News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Poll: Americans Favor Government Action On Drug Prices
Kaiser Health News

Most Americans value the prescription products the drug industry produces, but they sure don’t like the prices and want the federal government to take action, according to a new survey.

Just over half of Americans (54 percent) are currently taking a prescription drug. While most say their drugs are easy to afford, consumers in general (72 percent) believe drug costs are unreasonable, according to the poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent part of the foundation.)

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Price Rises For Ticket To A Quicker Drug Review By FDA
National Public Radio

A deal struck between drugmakers AbbVie and United Therapeutics Wednesday set a record price for a voucher that can be redeemed for a fast-track review of a new medicine by the Food and Drug Administration.

AbbVie, marketer of Humira and AndroGel, has agreed to pay $350 million to United Therapeutics, a company specializing in treatments for rare diseases, for a ticket to the regulatory fast lane.

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Survey Confirms Significant Drop In California’s Uninsured
Kaiser Health News

The number of uninsured California adults under the age of 65 dropped by more than 15 percent between 2013 and 2014 because of the Affordable Care Act, including California’s Medi-Cal expansion, according to data released Tuesday.

“We’re seeing the biggest drop in the uninsured population in a generation,” said David Dexter, communications coordinator for the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, an advocacy group.

But racial and ethnic disparities remain: Latino and Asian Californians are less likely to be insured than non-Hispanic whites.

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House lawsuit against Obama is turning into a real problem for the president
Los Angeles Times

An unprecedented House lawsuit against President Obama that was once derided as a certain loser looks stronger now and may soon deliver an early legal round to Republican lawmakers complaining of executive branch overreach.

A federal judge is expected to decide shortly whether to dismiss the suit, but thanks to an amended complaint and a recent Supreme Court ruling, the Republican-backed case has a much better chance of proceeding, attorneys agree.

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California’s Uninsured Rate Falls To New Low

Obamacare has made a big difference in California. A new fact sheet from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows 13.6 percent of Californians were uninsured in 2014.

That’s a new low. The report shows over the last two years, an increasing number of Californians have bought a policy on their own or enrolled in Medi-Cal. One in four Californians now have Medi-Cal coverage. Shana Alex Charles, the center’s director of health insurance studies, said Obamacare has been a smash hit.

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Scott Walker’s plan could leave those with pre-existing conditions out in the cold
Modern Healthcare

Republican GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker’s proposal for helping people with pre-existing health conditions acquire and maintain affordable health insurance would leave out many who live paycheck to paycheck while dealing with a chronic health problem, some experts say.

This week, Walker, Wisconsin’s second-term governor, joined the short list of 2016 Republican presidential candidates who have outlined proposals for replacing the Affordable Care Act, which all 17 candidates have promised to repeal.

Walker’s plan is light on details and numbers. But it does include ideas for replacing the ACA, including refundable premium tax credits based on age and turning Medicaid into a state block grant program.

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Medical, labor groups spend to fight Pan recall
Sacramento Bee

Medical and labor groups have poured tens of thousands of dollars into fighting the recall of a state senator who carried California’s controversial vaccination bill.

Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, a pediatrician by training, reaped significant support from unions and medical organizations during an enormously expensive Senate run last year. Those groups have come to Pan’s defense as he faces a recall election effort spearheaded by opponents of a bill mandating vaccinations for almost all students enrolled in California schools.

While Senate Bill 277 ignited fervent opposition from a small but vocal contingent, prominent medical and educational groups backed the measure. Among them was the California Medical Association, which assisted in drafting the bill and has contributed $10,000 to a committee fighting the recall. The committee reported the donation Tuesday.

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No consistency for handling misleading health ads
Modern Healthcare

Since it launched in 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Bad Ad” campaign has received hundreds of complaints about potentially misleading or imbalanced drug advertisements.

Most recently it condemned a series of social media posts by reality TV star Kim Kardashian, in which she raved about relieving morning sickness with a pill she endorses.

But while drug marketing is subject to “Bad Ad” oversight, watchdog groups, clinicians and policy leaders say there’s far less scrutiny for medical devices and other health services.

Modern Healthcare recently spotted an ad on the back of a bus in downtown Chicago that could be a good example.

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Why More Non-White Doctors Are Needed

Non-white patients have poorer health and get less effective care than white Americans. The problem is complicated, but part of the answer is simple: more minority doctors. Recently, Dr. Edith Mitchell got a call from a resident needing help with a belligerent patient in the emergency room of the hospital where she is an oncologist. The patient, an African American man, had passed out from blood loss from what turned out to be colorectal cancer. The resident had told the man he would first need a blood transfusion to stabilize his condition and would later need chemotherapy.

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Antibiotic-resistant ’superbug’ found at California hospital
Yahoo! News

A Los Angeles-area hospital said Wednesday that some of its patients contracted an antibiotic-resistant “superbug” that has been linked to a type of medical scope and infected dozens of people around the country.

Huntington Memorial Hospital said in a statement that it notified public health authorities after several patients who had procedures using Olympus Corp. duodenoscopes were found to have the resistant pseudomonas bacteria.

The hospital said it has quarantined the scopes while it investigates whether they may be linked to the infections.

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Another Hospital Outbreak Possibly Linked to Tainted Scopes
NBC Los Angeles

Huntington Memorial Hospital officials said Wednesday they are investigating a spread of bacteria that may be linked to a medical scope that has been blamed for infections at hospitals across the country, including at Ronald Reagan UCLA and Cedars-Sinai medical centers. Officials at the Pasadena hospital did not provide specifics about how many patients may be affected by the spread of pseudomonas bacteria, but described the number as “small.”

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Another outbreak from tainted scopes suspected at an L.A.-area hospital
Los Angeles Times

A Pasadena hospital is investigating a suspected outbreak related to the same type of medical scope tied to superbug infections across the country. Huntington Memorial Hospital said Wednesday it had alerted health authorities about a potential link between patients who have a pseudomonas bacteria and the Olympus Corp. duodenoscopes used to treat them.

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How health care reform adds to Wal-Mart’s pharmacy woes
Washington Post

A footnote in Wal-Mart’s second quarter earnings release this week highlighted one of the many effects of more people gaining health insurance under the Affordable Care Act: its pharmacies are no longer as profitable.

The retail giant blamed weak quarterly earnings that underperformed expectations partly on challenges facing its U.S. pharmacy business.

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Amgen to pay $71 million to settle claims of off-label drug uses
Los Angeles Business Journal

Biotechnology company Amgen Inc. has agreed to pay $71 million to 48 states and the District of Columbia to settle claims that it improperly promoted its top-selling drugs, Aranesp and Enbrel, for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. California will receive $4.6 million from the settlement, Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Tuesday.

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Hayward-made diabetes treatment beats $6B Merck drug in head-to-head trial
San Diego Business Journal

A drug for type 2 diabetes that’s manufactured in Hayward showed its tiny drug pump worked better in a head-to-head comparison with the leading once-a-day pill for the disease, Januvia, which generated more than $6 billion in revenue last year. Intarcia, a privately-held firm based in Boston’s Seaport District, said the trial showed patients who had its tiny ITCA 650 implanted under their skin saw double the reduction in a type of hemoglobin tied to the disease after one year than patients taking Januvia, by Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK).

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Blog: Aetna hires lobbyists to ensure Humana deal
Modern Healthcare

Aetna is determined to nab government approval of its $37 billion acquisition of Humana. And the health insurance titan has bulked up its roster of hired guns to meet that goal.

Last week, Aetna hired four Washington-based lobbying firms, according to a Politico news brief. The not-for-profit Sunlight Foundation shows that Aetna brought on Bloom Strategic Counsel, CGCN Group, The Gibson Group and West Front Strategies. Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna now has six lobbying firms working on its behalf this year (the other two are Capitol Hill Consulting Group and Sidley Austin).