KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Declaring War On Alzheimer’s; Market Realities Of The Opioid Epidemic

A collection of public health opinions on health care from around the country.

The Wall Street Journal: The FDA Can Declare War On Alzheimer’s
‘If we had put a war on neurologic diseases at the same time we declared a war on cancer, we probably would not be having this conversation.” Those are the wise words of Janet Woodcock, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, before Congress last month. Dr. Woodcock is correct. While the past two decades have brought breakthrough treatments for cancer, HIV and heart disease, no new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease have been approved in nearly 15 years. (George Vradenburg and Howard Fillit, 4/4)

The Washington Post: When Heroin Kills, The Appeal Grows — And Policing The Drug Becomes Harder
At the retail end of the global heroin trade, local heroin rings repackage pounds of the drug into single-serve doses and push the product to its final destination: the user. From there, the next stop is often a hospital emergency room or a morgue, as an epidemic of heroin-related overdoses and deaths continues its creep across the country. In Virginia, an intensive crackdown on heroin rings has shed new light on the relationship between drug dealer and user, providing insight into why that last link in the heroin trafficking chain has become so deadly. (Courtland Milloy, 4/4)

The Columbus Dispatch: Ending Flood Of Opioids
Gov. John Kasich’s new rules limiting the amount of narcotic painkillers that doctors can prescribe — to seven days’ worth for adults and five days for minors — is a pragmatic approach toward fighting Ohio’s devastating plague of drug addiction and fatal overdoses. We need to do something and fast; Ohio led the nation in 2015 with 3,050 lives lost to opioid overdose deaths. This is an addiction that can happen to anyone: teens, professionals, suburban moms. A person gets injured, gets a painkiller from a well-meaning doctor, then gets addicted. When they can no longer get the drug through legal means, they turn to street drugs, typically cheap and plentiful heroin. Or kids find a stash of unused painkillers in Grandma’s medicine cabinet. (4/5)

NPR: Shortcuts In Drug Testing Can Increase Risk To Patients
We all want breakthroughs in medicine. I've never met someone who doesn't. Even with all the progress we have seen in medicine, millions of people suffer, or have family members who suffer, from diseases that are making their lives worse or threatening their lives. Time means something different to these people. They do not have the luxury of waiting patiently while researchers test new drugs. (Harlan M. Krumholz and Joseph S. Ross, 4/4)

The Des Moines Register: Stop Underfunding Of Mental Health
Jewish scripture tells the story of the people of Israel standing on the edge of the promised land. Before they enter and create a new nation, Moses gives them one final challenge: “I have set before you life and death. … Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19, NRSV). Today, Iowa faces a choice. We can continue to underfund mental health care services, which for too many Iowans will mean death. Or we can have the courage to fix a broken system and give life. (Rev. Dr. Dave Switon and Rev. Travis Stanley, 4/4)

Stat: Should Insurance Cover Cosmetic Surgery?
Should insurance cover breast augmentation, the procedure commonly known as a boob job? Most people would say “no, of course not.” That’s a cosmetic procedure, and health insurance shouldn’t pay for a procedure done to make someone look better. But what if it is part of breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery, or part of gender reassignment surgery for a transgender patient? (Jules Lipoff, 4/4)

The Texas Tribune: A Teen’s Death — And A Failure Of Policy
A Texas teen was killed early Sunday morning in Houston after a van hit her. Nobody wanted that. Nobody intended to put her in a foster care situation she would run from. To try to house her temporarily in a state office building. Or to have her running with a gaggle of kids walking down a Houston street shortly before 3 o’clock on Sunday morning. (Ross Ramsey, 4/5)

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