Wednesday, September 7, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

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Kaiser Health News Original Stories
‘It’s Becoming Too Expensive to Live’: Anxious Older Adults Try to Cope With Limited Budgets
Three women explain how life’s surprises can catapult their efforts to carefully manage limited budgets and lead to financial distress. (Judith Graham, )
Organ Transplants Are Up, but the Agency in Charge Is Under Fire
A two-year congressional investigation has identified troubling lapses in the nation’s organ transplant system. Blood types mismatched, diseased organs transplanted anyway, and — most often — organs lost or damaged before they can save a life. (Blake Farmer, Nashville Public Radio, )
‘Science Friday’ and KHN: Examining Medicine’s Definition of Death Informs the Abortion Debate
Why is it so hard to agree when life begins? As state abortion laws define it, science, politics, and religion are clashing. KHN’s Sarah Varney shared her reporting with the “Science Friday” radio program. (Sarah Varney, )
Political Cartoon: 'Plasma, Not Asthma'
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Plasma, Not Asthma'" by Mike Peters.
KHN is now on TikTok! Watch our videos and follow along here as we break down health care headlines and policy.
Pandemic Policymaking
Future Of Covid Shots? Likely To Be Annual Jabs, Like Flu Vaccine
After a patient gets the recently approved omicron-tailored booster, their covid vaccine cadence will likely shift to once a year under a plan still in development by the White House.
Stat: White House Signals Most People Will Only Need Annual Covid Booster
As part of its push to encourage vaccine-weary Americans to get the updated Covid shot, the White House put forth a new selling point Tuesday: to view it as a first annual shot, akin to the annual flu shot. (Joseph, 9/6)
The Washington Post: U.S. Plans To Shift To Annual Coronavirus Shots, Similar To Flu Vaccine
White House coronavirus coordinator Ashish Jha said Tuesday the newly reformulated omicron-targeting boosters mark an “important milestone” in the U.S. pandemic response, moving the country to a point where a single annual coronavirus shot should provide a “high degree of protection against serious illness all year.” The cadence would be similar to that of the annual flu shot, which could be administered at the same time. “I really believe this is why God gave us two arms — one for the flu shot and the other one for the covid shot,” Jha said. (Sun, 9/6)
NPR: The New COVID Booster Could Be The Last You'll Need For A Year, Federal Officials Say
"Barring any new variant curve balls, for a large majority of Americans we are moving to a point where a single, annual COVID shot should provide a high degree of protection against serious illness all year," said White House COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha at a press briefing Tuesday. (Stein and Greenhalgh, 9/6)
Politico: White House: Covid-19 Boosters Will Become Annual Shot, Just Like The Flu Vaccine 
“This week, we begin a new phase in our COVID-19 response. We are launching a new vaccine – our first in almost two years – with a new approach. For most Americans, that means one COVID-19 shot, once a year, each fall,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. His remarks show that the administration is now validating a change in the nation’s Covid response policy, which officials have telegraphed for several months. At a White House press briefing earlier Tuesday Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, had suggested that the policy change was coming soon. (Gardner, 9/6)
Reuters: U.S. Eyes Annual Shots As Updated COVID Vaccines Roll Out 
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said even with the seven-day average of COVID hospitalizations down 14% to 4,500 per day, annual shots could save thousands of lives. "Modeling projections show that an uptake of updated COVID-19 vaccine doses similar to an annual flu vaccine coverage early this fall could prevent as many as 100,000 hospitalizations and 9,000 deaths, and save billions of dollars in direct medical costs," she said. (Aboulenein and Heavey, 9/6)
Get your flu shot at the same time, the White House urges —
Fox News: White House Wants Simultaneous COVID, Flu Shots: ‘This Is Why God Gave Us Two Arms’
The Biden administration on Tuesday encouraged all Americans to get an updated COVID shot as soon as possible, even if it means getting it the same day as an annual flu shot. "The good news is you can get both your flu shot and COVID shot at the same time. It's actually a good idea," said White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. "I really believe this is why God gave us two arms, one for the flu shot and the other one for the COVID shot." (Kasperowicz, 9/6)
NBC News: Flu Shots For Kids: Does Your Child Need More Than One Dose This Year?
Ahead of what may be an intense flu season, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged parents on Tuesday to make sure their children are vaccinated against the flu this fall, adding that some kids may need more than one flu shot. (Edwards, 9/6)
Vaccines
How To Make Sure You Are Getting The Updated Covid Booster
The cap and label colors on the old and new Pfizer and Moderna boosters are largely similar, NBC News reports, which could create confusion for health workers. But pharmacists at Walgreens and CVS say that the all shots for people over 12 who have received a previous booster would be the new version.
NBC News: New Covid Boosters Look A Lot Like The Old Ones. Doctors Worry That Could Lead To Errors.
As updated Covid booster shots roll out across the nation, many experts are raising an eyebrow — and perhaps squinting at the label. That's because the new doses come in capped vials that look strikingly similar to the old ones. It's a design decision, experts say, that could result in some people mistakenly receiving the wrong dose. (Lovelace Jr., 9/6)
San Francisco Chronicle: CVS, Walgreens Are Rolling Out Omicron Boosters. Here’s How To Know You’ll Get The Updated Shot
With the omicron-specific COVID-19 booster now available, how can you ensure that the booster you sign up for is the new one and not the old one? While some pharmacy sites, like Walgreens, make it clear when you sign up for an appointment that they are offering the “updated” booster, others, like CVS, don’t specify. (Echeverria, 9/2)
Recently had covid? You can wait to get the new booster —
CNBC: People Who Recently Caught Covid Can Wait To Get Omicron Booster
People who recently caught Covid can wait a few months to get a new omicron booster, White House Covid response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said on Tuesday. (Kimball, 9/6)
In other news about the vaccine rollout —
Axios: Commercializing COVID Treatments And Vaccines Likely Means More Out-Of-Pocket Health Costs
Sometime in the next few months, Americans will no longer have free access to government-funded COVID tests, treatments and vaccines. Those tools will move to the private sector — and likely be subject to some of the same access and affordability issues found in the rest of the health care system. (Owens, 9/7)
AP: India And China Clear Needle-Free COVID-19 Vaccines 
India and China have cleared a new approach in COVID-19 vaccination — two needle-free options, one a squirt in the nose and the other inhaled through the mouth. Regulators in India authorized Bharat Biotech’s nasal version on Tuesday as an option for people who haven’t yet been vaccinated. (Ghosal, 9/6)
Covid-19 Crisis
Over 10 Million Children Lost Parents, Caregivers During Covid
Excess mortality data from the World Health Organization shows that around 7.5 million children worldwide were orphaned through covid, and 3 million more lost a primary caregiver. In other news, there's mystery over why new covid variants have seemingly stalled in growth.
USA Today: COVID Left 10.5M Children Without Parents Or Caregivers, Study Finds
Worldwide, an estimated 10.5 million children were either orphaned or lost a primary caregiver due to COVID-19, according to a study published Tuesday. The study, in JAMA Pediatrics, examined the World Health Organization's data on excess mortality as of May 2022, finding that the majority of those children – 7.5 million – were orphaned while 3 million children lost a primary caregiver. (Stanton, 9/6)
The Washington Post: 10.5 Million Children Lost A Parent Or Caregiver Because Of Covid, Study Says 
Among the countries with the highest rates of parent and caregiver deaths are Bolivia, Peru, Namibia, Egypt, Bulgaria, South Africa, Ecuador, Eswatini, Botswana and Guyana, the analysis found. Before the pandemic, there were an estimated 140 million orphaned children worldwide. Children in countries with lower vaccination rates and higher fertility rates were more likely to be affected, according to the modeling analysis, which is based on deaths that exceeded what would normally be expected in a year. (Cha, 9/6)
In updates on the spread of covid —
ABC News: Mystery As To Why New COVID Variants Have Stalled In Growth
Throughout much of the pandemic, there has been a constant shifting in terms of which COVID-19 variants are most dominant, at a given time, in the U.S. However, for the last five weeks, federal data shows that there has been little to no growth in the different proportions of COVID-19 variants in the country. (Mitropoulos, 9/6)
AP: EXPLAINER: Is COVID-19 Winding Down? Scientists Say No
Is the coronavirus on its way out? You might think so. New, updated booster shots are being rolled out to better protect against the variants circulating now. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dropped COVID-19 quarantine and distancing recommendations. And more people have thrown off their masks and returned to pre-pandemic activities. But scientists say no. They predict the scourge that’s already lasted longer than the 1918 flu pandemic will linger far into the future. (Ungar, 9/6)
Stat: As Masks Are Shed, Medical Offices Pose Covid Risk For Some 
In May, Sarah Fama had to get blood work done before refilling a prescription for an autoimmune disorder. Because her condition put her at high risk for Covid-19, and she lives with her parents, both in their 80s, she checked the lab’s website, which stated that masks were required inside. (Molteni, 9/7)
CIDRAP: Mobile App Detects COVID-19 Infection In People's Voices
A mobile smartphone app uses artificial intelligence (AI) to accurately detect COVID-19 infections in people's voices, according to research presented this week at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The developers of the app said the program detected infections with more accuracy than lateral flow or rapid antigen tests, and is cheaper than a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. The app was accurate in detecting infection 89% of the time. Participants provided several audio samples, which included coughing, reading a short sentence, and breathing deeply through the mouth. (9/6)
In other pandemic news from Montana and West Virginia —
ProPublica: Montana COVID Policy Brought A Hospital To The Brink
Montana’s GOP-led COVID response brought waves of patients to a Helena hospital, forcing health care workers to make difficult care decisions for COVID and non-COVID patients alike. (Thompson and Deam, 9/6)
AP: WVa Health Officer To Step Down, Return To Private Practice 
West Virginia will be looking for its third health officer since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Jim Justice announced Tuesday that Dr. Ayne Amjad is stepping down effective Oct. 1. She will continue to serve as a senior health adviser and appear in the governor’s weekly COVID-19 briefings. (9/6)
Reproductive Health
Health Startup Choix To Sell Abortion Pills To Non-Pregnant People
The plan, reported in Bloomberg, is so the abortion pills can be stockpiled for future use. It's only offering the drugs in states where it's licensed, in all of which abortion is legal. Other abortion news is reported across the country, along with news on the new U.K. Health Secretary's stance.
Bloomberg: US Startup Choix Will Sell Abortion Pills To Patients Who Aren’t Pregnant
Choix will begin selling abortion pills to people who aren’t pregnant so they can stockpile them for future use, the reproductive health-care startup announced on Wednesday. The company will only offer the service, also known as “advanced provision,” in US states where it’s licensed to operate — California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine and New Mexico — all of which currently allow abortion. (Butler, 9/7)
In abortion news from South Carolina —
Politico: South Carolina Republicans Advance Abortion Bill To Senate Floor Without Exceptions For Incest, Rape
South Carolina Republicans on Tuesday advanced a proposed abortion ban after voting to remove exceptions for incest and rape. The bill’s passage in its current form is not guaranteed. It will still need to be voted on by the full state Senate on Wednesday, though legislative observers say it is unlikely to pass without the exemptions. The more conservative House adopted a last-minute amendment last week to include such exceptions, and if the Senate’s version of the bill is different from what the House passed, it must return to the lower chamber for final approval. (Ward, 9/6)
AP: Rape, Incest Exceptions Spark S Carolina GOP Abortion Fight
South Carolina’s looming Senate debate Wednesday on an abortion ban that would no longer include exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest is likely to leave Republicans facing off with each other. … Debate on the Senate floor is set to start Wednesday morning. Senators have been told the proceedings could last days, although they have recently tried to conclude such debates in marathon one-day sessions. (Collins, 9/7)
More on abortion access —
The Washington Post: These Republicans Supporting States' Rights On Abortion Back A Federal Ban 
When the Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 established a nationwide right to an abortion, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson that the legality of abortion would now be up to individual states. “The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” Alito said. “Roe and Casey [in 1992] arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.” Many Republican foes of abortion celebrated the ruling as a victory for states’ rights. Yet since Alito’s draft opinion was leaked on May 2, 28 lawmakers have also signed onto a proposed nationwide ban — one that would impose abortion restrictions even in Democrat-led, pro-abortion rights states. (Kessler, 9/7)
Politico: Oz Says He Doesn't Support Criminalizing Abortion For Patients, Doctors 
Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz on Tuesday clarified an element of his stance on abortion, telling reporters he would not support criminal penalties for those who have abortions or the physicians providing the care. “There should not be criminal penalties for doctors or women regarding abortion,” Oz said in response to a question at a news conference in Philadelphia, adding that he is “strongly pro-life” but supports exceptions in the cases of rape or incest or if the life of the mother is at risk. (Ward, 9/6)
The Star Tribune: Suburban Women Weigh Crime, Inflation And Abortion In Minnesota Midterm Election
Kim Hallquist, a mother of two, lives a few miles away in Prior Lake and generally is apathetic about voting and frustrated with the two-party system. But she said she's been activated this year by a single issue: abortion rights. "Everybody has their own voice and choices," said Hallquist. "But again, it comes down to choices." (Bierschbach, 9/6)
And in abortion news from the U.K. —
Yahoo News UK: Therese Coffey: UK Health Secretary's Abortion Views 'Deeply Concerning'
New prime minister Liz Truss spent Tuesday night assigning the top cabinet position – but her choice of health secretary has raised some eyebrows. Therese Coffey, regarded as Truss’ biggest political ally, has been appointed to take charge of the country’s health system – but her views on abortion have sparked criticism over her suitability. Coffey, who has also been made deputy prime minister by Truss, previously voted against extending abortion rights, citing her Catholic faith as the reason behind her views. (Wells, 9/7)
Outbreaks and Health Threats
HHS Announces More Locations Will Open To Get Monkeypox Vaccine
A new $20 billion contract with AmerisourceBergen will allow the Department of Health and Human Services to expand its distribution rate to 2,500 locations across the country.
Reuters: U.S. To Expand Monkeypox Vaccine, Drug Distribution Through AmerisourceBergen Contract 
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday said it will significantly expand the number of distribution locations for monkeypox vaccines and treatments through a new $20 million contract with AmerisourceBergen Corp. Under the new contract, HHS said it will be able to make up to 2,500 shipments per week of frozen doses of Bavarian Nordic's Jynneos vaccine from the Strategic National Stockpile, as well as shipments of SIGA Technologies' drug TPOXX to up to 2,500 locations. (Erman, 9/6)
On possible side effects of the monkeypox vaccine —
WLRN: 'It's Very Safe': Skin Redness After Intravenous Monkeypox Vaccination Shouldn't Cause Alarm
"[The intradermal vaccination] will go in between the layers of the skin, and that’s why it’s getting the redness because the area is more sensitive," Ramos Morales explained to WLRN at a Latinos Salud clinic in Miami Beach. "It’s very safe, it’s very minimal side effect and it only lasts a few days. It’s better to prevent to get the disease." (Zaragovia, 9/6)
BuzzFeed News: Monkeypox Linked To Heart Inflammation In A 31-Year-Old Man
A 31-year-old patient developed acute myocarditis about a week after first showing monkeypox lesions, according to a report published Friday in the American College of Cardiology’s journal, JACC: Case Reports. The man said he woke up in the night feeling chest pain that radiated through his left arm. He was admitted to the hospital with signs of heart damage. However, he made a full recovery and left the hospital a week later. (Waechter, 9/2)
Medpagetoday.com: Monkeypox Myocarditis
The American College of Cardiology said clinicians should be on the lookout for heart problems in patients with monkeypox after a 31-year-old man developed acute myocarditis. Lingering cardiac symptoms in people who initially had only mild COVID-19 may be driven by ongoing inflammatory myopericardial involvement, according to a single-center study from Germany. (Lou, 9/6)
In other news —
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Expands Monkeypox Vaccine Criteria For At-Risk Communities
As of Tuesday, 63 cases of monkeypox have been reported in the state, according to a statement from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Of those cases, 98% have been reported in men with 42% of those cases reported in Black Wisconsinites. The Black population accounts for 6.8% of the state's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Van Egeren, 9/6)
The Charlotte Observer: Monkeypox Vaccine Eligibility To Include Women, Mecklenburg County Officials Say
ligibility for the monkeypox vaccine will be expanded to include women who have had sexual contact with high-risk individuals, Mecklenburg County health officials announced Tuesday. Dr. Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County Public health director said at press conference that starting Wednesday, the eligibility requirements for the vaccine will be expanded to include women who in the last 90 days have engaged in sexual contact with gay or bisexual men. (Santiago, 9/7)
Yale Daily News: Yale Researchers Analyze Containment Strategies For Monkeypox
Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus disease that spreads through close contact. Since May, cases in the United States have continued to climb. Proposed strategies for containing the outbreak include increasing rates of detection, contact tracing and vaccination. Melanie Chitwood GRD ’26, a graduate student in the epidemiology department at the Yale School of Public Health and the lead author of a new study, used a mathematical model to determine the rate of vaccination necessary to avoid monkeypox becoming endemic to the United States. (Nield, 9/6)
In related news about HIV/AIDS —
CIDRAP: Those With, Without HIV Have Similar Monkeypox Outcomes, Study Finds
A new study from Germany shows no major differences in the clinical picture in those with or without HIV who contract monkeypox. The study, in HIV Medicine, was based on 546 monkeypox cases in Germany, which has one of the highest monkeypox case counts in Europe. The study is published in HIV Medicine. (9/6)
Los Angeles Times: HIV/AIDS History Prompts Fears Of Racial Disparities For MPX
When Dr. Hyman Scott, medical director for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, gives presentations, he explains where MPX comes from and mentions camelpox, skunkpox, rabbitpox and chickenpox. He also said agency representatives refer to the virus as MPX at presentations “so people feel like they have space to receive that information.” The World Health Organization is calling for potential suggestions for a new name for the virus in light of criticism about the racist nature of the term “monkeypox.” (Evans, 9/6)
Medicare
Doctors Step Up Lobbying Against Looming Medicare Payment Cuts
As they've successfully done the past two years, doctor groups like the American Medical Association and Surgical Care Coalition are pressing lawmakers to allocate additional Medicare funds to avoid payment cuts scheduled to go into effect in January.
Roll Call: Doctors Lobby Congress For Medicare Payment Bump, Again
Doctors are again ramping up what has become a perennial lobbying campaign to urge Congress to increase Medicare payments in order to offset cuts scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. (Hellmann, 9/7)
In other Medicare news —
Modern Healthcare: Medicare Plans Must Update Materials To Comply With New Law
Medicare prescription drug plan sponsors need to make their enrollee materials compliant with the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act before the next sign-up period, according to a notice the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued Tuesday. (Goldman, 9/6)
Stat: Pharma Donations To Charities May Violate 'Spirit' Of Anti-Kickback Laws
There is a federal law that prohibits drug companies from directly covering out-of-pocket spending by Medicare beneficiaries. But these companies are allowed to donate to independent charities that provide assistance to patients — and they can earmark donations for a condition treated by their drugs. (Silverman, 9/6)
In Medicaid news —
KUNR Public Radio: Report Finds Gaps In Medicaid Information Accessibility For Non-English Speakers 
In Nevada, 30% of households primarily speak a non-English language, with Spanish being the most common, but the state’s Medicaid call center only offers menu options in English. Montana’s is English-only, too. (Roedel, 9/6)
Wyoming Public Radio: Medicaid Rate Hike Could Save Greybull Nursing Home
Nursing homes are struggling financially, which has led to many closing nationally. A Greybull care center is considering closing as well. But it may have found a temporary bandage. (Kudelska, 9/6)
Pharmaceuticals
Juul Will Pay $439 Million To Settle Teen Marketing Case
Media outlets report on the settlement made with 33 states and one territory over how the maker marketed its e-cigarettes to teens. The company has not admitted wrongdoing, but now faces restrictions on how it can market and distribute its products.
The Washington Post: Juul To Pay $439 Million In Settlement Over Marketing To Teens 
E-cigarette company Juul, which at the height of its success dominated the market with its sweet flavors, has agreed to pay $438.5 million in a settlement with 33 states and one territory over marketing its product to teens. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D), who led the plaintiff effort, said in a statement Tuesday that the settlement will send millions of dollars to programs aimed at reducing tobacco use. (Beachum and McGinley, 9/6)
Reuters: Juul To Pay About $439 Million To Settle E-Cigarette Marketing Probe 
Juul, which has not admitted wrongdoing, called the settlement "a significant part of our ongoing commitment to resolve issues from the past," and said that the marketing restrictions were consistent with its practices since it undertook a "company-wide reset" in 2019. The company at that time pulled most flavors from the market and halted much of its advertising under pressure from regulators. (9/6)
AP: Juul To Pay Nearly $440M To Settle States' Teen Vaping Probe 
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced the deal Tuesday on behalf of the states plus Puerto Rico, which joined together in 2020 to probe Juul’s early promotions and claims about the benefits of its technology as a smoking alternative. The settlement, which includes numerous restrictions on how Juul can market its products, resolves one of the biggest legal threats facing the beleaguered company, which still faces nine separate lawsuits from other states. Additionally, Juul faces hundreds of personal lawsuits brought on behalf of teenagers and others who say they became addicted to the company’s vaping products. (Perrone and Collins, 9/7)
Oklahoman: Juul To Pay 33 States, Including Oklahoma, $439 Million In Settlement
The settlement of $438.5 million allocates $8.9 million to Oklahoma, but that could grow to almost $9.7 million over the extended payout terms, said Rachel Roberts, director of communications for the attorney general. The deal includes restrictions on marketing, sales and distributions. (Hayes, 9/6)
In Unusual Move, EU Blocks $7B Merger Of 2 American Biotech Firms
A U.S. judge had already approved the merger of Illumina, headquartered in San Diego, and Grail, which is based in Menlo Park, California. The European Union says the deal would stifle innovation in an emerging market for early cancer-detection blood tests, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Wall Street Journal: Illumina’s Deal To Buy Cancer-Test Developer Is Blocked By The EU 
The European Union blocked Illumina Inc.’s acquisition of cancer-test developer Grail Inc., putting a $7.1 billion merger into jeopardy just days after a U.S. administrative law judge allowed it to go forward. The fate of the acquisition has emerged as an early test case for regulators in the U.S. and EU who have vowed to scrutinize mergers more closely after years allowing many corporate combinations. (Mackrael and Loftus, 9/6)
In other technology news —
Reuters: Philips Recalls Some Masks Used With Respiratory Devices Over Safety Concerns 
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday that medical device maker Philips has recalled certain masks used with some of its respiratory machines due to potential risk of serious injury. The masks have magnetic headgear clips or straps which can interfere with certain implanted metallic medical devices and metallic objects in the body causing potential injuries or death, the company said. (9/6)
Stat: Google Debuts A New AI Tool In The Global Fight Against Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis kills 1.4 million people every year, primarily in places where poverty and deprivation conspire to make people uniquely vulnerable, and unable to get lifesaving care in time. (Ross, 9/6)
Stat: Philip Morris Is Investing Billions In Health Care. Critics Aren't Swayed
Anew health care company was quietly incorporated last month, with plans to leverage cutting-edge inhalation technology and oral delivery expertise to treat everything from neurology to cardiovascular emergencies. (Goldhill, 9/7)
And Elizabeth Holmes wants a new trial —
The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Seeks New Trial, Citing Fresh Evidence
Elizabeth Holmes, founder of defunct blood-testing startup Theranos Inc. who was convicted of fraud, has asked a federal judge for a new trial after she said one of the prosecution’s star witnesses visited her house to express regret for his role in her trial, according to a new court filing. Ms. Holmes said in a filing Tuesday that Adam Rosendorff, a former Theranos lab director who testified for five days in her criminal-fraud trial, showed up unannounced at her home Aug. 8. During his visit, Dr. Rosendorff spoke to Ms. Holmes’s partner and said that the government had twisted his testimony that Theranos was “working so hard to do something good and meaningful,” and that he felt guilty “to the point where he had difficulty sleeping,” according to the court filing. (Somerville, 9/6)
Health Industry
Baylor Medicine Wins Possibly First Covid Insurance Case, Against Lloyds
Reuters notes that the insurance industry has generally won covid-related cases relating to business interruption. But now Baylor College of Medicine has won a case against some Lloyds underwriters. The CVS-Signify deal is also in the news, along with other matters.
Reuters: Baylor Medicine Gets Rare Win In Covid Coverage Case Against Lloyd's
Baylor College of Medicine has broken the insurance industry’s string of wins in Covid-related business income-interruption cases with a $12 million jury verdict against several Lloyd’s of London syndicates in state court in Houston, Texas. Thousands of such cases have been filed against all-risk commercial property insurers across the country, but only a handful have gone to trial. Baylor's case is believed to be the first to result in a plaintiff’s verdict. (Grzincic, 9/6)
The CVS-Signify deal will face challenges —
Reuters: CVS Deal For Signify Seen Facing Tough Antitrust Review
CVS Health Corp's (CVS.N) plan to buy healthcare services company Signify Health for about $8 billion will face a tough U.S. antitrust review even though the two companies do not compete directly in any markets, three experts said Tuesday. High and rising healthcare prices, which have put even older drugs like insulin out of the reach of poorer people, have bedeviled U.S. presidential administrations determined to slow the rising costs. The Federal Trade Commission has long emphasized health deals in its antitrust reviews, and has continued that under new Chair Lina Khan. (Bartz, 9/6)
Modern Healthcare: After Signify Health, CVS Still Looking For More Deals
By leaning into healthcare services, the company aims to grow its adjusted earnings by $900 million over the next two years. To do that, CVS Health will need to purchase a primary care provider, Chief Financial Officer Shawn Guertin told analysts Tuesday on a call about the Signify Health deal. (Tepper and Berryman, 9/6)
In other health care industry news —
Modern Healthcare: Physician Compensation Trends Could Face Years Of Uncertainty
The clinical shutdowns experienced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 upended traditional productivity-based physician payment models. The same year, the federal government announced significant changes to the physician fee schedule, raising reimbursement for those providing office visits while decreasing reimbursement for others. Patient volume has begun to rebound in the meantime, driving up demand for doctors. (Christ, 9/6)
Axios: Travel Nurses Start To Leave The Field After Pandemic Hiring Boom
Nurses lured by the promise of big paychecks for travel gigs during the pandemic are starting to follow other nurses in leaving the profession, NBC News reports. (Reed, 9/6)
Modern Healthcare: Private Equity Investors Sharpen Focus On Specialty Healthcare
More than 740 deals occurred in healthcare services in the first half of the year, down 20% from the same period in 2021 but an increase of 16% from 2019, according to an Oliver Wyman report. Private equity deals continue to play a significant role in healthcare, even as inflation and higher costs change the landscape. (Hudson, 9/6)
KHN: Organ Transplants Are Up, But The Agency In Charge Is Under Fire
For the past decade, Precious McCowan’s life has revolved around organ transplants. She’s a doctoral candidate studying human behavior in Dallas who has survived two kidney transplants. And in the midst of her end-stage renal disease, her 2-year-old son died. She chose to donate his organs in hopes they would save a life. Now her kidney function is failing again, and she’s facing the possibility of needing a third transplant. But the process of finding that lifesaving organ is rife with problems. Roughly 5,000 patients a year are dying on the waitlist — even as perfectly good donated organs end up in the trash. The agency that oversees donations and transplants is under scrutiny for how many organs are going to waste. The agency, the United Network for Organ Sharing, received a bipartisan tongue-lashing at a recent congressional hearing. (Farmer, 9/7)
KHN: ‘Science Friday’ And KHN: Examining Medicine’s Definition Of Death Informs The Abortion Debate 
There is a widespread consensus in medicine on the definition of death, and those standards have been codified into laws in nearly every U.S. state. There’s no such medical consensus on the answer to another big question: When does human life begin? With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, that question has big implications for health care. (Ashford-Grooms, 9/7)
State Watch
Opioid Trial Of Big-Name Pharmacies Begins In New Mexico
Walgreens, Walmart and Kroger were accused of failing to act as a "dam" against illegitimate opioid prescriptions. In other news, part of California's aid-in-dying law has been struck down, a third case of West Nile virus has been found in Massachusetts, and more.
Reuters: Pharmacy Operators Walmart, Walgreens, Kroger Begin Opioid Trial In New Mexico
U.S. pharmacy operators Walgreens Boots Alliance, Walmart Inc and Kroger Co on Tuesday faced off against the state of New Mexico in the latest trial over their alleged role in the U.S. opioid epidemic, following recent high-profile losses for pharmacies in other lawsuits. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, in his opening statement, argued that the pharmacies were supposed to act as a "dam" against a flood of illegitimate opioid prescriptions by refusing to fill prescriptions with "red flags" that signaled abuse. (Pierson, 9/6)
In news from California and Washington state —
San Francisco Chronicle: Judge Strikes Down Part Of California’s Aid-In-Dying Law After Challenge From Christian Medical Group
A federal judge says part of California’s aid-in-dying law is unconstitutional because it requires physicians, regardless of personal objections, to report a terminally ill patient’s request for life-ending medication. (Egelko, 9/6)
San Francisco Chronicle: San Francisco's Ambitious Plan To Tackle The Growing Drug Crisis
A trio of San Francisco supervisors revealed an ambitious citywide road map Tuesday to tackle drug overdose deaths, addiction and open-air use and dealing, urging a coordinated response that uses millions from opioid lawsuit settlements to address an unprecedented crisis. (Moench, 9/6)
Reuters: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Washington State's Conversion Therapy Ban 
A U.S. federal appeals court on Tuesday unanimously upheld Washington state's ban on conversion therapy for children, rejecting a therapist's claim that it undermined his free speech and targeted him because he is Christian. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Washington's legislature acted rationally and did not violate the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment by imposing the ban to protect the "physical and psychological well-being" of children. (Stempel, 9/6)
In news from Massachusetts, Maine, and Maryland —
The Boston Globe: Third Human Case Of West Nile Virus Detected In Massachusetts
A 20-year-old man has been identified as the third person in Massachusetts to be infected with West Nile virus this year, state public health officials announced on Tuesday. (Fonseca, 9/6)
Bangor Daily News: PFAS Contamination At Bangor Guard Base Could Be Spreading Into Surrounding Area
The Maine Air National Guard’s base of operations at Bangor International Airport sits atop groundwater tainted with high levels of toxic, so-called forever chemicals that seeped into it from decades of the guard using firefighting foam on the property. A report published by the U.S. Air Force last month says there’s a high risk that the contamination from those chemicals, called PFAS, has spread beyond the base property, which could contaminate area water supplies. (Loftus, 9/7)
The Baltimore Sun: Frustration Builds Over Baltimore E. Coli Contaminated Water As Day Passes Without Updates 
Frustrations mounted among West Baltimore residents and their City Council representatives Tuesday as an order to boil water due to an E. coli contamination stretched into a second day with few updates from public works officials or Mayor Brandon Scott. (Opilo, Condon and Dance, 9/6)
Lifestyle and Health
Walking Between 3,800 And 9,800 Steps A Day Reduces Dementia Risk: Study
Other health and wellness news reports tackle wearable devices and mobility; nutrition labels; older adults and economic insecurity; and the infant formula crisis.
CNN: Walk This Number Of Steps Each Day To Cut Your Risk Of Dementia
Want to reduce your risk for dementia? Slap on a step counter and start tallying your steps — you'll need between 3,800 and 9,800 each day to reduce your risk of mental decline, according to a new study. (LaMotte, 9/6)
Stat: Amazon Health Feature Can Accurately Assess Users’ Mobility, Study Finds
As Amazon works to shoulder its way into health care, a new study — funded by the company — suggests that a feature of its wearable devices can accurately assess users’ mobility. (Aguilar, 9/6)
The Wall Street Journal: Nutrition Advocates Urge Front-Of-Package Labels Highlighting Fat, Sugar Levels 
Nutrition advocates and food-industry groups are revving up for a fight over whether an additional label should go on the front of many packaged-food items to more clearly indicate whether they pose a health risk. A long-running debate over what those new labels should look like—and whether they should be required—is intensifying ahead of a White House conference on hunger, nutrition and health later this month. (Peterson, 9/6)
The New York Times: A News Anchor Had Stroke Symptoms On Air. Her Colleagues Jumped Into Action
Julie Chin, a television news anchor in Oklahoma, was telling viewers about a local event connected to the now scrubbed launch of the Artemis I rocket over the weekend when, all of a sudden, she was struggling to speak. “I’m sorry,” Ms. Chin said after stumbling over her words. “Something is going on with me this morning, and I apologize to everybody.” (Oxenden, 9/6)
KHN: ‘It’s Becoming Too Expensive To Live’: Anxious Older Adults Try To Cope With Limited Budgets
Economic insecurity is upending the lives of millions of older adults as soaring housing costs and inflation diminish the value of fixed incomes. Across the country, seniors who until recently successfully managed limited budgets are growing more anxious and distressed. Some lost work during the covid-19 pandemic. Others are encountering unaffordable rent increases and the prospect of losing their homes. Still others are suffering significant sticker shock at grocery stores. (Graham, 9/7)
On the infant formula crisis and Cronobacter —
The Washington Post: The Fight To Keep Cronobacter Out Of Powdered Baby Formula 
Jeanine Kunkel had been the healthy twin, the one who came home from the hospital that day in 2008 while her brother James stayed a few nights in intensive care. But within days of arriving, she spiked a fever that sent her back to the hospital. The newborn had developed an infection — caused, her doctors said, by ingesting formula tainted with the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii. The infection led to a severe case of meningitis that caused irreparable brain damage. Jeanine’s family sued the formula maker, Abbott Laboratories, arguing the company was responsible for her illness, but a jury found the company not liable. The company’s lawyers dredged up incidents from the family’s past and argued that the bacteria could have come from anywhere, including the family kitchen. (Reiley and Bogage, 9/6)
The New York Times: How Abbott Kept Sick Babies From Becoming A Scandal
Abbott’s lawyers at Jones Day negotiated secret settlements and used scorched earth tactics with families whose infants fell ill after consuming powdered formula. (Enrich, 9/6)
Prescription Drug Watch
FDA To Discuss Approval For Amylyx's Experimental ALS Drug Again Today
Read about the biggest pharmaceutical developments and pricing stories from the past week in KHN's Prescription Drug Watch roundup.
The Washington Post: Showdown Over Experimental ALS Drug Expected Wednesday Before FDA Advisers
On Wednesday, the FDA is holding a rare, second meeting with a panel of independent experts to discuss the treatment, and is expected to make a decision on approval by Sept. 29. … ALS advocates hold out hope that the FDA will clear the treatment in the face of intense pressure from patients and their families. (McGinley, 9/6)
In covid treatment updates —
CIDRAP: Full-Dose Anticoagulation Drugs Best For Preventing COVID-19 Blood Clots
Full-dose anticoagulation medication was better at preventing COVID-19–related blood clots in hospitalized patients than standard prophylactic dosing, according to a new study in Circulation. (8/30)
CIDRAP: Hospitals Still Used 2 COVID Monoclonals After FDA Deauthorization
US health systems administered more than 158,000 doses of two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to COVID-19 patients at a cost likely exceeding $71 million after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deauthorized their use because they didn't work against the Omicron variant. (8/30)
In other pharmaceutical news —
CIDRAP: Study Finds Antibiotic Use High In Kids' ICUs, With A Third Deemed Improper
A point-prevalence study in 10 medical centers across the United States reveals that almost 60% of pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) patients receive antibiotics, and researchers estimate that a third of antibiotic orders in PICUs are inappropriate, according to a study yesterday in Clinical Infectious Diseases. (9/2)
The Atlantic: Lowering The Cost Of Insulin Could Be Deadly 
This is where addressing the cost of insulin—and only insulin—becomes problematic. Doctors are forced daily to decide between the best medication for our patients and the medication that our patients can afford. Katie Shaw, a primary-care physician with a bustling practice at Johns Hopkins, where I’m a senior resident, told me that plenty of her patients can’t afford SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor agonists. In such instances, Shaw is forced to use older oral alternatives and occasionally insulin. “They’re better than nothing at all,” she said. (Rose, 9/5)
Bloomberg: Drug Recalls For Nitrosamines Could Cost Big Pharma Millions 
When a drug is recalled because there’s something in it that shouldn’t be, it’s scary but often traceable: Foreign objects such as shards of metal or microorganisms might infiltrate medications through dirty factories or lax manufacturing practices. But recently a more insidious—and difficult to eradicate—form of contamination has surfaced among makers of some of the world’s best-selling pharmaceuticals. They’re called nitrosamines. (Edney, 9/1)
New England Journal of Medicine: Bedaquiline–Pretomanid–Linezolid Regimens For Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis 
The bedaquiline–pretomanid–linezolid regimen has been reported to have 90% efficacy against highly drug-resistant tuberculosis, but the incidence of adverse events with 1200 mg of linezolid daily has been high. The appropriate dose of linezolid and duration of treatment with this agent to minimize toxic effects while maintaining efficacy against highly drug-resistant tuberculosis are unclear. (Conradie, M.B., B.Ch., et al, 9/1)
Perspectives: Aduhelm Has Dangerous Side Effects; Predatory Bacteria May Be Key To New Antibiotics
Read recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.
Cincinnati Enquirer: Controversial Alzheimer's Drug Has Inconclusive Results, High Cost
I agree that Alzheimer's is a devastating and progressive disease. All of us, doctors and patients alike, are looking for an effective treatment for people with Alzheimer's. However, the new drug U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup referred to, called Aducanamab, or Aduhelm, from the Biogen Company (Cambridge, Massachusetts), is not the cause for celebration he describes ("Flawed legislation blocks Alzheimer's research, cures," Aug. 17). (David C. Fabrey, 9/2)
Scientific American: Predatory Bacteria Are Fierce, Ballistic And Full Of Potential 
In 1962 Heinz Stolp, a researcher in Berlin, was searching for new viruses when he ran out of the filters that sieved them from his samples. So he substituted filters with slightly larger holes: 1.35 microns instead of 0.2 micron. No viruses, which normally reproduce very quickly, grew on the glass plates he had coated with bacteria to use as virus chow, and at that point, the contents should have been tossed. (Jennifer Frazer, 9/5)
New England Journal of Medicine: Intradermal Vaccination For Monkeypox — Benefits For Individual And Public Health
Intradermal vaccination delivers antigen into the space between the epidermis and the dermis. This space is an anatomically favorable site for immune stimulation, enriched in a heterogenous population of dendritic cells, macrophages, and monocytes that endow this tissue with a potent capacity to detect and respond robustly to immunologic stimuli, including those present in vaccines. (John T. Brooks, M.D., et al, 8/31)
The Boston Globe: What To Do With Opioid Settlement Funds? Open Overdose Prevention Centers. 
Over the past year, there have been a number of large settlements with pharmaceutical companies, medical distributors, and pharmacies to account for the harms caused by the overmarketing, distribution, and prescribing of opioids in the late ‘90s and 2000s. (Abdullah Shihipar, Alexandra B. Collins and Brandon D.L. Marshall. 9/5)
New England Journal of Medicine: RETHINCking COPD — Bronchodilators For Symptomatic Tobacco-Exposed Persons With Preserved Lung Function?
Cigarette smoking is the leading global cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Worldwide, more than 1.3 billion persons smoke and 384 million persons have COPD.1 COPD is clinically diagnosed on the basis of persistent airflow limitation as measured by spirometry in persons with a history of smoking who have frequent respiratory symptoms. (Don D. Sin, M.D., M.P.H., 9/4)
Editorials And Opinions
Viewpoints: New Covid Booster Should Be Treated Like Yearly Flu Shot; Paxlovid Should Be Easier To Get
Editorial writers delve into covid related topics as well as other public health issues.
The Washington Post: The Updated Booster Shot Is A Reset For How To Manage Covid 
Federal health officials last week authorized a new coronavirus booster, the first time the vaccine formulation has been updated. This decision was not without controversy, but is the correct one that heralds a reset for how to manage covid-19. (Leana S. Wen, 9/6)
San Francisco Chronicle: Omicron Got Me After 2 Years As A COVID Hermit. Then, Doctors Made It Worse
I knew right away that it was going to be bad. It was a hot, humid night — almost 90 degrees — but my body was freezing. Putting on a sweatshirt and diving under a blanket couldn’t warm me up. My head, on the other hand, was on fire. I had a temperature over 100 degrees and needed ice packs piled on my forehead to cool down. The coughing wouldn’t stop. (Matthew Fleischer, 9/4)
The Washington Post: Solitary Confinement Is Torture. U.S. Prisons Should Stop Using It
Imagine spending most of the day locked in a small windowless room. There is little to no natural light, no meaningful human interaction and nothing to break the monotony of being alone. No wonder Nelson Mandela described solitary confinement as “the most forbidding aspect of prison life.” This grotesque practice is a form of torture — one that is too common in the United States. (9/6)
Modern Healthcare: Primary Care In Crisis: A Prescription For Recovery And Resilience
COVID-19 has taken a toll on the workforce across U.S. industries, from hospitality to manufacturing to retail—and healthcare is certainly no exception. Stress on the system, increased costs, labor shortages and escalated personal risk of illness created a perfect storm of higher burnout and lower resiliency among primary-care providers. (Rebecca Etz, 9/6)
Stat: Congress Should Not Compel Medicare To Pay For Liquid Biopsies 
When the two Republican senators from Mississippi cosponsor legislation with the two Democratic senators from California, something intriguing must be going on. What do these Republicans and Democrats agree on? That Medicare should be compelled to pay for liquid biopsies, which test for multiple cancers using a single vial of blood, even though no one is sure whether they work or not. (H. Gilbert Welch, 9/7)
Stat: FDA Needs To Be More Flexible Assessing Rare Disease Treatments 
Every time I read about clinical trials testing possible treatments for rare diseases, I think of my son, Ty, whose brief but successful foray into such a trial highlights their value and their devastating limitations. (Karen Quandt, 9/7)
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