News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Price hikes doubled average drug price over 7 years: AARP
Modern Healthcare

The average cost for a year’s supply of a prescription drug doubled in just seven years to more than $11,000 — about three-quarters of the average annual Social Security benefit.

That’s according to the latest study of price trends for widely used drugs conducted by AARP, the senior citizens advocacy group. It finds prices for existing drugs, driven entirely by manufacturer price hikes, have been rising more quickly since 2007 and likely will continue to do so.

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Many Dislike Health Care System But Are Pleased With Their Own Care
National Public Radio

The United States has the most advanced health care in the world. There are gleaming medical centers across the country where doctors cure cancers, transplant organs and bring people back from near death.

But a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows that only one-third of Americans say the health care they receive is “excellent.” Even fewer people are impressed with the system as a whole.

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Fighting infections with viruses, as antibiotics fail
Yahoo! News

When doctors told Christophe Novou that his leg would have to be amputated at the hip due to a raging bacterial infection, the 47-year-old Frenchman thought about killing himself.

After surviving a crippling traffic accident and dozens of operations to repair the damage, to him life in a wheelchair just did not seem worth living.

That’s when an article about a clinic in Georgia offering an obscure treatment for hard-to-treat infections using live virus — something called phage therapy — caught his eye.

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Keeping Up With The Joneses’ Latest Medical Procedure
National Public Radio

My father is approaching his 78th birthday, blessed with health good enough to still be an avid golfer and tennis player.

His regular group of tennis buddies changes from time to time. The lineup depends on how they’re feeling.

I remember when one of the gents renowned for his fitness and fastidious diet underwent a quadruple-bypass heart operation. The other guys were in shock. If Mr. Fit had a bum ticker, they all figured they better get to their doctors pronto.

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Health Quality An Issue For Poor, 2 Years Into Obamacare, Poll Finds
National Public Radio

A series of polls in key states by NPR and its partners finds that more than half of adults in the U.S. believe the Affordable Care Act has either helped the people of their state or has had no effect. Those sentiments are common despite all the political wrangling that continues over the law.

About a third (35 percent) of adults say the law has directly helped the people of their state, while a quarter (27 percent) say it has directly hurt people.

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California lawmakers weigh revamped health insurance tax
Orange County Register

California lawmakers are expected to take action Monday on a tax package aimed at appeasing federal regulators and preventing a $1.1 billion funding hole in the state’s health insurance program for low-income Californians.

The state Senate and Assembly were expected to consider three bills that are the culmination of a special legislative session Gov. Jerry Brown called last year to adjust taxes on health insurance plans.

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Readmissions, Observation, and Improving Hospital Care
The Health Care Blog

Because hospitals are expensive and often cause harm, there has been a big focus on reducing hospital use. This focus has been the underpinning for numerous policy interventions, most notable of which is the Affordable Care Act’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), which penalizes hospitals for higher than expected readmission rates. The motivation behind HRRP is simple: the readmission rate, the proportion of discharged patients who return to the hospital within 30 days, had been more or less flat for years and reducing this rate would save money and potentially improve care. So it was big news when, as the HRRP penalties kicked in, government officials started reporting that the national readmission rate for Medicare patients was declining.

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Breakthrough drugs cost a lot to develop and improve lives
Sacramento Bee

As politicians and pundits continue to decry the high cost of prescription drugs, one important fact is missing: Breakthrough biopharmaceuticals improve millions of peoples’ lives every year and reduce costs for the health care system as a whole.

Here in California, more than 2,800 biopharmaceutical companies are advancing nearly 1,200 investigational therapies. Every day I learn something new about a potential treatment and the hope it brings for patients and their families.

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Technology changing landscape of heart health

In 2006, Bill Townsend was at the gym on the exercise bike when he first noticed something was wrong.

“I started feeling a little bit of chest pains. It felt like minor heart burn,” Townsend recalled. “It surprised me a lot.”

Townsend went to his doctor to get checked out, only to find out that at 54-years-old, he had become a victim of the number one killer of Americans, heart disease.

He had to undergo cardiac catheterization to remove the blockage in his heart.

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Cancer and the Politics of Moonshots
The Health Care Blog

As many of the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates lament the high cost of healthcare and put forth how they aim to make it more cost effective, few have focused on the impact of out-of-pocket costs specifically for cancer patients. They should. One in every two men and one in every three women will get cancer at some point over their lifetime. As the U.S. population and American lifespans increase, this toll will have major financial ramification for everyone.

When fighting against the disease, cancer patients are often at the mercy of the pharmaceutical industry. Given Pfizer’s recent announcement that it plans to merge with Allergan, making it the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, many cancer patients are wondering what this will mean in terms of their cost of care.

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Aetna CEO Backs Obamacare Exchanges, Talks Of Joining Covered California
California Healthline

The head of Aetna Inc., the nation’s third-largest health insurer, said he supports insurance exchanges, even though he questioned their sustainability earlier this month and lost money in the marketplaces last year. In a wide-ranging interview, Chief Executive Mark Bertolini also left the door open to joining the California exchange if the two sides can agree on premiums.

But he had some pointed suggestions for state and federal health officials.

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Pfizer donates $5 million to La Jolla Institute
San Diego Union-Tribune

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has donated $5 million to the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, much of which will be used to create an endowed chair in cancer immunology. The gift is the largest private donation ever received by LJI, which has struggled to supplement federal and industry funding with philanthropy. That struggle contributed to LJI’s decision last year to become an affiliate of UC San Diego. The university agreed to give the institute $36 million over a 12-year period.

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Sutter Health says its new HMO is ahead of projected growth
Sacramento Business Journal

The new health maintenance organization launched by Sutter Health in 2014 more than doubled its membership in 2015, Sutter Health Plus officials say. The nonprofit organization now serves 37,000 people in Northern California. Most are in Sacramento, where Sutter Health Plus launched in January 2014.

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Contributors enable hospital to acquire new bone surgery tools

Redwood Memorial Hospital in Fortuna has received $180,000 in the latest orthopedic surgery equipment, thanks to the support of local donors.

The Stryker power tools will enable the Redwood Memorial surgical suite will enhance the orthopedic care provided to patients in the Eel River Valley.

The upgraded equipment was purchased with proceeds from the sixth annual Scramble for Redwood Memorial Hospital golf tournament Oct. 2 and the 34th Hooray for Hollywood Benefit Ball Nov. 7 in Fortuna. Both events were organized by the Redwood Memorial Hospital Foundation.

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Stanford Medicine appoints new chair of pathology
The Stanford Daily

Thomas Montine, current chair of pathology at the University of Washington, was recently appointed as the new chair of the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology. According to Stanford Medicine’s News Center, Montine’s term starts on May 1. According to Paul Khavar, Chair of Dermatology and co-leader of the search committee for the new chair of pathology, Montine’s leadership within the realm of neuropathology, especially in genomics, complements Stanford Medicine’s goal of providing better patient care.