What’s New in Health Care Reform: Sept. 5

What's New in Health Care Reform provides an overview of the past week’s news, updates, and commentary in health care reform and utilization management.

Fake, Low Quality Drugs Come at High Cost

About one in eight essential medicines in low- and middle-income countries may be fake or contain dangerous mixes of ingredients that put patients’ lives at risk, a research review suggests. Researchers examined data from more 350 previous studies that tested more 400,000 drug samples in low- and middle-income countries. Overall, roughly 14 percent of medicines were counterfeit, expired or otherwise low quality and unlikely to be as safe or effective as patients might expect. Via Reuters.

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Measles Cases Break 10-Year Record in Florida

There have been 11 cases of measles in Florida so far this year, which is higher than what the state has been reporting each year for the past decade, according to the latest data from the state health department. The state has had fewer than 10 cases of measles each year since 2010. Three cases were reported last year, five cases in 2016 and five cases in 2015. There were no cases in 2014. Via Orlando Sentinel.

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Survey: Health Coverage Steady but Costs are a Concern

A survey on health coverage for the first three months of this year shows the number of Americans with health insurance held relatively steady compared to 2017. The National Health Interview Survey shows about 9 percent of people of all ages were uninsured in January, February, and March of 2018 and 12 percent were without coverage in the 18 to 64 age group. Via WPR.

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FDA Pushes for Development of Non-Opioid Pain Medications

The Food and Drug Administration is planning new steps to encourage the development of nonaddictive alternatives to opioid pain medications, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview. As part of the effort, the agency plans to withdraw its existing 2014 guidance to the drug industry on pain medicines. That document is overly broad, Gottlieb said, and is sometimes a barrier to new products and innovations. The current guidelines call for a large number of studies to get FDA approval for general use for chronic pain, he added. Via Washington Post.

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Experts Eliminate Age Limit for Kids in Rear-Facing Car Seats

The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend rear-facing seats for children until at least age 2. Now, the organization is updating its guidelines and wants parents to keep their children in rear-facing seats until they reach the seat's maximum height and weight limit — even if they're older than 2. Under the new guidelines, most kids would keep using rear-facing seats until they're about 4 years old. Via CBS News.

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New Flu Vaccine Recommendations From AAP

All children aged 6 months and older should receive an injectable influenza vaccine as soon as the vaccines become available, by the end of October, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says in a new policy statement. The recommendations for the 2018-2019 influenza season follow a particularly severe season last year during which 179 children died from influenza-associated illness and thousands of children were hospitalized in the United States. Approximately 80% of the children who died were unvaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Via Medscape.

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Dietary Supplement Could Be Used to Treat Breast Cancer

Mayo Clinic announced it has have found a potential new way to treat breast cancer that involves a dietary supplement. Researchers discovered that cyclocreatine, a dietary supplement used in sports drinks, blocks the growth of HER2 positive breast cancer. Cyclocreatine “effectively targets mitochondrial creatine kinase 1 enzyme and reduces cancer growth without toxicity”, according to a news release. The findings were confirmed in mice that were administered HER2 positive tumors resistant to the commonly used drug, trastuzumab. The Mayo Clinic says future clinical trials will be necessary to determine the effectiveness of cyclocreatine for HER2 positive breast cancer resistant to standard therapies. Via KMSP.

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CDC Issues First Guidelines to Treat Youth Concussions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for the first time on treating children with concussions, saying they will provide doctors with the "tools they need to ensure the best outcomes for their young patients" with mild traumatic brain injury. More than 800,000 children seek treatment for traumatic brain injury every year, according to Dr. Debra Houry, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The issue has become more pressing as youth sports have grown in popularity and because research has shown that repeated blows to the head, such as from playing football or heading a soccer ball, can lead to long-term memory loss, dementia, and other serious health issues. Via CNN.

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The Alzheimer’s Gamble: NIH Tries to Turn Billions in New Funding into Treatment for Deadly Brain Disease

When molecular biologist Darren Baker was winding up his postdoc studying cancer and aging a few years ago at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, he faced dispiritingly low odds of winning a National Cancer Institute grant to launch his own lab. A seemingly unlikely area, however, beckoned: Alzheimer's disease. The U.S. government had begun to ramp up research spending on the neurodegenerative condition, which is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and will afflict an estimated 14 million people in this country by 2050. "There was an incentive to do some exploratory work," Baker recalls. Baker's postdoc studies had focused on cellular senescence, the cellular version of aging, which had not yet been linked to Alzheimer's. But when he gave a drug that kills senescent cells to mice genetically engineered to develop an Alzheimer's-like illness, the animals suffered less memory loss and fewer of the brain changes that are hallmarks of the disease. Last year, those data helped Baker win his first independent National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant—not from NIH's National Cancer Institute, which he once expected to rely on, but from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Bethesda, Maryland. He now has a six-person lab at the Mayo Clinic, working on senescence and Alzheimer's. Via Science.

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Ancient Treatment May Help Fight 'Superbugs'

A certain type of clay appears effective against disease-causing bacteria in wounds, including some that are antibiotic-resistant, researchers say. In some cultures, wet clay or mud is used as a skin treatment or poultice, and the use of mud as medicine stretches far back in human history. "We showed that this reduced iron-bearing clay can kill some strains of bacteria under the laboratory conditions used, including bacteria grown as biofilms, which can be particularly challenging to treat," said study senior author Dr. Robin Patel. She is a clinical microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Biofilms, which occur when bacteria develop a film or protective coating that increases their resistance to antibiotics, appear in two-thirds of the infections seen by doctors, the study authors explained in a Mayo Clinic news release. Via HealthDay.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. He leads strategies for corporate communications, public relations, and new media innovations. Andy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2003. Outside of work, Andy can be found running, hiking, snapping photos, and most importantly, spending time with his family.