Category Archives: Drugs & Medicines

County receives $6m grant to improve hepatitis C care

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Hepatitis C by the numbersKing County has received a four-year, $6 million grant to improve testing, treatment and cure rates of people with chronic HCV infection.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects large numbers of people in King County, but it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.

“Thousands of people in King County have chronic HCV, but many don’t know they have it,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease & Epidemiology at Public Health – Seattle & King County. “This grant will allow us to make sure that patients with chronic HCV are not just identified, but also seen by a provider, receive follow-up testing, and get the care they need.”

The grant will fund the Hepatitis C Test & Cure Project, which will provide training for clinicians on the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of HCV and connect them to specialists. Continue reading

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Insurers limiting drug benefits shifts costs to the sick

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$100-dollar bill inside a capsuleBy Charles Ornstein
ProPublica

This story was co-published with The New York Times’ The Upshot.

Health insurance companies are no longer allowed to turn away patients because of their pre-existing conditions or charge them more because of those conditions.

But some health policy experts say insurers may be doing so in a more subtle way: by forcing people with a variety of illnesses — including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and epilepsy — to pay more for their drugs.

By charging higher prices for generic drugs that treat certain illness, health insurers may be violating the spirit of the Affordable Care Act, which bans discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions.

Insurers have long tried to steer their members away from more expensive brand name drugs, labeling them as “non-preferred” and charging higher co-payments.

But according to an editorial to be published Thursday in the American Journal of Managed Care, several prominent health plans have taken it a step further, applying that same concept even to generic drugs. Continue reading

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In onscreen dramas, health experts inject a dose of reality

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Italia Ricci in "Chasing Life"

Italia Ricci in “Chasing Life” (Photo Courtesy of ABC Family)

This KHN story also ran in .

The questions from producers run the gamut: Could a body be stolen from a hospital? What do infectious disease specialists wear during an outbreak?

Do surgeons really say “Stat!”?

In a bright office building in Beverly Hills, Kate Langrall Folb and her team at Hollywood, Health & Society are on call to field queries from the mundane to the obscure. “Operators are standing by,” Folb, the group’s director, often tells TV and movie writers.

The organization was established with money from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001 to provide the entertainment industry with free, accurate health information.S

ince then, the group has worked with hundreds of television writers as they tell stories about performing complicated surgeries, coping with depression and fighting insurance companies for coverage. Continue reading

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Wealthy L.A. Schools’ Vaccination Rates Are as Low as South Sudan’s – The Atlantic

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Photomicrograph of the bacteria that causes whooping cough

Pertussis, the whooping cough bacteria — CDC photo

The Hollywood Reporter has a great investigation for which it sought the vaccination records of elementary schools all over Los Angeles County. They found that vaccination rates in elite neighborhoods like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills have tanked, and the incidence of whooping cough there has skyrocketed.

via Wealthy L.A. Schools’ Vaccination Rates Are as Low as South Sudan’s – The Atlantic.

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Public exposure to measles at Sea-Tac Airport

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Alert IconFrom Public Health – Seattle & King County

Local public health officials are investigating a confirmed case of measles infection in a traveler who was at Sea-Tac airport during the contagious period.

The traveler was likely exposed to measles outside of the United States.

What to do if you were in a location of potential measles exposure  Continue reading

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Southern states now the epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the US

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HIV prevalence map of US - CDC
By Teresa Wiltz
Stateline

New Yorker Deadra Malloy was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, but she remained healthy for so long she wasn’t completely convinced she was positive.

 Today, the face of AIDS is black or Latino, poor, often rural—and Southern.

When she finally started getting sick in 2006, she decided to embrace her “ancestral roots” and accepted a job down South, where her mother was from.

Malloy didn’t know that the move, first to North Carolina and then to Columbia, South Carolina, would make it much more difficult to manage her disease. Continue reading

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Women’s groups challenge GOP candidates on OTC birth control

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birth control contraceptionBy Julie Rovner
SEPTEMBER 10TH, 2014

Women’s health groups are launching a counterattack against suggestions by several Republican Senate candidates that making birth control pills available without a prescription is the answer to the dispute over contraceptive coverage rules in the health law.

At least four Republicans running for the U.S. Senate have proposed over-the-counter pills in recent weeks, including Ed Gillespie in Virginia, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Mike McFadden in Minnesota.

All four have advocated the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and its requirement that most insurance plans cover all FDA-approved contraceptives for women.

“I think over-the-counter, oral by contraception (sic), should be available without a prescription,” Tillis said in a debate with Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., last week. “If you do those kinds of things, you will actually increase the access and reduce the barriers for having more options for women for contraception.”

Women’s health groups, however, strongly disagree. Continue reading

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Immunization rates for Washington kids improve over last year

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From the Washington State Department of Health

child wincing while be given a shot injectionImmunization rates for Washington toddlers have improved from last year, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Immunization Survey.

The survey says 71 percent of kids under three years old in Washington got a series of recommended vaccines in 2013.

The state’s rate for the same series of vaccines in 2012 was 65 percent.

Pertussis vaccination still low and concerning in light of recent epidemic

Although rates have improved, they’re still below the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80 percent, leaving many kids unprotected.

For all vaccines counted, rates increased across the board except for DTaP, the vaccine that prevents pertussis (whooping cough).

This is especially concerning because of our state’s whooping cough epidemic in 2012. Continue reading

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NIH to test Ebola vaccine in humans

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From the US National Institutes of Health

Trial will evaluate vaccine’s safety

Initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease will begin next week by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

ebola

The early-stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults.

The pace of human safety testing for experimental Ebola vaccines has been expedited in response to the ongoing Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

Testing will take place at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

The study is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials that will examine the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine and an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp.

The others are to launch in the fall. These trials are conducted in healthy adults who are not infected with Ebola virus to determine if the vaccine is safe and induces an adequate immune response. Continue reading

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FAQ: Administration’s new contraception rules explained

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Photo: Matthew Bowden

Photo: Matthew Bowden

The Obama administration has released new rules they say will give employees of  religiously affiliated organizations a way to obtain contraceptive services as part of their health insurance coverage while respecting the religious beliefs of their employers.

The announcement follows a controversy that has dogged the administration as religiously affiliated employers objected to efforts to expand contraceptive options for women under the health law.

Under the accommodation, an eligible organization does not have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage

.The latest regulations seek to satisfy complaints about earlier guidance on contraception coverage that instructed these employers to notify their insurers or third-party administrators if they did not want to comply with the law’s contraception coverage based on religious objections.

The regulations unveiled Friday would allow religiously affiliated employers to notify the government – rather than their insurer – of their objections to the law’s coverage of birth control.

The government will then notify the insurer to provide the contraception coverage. Continue reading

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State’s whooping cough epidemic did not boost vaccination rates

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child wincing while be given a shot injectionExperts have long believed that when the risk of a disease is high, people are more likely to accept a vaccine to prevent that disease. But recent research suggests that might not be uniformly true. Dr. Elizabeth Wolf, an investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, led a study that determined Washington’s recent pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic did not influence the number of infants who were vaccinated against the disease.

via Infectious Disease Epidemics May Not Influence Vaccination Rates.

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Some insurers refuse to cover contraceptives, despite health law requirement

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nuvaring contraceptiveBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

How much leeway do employers and insurers have in deciding whether they’ll cover contraceptives without charge and in determining which methods make the cut?

Not much, as it turns out, but that hasn’t stopped some from trying.

Kaiser Health News readers still write in regularly describing battles they’re waging to get the birth control coverage they’re entitled to.

“We’ve seen this happen, plenty.”

In one of those messages recently, a woman said her insurer denied free coverage for the NuvaRing.

This small plastic device, which is inserted into the vagina, works for three weeks at a time by releasing hormones similar to those used by birth control pills. Continue reading

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Cut the Crapshoot | RAND

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From the RAND Corporation:

U.S. policymakers need to counteract the perverse financial incentives that induce inventors and investors to bet big on new medical technologies that offer the highest payouts without substantially improving health.

Dice pair

Costly new technology is a primary driver of health care spending. This should come as no surprise, because all players in the dicey U.S. market for new medical technologies — inventors, investors, payers, providers, and patients — face long odds if they want to put money on products that could curb health spending while also boosting health.

The rules of the game need to change.

via Cut the Crapshoot | RAND.

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Q&A: Experimental treatments and vaccines for Ebola – CDC

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Some questions and answers on experimental treatments and vaccines for Ebola from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

ebola

Ebola virus

Some questions and answers on experimental treatments and vaccines for Ebola from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is ZMapp?

ZMapp, being developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., is an experimental treatment, for use with individuals infected with Ebola virus.

The product is a combination of three different monoclonal antibodies that bind to the protein of the Ebola virus.

It has not yet been tested in humans for safety or effectiveness

How effective is the experimental treatment?

It is too early to know whether ZMapp is effective, since it is still in an experimental stage and has not yet been tested in humans for safety or effectiveness.

Some patients infected with Ebola virus do get better spontaneously or with supportive care.

It’s important to note that the standard treatment for Ebola remains supportive therapy.

This consists of the following measures: Continue reading

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Suspicious HIV drug prescriptions abound in Medicare

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propublica thumbnailThe inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds Medicare spent tens of millions of dollars in 2012 for HIV drugs there’s little evidence patients needed. A 77-year-old woman with no record of HIV got $33,500 of medication.

By Charles Ornstein
ProPublica

Medicare spent more than $30 million in 2012 on questionable HIV medication costs, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report set for release Wednesday.

The report offers a litany of possible fraud schemes, all paid for by Medicare’s prescription drug program known as Part D.

Among the most egregious:

In Detroit, a 77-year-old woman purportedly filled $33,500 worth of prescriptions for 10 different HIV medications. But there’s no record she had HIV or that she had visited the doctors who wrote the scripts.

A 48-year-old in Miami went to 28 different pharmacies to pick up HIV drugs worth nearly $200,000, almost 10 times what average patients get in a year. The prescriptions were supposedly written by 16 health providers, an unusually high number.

And on a single day, a third patient received $17,500 of HIV drugs — and none the rest of the year. She got more than twice the recommended dose of five HIV drug ingredients. Continue reading

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