The US Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a major revision of the rules governing experiments involving human subjects. It’s the first change proposed in nearly a quarter-century.
By Lisa Gillespie
The growing abuse of prescription painkillers now touches home for a majority of Americans, according to a poll released Tuesday.
One in three say either they have been addicted to painkillers or they have known a family member or close friend who was.
That share includes those who say they know someone who died from a painkiller overdose, have been addicted themselves or know someone who has and those who know someone who took painkillers not prescribed to them, the poll’s results show. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.)
Details from the poll:
— 16 percent say they know someone who has died and 9 percent say that person was a close friend or family member.
— 27 percent say either they have been addicted to painkillers or they have known a family member or close friend who was.
— 63 percent of whites say they have a personal connection to the abuse of prescription painkillers compared with 44 percent of blacks and 37 percent of Hispanics.
Half of those surveyed rank prescription painkiller and heroin abuse as a top priority for their governor and legislature, behind improving public education and making health care more accessible and affordable, which drew 76 percent and 68 percent shares, respectively.
Sixty-two percent of those polled said the drug Naloxone, which can reverse an overdose and is handed out in some states without a prescription and for little or no cost, should only be available via prescription.
Efforts to reduce painkiller abuse would be at least somewhat effective, many Americans say. Providing treatment for addicts is cited by 85 percent, monitoring doctors’ prescribing habits by 82 percent and encouraging people to dispose of leftover medication by 69 percent.
Kaiser’s tracking poll was conducted Nov. 10 to 17 among 1,352 adults.The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 3 percentage points.
Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
By Julie Appleby
Cancer patients shopping on federal and state insurance marketplaces often find it difficult to determine whether their drugs are covered and how much they will pay for them, the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society says in a report that also calls on regulators to restrict how much insurers can charge patients for medications.
While the report found fairly broad coverage for prescription cancer medications, most insurance plans in the six states that were examined placed all or nearly all of the 22 medications studied into payment “tiers” that require the biggest out-of-pocket costs by patients, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said. Continue reading
Privacy Not Included: Federal Law Lags Behind New Tech
By Charles Ornstein ProPublica, Nov. 17, 2015, 10 a.m.
This story was co-published with the Washington Post.
The federal privacy law known as HIPAA doesn’t cover home paternity tests, fitness trackers or health apps. When a Florida woman complained after seeing the paternity test results of thousands of people online, federal regulators told her they didn’t have jurisdiction.
Jacqueline Stokes spotted the home paternity test at her local drugstore in Florida and knew she had to try it. She had no doubts for her own family, but as a cybersecurity consultant with an interest in genetics, she couldn’t resist the latest advance.
At home, she carefully followed the instructions, swabbing inside the mouths of her husband and her daughter, placing the samples in the pouch provided and mailing them to a lab.
This year, ProPublica has been chronicling how weaknesses in federal and state laws, as well as lax enforcement, have left patients vulnerable to damaging invasions of privacy.
Days later, Stokes went online to get the results. Part of the lab’s website address caught her attention, and her professional instincts kicked in. By tweaking the URL slightly, a sprawling directory appeared that gave her access to the test results of some 6,000 other people.
The site was taken down after Stokes complained on Twitter. But when she contacted the Department of Health and Human Services about the seemingly obvious violation of patient privacy, she got a surprising response: Officials couldn’t do anything about the breach. Continue reading
By David Epstein
On Monday, the World Anti-Doping Agency issued a report painting Russia’s sports programs as doping machines reminiscent of East Germany’s erstwhile state-sponsored drug programs.
This year we’ve written about the use of prescription drugs to enhance performance and why it’s so hard to catch dopers. But in Russia, there appeared to be no need for ever-more advanced maneuvering to evade positive tests.
In Russia, athletes simply needed cash and a culture that rewarded a no-holds-barred drive for champions. Continue reading
By Lynne Shallcross
Almost 8 percent of Americans 12 and older dealt with depression at some point between 2009 and 2012. With that many of us feeling blue, wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply hop on the computer in our pajamas, without any of the stigma of asking for help, and find real relief?
Online programs to fight depression are already commercially available, and while they sound efficient and cost-saving, a study out of the U.K. reports that they’re not effective, primarily because depressed patients aren’t likely to engage with them or stick with them. Continue reading
By Lynne Shallcross
Young American adults own smartphones at a higher rate than any other age group. Researchers from Duke University wanted to see if capitalizing on that smartphone usage with a low-cost weight-loss app might help the 35 percent of young adults in the U.S. who are overweight or obese.
If you’re rooting for smartphones to solve all our health problems, you’re not going to like what these researchers found.
The smartphone app didn’t help young adults lose any more weight than if they hadn’t been using the app at all. Continue reading
By Guy Gugliotta
It wasn’t what President George W. Bush had in mind. In 2001, Bush restricted the use of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, giving conservatives what looked like a major victory in the nation’s culture wars.
Three years later California thumbed its nose at the ban by starting its own multi-billion dollar stem cell program, and several states followed suit. Even though the restrictions were lifted in 2009, the insurgent movement survived and grew. Today at least seven states offer stem cell research funding or other incentives to local scientists and industry.
These initiatives have not yet produced the eagerly anticipated “cures” for conditions such as melanoma or Parkinson’s disease. But early public disappointment has yielded to the realization that years of research lie ahead before treatments can routinely enter the marketplace.
Still, as an engine for generating economic development and jobs, and as a mechanism for enhancing local scientific prestige, stem cell research for many states appears to be worth the investment. Continue reading
By Guy Gugliotta
It’s a program set up by the federal health law that many people have never heard about: an independent organization charged with bringing health care professionals and patients together in cooperative research ventures to find the best treatments for ailments ranging from diabetes to depression.
The The institute’s work, known as “comparative effectiveness research,” poses deceptively simple questions to find out vital information about which therapy or medication works best in the real world.
Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) already has funded 468 studies, and last month opened the second phase of a program to create research networks covering specific diseases and involving millions of patients across the country.
Institute research goes beyond clinical trials and so-called “best practices” and extracts evidence from the individual experiences of massive numbers of patients.T
Institute research goes beyond clinical trials and so-called “best practices” and extracts evidence from the individual experiences of massive numbers of patients.
Early results are encouraging. Continue reading
By Julie Appleby
Federal regulators on Thursday announced a proposed rule allowing voluntary employer workplace wellness programs to ask for health information, including some limited genetic details, from participants and their spouses.
According to a statement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency “is mindful that this change creates an exception to the general rule that no incentives may be provided for an employee’s genetic information. Therefore, the agency has interpreted the exception as narrowly as possible.” The release also notes that this exception does not apply to children.
Proposal allows financial incentives to encourage employees’ participation be set as high as 30 percent of the cost of a family health plan, which can amount to thousands of dollars.
Employer groups will likely be pleased by one provision in the proposal, which allows financial incentives to encourage employees’ participation be set as high as 30 percent of the cost of a family health plan, which can amount to thousands of dollars. Continue reading
By Charles Ornstein ProPublica
This story was co-published with The Washington Post.
Medicare’s prescription drug program spent nearly $4.6 billion in the first half of this year on expensive new cures for the liver disease hepatitis C 2014 almost as much as it spent for all of 2014.
Medicare’s drug program spent an eye-popping $4.8 billion for hepatitis C drugs in 2014.
Medicare’s stunning outlays, spelled out in data requested from the government by ProPublica, raise troubling questions about how the taxpayer-funded program can afford not only these pricey medications, but a slew of others coming on the market. Continue reading
By Jeff Gerth and T. Christian Miller
For more than 30 years, the Johnson & Johnson unit that makes Tylenol has delivered a consistent message: it’s the pain reliever that doctors recommend most.
McNeil Consumer Healthcare marketing experts have spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting it through television and magazine advertisements. It is a refrain that many American consumers know by heart.
Surveys show that while most doctors recommended the Tylenol, they also told patients to take the medication at doses far less than the daily maximum allowed by the federal government.
The regular surveys conducted by McNeil show that while most doctors recommended the drug, they also told patients to take the medication at doses far less than the daily maximum allowed by the federal government, according to the previously undisclosed documents.
The reason? Doctors worried that what the government and company described as the maximum safe dose of the active ingredient in Tylenol, a compound called acetaminophen, was too close to the level that can damage the liver and even lead to death. Continue reading