Category Archives: Brain & Nervous System

U.S. prescription drug spending rose 13 percent in 2014: IMS report | Reuters

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleU.S. spending on prescription medicines jumped 13 percent to $374 billion in 2014, the biggest percentage increase since 2001, as demand surged for expensive new breakthrough hepatitis C treatments, a report released on Tuesday showed.

Demand for newer cancer and multiple sclerosis treatments, price increases on branded medicines, particularly insulin products for diabetes, and the entry of few new generic versions of big-selling drugs also contributed to the double-digit spending rise in 2014, the report by IMS Health Holdings Inc found.

via U.S. prescription drug spending rose 13 percent in 2014: IMS report | Reuters.

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Most Common Drug Ingredient in the US Kills Emotions

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Three red and white capsulesCommonly found in pain relievers, acetaminophen gets rid of more than just physical agony – it also diminishes emotions.

“Rather than just being a pain reliever, acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever,” lead researcher said in a news release.

via Most Common Drug Ingredient in the US Kills Emotions.

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Battle for mental health parity produces mixed results

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Illustration of the skull and brainBy Jenny Gold
KHN

By law, many U.S. insurance providers that offer mental health care are required to cover it just as they would cancer or diabetes treatment.

But advocates say achieving this mental health parity can be a challenge.

report released last week by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that “health insurance plans are falling short in coverage of mental health and substance abuse conditions.”

Jenny Gold of Kaiser Health News spoke with NPR’s Arun Rath over the weekend about the issue.

Rath noted that many patients have trouble getting their mental health care covered, and she outlined some of the issues confronting both patients and the insurance industry. Here is an edited transcript of her comments.

Where does parity stand?

It’s been a mixed bag so far. Insurance companies often used to have a separate deductible or a higher copay for mental health and substance abuse visits.  Right now, that usually isn’t the case. In that way, insurers really have complied. Continue reading

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Many in U.S. live too far from advanced stroke care | Reuters

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Illustration of the skull and brainMany Americans would not have quick access to the best healthcare options during a stroke, even under the most ideal circumstances, according to a new computer model.

In a hypothetical model, if each state had up to 20 hospitals providing the best possible care for people having strokes – which is not the current reality – more than a third of Americans would still be more than a 60-minute ambulance ride away from one of those medical centers.

via Many in U.S. live too far from advanced stroke care | Reuters.

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Some dementia can be treated, but my mother waited 10 years for a diagnosis

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Pauline Rabin with granddaughters Emma and Aviva Rabin-Court near the C&O Canal in Great Falls, Md. (Photo courtesy of Roni Rabin).

Pauline Rabin with granddaughters Emma and Aviva Rabin-Court near the C&O Canal in Great Falls, Md. (Photo courtesy of Roni Rabin).

By Roni Caryn Rabin
KHN

When my mother, Pauline, was 70, she lost her sense of balance. She started walking with an odd shuffling gait, taking short steps and barely lifting her feet off the ground. She often took my hand, holding it and squeezing my fingers.

Her decline was precipitous. She fell repeatedly. She stopped driving and she could no longer ride her bike in a straight line along the C& O Canal. The woman who taught me the sidestroke couldn’t even stand in the shallow end of the pool. “I feel like I’m drowning,” she’d say.

A retired psychiatrist, my mother had numerous advantages — education, resources and insurance — but still, getting the right diagnosis took nearly 10 years. Each expert saw the problem through the narrow prism of their own specialty. Surgeons recommended surgery. Neurologists screened for common incurable conditions.

The answer was under their noses, in my mother’s hunches and her family history. But it took a long time before someone connected the dots. My mother was using a walker by the time she was told she had a rare condition that causes gait problems and cognitive loss, and is one of the few treatable forms of dementia.

“This should be one of the first things physicians look for in an older person,” my mother said recently. “You can actually do something about it.” Continue reading

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Do you really need counseling on your Alzheimer’s gene test?

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From WBUR’s CommonHealth:

A new Brigham and Women’s Hospital study finds that we may not need quite as much genetic counseling as we’d thought. Particularly on relatively cut-and-dried findings, like test results on a common gene that raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Listen to WBUR host Anthony Brooks speak with Dr. Robert C. Green:

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Free online site to help parents with children coping with ADD/ADHD

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In the U.S., one in five children struggles with a learning and/or attention issue. That’s 15 million kids ages 3–20, and many of their issues go undiagnosed.

The adults in their lives often have a hard time understanding their issues due to misconceptions and a lack of information and resources.

As a result, these children often face both academic and social challenges.

However, with the right strategies and support, they can succeed in the classroom—and outside of it, too.

This campaign stems from the idea that parents can sense when their children are struggling but may not know why. Or what to do.

By demonstrating the realities that children with learning and attention issues face daily, the campaign aims to increase the number of parents who are actively helping and seeking help for their kids.

Parents are encouraged to visit Understood.org, a comprehensive free online resource that empowers parents through personalized support, daily access to experts and specially designed tools to help the millions of children with learning and attention issues go from simply coping to truly thriving.

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For autistic adults, coverage options are scarce

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Graphic showing an umbrella sheltering medicinesBy Michelle Andrews
KHN / September 19th

It’s getting easier for parents of young children with autism to get insurers to cover a pricey treatment called applied behavioral analysis.

Once kids turn 21, however, it’s a different ballgame entirely. Continue reading

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California to broaden autism coverage for kids through Medicaid

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This KHN story also ran in the .

Maria Cruz had never heard the word autism until her daughter, Shirley, was diagnosed as a toddler.

“I felt a knot in my brain. I didn’t know where to turn,” recalled Cruz, a Mexican immigrant who speaks only Spanish. “I didn’t have any idea how to help her.”

No one in her low-income South Los Angeles neighborhood seemed to know anything about autism spectrum disorder, a developmental condition that can impair language, learning and social interaction.

Starting Monday, Sept. 15, thousands of children in California from low-income families who are on the autism spectrum will be eligible for behavioral therapy under the state’s health plan for the poor.

Years passed as Shirley struggled through school, where she was bullied and beaten up. Now 9, Shirley aces math tests but can barely dress herself, brush her teeth or eat with utensils.

Shirley is like many autistic children from poor families: She hasn’t gotten much outside help. The parents often lack the know-how and means of middle-class families to advocate for their children at schools and state regional centers for the developmentally disabled.

A new initiative seeks to help level the playing field. Starting Monday, Sept. 15, thousands of children from low-income families who are on the autism spectrum will be eligible for behavioral therapy under Medi-Cal, the state’s health plan for the poor. Continue reading

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Women’s health – Week 51: Traumatic Brain Injury

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a form of acquired brain injury, occurs when a sudden force, such as from an explosive blast or an automobile accident, causes damage to the brain.

TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.

In most of these cases, the skull remains intact and the damage is believed to be caused by a pressure wave of the explosion’s concussive force passing through the brain.

Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the brain. Continue reading

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Federal officials order Medicaid to cover autism services

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Jigsaw puzzle with one piece to add

Photo: Willi Heidelbach

When Yuri Maldonado’s 6-year-old son was diagnosed with autism four years ago, she learned that getting him the therapy he needed from California’s Medicaid plan for low-income children was going to be tough.

Medi-Cal, as California’s plan is called, does provide coverage of autism services for some children who are severely disabled by the disorder, in contrast to many states which offer no autism coverage.

But Maldonado’s son was approved for 30 hours a week of applied behavioral analysis (ABA), a type of behavior modification therapy that has been shown to be effective with autistic children, and she was worried that wasn’t enough.

So she and her husband, neither of whose jobs offered health insurance, bought an individual private policy for their son, with a $900 monthly price tag, to get him more of the comprehensive therapy.

“I don’t know any family that can really afford that,” says Maldonado. “We made some sacrifices.”

That should be changing soon. In July, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that comprehensive autism services must be covered for children under all state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program plans, another federal-state program that provide health coverage to lower-income children. Continue reading

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If you have a stroke, better it should be in Paris

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Frank Browning (Photo by Christophe Sevault)

Frank Browning. (Photo by Christophe Sevault)

Frank Browning writes from Paris
KHN

I had a stroke last month, oh boy.

It’s just that I didn’t know it. Here’s what happened:

Only after three days of flashing, floating visual squiggles — commonly known as ocular migraines that usually last 20 minutes — do I email my old friend Dr. John Krakauer, who helps run stroke recovery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

After a few questions he told me to get an MRI scan as soon as possible.

In the U.S. that could involve the emergency room (with its hours-long wait) or a complicated process of getting the referral — and then finding a radiologist who would take my coverage.

Here in France, it is so much simpler. Continue reading

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Most of the genetic risk for autism due to versions of common genes

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From the National Institutes of Health

Most of the genetic risk for autism comes from versions of genes that are common in the population rather than from rare variants or spontaneous glitches, researchers funded by the

National Institutes of Health have found. Heritability also outweighed other risk factors in this largest study of its kind to date.

About 52 percent of the risk for autism was traced to common and rare inherited variation, with spontaneous mutations contributing a modest 2.6 percent of the total risk.

Gene autism

The bulk of risk, or liability, for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) was traced to inherited variations in the genetic code shared by many people. These and other (unaccounted) factors dwarfed contributions from rare inherited, non-additive and spontaneous (de novo) genetic factors. Source: Population-Based Autism Genetics and Environment Study.

“Although each exerts just a tiny effect individually, these common variations in the genetic code add up to substantial impact, taken together,” Buxbaum said. Continue reading

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Women’s Health – Week 46: Stroke

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

A stroke, also called a brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain suddenly stops. Blocked or damaged vessels are the two major causes of stroke.

During a stroke, brain cells begin to die because oxygen and nutrients cannot reach them. The longer blood flow is cut off to the brain, the greater the damage.

Every minute counts when someone is having a stroke. Immediate treatment can save a person’s life and enhance the chance for a successful recovery.

stroke

Diagram showing what happens in the brain during a hemorrhagic stroke and a ischemic stroke.

There are two kinds of stroke: Continue reading

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