First Edition: Sept. 16, 2022

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

With Polio’s Return, Here’s What Back-To-Schoolers Need To Know

Before polio vaccines became available in the 1950s, people wary of the disabling disease were afraid to allow their children outside, let alone go to school. As polio appears again decades after it was considered eliminated in the U.S., Americans unfamiliar with the dreaded disease need a primer on protecting themselves and their young children — many of whom are emerging from the trauma of the covid-19 pandemic. (Gounder, 9/16)

A Disability Program Promised To Lift People From Poverty. Instead, It Left Many Homeless

After two months of sleeping in the Salvation Army Center of Hope homeless shelter, Margaret Davis has had no luck finding an apartment she can afford. The 55-year-old grandmother receives about $750 a month from the federal government. She’s trying to live on just $50 cash and $150 in food stamps each month so she can save enough for a place to call home. (Clasen-Kelly, 9/16)

New Abortion Laws Jeopardize Cancer Treatment For Pregnant Patients

As abortion bans go into effect across a contiguous swath of the South, cancer physicians are wrestling with how new state laws will influence their discussions with pregnant patients about what treatment options they can offer. Cancer coincides with roughly 1 in 1,000 pregnancies, most frequently breast cancer, melanoma, cervical cancer, lymphomas, and leukemias. But medications and other treatments can be toxic to the developing fetus or cause birth defects. In some cases, hormones that are supercharged during pregnancy fuel the cancer’s growth, putting the patient at greater risk. (Huff, 9/16)

KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Graham’s Bill Recenters Abortion Debate

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) put abortion back on Republicans’ agenda this week with a legislative proposal calling for a national ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. For many in his party, it was an unwelcome intrusion that could add to public unease with the party’s efforts to limit access to abortion as they look toward the midterm elections. (9/15)

WHO ‘Strongly Advises Against’ Use Of Two COVID Treatments

Two COVID-19 antibody therapies are no longer recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), on the basis that Omicron and the variant’s latest offshoots have likely rendered them obsolete. The two therapies – otrovimab as well as casirivimab-imdevimab, which are designed to work by binding to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 to neutralise the virus’ ability to infect cells – were some of the first medicines developed early in the pandemic. (Grover, 9/15)

GSK, Regeneron Covid Antibody Drugs Unlikely To Work For Omicron, WHO Says

The new guideline is a blow to Regeneron, GSK and its partner Vir Biotechnology, replacing a conditional endorsement of the treatments with a “strong recommendation” against their use. But it’s not entirely surprising: GSK and Vir’s sotrovimab had already lost its US authorization in April because the therapy was unlikely to work against the dominant omicron BA.2 subvariant. (Fourcade, 9/15)

The Washington Post:
Covid-19 In Seniors Linked To Increased Alzheimer’s Risk, Study Finds 

A study using the electronic health records of more than 6 million Americans over age 65, found those who had covid-19 ran a greater risk of receiving a new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease within a year. The study, led by researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, does not show that covid-19 causes Alzheimer’s, but adds to a growing body of work suggesting links between the two. (Johnson, 9/15)

The Washington Post:
TPoxx Antiviral Should Only Be Given To High-Risk Monkeypox Patients, CDC Says 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance Thursday recommending that TPoxx, the only drug available to treat monkeypox, be limited to people at high risk for severe disease even as the outbreak that has infected more than 22,000 Americans shows signs of plateauing. … At a White House monkeypox briefing Thursday, Anthony S. Fauci, medical adviser to President Biden, said resistance is always a risk when using antiviral drugs. He said a recently launched study of TPoxx will track signs of mutation that could lead to resistance. The study is expected to enroll more than 500 patients across 60 U.S. sites. (Sun and Diamond, 9/15)

Health Agencies Work To Address Racial Gaps In Monkeypox Vaccine Coverage

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday launched a pilot program to set aside up to 50,000 doses of JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine for groups disproportionately affected by the outbreak who’ve faced barriers accessing the shots. (Dreher, 9/16)

Monkeypox Awareness Surged Over The Summer

The public has quickly become familiar with monkeypox and how it spreads, but more than a quarter of Americans say they’re not likely to get vaccinated if exposed to the virus, according to a new Annenberg Public Policy Center survey. (Bettelheim, 9/15)

The Hill:
Nation Warned To Brace For A Difficult Flu Season

Health experts are warning the nation to brace for what could be an exceptionally severe flu season this fall and winter, as more people who have not built up immunity over the last few years mix and mingle. There are two big reasons why more people could be vulnerable to the flu this year.  The first is that with coronavirus restrictions such as the wearing of masks all but forgotten, people are more likely to come into contact with the flu virus this year than over the last two years.  (Choi, 9/15)

Houston Chronicle:
Flu Season Could Arrive Early, Be More Severe, Doctors Say

Houston doctors are recommending flu shots earlier this year due to concerns that the upcoming season could begin sooner and hit harder than usual. (MacDonald, 9/15)

The Atlantic:
A Vaccine In Each Arm Could Be A Painful Mistake

At a press briefing earlier this month, Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID czar, laid out some pretty lofty expectations for America’s immunity this fall. “Millions” of Americans, he said, would be flocking to pharmacies for the newest version of the COVID vaccine in September and October, at the same appointment where they’d get their yearly flu shot. “It’s actually a good idea,” he told the press. “I really believe this is why God gave us two arms.” (Wu, 9/15)

Indiana Judge Declines Request To Block State’s Abortion Ban

An Indiana judge turned down on Thursday a request to block enforcement of the state’s abortion ban just hours after it took effect.The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by abortion clinic operators who argue that the state constitution protects access to the procedure. Special Judge Kelsey Hanlon didn’t give any explanation for her decision with the order denying a temporary injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which is representing the clinics, but cited a court hearing set for Monday on the lawsuit. (Davies, 9/15)

Judge Continues To Bar Anti-Abortion Activists From Clinic 

A group of anti-abortion activists will continue to be banned from interfering with patients and providers at a reproductive health clinic outside Nashville, a federal judge has ruled. In July, protesters attempted to enter the clinic operated by the nonprofit carafem organization twice during a national conference of Operation Save America — formerly Operation Rescue, according to court documents. (Kruesi, 9/15)

‘Need An Abortion? California Is Ready To Help:’ Newsom Billboards In GOP States

The signs, which also appear in Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina and South Dakota, point to a website — — that informs users how to access an abortion in California, according to a statement Thursday. One image shows a woman in handcuffs next to the phrase “Texas doesn’t own your body. You do.” Another says “Need an abortion? California is ready to help.” (McGregor, 9/15)

Detroit Free Press:
Tubes-Tied Procedure In Michigan: Permanent Birth Control Often Denied

Ashley Steffen went under the knife about a month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, reversing the constitutional right to abortion. Steffen, 37, of Lansing, is among a growing number of women to seek a sterilization procedure known as tubal ligation in the months since the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization left abortion access up to states to decide. (Jordan-Shamus, 9/15)

Modern Healthcare:
Healthcare Industry On Defense In Climate Crisis: Report

Greenhouse gases released from the healthcare sector make up 10% of total U.S. emissions, and they continue to grow. According to the report, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gas emissions rose 6% between 2010 and 2018, resulting in the loss of 388,000 disability-adjusted life-years. The House Ways and Means Committee published these findings in conjunction with a hearing on the subject Thursday. (Hartnett, 9/15)

Climate Change Jeopardizes Health Care Services, Report Says 

Dr. Suzy Fitzgerald remembers looking out the windows as wildfire flames surrounded the hospital where she worked. “We had fire in all three directions,” Fitzgerald recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh gosh, this is serious. We need to get these people out.’” Fitzgerald helped with the evacuation of 122 patients from Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Rosa Medical Center on that night nearly five years ago, as the blaze gobbled up homes and buildings across Northern California. The hospital, which had filled with smoke, closed for 17 days. Medical centers around the country say that fires, flooding, heat waves and other extreme weather are jeopardizing medical services, damaging health care facilities and forcing patients to flee their hospital beds, according to a report released Thursday by the House Ways and Means Committee. (Seitz, 9/15)

HCA Hospital Chain Under Fire From Congress

A House oversight committee is asking for a federal investigation of the largest U.S. hospital chain and its admissions practices amid allegations of widespread fraud. (Knight, 9/16)

Lawmaker Requests Investigation Into HCA Over Billing Practices

A Democratic House lawmaker with oversight authority is calling for an investigation into the largest for-profit hospital chain in the country, HCA Healthcare. (Cohrs, 9/15)

NBC News:
‘Gaming’ Of U.S. Patent System Is Keeping Drug Prices Sky High, Report Says 

The excessive use of the patent system — by drugmakers Bristol-Myers Squibb, AbbVie, Regeneron and Bayer — keeps the prices of the medications at exorbitant levels, often at the expense of American consumers, according to the report from the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge, or I-MAK, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug patent reform. (Lovelace Jr., 9/15)

The New York Times:
FDA’s Drug Industry Fees Fuel Concerns Over Influence 

Every five years, top officials of the Food and Drug Administration go behind closed doors to negotiate the terms of its core budget — about $3 billion this year. But the F.D.A. is not at the table with members of Congress or with White House officials. Instead, it’s in dozens of meetings with representatives of the giant pharmaceutical companies whose products the agency regulates. The negotiations are a piece of the “user fee” program in which drug, device and biotech companies make payments to the agency partly to seek product approvals. The fees have soared since the program’s inception three decades ago and now make up nearly half of the F.D.A.’s budget, financing 6,500 jobs at the agency. (Jewett, 9/15)

Modern Healthcare:
Hospital Readmissions Penalties For 2023 Lower Than Expected

One-fourth of hospitals will not face readmissions penalties, and those that did not meet the Medicare standard in recent years can expect lower reimbursement cuts, according to preliminary data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (Devereaux, 9/15)

US Hospital Losses: 53% Expect To Lose Money This Year, AHA Study Finds

An eight-hour emergency room wait. The closing of a local clinic in a high-poverty area of rural Arkansas. Dwindling maternity wards. These are some of the outcomes of the financial pain US hospitals are feeling as spiking costs dictate sometimes-dire decisions. And it’s not getting any better, according to a report Thursday. (Coleman-Lochner, 9/15)

The Boston Globe:
Lifespan, R.I.’s Largest Hospital System, Posts $49m Third-Quarter Loss: ‘The Health Care System In Rhode Island Is In Crisis’

Lifespan Corp., Rhode Island’s largest health care system, reported a net loss of $49 million for its third quarter, which closed June 30, forcing the hospital owner to institute a recovery plan to address the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Over a nine-month period ending on June 30, Lifespan’s operating loss and net losses mounted to $69.5 million and $142 million, respectively, according to financial documents released to the Globe on Thursday. (Gagosz, 9/15)

Houston Chronicle:
Harris Health Says 10,000 Patients Could Lose Services If Proposed Budget Is Not Adopted

Harris Health System, one of the largest indigent health care systems in the country, will be operating at a $45 million deficit if the county cannot pass a property tax rate and proposed budget, potentially endangering services to 10,000 patients, county and health system leaders said Thursday. (Gill, 9/15)

Thousands Of Striking Nurses Return To Work In Minnesota 

Thousands of nurses returned to work Thursday at Minnesota hospitals following a three-day strike over wage increases and staffing and retention made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Members of the Minnesota Nurses’ Association at 15 hospitals in the Minneapolis and Duluth areas walked off the job Monday. Nurses could soon learn what impact the strike may have had on efforts to reach a new contract. (9/15)

The Hill:
Arrest Made In Threats Against Boston Children’s Hospital 

The FBI announced on Thursday that it has made an arrest in connection with a hoax bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital. U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said Kathleen Levy of Westfield, Mass., is charged with one count of making a false telephonic bomb threat in connection with a threat made to the hospital on Aug. 30, NBC10 Boston reported. (Mastrangelo, 9/15)

The Wall Street Journal:
DEA Investigating ADHD Telehealth Provider Done 

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents have questioned people about telehealth company Done Global Inc.’s practices for prescribing controlled substances, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the inquiries. The inquiries in recent weeks suggest ongoing and potentially widening interest from federal authorities in online mental-health companies such as Done that during the Covid-19 pandemic have been prescribing stimulants like Adderall for treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder—drugs the U.S. government classifies as controlled substances in the same category as OxyContin. (Winkler, 9/15)

ADHD Drug Adderall Runs Low At CVS, Walgreens As Demand Soars

Bloomberg spoke to half a dozen patients in states including California, Indiana and Michigan who said that they called or went into CVS Health Corp. or Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. pharmacies in August or September and were told the medicines were out of stock. In some cases, patients were told they might have to wait more than a week to get their medication, which is supposed to be taken every day. (Swetlitz, 9/15)

The Washington Post:
U.S. Limits Export Of Fentanyl To Russia, Calling It A Potential Weapon

The United States on Thursday strictly limited the export of fentanyl and related chemicals to Russia, saying that they “may be useful” as chemical weapons to support Russia’s “military aggression.” The Commerce Department said sales to Russia of the powerful opiate will now require a U.S. government license. The rule also applies to exports to Belarus, whose leadership supports Russian President Vladimir Putin. Fentanyl is widely known in the United States as an illicit street drug that has caused thousands of overdose deaths in recent years. But it also has legal uses as a prescription painkiller. (Whalen, 9/15)

America’s Fentanyl Problem A Growing Threat For Teens

Fentanyl is posing a growing health threat for teenagers across the nation, and as kids return to schools and colleges, officials warn there’s a higher chance they may encounter the drug disguised in forms they might not expect. (Reed, 9/16)

NBC News:
Two Powerful Drugs Are Making Their Way Into The Illicit Drug Supply

One is a class of synthetic opioids, called nitazenes, that can be up to 10 times stronger than fentanyl, experts say. Fentanyl is already 50 times more powerful than heroin. On Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health published data showing a four-fold increase in deadly overdoses linked to nitazenes in the last two years. (Edwards, 9/15)

The Meth Crisis Is Worse Than Ever, But New Treatments Could Be Near

When it comes to meth addiction, Thomas Robey has long been at a loss. As an emergency room doctor, he treats a steady stream of patients who show up at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash., after experiencing a methamphetamine overdose. (Facher, 9/16)

California 1st With Law Protecting Children’s Online Privacy 

California will be the first state to require online companies to put kids’ safety first by barring them from profiling children or using personal information in ways that could harm children physically or mentally, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday. “We’re taking aggressive action in California to protect the health and wellbeing of our kids,” Newsom said in a statement announcing that he had signed the bill. He noted that as a father of four, “I’m familiar with the real issues our children are experiencing online.” (Thompson, 9/15)

Montana Defies Order On Transgender Birth Certificates 

Just hours after a Montana judge blocked health officials from enforcing a state rule that would prevent transgender people from changing the gender on their birth certificate, the Republican-run state on Thursday said it would defy the order. District Court Judge Michael Moses chided attorneys for the state during a hearing in Billings for circumventing his April order that temporarily blocked a 2021 Montana law that made it harder to change birth certificates. (Brown and Hanson, 9/15)

Asbury Park Press:
Communicating By Thought: How First-Of-Its-Kind Brain Implant May Help Paralyzed NJ Man

In July, Czech became the first American and first fully paralyzed person in the world to go home with a brain-computer interface (BCI), an implant with electrodes that interprets brain waves. The device, called Stentrode, translates thoughts into commands sent to a computer. (Carino, 9/15)

Lupus Patients Go Into Remission Borrowing CAR-T Cancer Therapy

Rheumatology — the study of immune-system-driven diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, and in-betweens — has inherited plenty of hand-me-downs from cancer research. (Cueto, 9/15)

E Coli Outbreak Linked To Ground Beef In Hello Fresh Meal Kits

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday reported an Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak tied to Hello Fresh meal kits that contained contaminated ground beef. So far, health officials have identified seven infections from six states. Six people were hospitalized, and none of them developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal kidney complication of E coli infection. No deaths have been reported. (9/5)

The Washington Post:
Is It Safe To Take A Baby To A Chiropractor? Here’s What Experts Say

On TikTok, chiropractors are stretching chubby legs, massaging infant tailbones and tracing the tiny vertebrae of baby spines, touting a range of unproven treatments for newborns, babies and toddlers. … The evidence that chiropractic care can soothe babies is scant. But clinicians on TikTok claim chiropractic care can offer relief to fussy babies suffering from a variety of ailments, including colic, constipation, reflux, musculoskeletal problems and even, some say, trauma babies experience in childbirth. (Amenabar, 9/15)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.


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