News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Costly Turing drug gets competition
San Diego Union-Tribune

Turing Pharmaceuticals sparked nationwide outrage and government investigations when it raised the cost of a generic drug used for AIDS and cancer from $13.50 to $750 a capsule.

Today, a San Diego biomedical company introduced a competitor to that drug that sells for $1 a capsule. Moreover, the company, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, plans to compete against other manufacturers who sell generic drugs far above their cost. Like Daraprim, these drugs tend to be used in niche markets that don’t attract much competition.

Turing’s drug, Daraprim, is a brand-name formulation of the generic drug pyrimethamine. Turing’s CEO, Martin Shkreli, gained notoriety last month when his company acquired the drug and raised the cost by 5,000 percent.

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Why Does the FDA Approve Cancer Drugs That Don’t Work?
The Health Care Blog

A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that two-thirds of cancer drugs considered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the past five years were approved without evidence that they improve health outcomes or length of life. (This study closely corroborates and acknowledges the findings published last year by John Fauber of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Elbert Chu of MedPage Today.) Follow-up studies showed that 86 percent of the drugs approved with surrogate endpoints (or measures) and more than half (57%) of the cancer drugs approved by the FDA “have unknown effects on overall survival or fail to show gains in survival.” In other words, the authors write, “most cancer drug approvals have not been shown to, or do not, improve clinically relevant end points.”

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California eyes people eligible for health care subsidies
The Washington Times

Heading into a third enrollment season with less fanfare and a more modest budget, California health exchange officials said Thursday they will strategically target about 750,000 uninsured people who qualify for health insurance subsidies but haven’t signed up for coverage.

The agency will spend $29 million on an advertising campaign aimed at lower-income and middle-class residents who don’t know there’s help available to pay for health insurance, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said. That compares to a $43 million advertising budget last year and $55 million the first year.

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Covered California touts subsidies as it prepares for third open enrollment
Sacramento Business Journal

The good news, as Covered California prepares to launch its third open enrollment period, is that most Californians know there’s a tax penalty if they don’t have insurance.

The bad news is about a third of the remaining people without insurance in California still don’t know there are subsidies available to help them pay for coverage, according to a new study released Thursday.

“Why does that matter?” said Peter Lee, executive director of the health benefit exchange. “The most important reason to buy insurance (through Covered California) is the subsidy.” About 90 percent of the 1.3 million people currently in the program get subsidies and more than 200,000 of them spend less than $50 a month for coverage.

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Covered California gears up for 3rd year of health care signups
Sacramento Bee

Gearing up for a third year of health care sign-ups, Covered California officials announced Thursday they are doubling efforts to reach an estimated 2 million residents who are uninsured, primarily Latinos and African Americans.

Those efforts include staffing 500 storefront locations, employing thousands of enrollment counselors, launching a $29 million advertising campaign and a statewide bus tour, starting Nov. 1 in East Los Angeles, all designed to encourage more Californians to come under the health care umbrella.

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Premiums expected to rise in many health law markets
San Francisco Chronicle

Premiums are expected to rise in many parts of the country as a new sign-up season under President Barack Obama’s health care law starts Nov. 1. But consumers have options if they’re willing to shop, and an upgraded government website will help them compare.

Online health insurance markets are entering their third year, offering people who don’t have access to job-based coverage a taxpayer-subsidized private alternative. That’s helped cut the share of Americans who are uninsured to about 9 percent, a historical low. Still, the many moving parts of the Affordable Care Act don’t always click smoothly, and Americans remain divided about “Obamacare.”

Here’s a look at what’s new for 2016:

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Beyond Hillary and Bernie, drug pricing at front of another campaign
San Francisco Business Times

Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have tapped into the populist issue of drug pricing. Now, so has an East Bay drug company in its campaign to turn back an unwanted $2 billion offer. In a statement Thursday, Depomed Inc. (NASDAQ: DEPO) of Newark said specialty drug price hikes by suitor Horizon Pharma plc (NASDAQ: HZNP) raises concerns about that company’s business model.

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How Generic Drugs Can Cost Small Pharmacies Big Bucks
National Public Radio

Pharmacist Narender Dhallan winces as he looks at a computer screen in his drugstore on a recent morning. For the second time in two hours, he has to decide whether to fill a prescription and lose money or send his customer away.

This time it’s for a generic antifungal cream that cost him $180 wholesale. The customer’s insurance, however, will pay Dhallan only $60 to fill it.

“This used to be something that would happen once in a rare, rare while,” Dhallan says.

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Doctors, Not Parents, Are The Biggest Obstacle To The HPV Vaccine
National Public Radio

Vaccination rates against human papillomavirus have remained far lower than rates for other routine childhood and teen immunizations. But a big reason for those low rates comes from a surprising source.

It’s not hesitant parents refusing the vaccine. Rather, primary care doctors treat the HPV vaccine differently from other routinely recommended immunizations, hesitating to recommend it fully and on time and approaching their discussions with parents differently, a study finds.

“The single biggest barrier to increasing HPV vaccination is not receiving a health care provider’s recommendation,” said lead study author Melissa Gilkey, an assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School. That’s more of an issue, she says, than parents’ decisions to refuse or delay HPV vaccination.

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Updated Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Unlikely To Affect Insurance Coverage
Kaiser Health News

The American Cancer Society’s new breast cancer screening guidelines recommend that women start screening later and get fewer mammograms, but the change is unlikely to affect insurance coverage anytime soon.

The updated guidelines, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week, recommend that women who are at average risk for breast cancer start annual mammograms at age 45 and continue until age 54, then reduce screening frequency to once every two years. They should continue on that schedule as long as their life expectancy is at least 10 years. The ACS also no longer recommends that women receive manual clinical breast exams.

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Healthcare Watch: How to ensure patients get good care in a nursing home
Los Angeles Times

Having to place a loved one in a nursing home is never a happy affair. And the way Eric Carlson sees it, too many of the nearly 300,000 Californians who enter a nursing home each year don’t get the care to which they’re entitled.

“It’s such unfamiliar terrain for people, and so they’re taken advantage of because of that,” says Carlson, a Los Angeles attorney with Justice in Aging, a national organization that works to fight poverty among seniors.

That’s what led Carlson to write “20 Common Nursing Home Problems and How to Resolve Them,” a consumer guide available free at www.justiceinaging.org.

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Online Health Tools Might Not Help The People Who Need It Most
National Public Radio

Tons of money has been poured into digital health technologies, from electronic health records to a smartphone case capable of taking an electrocardiogram.

But not everyone may benefit, and e-health interventions may widen, not shrink, health disparities. Patients who were poor, black, older, unmarried or on Medicare or Medicaid were less likely to use an electronic health record portal to manage their chronic kidney disease, according to a study published Thursday in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

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After patient deaths, FDA warns about liver damage risk of hepatitis C medications
Washington Post

Federal regulators on Thursday warned that two hepatitis C medications from drug maker AbbVie can cause “serious liver injury” in patients with advanced forms of the disease.

The Food and Drug Administration said it had received numerous reports of patients who either died or had to undergo liver transplantation after receiving the treatments, known as Viekira Pak and Technivie. The agency said it had identified at least 26 such cases likely related to the drugs since late 2014, and that additional cases likely exist. The liver damage usually took place within four weeks of the start of treatment, and the patients involved already had cirrhosis of the liver, the agency said.

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Feds award grants for new mental health clinics
The Hill

The Obama administration is awarding $22.9 million in new grants to states to improve mental healthcare as part of a bipartisan bill passed last year.

The planning grants give funds to 24 states to prepare applications for a two-year trial program for community mental health clinics. Eight states will be tapped in a second round beginning in 2017 to receive funding for the clinics, which will operate under new higher standards and offer services like 24-hour crisis psychiatric care.

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Doctors and patients discuss the end of life
The Californian - Salinas

October’s month-long dedication to raising awareness about breast cancer has gained admirable momentum. It’s helping thousands of women keep tabs on their own health — and, in some cases, empower themselves with the knowledge they will need on the road to recovery. When these latter women were first diagnosed with breast cancer, the news no doubt came as a shock.

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Ahead of merger, Anthem-Cigna member base slips
San Francisco Chronicle

With open enrollment season looming, the Connecticut Insurance Department released new data showing slipping membership figures for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna, but with the two still wielding a mighty 64 percent market share as regulators prepare for hearings on whether to approve a combination between the two companies. In July, Bloomfield-based Cigna (NYSE: CI) agreed to a $54 billion merger with Anthem (NYSE: ANTM), which is based in Indianapolis with its Connecticut office in Wallingford.

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UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland to break ground on $180 million first phase of rebuild
San Francisco Business Times

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland is breaking ground on the first phase of its 10-year expansion project. The $500 million project will start with the construction of a second outpatient clinic. When it is finished, the six-story, 89,000-square-foot clinic will connect the existing outpatient center with other subspecialty clinics. The first phase is part of the decade-long plan to rebuild and modernize the hospital to meet seismic regulations and improve its facilities.

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Local physician creates medical group based on a new model
Sacramento Business Journal

A new multispecialty medical group and care delivery system is gaining traction in Sacramento.

Nivano Health was launched in August 2014 by Dr. Venu Kondle. He’s CEO of a successful local accountable care organization called Golden Life Healthcare LLC, but this is a different deal.

The new company is a medical group and outpatient health delivery system with a new design for meeting the needs of patients. The goal is to coordinate care across specialties by gathering a variety of doctors and mid-level providers to address all the issues at once.

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Feather River Hospital CEO announces retirement
Action News Now

Feather River Hospital announced Thursday that President and CEO Kevin Erich will be retiring at the end of this year.

Erich, who has been at Feather River Hospital since 2011, says the decision to retire is related to personal health complications.

“Over the past several years, I have had an increasing number of personal health challenges,” says Erich. “I feel it is in my and Adventist Health’s best interest for me to step down from my current role in order to better address these concerns.”

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East Palo Alto: New mobile medical clinic rolled out
The Mercury News

Between juggling two jobs and finishing her senior year of high school, Beneralda Garcia-Flores doesn’t have time to spare, not even to figure out how to apply for Medi-Cal.

The 18-year-old East Palo Alto resident lost her health insurance earlier this year when her divorced and single mother was laid off. Her family depends on the wages she earns working 36 to 48 hours per week as a manager at a Jamba Juice and a housekeeper at a hotel.

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Rady Children’s Hospital receives federal grant
KUSI News

Rady Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Orange County will share a $17.7 million federal grant to improve care in Southern California for health problems like asthma, the medical organizations announced Thursday.

The money from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will be used to engage around 1,450 primary care physicians and specialists to enhance the quality of care and lower costs of providing care.

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