KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Research On Cutting Edge Drugs Missing One Thing: Minorities

Scientists are trying to fix the imbalance, but many obstacles stand in the way. In other public health news, people are most likely to die between Christmas and New Year's and no one really knows why; a medical mystery is solved; scientists find a new way to identify a concussion; and mumps cases are on the rise.

The New York Times: In Cancer Trials, A Lopsided Shot At Hope For Minorities
Like a man on a flying trapeze, K.T. Jones has leapt from one medical study to another during his 15-year struggle with cancer, and he has no doubt that the experimental treatments he has received have saved his life. ... Mr. Jones is one of many patients who have benefited from lifesaving advances in immunotherapy. But he’s an outlier: He is African-American. As money pours into immunotherapy research and promising results multiply, patients getting the new treatments in studies have been overwhelmingly white. Minority participation in most clinical trials is low, often out of proportion with the groups’ numbers in the general population and their cancer rates. Many researchers acknowledge the imbalance, and say they are trying to correct it. (Grady, 12/23)

The Baltimore Sun: Helping The Lonely And Elderly During The Holidays
As people age, they start to outlive spouses and friends and become more homebound as their bodies slow down. Feelings of loneliness — and the health consequences that come with them — become more common. About 29 percent of people age 65 or older live alone, according to the Administration on Community Living, an agency established in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to encourage housing choice and community support for older Americans and people with disabilities. (McDaniels, 12/22)

The Washington Post: Medical Detectives Raced To Save A Man From A Rare, ‘Universally Lethal’ Disease
The problems started after Erich Burger returned from an unforgettable safari in Botswana and Zambia last month. ... He headed to a community hospital after about a week of fever and chills, thinking he might have malaria given his recent travel to Africa. ... A sharp-eyed hematology technician discovered when she looked in her microscope that he was suffering from a disease so rare in the United States that it has been seen only 40 times in the past 50 years. The disease is one of the few “universally lethal” infections: It always kills unless it is treated, and it kills quickly. (Sun, 12/22)

The Washington Post: A Hearing Test May Be Able To Identify A Concussion
Call it the Telltale Brain. The first objective measurement for concussion may have been identified, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature, Scientific Reports. By measuring the brain’s electrical reactions to speech sounds, researchers at Northwestern University were able to identify children who had suffered a recent concussion with 90 percent accuracy and those who hadn’t with 95 percent accuracy. (Nutt, 12/22)

Kaiser Health News: Mumps Cases Spike, Raising Questions About Need For Vaccine Boosters
Caroline Brown, a sophomore at the University of Missouri, got a fever over Thanksgiving break. Soon it became painful to bite down, and her cheek began to swell. A trip to her physician confirmed it — Caroline had the mumps. “Mumps kind of sounds like this archaic thing,” Brown said. “We get vaccinated for it; it just sounds like something that nobody gets.  So I just didn’t think that it was possible that I would get it. (Smith, 12/23)

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