KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Drug Shortages Prompt Plans For Execution Binge In Ark.; Match Day Games

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

The New York Times: Arkansas’s Rush To Execution
In the space of 10 days in April, Arkansas plans to execute eight men — nearly a quarter of its entire death-row population, and more than a third as many people as were put to death in America in 2016. It would be the fastest spate of executions in any state in more than 40 years. All of the men have sat on Arkansas’s death row for decades. Why the sudden rush to kill them now? The answer is as mundane as it is absurd: The state’s batch of a lethal-injection drug is about to expire. (3/9)

Stat: How Medical Students Game The Residency Match Program
On March 17 at noon, about 18,000 medical students will open envelopes telling them where they will spend the next several years of their lives. It’s residency Match Day... There’s too much at stake: eight years of college and medical school, hundreds of thousands of dollars in education costs, and significant debt. We want to go where we feel our careers will take off. But there’s a personal aspect, too. For me, the difference between two residencies is suddenly living 3,000 miles from my partner. For some medical students, the difference is uprooting spouses and children or keeping them in their jobs and schools. And for others, it’s a calculated risk on cost of living and paying back those five- and six-figure loans. (Kunal Sindhu, 3/8)

Stat: Few People Actually Benefit From 'Breakthrough' Cancer Immunotherapy
Cancer drugs are all too often hailed as miracles, breakthroughs, game-changers, or even cures, even when they are no such thing. We recently reported in JAMA Oncology that these words were used 50 percent of the time to describe drugs not approved by the FDA, and 14 percent of the time to describe drugs that had only worked in mice. The leap from helping a mouse to saving a human is uncertain, long, and overwhelmingly unsuccessful. Even when we do have drugs that work, hype may mislead us about how well they work and how many people they will benefit. (Nathan Gay and Vinay Prasad, 3/8)

Stat: Women Are Leading The Way In HIV Research
To end this pandemic, women are advancing research on the front lines as scientists in laboratories and clinics and as leaders of large, international clinical trial efforts. Women are also making a difference in clinics around the world as participants in clinical trials, volunteering to help us better understand and fight the disease, one person at a time. Women are setting examples, breaking down barriers, and demonstrating the value that inclusivity brings in scientific research. Because of their efforts, more trials will ensure that the unique biology of women is taken into account as new HIV treatment and prevention tools are developed, tested, and ultimately used by both sexes. (Linda-Gail Bekker and Anthony S. Fauci, 3/8)

The Washington Post: Don’t Let Big Marijuana Prioritize Profits Over Public Safety
Last month, White House press secretary Sean Spicer sent shock waves through the nascent — but growing — marijuana industry when he indicated that the Trump administration intends to pursue “greater enforcement” regarding non-medical marijuana. The comments drew quick rebuke from elected officials in several states that have begun experimenting with pot legalization. Certainly, we shouldn’t lock people up for marijuana use or low-level offenses, or revert to a “Reefer Madness”-style war on drugs. But we should also recognize legalization for what it is: the large-scale commercialization and marketing of an addictive — and therefore highly profitable — substance. (Patrick Kennedy and Kevin Sabet, 3/8)

Boston Globe: An Innovative, Practical Solution For Preserving The Health And Well-Being Of The Homeless 
As representatives of the service provider, philanthropic, and policy maker communities working to address homelessness from different angles, we are acutely aware of the human toll that the problem exacts and of its impact on the public purse. We also know that complex problems like homelessness require creative policy solutions that cut across sectors. Fortunately, Massachusetts has had an innovative program in place for more than a decade that specifically targets the high-need, high-utilizing segment of the homeless population consisting of those experiencing chronic homelessness. (Lyndia Downie, Audrey Shelto and Marylou Sudders, 3/9)

WBUR: A Box For Every Baby: Massachusetts Might Help Infant Mortality By Following Finland
For nearly 80 years, the Finnish government has provided new parents with baby boxes -- starter kits for parenthood with clothing, toys, diapers and even a bed — conditional on getting prenatal care. The cardboard box features a firm mattress and serves as a safe place to sleep. Last month, New Jersey became the first state in the United States to launch a statewide baby box program. Massachusetts should launch its own version of baby boxes and give newborns a more equal start in life. (Kate Mitchell, 3/8)

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