KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: GOP’s ‘Tunnel Vision’ On Planned Parenthood; Concerns About Cures Act

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Washington Post: Republicans Look To Punish Planned Parenthood — Without Any Evidence
Fifteen months and nearly $1.6 million later, a Republican-run House panel investigating Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue research ended up where it started: with no evidence of wrongdoing. That has not deterred the Republicans from proposing a political agenda so extreme it should scare not only those who care about women’s health care but also anyone who values science and its contributions. ... To call the committee’s work a report is to give it undue respect. It was drafted in secret with no input from Democrats and released without a public vote. A one-sided tunnel vision has marked the committee since its formation in the aftermath of a controversy over sting videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. The videos since have been completely discredited. (1/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Don’t Thank Big Government For Medical Breakthroughs
Americans who want better treatments for their diseases should be pleased that the lame-duck Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which will promote medical innovation. They should be wary, however, of the $4 billion budget boost that the law gives to the National Institutes of Health. The assumption seems to be that the root of all medical innovation is university research, primarily funded by federal grants. This is mistaken. The private economy, not the government, actually discovers and develops most of the insights and products that advance health. The history of medical progress supports this conclusion. (Tom Stossel, 1/5)

JAMA: New “21st Century Cures” Legislation: Speed And Ease Vs Science
The 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law in December 2016. Praised by its advocates as a means of speeding drug development, the act covers several areas, but the provisions related to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be among the most problematic and potentially important. ... Even though the 21st Century Cures Act does not formally change the basic need for manufacturers to provide evidence of safety and efficacy of their drugs and high-risk medical devices to the FDA, enactment of some of its provisions could harm the drug and device marketplace by encouraging the FDA to emphasize speed over science and rely on less rigorous data for the approval of new products and indications. Ironically, it was the establishment decades ago of FDA standards for demonstration of efficacy and safety that transformed the US pharmaceutical industry from purveyors of uncertain remedies into one of the most successful industries in the world. (Aaron S. Kesselheim and Jerry Avorn, 1/5)

The New York Times: Let Opioid Users Inject In Hospitals
The problems presented by injection drug use are legion, but creative solutions exist. One is the provision of safe drug-use rooms. Cities as far-flung as Vancouver, British Columbia, and Paris and Berlin have opened safe, well-lit rooms where addicts can get clean needles and other equipment without fear of incarceration. In New York State, Ithaca and Manhattan are considering similar initiatives. Such facilities can also connect addicts to needed services like preventive testing, acute care and treatment for addiction. (Tim Lahey, 1/6)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Shenanigans Cause Problems For Prisons, Taxpayers
Attorneys general from nearly every state and across the political spectrum agree that the makers of the drug Suboxone, a widely used treatment that reduces cravings for opiate addicts, violated state and federal antitrust laws. In the process, they have unnecessarily inflated the price of Suboxone and undermined security in prisons all over the country. Most critically, at a time when the nationwide opioid crisis has reached epidemic proportions, they have made it more difficult for patients to access a range of effective treatments. (Ike Brannon, 1/5)

The Washington Post: Reports Cite VA Progress, Despite Contrary Republican Rhetoric
During a period of growing Republican criticism and eagerness for major changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs, officials there might find some solace in two recent independent reviews of an agency that dishonored itself. A Harvard Business School case study, published in November and updated this month, concludes that the team assembled by VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald has “made impressive progress over the past year.” In July, a literature review in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found “the VA often (but not always) performs better than or similarly to other systems of care with regard to the safety and effectiveness of care.” (Joe Davidson, 1/4)

Raleigh News & Observer: Gov. Cooper’s Right On Medicaid Expansion
In declining to expand Medicaid, [North Carolina's] GOP lawmakers gave up tens of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs that would have been created to help run the expansion. And for what? For nothing more than the opportunity to defy President Obama and reject his signature program — no matter the damage it did to the very citizens they represented. Their behavior was nothing short of a disgrace. (1/4)

The New England Journal of Medicine: Intimate Choices, Public Threats — Reproductive And LGBTQ Rights Under A Trump Administration
In the weeks since the election of Donald Trump, many experts have begun assessing the likely implications of his administration in various realms, from immigration and education to financial institutions and international relations. My concerns are decidedly more quotidian, though no less important. I worry about what a Trump presidency will mean for the way we Americans structure our intimate lives — how we decide when and with whom to partner, whether and when to become a parent, how to identify our gender, and whether to come out at work — which directly affects our health and well-being. The freedom to make these decisions has always been contested, but it seems especially contestable in this new political landscape. (Melissa Murray, 1/4)

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