Tuesday, December 6, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News Original Stories
Employers Use Patient Assistance Programs to Offset Their Own Costs
Some insurers and employers are tapping into assistance programs meant for individual patients. The concern: Some costly drugs could be harder for patients to access. (Julie Appleby, )
Florida Leaders Misrepresented Research Before Ban on Gender-Affirming Care
The Florida policy backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis relies on one key statistic that many experts question. (Yacob Reyes, PolitiFact, )
Political Cartoon: 'Peeling Off the Layers?'
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Peeling Off the Layers?'" by John Deering.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
Clinical trials:
Patient care is expensive
but makes money, too
– Anonymous
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if we can include your name. Haikus follow the format of 5-7-5 syllables. We give extra brownie points if you link back to a KHN original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KHN or KFF.
Pfizer Seeks Authorization For Under-5 Bivalent Shots — But There's A Twist
The company wants the green light from the FDA to add the vaccination not as a booster but as part of kids' initial series of shots. In other news, Pfizer has countersued Moderna over vaccine patents.
AP: Pfizer Asks FDA To Clear Updated COVID Shot For Kids Under 5 
Pfizer is asking U.S. regulators to authorize its updated COVID-19 vaccine for children under age 5 — not as a booster but part of their initial shots. Children ages 6 months through 4 years already are supposed to get three extra-small doses of the original Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine — each a tenth of the amount adults receive — as their primary series. If the Food and Drug Administration agrees, a dose of Pfizer’s bivalent omicron-targeting vaccine would be substituted for their third shot. (Neergaard, 12/5)
CNN: Pfizer/BioNTech Seek FDA Authorization For Updated Covid-19 Vaccine For Youngest Kids
The vaccine makers announced on Monday that if authorized for emergency use, children in that age group will still receive the original version of the Covid-19 vaccine as their first two doses and then the updated Covid-19 vaccine – formulated to target the coronavirus Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 – as the third dose. (Howard, 12/5)
In related news about covid vaccine development —
NBC News: Myocarditis After Covid Vaccine Low Among Teens, Young Adults, New Study Finds
The incidence of myocarditis and pericarditis after Covid vaccination is low and most patients make a full recovery, a large international study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital found. (Lovelace Jr., 12/5)
In other news about Pfizer —
Reuters: Pfizer, BioNTech Countersue Moderna Over COVID-19 Vaccine Patents 
Pfizer Inc and its German partner, BioNTech SE, fired back at Moderna Inc on Monday in a patent lawsuit over their rival COVID-19 vaccines, seeking dismissal of the lawsuit in Boston federal court and an order that Moderna's patents are invalid and not infringed. (Brittain, 12/5)
AP: Pfizer Announces $750M Expansion Of Western Michigan Plant
Pfizer announced a $750 million project Monday toward expanding capacity at the western Michigan pharmaceutical plant where the company first mass produced its COVID-19 vaccine. Company officials said the project will boost the plant’s manufacturing of sterile injectable medications and could lead to 300 new jobs at the Portage plant near Kalamazoo that now has about 3,000 workers. (12/5)
Outbreaks and Health Threats
Flu Shots Are 'Very Good Match'; Fewer White Children Are Getting Them
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday that this season's flu shot should offer protection against the strains that are currently circulating. Meanwhile, Indiana's largest health system is restricting visitors to curb the spread of flu and RSV.
CBS News: Flu Shots Are A "Very Good Match" To This Season's Strains, CDC Says
"We look in real time as to how well we think the influenza match is to what's circulating. And right now, the good news is that it looks like it is a very good match," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters at a briefing on Monday. (Tin, 12/5)
Bloomberg: Flu Rates Surge Before Holidays As White Kids’ Shots Lag
US health officials are struggling to address flagging influenza vaccination rates among kids that appear slowed primarily by decreases among White children. (John Milton and Baumann, 12/5)
St. Louis Public Radio: Washington University Conducts Clinical Trial For MRNA Flu Shot
Scientists at Washington University are seeking participants for a trial that would test if the same kind of vaccine used for the coronavirus could also work on the flu. If an mRNA vaccine method could work with the flu virus, it could mean scientists could respond to illnesses more quickly, creating more effective vaccines better matched to different viral strains, researchers said. (Fentem, 12/5)
More on the spread of flu, RSV, and strep —
AP: Some Indiana Hospitals Restrict Visitors Over Flu Rates 
The hospitals in Indiana’s largest health system and in its most populous county have begun visitor restrictions because of a rise in reported cases of flu and other respiratory viruses, they announced Monday. The restrictions will go into effect by Tuesday at all IU Health hospitals. They began Monday at all hospitals in Marion County, home to Indianapolis. (12/5)
USA Today: Doctors Warn Flu Season Is 'Fierce' And Is Getting Worse. Here's What To Know
Though the “tripledemic” – COVID-19, RSV and influenza – remains a problem in many places, experts say the flu is beginning to hit the country hard. Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said he has seen the first signs that RSV infections may be stabilizing after an early jump, while COVID-19 is “smoldering.” (Rodriguez, 12/6)
USA Today: Strep Throat Symptoms: What Are The First Signs And How To Treat It?
While the United Kingdom has reported the deaths of six children due to strep A, U.S. health officials on Tuesday said there hasn't been a "notable increase" in streptococcal disease here. Regardless, it's always good to be prepared. Here's everything you should know about strep throat, from symptoms to treatment to spread. (Kaufman, 12/5)
On drug shortages —
CIDRAP: Shortages Of Drugs To Treat Kids' Respiratory Illnesses Troubling Doctors, Parents 
Experts worry that the lack of acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve symptoms could force parents to seek care for their children at urgent-care centers and emergency departments. "It's a huge problem," Kristina Powell, a Virginia pediatrician, told the Washington Post. "Parents run to Walmart or Target, the shelves are empty. … This is going to be a long fall and winter of viral infections." (12/5)
CIDRAP: FDA Leader Wants Pharma Firms To Warn Of Demand Spikes Ahead Of Shortages
A US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official wants pharmaceutical companies to start reporting spikes in demand for drugs in an effort to prevent or ease shortages, Endpoints News reports. In a webinar last week hosted by the nonprofit Alliance for a Stronger FDA, Valerie Jensen, RPh, associate director of the FDA's Drug Shortage Staff, noted increasing quality-related issues and demand for certain drugs over the past decade—but particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She called on drug companies to report demand spikes, although they are currently required only to report supply disruptions. (12/5)
Also —
The Atlantic: The Year Without Germs Changed Kids
In the spring of 2021, Brett Finlay, a microbiologist at the University of British Columbia, offered the world a bold and worrying prediction. “My guess is that five years from now we are going to see a bolus of kids with asthma and obesity,” he told Wired. Those children, he said, would be “the COVID kids”: those born just before or during the height of the crisis, when the coronavirus was everywhere, and we cleaned everything because we didn’t want it to be. (Wu, 12/5)
Covid-19 Crisis
After-Effects Of Prolonged Covid Hospitalizations Linger For Patients
Patients sometimes suffer "harrowing" after-effects of treatments given during extended covid ICU stays, Bloomberg says. Meanwhile, a study of young long covid patients finds that symptoms may evolve over time. Forbes reports on a link between long covid and mast cell disease.
Bloomberg: Covid-19 Survivors Face Extended Health Struggles After Long ICU Stays
For weeks on end, Kellie McCarthy fought the ventilator pushing oxygen rhythmically into her Covid-inflamed lungs with such ferocity that she was given a slew of drugs to tolerate the invasive treatment. (Gale, 12/6)
The New York Times: Covid Care Has Entered A New Stage Of Crisis For The Uninsured 
When Mandy Alderman caught the coronavirus in June for a second time, she hoped her usual primary care physician could prescribe a monoclonal antibody treatment or Paxlovid, the antiviral pill that has been shown to reduce the severity of an infection. But without health insurance, she could not afford a visit. (Weiland and Kliff, 12/6)
In long covid news —
CIDRAP: Long-COVID Symptoms In Teens May Evolve Over Time 
Long-COVID symptoms in adolescents may change over time, finds a study of nearly 5,100 non-hospitalized 11- to 17-year-olds in the United Kingdom published yesterday in The Lancet Regional Health-Europe. … The prevalence of shortness of breath and fatigue in those who reported them at 6 or 12 months appeared to increase at both 6 and 12 months in those who tested positive. But examination of individual questionnaires showed that the prevalence of these two symptoms actually declined at baseline or 6 months. The same pattern was also seen in participants who tested negative. (Van Beusekom, 12/5)
Forbes: What Do ADHD, Long Covid And Ehler’s Danlos Have In Common? Meet The Mast Cell
Mast Cell disease is more prevalent in neurodivergent people, including ADHD. It also cooccurs with Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome and Type II Diabetes. It has a very high overlap with long covid, and around 50% of people treated for long covid with an MCAS protocol found their symptoms improved. (Doyle, 12/3)
MIT Technology Review: A New App Aims To Help The Millions Of People Living With Long Covid 
The new app, called Visible, aims to help people manage that process by collecting data every day in order to understand how their symptoms fluctuate. Users measure their heart rate variability (the variation in time between beats) every morning by placing a finger over the phone’s camera for 60 seconds. This measures the pulse by recording small changes in the color of the user’s skin. (Williams, 12/5)
More on the spread of covid —
Axios: Axios-Ipsos Poll: Few COVID Worries For The Holidays
Americans are entering the holidays for the first time in two years with COVID firmly in the back of their minds, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index. Public behavior on masking, social distancing and other precautions hasn't changed significantly since September, and 7 in 10 believe strongly or somewhat that we're moving to a point where the virus won't disrupt our daily lives. (Bettelheim, 12/6)
Los Angeles Times: Senior Citizens Are Hit Hard As COVID Surges Across State
There has been a troubling spike in coronavirus-positive hospital admissions among seniors in California, rising to levels not seen since the summer Omicron surge. Hospitalizations have roughly tripled for Californians of most age groups since the autumn low. But the jump in seniors in need of hospital care has been particularly dramatic. (Lin II, 12/5)
The Boston Globe: Boston To Set Up 11 Waste Water Testing Sites For COVID-19 Detection
With COVID-19 levels in waste water rising in the region, officials in Boston have partnered with vendors to set up 11 waste water testing sites across the city, the leader of the Boston Public Health Commission said Monday. (Andersen, 12/5)
Bloomberg: NYC’s Pandemic Response Lab To Close As Covid Testing Plummets
New York City’s Pandemic Response Lab, a much-vaunted effort to increase Covid-19 testing capacity at the height of the pandemic, will close at the end of the month and eliminate all 185 jobs. (Korte, 12/5)
San Francisco Chronicle: Black COVID Patients Were Delayed Treatment Because Of One Medical Device. Why Are Doctors Still Using It?
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, East Bay Dr. Stephanie Brown began noticing a startling trend. Many of her Black patients were getting worse, even while their oxygen measurements said the opposite. (Miolene, 12/5)
Billings Gazette: Child Care Providers Worry As Pandemic-Era Rules Go Away
Child care providers around Montana are panicked about the end of pandemic-spurred provisions that gave them stability in payments and helped parents with affordability. Families that use the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship Program to help pay for care are being notified by the state health department about the end of changes to the program that were paid for with federal COVID-19 aid. (Michels, 12/5)
Alabama Agrees To Lift Medicaid 'Sobriety' Rule On Hepatitis C Drugs
The Department of Justice announced that it had settled a dispute over Alabama's Medicaid program restriction that would not pay for Hepatitis C medication for beneficiaries who used alcohol or drugs for six months before and during treatment.
AP: Ala. Medicaid To End Sobriety Mandate On Hepatitis Treatment 
The U.S. Department of Justice said Monday that it has entered into a settlement agreement with Alabama’s Medicaid program to end a sobriety requirement for treatment of people with Hepatitis C. Federal officials said Alabama agreed to end a a “blanket sobriety restriction” that refused to pay for antiviral treatment for Hepatitis C if the Medicaid patient had used drugs or alcohol six months before or during treatment. (12/5)
In other Medicaid news —
Modern Healthcare: Medicaid DHS Payment 'Slippage' Saps Safety-Net Hospitals: Study
Nearly a third of Medicaid disproportionate-share hospital payments in 2015—the latest data available—went to hospitals that provided less uncompensated care than the median level in their respective states, according to an analysis of DSH payment data from 2011 to 2015 published Monday in the peer-reviewed Heath Affairs journal. Uncompensated care is the sum of patients’ outstanding bills known as bad debt and charity care. (Kacik, 12/5)
Missouri Independent: Republican Senator Files Bill To Address State’s High Maternal Mortality 
In May, a bipartisan proposal to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for low-income women in Missouri to a full year after they’ve given birth was close to gaining approval from the state legislature. But as the legislative session came to a close, the bill became collateral damage in the Republican Party’s bitter infighting, between the seven-member conservative caucus and the 17 Republicans generally aligned with leadership. (Rivas, 12/5)
WABE: Medicaid Members Face Losing Continuous Coverage As States Prep For End Of COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
The state is preparing for the anticipated end to the federal government’s COVID-19 public health emergency that’s extended Medicaid programs during the pandemic. This means Georgia Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids members are required to update their contact information in the system and prepare to recertify.  (Mador, 12/5)
Mississippi Today: Fact Check: Feds Not Slated To End Medicaid Expansion Funding
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney recently told members of the media he supports the expansion of Medicaid, but that the program most likely will end in 2025. That statement is inaccurate. (Harrison, 12/5)
In related news about Social Security disability benefits —
The Washington Post: Social Security Disability Benefit Offices Reach Breaking Point With Huge Claim Backlogs 
The Disability Determination Division in Austin was at a breaking point. Inside its vast two-story warehouse, close to 130,000 claims were awaiting review by the state employees who help decide whether Texans will get disability benefits from the Social Security Administration — a backlog that would take at least a year to clear. Nearly 40 percent of the examiners had quit since January, driven out by crushing workloads and low wages that could not compete in the high-tech boomtown. Those who stayed toiled in long rows of cubicles or at home reviewing massive medical files. (Rein, 12/5)
Health Industry
Some Urgent Care Facilities Requiring Appointments Amid Surge Of Illnesses
Long wait times in ERs and urgent cares have put a strain on facilities and are leading some potential patients to just give up. Other industry news is from UMass Memorial Medical Center, Boone Memorial Hospital in West Virginia, and elsewhere.
Des Moines Register: Appointments Needed At UnityPoint Urgent, Express Care Following Surge
An early and unusually high surge of respiratory illnesses is packing waiting rooms with sick patients at local emergency rooms and urgent cares, resulting in long wait times and a strain on health care facilities. As a result, UnityPoint Health has implemented a new scheduling process for its urgent cares and express care locations in central Iowa, requiring all patients to reserve a time online rather than walk in for care. (Ramm, 12/5)
WDRB: Louisville-Area Hospitals, Urgent Care Centers Plagued By Long Wait Times 
Patients in the Louisville area are waiting hours to be seen by doctors at area urgent cares centers and hospitals — and some are just giving up. But if you plan ahead, there are some things you can do to save time. (Hayba, 12/2)
In other health care industry updates —
The Boston Globe: Hospitals Are Adding More Beds, While Overall Seeing Fewer Patients
UMass Memorial Medical Center was near a breaking point. On many weekdays in the past year, the Worcester hospital’s occupancy rate hit 100 percent or more. Admitted patients sat in the emergency department for an average of 17 hours waiting for a bed. (Bartlett, 12/5)
Becker's Hospital Review: West Virginia Hospital Evacuates After Bomb Threat
Madison, W.Va.-based Boone Memorial Hospital was evacuated following a bomb threat on the evening of Dec. 4. Staff received the threat via telephone at 9:04 p.m., according to a news release shared on Boone Memorial Health's Facebook page. Law enforcement was contacted and the hospital was evacuated using its "Bomb Threat Emergency Preparedness Procedures."  (Kayser, 12/5)
AP: Private Hospitals Blamed In Mexico For Meningitis Outbreak 
Prosecutors in northern Mexico blamed private hospitals Monday for contaminated anesthetics that caused a meningitis outbreak that has killed 22 people and sickened at least 71. Prosecutors in northern Durango state said they have issued seven arrest warrants against the owners or directors of four private hospitals where the outbreak occurred starting in November. (12/5)
In news about health care personnel —
Modern Healthcare: Blue Shield Of California Lays Off Hundreds 
The nonprofit insurer will lay off 373 employees across several sites by Jan. 25, according to a notice Blue Shield filed with the California Employment Development Department last month. The majority will occur at Blue Shield’s Sacramento-area offices, although the company is also cutting 62 employees from its Oakland headquarters. The layoffs represent a small portion of Blue Shield’s total workforce of 7,800. (Tepper, 12/5)
Modern Healthcare: Kaiser Permanente's Nursing Union Ratifies Contract
Kaiser Permanente and more than 21,000 nurses across Northern California represented by the California Nurses Association ratified a new contract Monday, averting a looming strike. (Kacik, 12/5)
Stat: Journal Re-Examines Paper Co-Authored By Stanford Leader
The journal Cell is opening its own review of research co-authored by Stanford University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, following new allegations about an altered image in a 1999 paper. (Molteni, 12/5)
In pharmaceutical news —
The Boston Globe: A Tweet Draws Attention To A Lawsuit Accusing CVS Of Fundraising Fraud At Checkout. CVS Has Filed A Motion To Dismiss The Suit
In May, a New York resident filed a class-action complaint, accusing CVS of deceptive fundraising in a campaign it held for the American Diabetes Association. Prior to each customer’s transaction, a checkout screen prompts the customer with several options for pre-selected dollar amounts, as well as an opt-out option, allowing donations to the diabetes association. Yet, the plaintiff alleges, CVS did not forward donations to the diabetes association, but instead applied the donations toward a legally binding $10 million obligation CVS made to the diabetes association. (Gagosz, 12/5)
KHN: Employers Use Patient Assistance Programs To Offset Their Own Costs 
Anna Sutton was shocked when she received a letter from her husband’s job-based health plan stating that Humira, an expensive drug used to treat her daughter’s juvenile arthritis, was now on a long list of medications considered “nonessential benefits.” The July 2021 letter said the family could either participate in a new effort overseen by a company called SaveOnSP and get the drug free of charge or be saddled with a monthly copayment that could top $1,000. (Appleby, 12/6)
Cancer Research
NIH To Finally Review Tactic For Lowering Cancer Drug Price
Stat, reporting on the news, says it's taken a year between a petition to the National Institutes of Health on the patent-sidestepping tactic and the start of the review process. A lung cancer drug from Mirati, cancer surgeons saying "got it all," and cases of silicosis are also in the news.
Stat: NIH Reviewing Request To Lower Cancer Drug Cost By Sidestepping Patents
One year after being asked to widen access to a pricey cancer treatment by using a controversial provision of federal law, the National Institutes of Health is only now preparing to review and assess the request. And the delay is raising fresh doubts that the Biden administration will use this tactic to address the high cost of some medicines, despite being urged to do so by dozens of lawmakers. (Silverman, 12/5)
Stat: Mirati's KRAS-Blocking Lung Cancer Drug Clears Safety Hurdle
Mirati Therapeutics said Monday that its KRAS-targeting cancer drug called adagrasib combined with another immunotherapy was well-tolerated by patients with lung cancer — avoiding the serious liver side effects and treatment discontinuations that have stalled similar efforts by Amgen. (Feuerstein, 12/5)
The Washington Post: Cancer Surgeons Should Avoid These Three Words, Researchers Warn
It’s a common scene: A patient recovering from cancer surgery speaks with their surgeon, who reassures them the procedure went well and that doctors “got it all.” But those three words can sow serious misunderstandings and even medical mistrust, suggest the authors of a recent viewpoint article in JAMA Oncology. (Blakemore, 12/5)
In news about the lung disease silicosis —
Public Health Watch: Ancient Lung Disease Strikes Countertop Cutters In LA
The men are haggard, starved of breath and tethered to oxygen tanks. Neither will live to an old age; without lung transplants, both may die within a year. Juan Gonzalez Morin, 36, and Gustavo Reyes Gonzalez, 32, made a living cutting and grinding engineered-stone countertops, the synthetic slabs that have become popular with consumers. Cheaper and more durable than natural stone, they are composed of crushed quartz bound by a plastic resin. But the cutting of the slabs releases tiny crystalline silica particles that can kill workers who inhale them. (Morris and Rojas, 12/3)
Public Health
Hitting The Gym While High Is A New LA Fad
The Los Angeles Times covers a new "craze" of gyms that offer classes where fitness and cannabis are blended, and says some researchers find the drug has a positive benefit on exercise. Separately, psychedelic therapy may be moving toward being a employer benefit.
Los Angeles Times: Is Working Out While High L.A.'s Next Fitness Craze?
Morgan English was sitting on the fire escape in her Portland State University apartment, smoking weed, when she felt a pull toward a stationary bicycle. So she walked across the street to the gym. For the first time in her life, she said, exercise didn’t feel like punishment. (Mishkin, 12/5)
Stat: Psychedelic Therapy Moving To Next Frontier: Workplace Perk
Acupuncture and chiropractic care weren’t always the common fixtures of employer benefit plans they are today. It took clamoring from workers, the accumulation of evidence, and the slow realization by businesses that those perks would be popular with workers. (Bannow and Goldhill, 12/6)
AP: Minnesota Board: Moorhead-Made THC Gummies Are Too Potent 
The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy on Monday sued a Moorhead-based manufacturer of THC-laced gummies, saying the company’s candies contain far stronger doses of the chemical that gives marijuana its high than state law allows. (12/5)
On the opioid epidemic —
Stat: Congress Has Its Sights Set Too Low On Addiction, Advocates Charge
With just weeks remaining in the current session, Congress appears poised to let Biden’s first two years in office come and go without enacting any significant reforms to the country’s system for preventing and treating addiction — a potential missed opportunity that advocates warn could cost thousands of lives. (Facher, 12/6)
Indianapolis Star: Opioid Settlement: Indiana To Begin Distributing Funds To Localities
State officials will begin distributing millions of dollars to local governments this week as part of a settlement from lawsuits against major drug companies for their roles in the opioid crisis. (Phillips, 12/6)
Lifestyle and Health
Ultra-Processed Foods Linked With Higher Dementia Risk
A new study found that consuming ultra-processed food for more than 20% of a daily diet could drive dementia risks higher, with brain regions linked to executive functioning particularly at risk. Meanwhile, other research shows cash rewards help people lose weight.
Fox News: Consuming Ultra-Processed Foods Could Increase Dementia Risk: Study
People could be at a higher risk for dementia if more than 20% of their daily caloric intake is ultra-processed foods, a new study found. The part of the brain involved in processing information and making decisions, or executive functioning, is particularly impacted by the risk of cognitive decline, according to the study published Monday in JAMA Neurology. (Mion, 12/6)
In other health and wellness news —
NBC News: People Lost More Weight When They Were Offered Cash Incentives
Offering people cash can help them shed excess pounds, a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine finds. Participants who were offered cash incentives for either pounds lost or for completing certain activities were more likely to lose weight compared with those who were simply offered tools, such as diet books, fitness trackers and access to a weight loss program, the study found. (Carroll, 12/5)
Axios: False Holiday Suicide Myth Is Driven By Media, Data Shows
The perception that the suicide rate rises with the holiday season is a myth driven by false media narratives, the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) said in an analysis released Monday. Allowing people to think that suicide is more likely this time of year can have a contagious effect on people who are contemplating taking their lives. (Bettelheim, 12/5)
Fortune: The Best Heart Health Supplements (And What To Skip) 
These days there seems to be a supplement for everything, and your heart is no different. But which ones are actually beneficial, and which ones can you pass on? A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has some answers. (Payton, 12/5)
Reuters: Exclusive: Musk’s Neuralink Faces Federal Probe, Employee Backlash Over Animal Tests 
Elon Musk’s Neuralink, a medical device company, is under federal investigation for potential animal-welfare violations amid internal staff complaints that its animal testing is being rushed, causing needless suffering and deaths, according to documents reviewed by Reuters and sources familiar with the investigation and company operations. (Levy, 12/5)
Stat: Apple, AliveCor Go Head-To-Head Over Smartwatch Heart Monitoring
Two years after it accused Apple of copying its heart monitoring technology and putting it into millions of smartwatches, a small company called AliveCor may soon notch a fresh legal victory. But if you’re going to go to war with Apple, you’d better be ready to fight to the death. (Aguilar, 12/6)
State Watch
Hawaii's New Governor Takes Aim At Tax On Medication
AP reports Gov. Josh Green immediately vowed to eliminate state tax on food and medication, as well as tackle homelessness and housing. Also: Bangor Daily News covers a health insurer with a unique approach; the Boston Globe covers a dental care "revolution"; and more.
AP: Hawaii's New Gov. Green Aims To End Tax On Food, Medication 
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green took the oath of office on Monday and immediately vowed to address homelessness and housing, and ask the Legislature to help eliminate the state’s tax on food and medication. (McAvoy, 12/6)
In other health news from across the U.S. —
Bangor Daily News: A New Health Insurer In Maine Hopes Its Unique Model Will Lower Costs
Freelance bookkeeper Sara Ameigh of South Portland has never liked traditional health insurance. “I felt like I was paying a ton of money, a few hundred dollars a month, and then nothing was covered at all,” she says. “So it was like, what’s the point of it? Why do I even need this?” (Wight, 12/5)
The Boston Globe: Mass. Could Be The Birthplace Of A Dental Revolution. Here’s Why
The battle over Question 2 on November’s ballot essentially began as a showdown between a disgruntled orthodontist and a well-connected dental insurer. By the time Election Day arrived, it had become so much more than that. Maybe even the start of a revolution. (Chesto, 12/5)
The Colorado Sun: Here Are The Prescription Drugs Colorado Wants To Import From Canada
Colorado took another step toward importing lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada on Monday when it submitted a formal application to the federal government for approval of the program. The application for the first time reveals which drugs Colorado hopes to import — 112 of them in all, at an average cost savings of 65% over U.S. retail price. (Ingold, 12/6)
Stateline: More US Counties Lack A Clear Racial Majority (And People Are Getting Along Pretty Well)
Some booming suburbs, many of them in the Sun Belt, are becoming as racially diverse as major coastal cities — and often with less racial conflict. Sixty-nine counties, mostly in the South and West, had clear racial majorities in 2010 but lost them by last year, according to a Stateline analysis of census estimates. Nationwide, there are now 152 such counties where no racial group is more than half the population, up 33% since 2010. (Henderson, 12/5)
KHN: Florida Leaders Misrepresented Research Before Ban On Gender-Affirming Care 
Behind Florida’s decision to block clinical services for transgender adolescents is a talking point — repeated by the state’s governor and top medical authorities — that most cases of gender incongruence fade over time. The Florida Board of Medicine voted Nov. 4 to approve a rule that barred physicians from performing surgical procedures on minors to alter “primary or secondary sexual characteristics” and from prescribing them medication to suppress puberty and hormones. The rule included an exception for patients who were already receiving those treatments. (Reyes, 12/6)
In abortion news —
AP: Minnesota Town Drops Texas-Style Anti-Abortion Lawsuit Plan
A Minnesota town has backed away from a proposal to let people sue abortion providers, including organizations that provide abortion drugs by mail, after the state’s attorney general warned that the plan was unconstitutional. (Karnowski, 12/5)
The 19th: Here’s How States Plan To Limit Abortion — Even Where It Is Already Banned
As statehouses across the country prepare for next year’s legislative sessions — most for the first time since Roe v. Wade was overturned — Republican lawmakers are pushing for further restrictions on reproductive health, even in states where abortion is already banned. (Luthra, 12/5)
AP: Biden's Efforts To Protect Abortion Access Hit Roadblocks
The Biden administration is still actively searching for ways to safeguard abortion access for millions of women, even as it bumps up against a complex web of strict new state laws enacted in the months after the Supreme Court stripped the constitutional right. … In reality, though, the administration is shackled by a ban on federal funding for most abortions, a conservative-leaning Supreme Court inclined to rule against abortion rights and a split Congress unwilling to pass legislation on the matter. (Seitz and Long, 12/6)
Editorials And Opinions
Viewpoints: Children's Health Care Not A Priority; Vaccine Production Must Be More Widespread
Editorial writers weigh in on these public health issues.
Stat: Pediatricians And Parents On The Brink: This Is Their March 2020
In March 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the United States, the nation’s pediatric providers and pediatric units immediately pitched in to treat adults sickened by this then-mysterious and deadly disease. But now that the pediatric community is facing its own March 2020 with the confluence of Covid-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the response from outside this community has been slow. (Sallie Permar and Robert J. Vinci, 12/6)
The New York Times: Countries Need To Make Their Own Vaccines. Why Isn’t The U.S. Embracing This Pandemic Prevention Strategy?
To avoid a repeat of this tragedy, every region of the world must be able to make its own vaccines. Right now, Africa, Latin America and parts of Southeast Asia rely primarily on imported vaccines. (Amy Maxmen, 12/6)
Bloomberg: Who Dealt Best With COVID? The Data Are In.
Whose pandemic strategy really saved lives? Which states or countries lost the most people to the virus? Or to the unintended consequences of mitigation efforts? Now there's finally some clear, objective data emerging from the fog. (Faye Flam, 12/5)
Chicago Tribune: Hemsworth, Jolie Raise Awareness By Sharing Genetic Risks
By sharing his genetic test results, actor Chris Hemsworth is accelerating awareness and acceptance of proactive testing. (Robert C. Green, 12/5)
The CT Mirror: IUDs: An Imperfect Solution To An Impossible Problem
“The kind of pain that I experienced, for the length of time that I did… I would have ripped out my IUD with my teeth if I could have.” Holly Jameson*, a 23-year-old college-aged woman living in Rhode Island, was motivated to get an IUD (intrauterine device) – a method of birth control – as a way to prepare for an unpredictable future after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. (Marley Belanger, 12/5)
Modern Healthcare: Community Health Centers Must Collaborate To Aid Diverse Populations 
Imagine you arrive in a new country and have a medical need, but you don’t speak the local language and don’t know how or where to find care. In recent weeks, thousands of migrants to the United States have found themselves in precisely that situation, after being transported from the southern border to communities across the country. (Linnea Windel, 12/6)
Stat: Modernize FDA's Ability To Regulate Diagnostic Tests, Cosmetics
Congress is considering two measures that modernize tools the Food and Drug Administration uses to oversee two areas of its vast portfolio: diagnostic tests and cosmetics. While the stakes are different for each of these industries, the basic premise driving these measures is the same. (Scott Gottlieb and Mark B. McClellan, 12/5)
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