KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Treating Diseases With Electrical Pulses Is Compelling Concept, But Evidence That It Works Is Scant

That isn't stopping companies from trying to strike while the iron's hot, though. In other public health news: opioids in cough medicine, Sept. 11 first responders, obesity, the problems with a sedentary lifestyle, prostate cancer and more.

Stat: Can We Treat Disease With Electrical Pulses? Investors Are Intrigued
The much-hyped field of “electroceuticals” — which involves zapping nerves with tiny electrical pulses to treat disease — got another injection of funds late last month with a $30 million investment round for startup SetPoint Medical. Major medical device companies Medtronic and Boston Scientific kicked in funding, as did several venture funds. Global pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline has also invested in SetPoint. (Piller, 9/12)

Stat: FDA Panel: Risk Of Opioid Use In Kids’ Cough Medicines Outweighs Benefits
A federal advisory committee sent a strong message to the Food and Drug Administration on Monday, declaring nearly unanimously that the risks of using certain opioids in children’s cough medications outweighs the benefits. “We have a disease with a very low risk profile, yet we’re looking at a drug that has a risk of death,” said Dr. Christy Turer, an assistant professor of pediatrics, clinical sciences, and medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern. “That, to me, seems very disproportionate.” (Swetlitz, 9/11)

NPR: Sept. 11 First Responder Still Fights For Care For Others Who Were There
Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, first responders rushed to ground zero in Manhattan, where they braved dangerous conditions to rescue people buried in the rubble, retrieve the remains of the dead and clear the debris. Among them was demolition supervisor John Feal. Feal arrived at ground zero on Sept. 12; just five days later, he was seriously injured when an 8,000-pound piece of steel fell and crushed his foot. (Gross, 9/11)

Stat: Otherwise Healthy Obese People Have Higher Rate Of Cardiovascular Disease
Is obesity always unhealthy? Some studies have tried to answer that question by looking at those who are “fat but fit” — obese but still physically active. A new study takes a different tack: If people are obese but without other cardiovascular risk factors, do they still have a higher rate of things like heart attack and stroke? The answer, in one of the biggest studies yet to weigh in on the question, is yes. Using an electronic health record database of 3.5 million people, researchers at the University of Birmingham in England separated people into categories based on their body mass index (BMI) and whether they had type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, or more than one of those illnesses. (Sheridan, 9/11)

WBUR: Why Men Are Less Likely To Return To A Female Doctor
Men are less likely to return to a new doctor if the doctor is female, according to a new report from athenahealth. Using data from over 2 million visits to primary care doctors, the study found that if the doctor was a woman, men with commercial health insurance would only schedule a return visit about 40 percent of the time. (Chakrabarti, Mitchell and Goldberg, 9/11)

Los Angeles Times: Get Up At Least Once Every 30 Minutes. Failure To Do So May Shorten Your Life, Study Finds
ou can spend a lot of accumulated time on your bottom in the course of a day. Or you can sit for lengthy spells without a break. Both, it turns out, are very bad for you. Whether you’re a heavy sitter or a binge-sitter, racking up prolonged sedentary time increases your risk of early death, according to a study published in Tuesday’s edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine. (Healy, 9/11)

Georgia Health News: Tests For Prostate Cancer Get Stronger Backing
A federal task force five years ago recommended against routine screening for prostate cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said the PSA screening test often suggested that prostate cancer might be present when there was no cancer — a result known as a “false positive.” Such results cause worry and anxiety and can result in follow-up tests and procedures, such as biopsies, that aren’t needed, the task force said. This opposition to routine screening proved controversial, and earlier this year the organization relaxed its position. The new recommendation of the task force said men ages 55 to 69 should decide individually with their doctors whether and when to undergo PSA testing. (Miller, 9/11)

North Carolina Health News: Fighting Antibiotic Resistance, One Prescription At A Time 
Fewer North Carolinians are getting and filling antibiotic prescriptions over the past five years, and according to infectious disease experts, that’s a good thing. Data released last month by the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association showed fewer North Carolina patients filled prescriptions for antibiotics than in any other Southeastern state. Researchers looked at claims submitted by people covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield in almost every state and saw how many people were getting prescriptions for antibiotics. In North Carolina, the number of claims had dropped from 87.4 prescriptions per hundred patients in 2010 to 66.8 prescriptions per hundred patients last year, the second fastest rate of decline in the U.S. (Hoban, 9/11)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com: Citing Brain-Injury Risk, Doctors Say Orthopedic Surgeons Should Not Support Football
Orthopedic surgeons should dissociate themselves from football at all levels of the sport rather than enabling an activity that carries a risk of brain injury, according to an editorial by senior editors of a Philadelphia-based orthopedics journal. No team sponsorships, such as the marketing arrangement that the Rothman Institute and Thomas Jefferson University have with the Eagles. No standing on the sidelines. No performing sports physicals for high school and college players. (Avril, 9/11)

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