amazon didn’t disclose any changes for its other healthcare units, including pharmacy business. Amazon’s otherwise has shown great ambition in the healthcare industry, which Chief Executive Andy Jassy has earmarked as a priority. The company last month announced plans to buy 1Life Healthcare Inc. for $3.9 billion. 1Life operates a line of primary-care clinics under the name One Medical. Amazon is also among bidders for healthcare company Signify Health Inc., The Wall Street Journal has reported. (Herrera, 8/24)
Modern Healthcare: Amazon To Shut Down Amazon Care At Year's End
“We’ve determined that Amazon Care isn’t the right long-term solution for our enterprise customers, and have decided that we will no longer offer Amazon Care after December 31, 2022," Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services, wrote in a Wednesday email to Amazon Health Services employees. Amazon shared the email with Modern Healthcare. (Kim Cohen and Perna, 8/24)
GeekWire: Internal Memo: Amazon Care To Shut Down, 'Not A Complete Enough Offering' For Corporate Customers 
Chrissy Farr, a health tech investor at OMERS Ventures, said there may have been potential overlap with One Medical “that may have been awkward to navigate.” One Medical also sells into employers and offers telemedicine services. “It could be a signal of where Amazon plans to focus its energies,” Farr said, noting that she did not have first-hand knowledge of the reasons for the decision. (Bishop and Soper, 8/24)
Vaccines and Covid Treatments
Paxlovid Has Little To No Benefit For Younger Adults With Covid: Study
The Israeli study looked at data from 109,000 people, though it confirmed the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization and death for high-risk seniors ages 65 and older. Meanwhile, first lady Jill Biden tested positive for a rebound case of covid after taking Paxlovid.
AP: Study: Pfizer COVID Pill Showed No Benefit In Younger Adults 
Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill appears to provide little or no benefit for younger adults, while still reducing the risk of hospitalization and death for high-risk seniors, according to a large study published Wednesday. The results from a 109,000-patient Israeli study are likely to renew questions about the U.S. government’s use of Paxlovid. … The researchers found that Paxlovid reduced hospitalizations among people 65 and older by roughly 75% when given shortly after infection. That’s consistent with earlier results used to authorize the drug in the U.S. and other nations. But people between the ages of 40 and 65 saw no measurable benefit, according to the analysis of medical records. (Perrone, 8/24)
Time: Paxlovid Is Most Effective In People 65 And Up, Study Finds 
Taking the antiviral treatment Paxlovid can reduce a person’s chances of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. But while seniors tend to get impressive protection from the pills, younger people derive little benefit, finds new research In a study published Aug. 24 in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers in Israel provide valuable real-world data on how effective the pills are against Omicron. The researchers studied data from 109,000 patients at a large health care organization—nearly all of whom had been vaccinated, had been previously infected, or both—and tracked their hospitalization and death rates by age. Nearly 4,000 people in the study, which was conducted from January to March 2022, took Paxlovid. (Park, 8/24)
The Jerusalem Post: Paxlovid Reduces Risk Of COVID-19 Death By 81%, Clalit Study Shows 
A study by Clalit Health Services on the success of treating at-risk COVID-19 patients with the anti-viral drug Paxlovid has shown an impressive 81% reduction in the risk of death from complications of the virus and a 73% decrease in hospitalizations among those aged 65 and older, compared to a control group who did not want to take the medication. (Siegel-Itzkovich, 8/25)
In other news about Paxlovid —
Axios: Jill Biden Tests Positive For "Rebound" COVID
First lady Jill Biden on Wednesday tested positive for a rebound case of COVID-19, but is experiencing "no reemergence of symptoms," according to a statement from her office. (Saric, 8/24)
FiercePharma: Pfizer Tabs Controversial Chinese Firm Huahai To Make Paxlovid
Pfizer will team with Zhejiang Huahai for five years. The Chinese firm will produce and sell Paxlovid exclusively in China. The company drew the ire of the FDA in 2018 when the agency investigated the company for the presence of a suspected carcinogen in a blood pressure medicine it produced. In a scathing warning letter, the FDA blasted Huahai for altering its manufacturing process in 2011 to include a solvent suspected of producing the impurity. (Dunleavy, 8/23)
Reports Reveal Trump-Era Pressure On FDA Over Hydroxychloroquine
Media outlets cover details revealed by a House Oversight subcommittee. Even though hydroxychloroquine was already shown to be ineffective against covid, and possibly dangerous, Trump White House officials pressured the FDA to authorize it. TV personalities also had a role.
Axios: House COVID Panel Documents Trump Pressure Campaign On FDA
The Trump White House coordinated a pressure campaign for the FDA to authorize the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19 after it was shown to be ineffective and potentially dangerous, a new House investigative report charges. (Bettelheim, 8/24)
Politico: Trump White House Exerted Pressure On FDA For Covid-19 Emergency Use Authorizations, House Report Finds
The Democrats’ investigation also documents potential influence from former White House officials regarding the FDA’s decision to authorize convalescent plasma, and White House attempts to block the FDA from collecting additional safety data on Covid-19 vaccines in order to get them to the public before the 2020 presidential election. (Foley, 8/24)
AP: Panel: Trump Staffers Pushed Unproven COVID Treatment At FDA 
The report Wednesday by the Democratic-led House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis also sheds new light on the role that television personalities played in bringing hydroxychloroquine to the attention of top White House officials. Investigators highlighted an email from Fox News’ Laura Ingraham and others from Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon who had a daytime TV show and is now the Republican Senate nominee in Pennsylvania. Ingraham attended an Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump, who himself took the anti-malaria drug. (Perrone and Freking, 8/24)
CNN: House Oversight Subcommittee Report Says Trump Officials Had Pressure Campaign On Hydroxychloroquine, Other FDA Issues
The report revealed that former White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro, who is not a medical doctor, and Steven Hatfill, an adjunct assistant professor at George Washington University whom Navarro brought to the White House in January 2020 as a volunteer on Covid-19 research, were fighting with FDA officials including Hahn on the effects and effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine — which has since been found to not work against Covid-19 and potentially cause heart problems and even a greater risk of death — and other drugs throughout the height of the pandemic. (Diaz and Christensen, 8/24)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Trump Advisers Turned To Ron Johnson In Push For Hydroxychloroquine
Trump administration advisers leaned on Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson in a failed effort to push top health officials to reauthorize the use of an anti-malaria drug as a treatment for COVID-19 during the early months of the pandemic, according to a new congressional committee report. (Andrea, 8/24)
Covid-19 Crisis
During The Pandemic, Type 2 Diabetes In Youngsters Rose Dramatically
A study shows that new diagnoses rose 77% during the first year of covid for patients ages 8 to 21, with the average age being 14.4 years. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reports that covid deaths are falling, down 15% globally in the last week.
CIDRAP: New Type 2 Diabetes Diagnoses In Youth Climbed 77% Amid COVID-19
New diagnoses of type 2 diabetes in US youth rose 77% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic over the previous 2 years, according to a new multicenter study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. … Average patient age was 14.4 years, 50.5% were girls, 40.4% were Hispanic, 32.7% were Black, and 14.5% were White. Few patients were also diagnosed as having COVID-19 at hospitalization. (Van Beusekom, 8/24)
In other covid news —
AP: WHO: COVID Deaths Down By 15%, Cases Fall Nearly Everywhere 
The number of coronavirus deaths reported worldwide fell by 15% in the past week while new infections dropped by 9%, the World Health Organization said Wednesday. In its latest weekly assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.N. health agency said there were 5.3 million new cases and more than 14,000 deaths reported last week. WHO said the number of new infections declined in every world region except the Western Pacific. (8/24)
CIDRAP: Life Expectancy Fell Amid COVID, Especially For Hispanic And Black Males
In 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, life expectancy in the United States fell by 4.5 and 3.6 years for Hispanic and Black males, respectively, while declining 1.5 years for their White counterparts, finds a study published yesterday in PNAS. (8/24)
KHN: Wastewater Surveillance Has Become A Critical Covid Tracking Tool, But Funding Is Inconsistent 
To look at recent data posted on Clemson University’s covid-19 dashboard, one might assume that viral activity is low on the Upstate South Carolina college campus. The dashboard, which relies on positive covid tests reported by local laboratories and on-campus medical offices, identified 34 positive cases among students during the third week of August and 20 cases the week before. (Sausser, 8/25)
In vaccine news —
St. Louis Public Radio: Washington University Tests New Version Of COVID-19 Booster
Vaccine researchers at Washington University said patients this fall could get an updated version of the COVID-19 shot. The scientists are conducting a clinical trial of a new version of the original Moderna vaccine. (Fentem, 8/25)
The Colorado Sun: Colorado Department Of Corrections Rolls Back Vaccine Mandate
Employees working in state prisons will no longer be required to receive COVID-19 vaccinations as the Colorado Department of Corrections works to fill more than 1,700 vacancies. (Prentzel, 8/24)
AP: Texan Gets 6 Months For Threats To Maryland Vaccine Advocate 
A Texas man was sentenced to six months in federal prison Tuesday for threatening a Maryland doctor who has been a prominent advocate for COVID-19 vaccines, a federal prosecutor said. Scott Eli Harris, 52, of Aubrey, Texas, pleaded guilty in February to threats transmitted by interstate communication. U.S. Attorney for Maryland Erek L. Barron announced the sentence, which will be followed by three years of supervised release, in a news release Wednesday. (8/24)
Also —
Stat: What Fauci's Exit Tells Us About The Ongoing Fight Against Covid
There was a time when Anthony Fauci thought he would retire when the Covid-19 pandemic was over. He told himself he’d spend a year as President Biden’s top medical adviser and that Covid-19 would be settled by then. (Owermohle, 8/24)
Pharmaceuticals
Psilocybin, With Therapy, Helps Curb Alcohol Use Disorder: Study
Nearly half of the study participants who got psilocybin stopped drinking entirely, compared with 24% of the control group. The treatment is promising for people who don't respond to conventional approaches, said the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The Wall Street Journal: Psilocybin, Psychedelic Compound In Magic Mushrooms, Shown Effective For Alcohol Addiction
Psilocybin—the active ingredient in so-called psychedelic or magic mushrooms—given in combination with psychotherapy curbed drinking in adults with alcohol use disorder for at least eight months, researchers said in a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Nearly half of the study participants who got psilocybin stopped drinking entirely, an effect that in some cases lasted years, according to the researchers and interviews with study participants. (Hernandez, 8/24)
Stat: Psilocybin Shows Promise For Treating Alcohol Addiction, New Study Finds
Taking one recreational drug as treatment for over-dependence on another is hardly intuitive, but a new study found that psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, could be a promising treatment for alcohol use disorder. (Goldhill, 8/24)
AP: 'Magic Mushroom' Psychedelic May Help Heavy Drinkers Quit 
During the eight months after their first dosing session, patients taking psilocybin did better than the other group, drinking heavily on about 1 in 10 days on average vs. about 1 in 4 days for the dummy pill group. Almost half who took psilocybin stopped drinking entirely compared with 24% of the control group. Only three conventional drugs — disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate — are approved to treat alcohol use disorder and there’s been no new drug approvals in nearly 20 years. (Johnson, 8/24)
USA Today: Psilocybin Mushrooms Show Potential To Fight Alcohol Addiction: Study
Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said the studies on psychedelics and addiction remain early and inconclusive but seem promising. "There are people who just don't respond to conventional treatment and if this would help them that would be wonderful," Koob said. "As the evidence mounts, which it is in a number of domains, we're definitely interested in supporting further study." (Weintraub, 8/24)
Outbreaks and Health Threats
Senate To Convene Hearing On White House's Monkeypox Response
The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing will happen mid-September and is designed to dig into the Biden administration's health officials' response to the monkeypox issue. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, there's quiet confidence the outbreak is slowing.
Bloomberg: Monkeypox Outbreak Latest: Senate Committee Plans Hearings With Health Officials
US lawmakers will look to press Biden administration health officials on their response to the growing monkeypox outbreak in a Senate hearing planned for next month, according to people familiar with the matter. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is planning the hearing on monkeypox for mid-September, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. (Muller and Baumann, 8/24)
More on the spread of monkeypox —
San Francisco Chronicle: Monkeypox: SF ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ Outbreak Is Slowing Down
After about two months of rapid spread, San Francisco appears to be turning a corner on monkeypox, with early data showing the local epidemic may be slowing down. The number of new cases reported each week hit a high of 143 the week of July 24 and has tapered each week since, first to 87 cases, then 54 and then, last week, to fewer than five, according to figures provided by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. (Ho, 8/24)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis County Launches Online Dashboard To Track Monkeypox Cases
The St. Louis County Department of Public Health on Wednesday launched an online data dashboard to keep residents informed about the county’s increasing number of monkeypox cases. (Munz, 8/24)
Las Vegas Review-Journal: Confirmed Cases Of Monkeypox Increase By One-Third In Clark County
The number rose to 134 from 100, an undercount resulting from lags in testing and reporting, Cassius Lockett, the district’s director of disease surveillance and control, said in an interview. (Hynes, 8/24)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Children Diagnosed With Monkeypox, According To Health Officials
Three children in Georgia have been diagnosed with monkeypox, including one child who lives in metro Atlanta, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. (Oliviero, 8/24)
Los Angeles Times: Rise Of Monkeypox Worries Sex Workers
With monkeypox on the rise, Lady Kay decided to hold off on meeting clients in hotel rooms or private dungeons. The 32-year-old dominatrix had already been taking precautions to protect herself from the coronavirus, insisting that clients show that they were vaccinated against COVID-19 or had recently tested negative. Now the South Los Angeles resident was worried about the newest outbreak — an infectious virus that can travel through skin-to-skin contact and has spread in intimate encounters. (Reyes, 8/24)
Newsweek: Man Tests Positive For COVID, Monkeypox And HIV After Spain Trip
Aman from Italy has tested positive for COVID-19, monkeypox, and HIV all at the same time after returning from a short trip in Spain, according to researchers from the University of Catania in Italy. The scientists stated in the Journal of Infection that the 36-year-old man, who has not been identified, developed fever, a sore throat, fatigue, and headache as a result of the co-infection. (Khaled, 8/24)
On the monkeypox vaccine rollout —
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Study Used To Expand Supply Of Monkeypox Vaccine Was Led By St. Louis University
The 2015 study being used to greatly expand the limited supply of monkeypox vaccine and hopefully slow down the global outbreak was led by St. Louis University. (Munz, 8/24)
The Atlantic: A Risky Monkeypox Vaccine Is Looking Better All The Time
The transition from Monkeypox Inoculation Plan A to Monkeypox Inoculation Plan B has been a smashing success—at least, if you ask federal officials. Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. had nowhere near enough of the Jynneos vaccine to doubly dose even a quarter of the Americans at highest risk of monkeypox, roughly 1.6 million men who have sex with men. (Wu, 8/24)
Health Industry
Employer Health Care Costs Driven Mainly By Cancer Diagnoses
A survey from the Business Group on Health shows that the top driver of employers' care costs are from increasing diagnoses in late-stage cancer. Other health industry news includes data breaches, racism, and more.
Axios: Cancer Top Driver Of Employer Health Care Costs
Cancer care has become the top driver of large employers' health care costs due to an increase in late-stage diagnoses, according to a new survey from the Business Group on Health. (Reed, 8/24)
More on the high cost of health care —
Stateline: New Safeguards May Help Those Who Are Drowning In Medical Debt
Some legislators say they began focusing on the issue of medical debt after a related issue, surprise medical billing, spurred legislative action in many states and in Congress in the past few years. Surprise medical billing refers to unexpected, often exorbitant bills patients receive for out-of-network medical services, often during surgeries and emergency room visits. (Ollove, 8/24)
KHN: Watch: Crashing Into Surprise Ambulance Bills 
Peggy Dula was driving two of her siblings on an unfamiliar road in Illinois when she pulled into an intersection and crashed into a truck. All three were taken to a nearby hospital, and though Peggy was the least injured, her ambulance bill was almost three times her sister’s bill. CBS Mornings spotlighted this Bill of the Month and interviewed Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, editor-in-chief of KHN, about the conundrum people are in when they need an ambulance. Ground ambulance bills were not regulated in the No Surprises Act, the consumer protection law that went into effect at the beginning of 2022. (8/24)
Axios: Hospitals Bounce Back But See A Shaky Financial Future Ahead
Some of the biggest hospital chains are seeing business rebound to pre-pandemic levels, but the industry as a whole is pressing for more federal relief before year's end, citing inflation, labor and supply cost pressures. (Dreher, 8/25)
In other health care industry news —
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: UW Health Nurses Vote To Strike If SEIU Union Not Recognized
Hundreds of nurses with UW Health voted Wednesday to hold a three-day strike in September if hospital administrators do not recognize their union, an escalation in a yearslong fight to regain bargaining rights. (Vanegeren, 8/24)
Modern Healthcare: Vendor Breaches, ‘Double Extortion’ Growing As Healthcare Cyberthreats
Ransomware attacks at revenue-cycle management vendor Practice Resources and accounts receivable management firm Professional Finance Company possibly exposed data on 942,138 patients and 1.9 million patients, respectively. A cyberattack at OneTouchPoint, a vendor that offers printing and mailing services, possibly compromised data on nearly 1.1 million patients. (Kim Cohen, 8/24)
Stat: A Hospital System's Sweeping Campaign To Confront Racism Sees Early Wins
When a routine cancer screening came back showing an elevated PSA reading, George Brickhouse knew he should take it seriously. (McFarling, 8/25)
The Boston Globe: Thermo Fisher Opens 300,000-Square-Foot Plant In Plainville
Thermo Fisher Scientific plans to officially open a 300,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Plainville on Wednesday that underscores the laboratory equipment supplier’s investment in the growing field of gene therapy. (Saltzman, 8/24)
Mental Health
Amid Money Headaches, Americans Are Skipping Therapy
A report in the Wall Street Journal covers how medical expenses for therapy are impacting the U.S. during this time of inflation. Also: sugar substitutes' impact on blood glucose, a link between spirituality and heart health for Black Americans, tattoo ink worries, and more.
The Wall Street Journal: Americans Are Starting To Skip Therapy To Save Money 
When Katie Dunn skipped a therapy session in June, she didn’t think much of it. Prices had gone up at her local grocery store and her rent went up by more than $300 a month. She saved $85 by skipping the session. Within a few weeks, a procedure at the dermatologist added more costs and she canceled therapy again. She canceled for a third time a few weeks later and quit altogether in July. “I was having to choose between going to the doctor and taking care of my mental health,” she says. (Janin, 8/24)
In other health and wellness news —
Scientific American: Some Sugar Substitutes Affect Blood Glucose And Gut Bacteria 
In a new study of four sugar substitutes, researchers found that these nonnutritive sweeteners don’t just travel through the body unnoticed. The study results, published on August 19 in Cell, link two of the sweeteners—saccharin and sucralose—to spikes in glucose levels and suggest all four are tied to a shift in gut microbe profiles. Whether these findings translate into trouble, benefit or neither remains to be seen, and aficionados of diet drinks don’t need to trash the diet soda can just yet. (Willingham, 8/19)
Stat: Religion, Spirituality Can Improve Black Americans' Heart Health
For as long as Daniel McKizzie can remember, church has been part of his life. McKizzie — Reverend McKizzie to his congregation — is the pastor and founder of New Creation Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn. A new study suggests that church may be part of his long-term health as well. (Gilyard, 8/25)
KHN: Rural Americans Have Difficulty Accessing A Promising Cancer Treatment
Suzanne BeHanna initially turned down an experimental but potentially lifesaving cancer treatment. Three years ago, the newlywed, then 62, was sick with stage 4 lymphoma, sick from two failed rounds of chemotherapy, and sick of living in a trailer park near the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. It was fall 2019, and treatment had forced her to migrate 750 miles east from rural New Mexico, where she’d settled only months before her diagnosis. (Waldman, 8/25)
ABC News: Tattoo Ink Is Under-Regulated, Scientists Say
Researchers are raising concerns about the quality of tattoo ink, saying the ink isn't always properly labeled and, in some instances, could contain possible carcinogens. But the biggest problem, researchers say, is that the tattoo ink is relatively unregulated, meaning the ingredients inside this ink are not always known. (Wellman, 8/24)
The Washington Post: More Wheelchairs Are Being Damaged On Planes. Travelers Want Action
Since the Transportation Department started tracking in December 2018 through May of this year, travelers have reported nearly 26,000 instances of wheelchairs or scooters being mishandled. Passengers with disabilities have also described long waits for check-in help; bungled security screenings; clumsy assistance transferring onto planes, which can result in injuries; delays while waiting for wheelchairs after flights; slow and lax DOT enforcement; and a lack of recourse to hold airlines accountable. (Sampson, 8/24)
NBC News: Firefighters' Protective Gear May Contain Chemicals Linked To Cancer
A firefighters union and a chiefs association are both warning members that the protective gear firefighters wear poses a health risk because it can contain PFAS, synthetic chemicals associated with issues such as an increased risk of liver and kidney cancer. (Costello and Bendix, 8/24)
From The States
Cases Of West Nile Virus Climb In Louisiana; Precautions Advised
The state is experiencing a very challenging West Nile season, according to a regional medical director quoted by AP. Among other news, reports say the wife of a Northern California congressman died after taking an herbal remedy.
AP: Louisiana: West Nile Virus Higher In People And Mosquitoes
West Nile virus is on the rise in Louisiana and residents need to take precautions against mosquito bites, the state Department of Health said Wednesday. “This is shaping up to be a very challenging West Nile season and we are entering the peak time for transmission in our state,” Dr. Tina Stefanksi, regional medical director for a seven-parish area in Acadiana, said in a news release. Fourteen people — including the first in Acadiana since 2018 — have developed dangerous infections of the brain and spinal cord, and two of them have died, the news release said. (8/24)
In other health news from California, Iowa, North Carolina, and New York —
KHN: Congressman’s Wife Died After Taking Herbal Remedy Marketed For Diabetes And Weight Loss 
The wife of a Northern California congressman died late last year after ingesting a plant that is generally considered safe and is used as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, including diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol, KHN has learned. Lori McClintock, the wife of U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, died from dehydration due to gastroenteritis — an inflammation of the stomach and intestines — that was caused by “adverse effects of white mulberry leaf ingestion,” according to a report from the Sacramento County coroner that is dated March 10 but was not immediately released to the public. KHN obtained that report — in addition to the autopsy report and an amended death certificate containing an updated cause of death — in July. (Young, 8/24)
Southern California News Group: New Law Hopes To Keep California Rehabs From Misleading Patients, Families
“Medically supervised!” boast so many addiction treatment centers — even though they’re explicitly “non-medical.” Matthew Maniace died in a Lake Arrowhead detox that said it was “clinically supervised” and offered “around-the-clock medical supervision.” So did Terri Darling and James Dugas. In a paranoid delirium, Henry Richard Lehr bolted from a Newport Beach detox that provided “incidental medical services” and broke into a nearby home, where he was shot and killed by the terrified resident inside. (Sforza, 8/24)
Des Moines Register: Iowa Group Opens Women's Only Nursing Unit For Dementia, Alzheimer's
Via Health Services is opening a female-only unit for dementia and Alzheimer's patients at the Fleur Heights senior living center on Thursday. Company officials say this model of care is the first of its kind for long-term care facilities in Iowa, but a necessary step to better care for patients living with the neurological condition. (Ramm, 8/24)
AP: NC Transgender Inmate's Suit May Be Likely To Proceed 
A federal judge indicated Tuesday that the case of a transgender inmate suing North Carolina for gender affirming medical care may be likely to proceed. Kanautica Zayre-Brown sued North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety in April, claiming the prison system has failed to regularly dispense Zayre-Brown’s prescribed hormones and has denied her request for surgical procedure to construct a vagina. (8/25)
NPR: Fighting Polio In N.Y. Counties With Low Vaccination Rates
"Rockland County is basically New York City," says Perry Halkitis, dean of the School of Public Health at Rutgers University. "New York City is basically New Jersey. Rockland County is basically Connecticut." Because people travel so much, diseases like polio can spread quickly, he explains. "Are there probably dozens, if not hundreds, if not more cases of undetected polio in our population? Probably. Are we catching them? Probably not." (Daniel, 8/24)
Health Policy Research
Research Roundup: Childhood Vaccinations; Pregnancy; Covid
Each week, KHN compiles a selection of recently released health policy studies and briefs.
CIDRAP: Studies Estimate Health, Cost-Savings Benefit Of Childhood Vaccines
Today two studies in Pediatrics estimate that childhood immunization programs have prevented 24 million US cases of vaccine-preventable diseases in 1 year, and their $8.5 billion cost for kids born in 2017 paid for itself more than seven times over in healthcare savings. (8/22)
Stat: A Pandemic Push For Data Sharing Could Pay Off For Pregnancy Research
Despite stubbornly high maternal mortality in the United States, pregnancy is still woefully under-researched. But thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, technology that makes it easier to study pregnancy is starting to catch up. (Palmer, 8/25)
CIDRAP: Study: Homeless Had Lower Incidence Of COVID-19 Than General Population
A new study offers a complex picture of COVID-19 incidence among the US homeless population and illustrates the difficulty of tracking disease spread among this population. The study was published today in JAMA Network Open and found the incidence of the disease lower than among the general population. (8/18)
CIDRAP: Serious Adverse Events Rare After COVID-19 Boosters In Young Kids 
Data collected from two vaccine safety surveillance programs in the first 10 weeks of administration of third doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 to US children aged 5 to 11 years show that serious adverse events were rare. (Van Beusekom, 8/18)
Editorials And Opinions
Different Takes: Long Covid Has Gone On Long Enough; The CDC Needs Updating
Editorial writers weigh in on long covid, the CDC, and Dr. Fauci.
The New York Times: Long Covid Sufferers Have Waited Too Long For Help 
Long Covid sufferers who caught the virus early have entered their third year with the condition. Many told me they have lost not just their health but also their jobs and health insurance. They’re running out of savings, treatment options and hope. (Zynep Tufecki, 8/25)
The New York Times: Can The C.D.C. Save Itself? 
Last week, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced that the agency would be reorganized in light of a damning internal review of its widely criticized response to the coronavirus. (Spencer Bokat-Lindell, 8/24)
Miami Herald: CDC Chief Admits Agency's Guidance Left Us Dazed And Confused During The Pandemic
It’s been said that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Maybe that’s what Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was looking toward when she conceded last week that the agency she manages botched its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Cynthia M. Allen, 8/24)
The Star Tribune: Thank You, Dr. Fauci
There are two safe bets about the public's perception of Dr. Anthony Fauci when he first strode onto a White House briefing stage with President Donald Trump. Those were the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic — in fact, before it was declared a pandemic, a/nd before the disease had been named COVID-19. (8/24)
Viewpoints: Ending Roe Creates Issues For Genetic Prenatal Care; Tennessee Latest To Implement Abortion Ban
Opinion writers examine abortion rights, polio, and Medicare.
Stat: Dobbs Decision Adds Roadblocks To Genetic Counseling 
The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that struck down the constitutional right to abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade in 1973 is also a huge setback for genetic counseling and the people who need it. (Sonia M. Suter and Laura Hercher, 8/25)
The Tennessean: Tennessee Ban On Abortion Means Citizens Must Protect Pregnant People
On Thursday, performing an abortion at any stage of gestation will become a Class C felony for physicians in Tennessee now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. (Heather Allison, 8/24)
The Tennessean: Overturning Roe V. Wade Stripped Sexual Assault Survivors Of Agency
Survivors of campus sexual assault must already navigate an immensely traumatic, personal, and invasive process with little to no help from their universities. Adding an unintended pregnancy, a product of rape, makes the process almost unbearable. (Katian Soenen, 8/24)
Also —
Miami Herald: I Thought Polio Was A Devastating Disease Of The Past. Unfortunately, It's Not
I learned about polio in medical school as a disease of history. When it was at its peak in the 1940s and early 1950s, parents were terrified that their children would be among the tens of thousands every year who became permanently disabled. Thousands of children died when the paralysis immobilized their breathing muscles. (Leana S. Wen, 8/24)
Stat: Surgeons Fold Against Medicare's Stacked Deck
The house always wins, but casinos still trick people into thinking they will make money. Substitute Medicare for casinos and you can see what physicians who take risks with the country’s largest health payer are up against. (Andrew Wickline, 8/25)
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Texas, Battling Teen Pregnancy, Recasts Sex Education Standards
Centene to Pay $166 Million to Texas in Medicaid Drug Pricing Settlement
Clearing Pollution Helps Clear the Fog of Aging — And May Cut the Risk of Dementia
Private Equity Sees the Billions in Eye Care as Firms Target High-Profit Procedures
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