KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: For Opioids, The Drug War Misses The Target; In Defense Of Meals On Wheels

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

Chicago Tribune: Opioid Epidemic: Another Drug War Failure
Illicit drug use is an old phenomenon, and Jeff Sessions has an old solution: Take off the gloves. "We have too much of a tolerance for drug use," the attorney general complained to an audience of law enforcement officials Wednesday, promising more aggressive policing. ... in his prepared remarks, Sessions insisted that cannabis is "only slightly less awful" than heroin. Oh, please. The nation is in the midst of an epidemic of overdose deaths involving heroin and other opioids. In 2015, 32,000 Americans died of such overdoses. Compare that with the number of people who died from ingesting an excess of marijuana: zero. (Steve Chapman, 3/17)

RealClear Health: Gottlieb Promises To Accelerate Drug Approvals; Surrogate Endpoints Can Help
President Trump's FDA appointee Scott Gottlieb wants to speed up the drug approval process to give patients quicker access to life-saving drugs. Luckily for him, President Obama gave him the tools he'll need to do so. In the waning days of his presidency, President Obama signed into law the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act. The legislation permits the FDA to approve more drugs based on "surrogate endpoints." This move will speed up the drug approval process and improve millions of Americans' chances of beating cancer. (Sandip Shah and Vidya Ramesh, 3/20)

Morning Consult: Why Drug Importation Is Flawed Policy
With the issue of prescription drug importation being debated on Capitol Hill again, mark me in the skeptical camp. As a matter of safety and practical policymaking, drug importation simply doesn’t work. It is not by happenstance that our country has the world’s safest drug supply. Counterfeit medicines are proliferating around the world and the people who do this are brilliant at making these products look just like the real deal. (Mike Leavitt, 3/20)

The New York Times: The Cost Can Be Debated, But Meals On Wheels Gets Results
Meals on Wheels has been delivering food to older people in the United States since the 1950s. Last year it served 2.4 million people. This week, after President Trump released his budget proposal, a furor erupted over the program’s future and effectiveness. Let’s look at the evidence. (Aaron E. Carroll, 3/17)

Miami Herald: Trump’s Budget Makes The Unkindest Cuts Of All
Sadder still, is that so many of these cuts will do damage to so many of the people he persuaded to vote for him: the low-income, the unemployed, the chronically sick and under-housed. Though the president’s increases for training programs for disabled Americans deserve praise, his cutbacks in job training programs for seniors, perhaps unable to retire, but thrust into the job market; disadvantaged youth — and they don’t all live in inner cities, but in rural areas, too; and the out-of-work are headscratchers. Who’s going to fill all those jobs he’s promised to restore? And independent studies show Meals on Wheels, also on the chopping block, is extremely effective at providing isolated seniors nutrition and socialization. (3/18)

The New York Times: Why Cystic Fibrosis Patients In Canada Outlive Those In The U.S.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder that affects the lungs, pancreas, intestines and other organs. A genetic mutation leads to secretory glands that don’t work well; lungs can get clogged with thick mucus; the pancreas can become plugged up; and the gut can fail to absorb enough nutrients. Cystic fibrosis has no cure. Over the last few decades, though, we have developed medications, diets and treatments for depredations of the disease. Care has improved so much that people with cystic fibrosis are living on average into their 40s in the United States. In Canada, however, they are living into their 50s. (Aaron E. Carroll, 3/20)

The Kansas City Star: Prospect Of Guns In State Mental Hospitals Means It’s Time For Lawmakers To Act
Common sense dictates that Kansas doesn’t want guns in its mental hospitals. But the state is headed precisely in that direction unless lawmakers can rally in the days ahead and agree on exemptions to a gun law passed in 2013. That law gave mental hospitals, other hospitals and the state’s college campuses four years to prepare for the day when firearms would be allowed in their buildings. (3/18)

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