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.
FDA Seeks Restrictions on Teens’ Access to Flavored E-Cigarettes and Ban on Menthol Cigarettes
Stopping short of its threatened ban on flavored e-cigarettes, the Food and Drug Administration said that it would allow stores to continue selling the products, but only from closed-off areas that are inaccessible to minors. At the same time, the agency moved to outlaw two traditional tobacco products that disproportionately harm African Americans: menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Via NY Times.
CDC: Suicide Rates Increasing among American Workers
The suicide rate among Americans of working age increased 34% from 2000 to 2016, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Increasing suicide rates in the U.S. are a concerning trend that represent a tragedy for families and communities and impact the American workforce,” said Dr. Debra Houry, director of the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Via The Hill.
Beijing Issues Rare Public Warning on "Serious" Swine Fever Crisis
Chinese authorities have announced strict new measures in an attempt to halt the country's fast-growing African swine fever crisis, which has spread to 18 provinces and led to the culling of more than 200,000 pigs. Days after acknowledging the situation was "serious," the Chinese Agricultural Ministry reported the first outbreak of the disease in the southwestern province of Sichuan in a farm of 40 pigs. The news is especially concerning for officials as Sichuan is the top swine-producing region in China—a country that produces half of the world's pigs with a current population of around 500 million swine. Via CNN.
As Insurers Offer Discounts for Fitness Trackers, Wearers Should Step with Caution
This year, an estimated 6 million workers worldwide will receive wearable fitness trackers as part of a workplace wellness programs. That's up from about 2 million in 2016, according to ABI Research, a market research firm. Many of these voluntary programs offer workers free or discounted wearable trackers and annual financial incentives that range from about $100 to more than $2,000, depending on the company. Via NPR.
Rapid Cure Approved for Sleeping Sickness, a Horrific Illness
The first treatment for sleeping sickness that relies on pills alone was approved by Europe’s drug regulatory agency, paving the way for use in Africa, the last bastion of the horrific disease. With treatment radically simplified, sleeping sickness could become a candidate for elimination, experts said, because there are usually fewer than 2,000 cases in the world each year. Via NY Times.
Startup Offers to Sequence Your Genome Free of Charge, Then Let You Profit from It
A startup genetics company says it's now offering to sequence your entire genome at no cost to you. In fact, you would own the data and may even be able to make money off it. Nebula Genomics, created by the prominent Harvard geneticist George Church and his lab colleagues, seeks to upend the usual way genomic information is owned. Via NPR.
Experts Chase the Cause of a Paralyzing Childhood Disease Spiking This Year
As AFM cases have surged this fall—the third spike since 2014—federal health officials and clinicians across the United States have raced to understand the disease. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new task force to study the condition and come up with fresh leads on what causes it and how to treat it. In the meantime, parents of sick children are growing increasingly frustrated. Competing theories have emerged about what triggers AFM; without clear guidance, doctors are trying several different kinds of treatment. While some children have seen improvement, no treatment has been found to lead reliably to full recovery. Many will need intensive physical therapy for years. Some need a ventilator to help them breathe. Via Washington Post.
How Much Do You Know about the Common Cold?
In Minnesota, we have road construction season (sometimes known as spring and summer) and cold and flu season (aka fall and winter). But how much do we really know about the common cold? It’s common, for one thing. Most adults get two to three colds a year. And while they’re usually just a nuisance for most of us, they can be serious for the very young, the very old, and people with compromised immune systems. Via Star Tribune.
Should Health Care Workers Press Charges against Violent Patients?
Violence from patients is a big problem in U.S. health care. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, health-care and social assistance workers experience violent injuries that require days away from work at four times the rate of workers in the broader private sector. Assaults from patients can be particularly prevalent in high-risk settings, such as psychiatric units and emergency departments. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that psychiatric aides and technicians endure workplace violence at a rate 69 times greater than the national average. In a 2018 poll of more than 3,500 emergency physicians, 47% reported having been physically assaulted at work and 71% said they had witnessed another assault. Via Washington Post.
Side Effects from Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors May Be More Common Than Thought
Immune-related side effects with immune checkpoint inhibitors may be more common than reported in the initial trials that led to their approval, according to a review of claims data. That's not surprising, senior author Elizabeth Cathcart-Rake, M.D., of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, noted in a phone interview with Reuters Health. "Clinical trials are really well-defined studies and follow patients for a finite period of time and have more stringent entrance criteria. So, we do tend to miss some adverse events in trials," she explained. "Clinically, we've been seeing immune-related adverse events pretty commonly. It's still a small risk but I'm not surprised the numbers are a bit higher than originally reported." Via MD Linx.