KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Hurricane Reveals Just How Much America Relies On Puerto Rico For Its Pharmaceutical Supply

Officials have a real fear that there will be shortages of drugs for maladies such as childhood leukemia and HIV. The island has become one of the world’s biggest centers for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Meanwhile, the threat of illness lingers with the floodwaters even as medical supplies are dwindling.

The New York Times: Hurricane Damage In Puerto Rico Leads To Fears Of Drug Shortages Nationwide
Federal officials and major drugmakers are scrambling to prevent national shortages of critical drugs for treating cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as medical devices and supplies, that are manufactured at 80 plants in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. Pharmaceuticals and medical devices are the island’s leading exports, and Puerto Rico has become one of the world’s biggest centers for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Its factories make 13 of the world’s top-selling brand-name drugs, from Humira, the rheumatoid arthritis treatment, to Xarelto, a blood thinner used to prevent stroke, according to a report released last year. (Thomas and Kaplan, 10/4)

The Wall Street Journal: In Puerto Rico, Health Concerns Grow Amid Lack Of Clean Water, Medical Care
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans are grappling with growing health concerns due to a lack of reliable access to medical care, supplies and clean water. Maggie Reuteman, a volunteer registered nurse with the Red Cross in Puerto Rico, said some patients on oxygen are rationing their supply, fearing they won’t get more in time. That could lead to respiratory infections like pneumonia, if patients can’t breathe properly and fluid builds up in the lungs, she said. (Hernandez, 10/4)

The Hill: Hurricane Maria Worsens Puerto Rico's Water Woes 
Some 55 percent of Puerto Ricans still don’t have access to drinking water as of Saturday, and concerns are rising over the potential for waterborne illnesses. Prior to the storm, though, the island had the worst rate of drinking water violations of any state or territory, a result of outdated infrastructure, pollution and underinvestment, experts said. "With the hurricane taking out so much of the island's drinking water infrastructure, we're again seeing the very harsh reality of what years of underinvestment and a failure to address this problem can result in,” Adrianna Quintero, the director of partner engagement for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. (Roubein, 10/4)

NBC News: Puerto Rico’s Hospitals Still in Triage Mode, 2 Weeks After Maria
Two weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged this island, doctors and nurses are still in nonstop triage, working furiously to save lives and ease pain while struggling to contend with power outages, hospital evacuations, dwindling supplies and even crime outside their doors. "The hospitals are still in crisis," said Dr. Ubaldo Santiago, director of emergency services for several San Juan hospitals and clinics. "Many are still working on generators. It's tough, and the doctors are giving their maximum." Santiago said he has twice had to evacuate the Hospital San Francisco in San Juan, the capital, because of generator failures. (Silva and Gamboa, 10/4)

In other news —

Health News Florida: Open Enrollment Extension In States Hit By Hurricanes
The federal government is expanding the length of the open enrollment period for Medicare and Obamacare health insurance policies in Florida and other states impacted by disaster. December 31 is now the deadline for people in counties where disasters were declared following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. (Aboraya, 10/4)

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