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First Edition: Nov. 15, 2022


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Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Patients Complain Some Obesity Care Startups Offer Pills, And Not Much Else 

Many Americans turn to the latest big idea to lose weight — fad diets, fitness crazes, dodgy herbs and pills, bariatric surgery, just to name a few. They’re rarely the magic solution people dream of. Now a wave of startups offer access to a new category of drugs coupled with intensive behavioral coaching online. But already concerns are emerging. (Tahir, 11/15)

Medicare Plan Finder Likely Won’t Note New $35 Cap On Out-Of-Pocket Insulin Costs 

A big cut in prescription drug prices for some Medicare beneficiaries kicks in next year, but finding those savings isn’t easy. Congress approved in August a $35 cap on what seniors will pay for insulin as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, along with free vaccines and other Medicare improvements. But the change came too late to add to the Medicare plan finder, the online tool that helps beneficiaries sort through dozens of drug and medical plans for the best bargain. Officials say the problem affects only 2023 plans. (Jaffe, 11/15)

World Population Reaches 8 Billion

Eight billion humans are living on planet Earth — a huge milestone officially projected for and being recognized Tuesday by the U.N. People are living longer, with generally better access to health care, food, clean water and sanitation than in past generations. A smaller share of humans live in extreme poverty. (Kight and Lysik, 11/14)

World Population Hits 8 Billion, UN Says, As Growth Poses More Challenges For The Planet

In a statement, the UN said the figure meant 1 billion people had been added to the global population in just 12 years. “This unprecedented growth is due to the gradual increase in human lifespan owing to improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine. It is also the result of high and persistent levels of fertility in some countries,” the UN statement read. (Subramaniam, 11/15)

How The World Is Changing After Its Population Hit 8 Billion

The slowdown is in large part driven by wealthy countries, where the costly burden of raising a child and falling marriage rates have meant that countries from South Korea to France are facing population declines as not enough babies are born to replace the elderly. Even as governments resort to measures like payouts and better housing loans for families with more kids, the UN sees little sign of that shifting the needle. It projects that in the next three decades, the number of people below 65 in high-income and upper-middle-income countries will decline while the older demographic above that age will grow. (De Wei, 11/15)

USA Today:
Sperm Counts Drop Globally: What’s Impact On Fertility, Men’s Health?

From 1973 to 2000, sperm counts dropped by 1.2% per year, “which is a lot,” said Hagai Levine, who helped lead the research. From 2000 to 2018, the decline was 2.6% per year, “which is an amazing pace.” The United States is part of this larger trend. “In the U.S., due to availability of good data, we have the highest certainty that there is a strong and sustainable decline, but it’s similar globally,” Levine said. (Weintraub, 11/15)

Exclusive: Russian Software Disguised As American Finds Its Way Into U.S. Army, CDC Apps

Thousands of smartphone applications in Apple and Google’s online stores contain computer code developed by a technology company, Pushwoosh, that presents itself as based in the United States, but is actually Russian, Reuters has found. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States’ main agency for fighting major health threats, said it had been deceived into believing Pushwoosh was based in the U.S. capital. After learning about its Russian roots from Reuters, it removed Pushwoosh software from seven public-facing apps, citing security concerns. (Pearson and Taylor, 11/14)

Apple Insider:
Russian Notification Software Found In US Army, CDC Apps 

Pushwoosh provides code and data processing support for software developers to help them send push notifications to users. Its website claims not to collect sensitive information, and an investigation from Reuters found no evidence that Pushwoosh mishandled user data. It’s still a possible security risk for companies that use the code. According to company documents, Pushwoosh is headquartered in Novosibirsk, located in Siberia. But on social media and in U.S. regulatory filings, it presents itself as a U.S. company. (Orr, 11/14)

Biden: Democrats Will Not Have Enough Votes To Codify Roe V. Wade

President Biden said Monday that he does not expect congressional Democrats will have enough votes to pass a bill codifying Roe v. Wade. If Republicans capture a narrow majority in the House, Biden’s pledge to make an abortion rights bill the first piece of post-midterm legislation to send to Congress will go nowhere. (Gonzalez, 11/14)

Lawsuit: Mississippi Abortion Ban Might Not Be Valid Yet

A group of anti-abortion doctors in Mississippi, where state leaders led the charge to overturn Roe v. Wade, say the validity of the state’s law banning most abortions remains uncertain and that further legal action is needed to clarify it and protect them from possible punishment by medical institutions. … The lawsuit argues that when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, it did not resolve a gray area in state law surrounding abortion rights. Attorneys for the doctors cited a 1998 Mississippi Supreme Court opinion called Pro-Choice Mississippi v. Fordice that holds that abortion is a right protected by the Mississippi Constitution. (Goldberg, 11/14)

Kentucky Supreme Court Set To Weigh Statewide Abortion Bans

The future of abortion rights in Kentucky reaches a defining moment Tuesday when the state’s highest court hears arguments over a sweeping abortion ban put in place by the Republican-led legislature. The case before Kentucky’s Supreme Court is the first legal test since voters in Kentucky and three other states signaled their support for abortion rights in last week’s midterm election. Kentuckians rejected a ballot measure that would have denied abortion rights in the state’s Constitution. (Schreiner and Lovan, 11/15)

The Washington Post:
Moderna Says New Booster Increases Protection From Omicron Subvariants

The data is encouraging because it shows that the bivalent booster shots, which were updated to match the BA.4 and BA.5 versions of the omicron variant and began to roll out in September, are providing protection against newer coronavirus variants ahead of a possible winter surge of cases. … The findings, which are not yet peer-reviewed, are similar to results that Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, presented this month about their bivalent coronavirus vaccine booster. (Johnson, 11/14)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Biden Touts ‘Once A Year’ Promise On Vaccines

President Biden on Monday repeated the promise that most Americans will only need to receive an annual booster shot against COVID-19 despite widespread skepticism from infectious disease experts who think waning vaccine efficacy will necessitate more than one dose every 12 months. (Vaziri, Buchmann and Kawahara, 11/14)

Study: COVID-19 Rapid Home Tests Not Highly Sensitive For Omicron

Dutch researchers reveal that the sensitivities of three commonly used rapid antigen tests, when used in asymptomatic people in the Omicron period, were very low and suggest repeat testing after a negative test. … Participants with negative tests also filled out a questionnaire, which showed 54.8% retested in the 10 days following a negative test, with 24.6% testing positive. (11/14)

Study: Few Veterans Used COVID-19 Antivirals, Antibodies 

The frequency of use of these therapies has not been well-described, so the authors of the study used the Veterans Affairs health care system (VA) to examine if and when the therapies were used among COVID-19 positive patients ages 18 and older seen in VA hospitals between Jan 1 and Feb 8, 2022. Among, 111,717 VA enrollees included in the study, … only 4,233 (3.8%) received any pharmacotherapy within the VA or through VA Community Care. (Soucheray, 11/14)

The New York Times:
As The Pandemic Drags On, Americans Struggle For New Balance

Most Americans want to get back to normalcy and are unwilling to let Covid rule their lives any longer, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator, said in an interview. “Those two sets of goals are achievable,” Dr. Jha said, so long as Americans keep getting vaccinated, test when necessary and wear masks in crowded public settings. “We shouldn’t act like it’s 2019,” he added, “but we also should not act like it’s 2020.” (Rabin, 11/14)

The New York Times:
Covid Depression Is Real. Here’s What You Need to Know

The World Health Organization noted this year that anxiety and depression increased by 25 percent across the globe in just the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. And researchers have continued to find more evidence that the coronavirus wreaked havoc on our mental health: In a 2021 study, more than half of American adults reported symptoms of major depressive disorder after a coronavirus infection. The risk of developing these symptoms — as well as other mental health disorders — remains high up to a year after you’ve recovered. (Sheikh, 11/12)

The Wall Street Journal:
How To Prevent Winter Depression With Shorter, Darker Days Approaching

For people dreading the approach of shorter days and fewer hours of sunlight, now is the time to prepare your body to fend off the winter blues. Many of us notice a natural turndown in mood as the brain responds to less daylight in the winter, especially in the northern part of the country, says Kelly Rohan, professor of psychological science at the University of Vermont, who researches seasonal affective disorder. You might have a dip in energy levels, want to sleep more or crave more carbohydrate-heavy foods, she says. (Dizik, 11/14)

Modern Healthcare:
Mental Health Epidemic Creates Emergency Department Backlog

Patients are being held in emergency departments for as long as months as they await psychiatric beds. Many outpatient referral partners have cut back or are struggling with staffing. The patient burden is straining ill-equipped hospitals, taxing already overburdened staff and delaying care. (Kacik and Hudson, 11/14)

The Washington Post:
A Fake Tweet Sparked Panic At Eli Lilly And May Have Cost Twitter Millions

The nine-word tweet was sent Thursday afternoon from an account using the name and logo of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., and it immediately attracted a giant response: “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” … Inside the real Eli Lilly, the fake sparked a panic, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. (Harwell, 11/14)

We Bought These Thirteen Illegal Products In The FDA’s Backyard

The Food and Drug Administration, as the name suggests, is supposed to police the United States’ food and drug supply. But there are still illegal products available for easy purchase at gas stations and convenience stores all over the country — including in the FDA’s own backyard. We know, we bought them. (Florko, 11/15)

Get Ready For A Drug Importation Revival

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul’s shared interest in expanding drug importation could emerge as a populist sequel to Democrats’ drug pricing bill next year — and rekindle friction between the hill, pharma and the Food and Drug Administration. (Bettelheim, 11/15)

Boston Globe:
Why Did A Celebrated Oncologist Hide Her Breast Cancer Diagnosis?

When Barrett Rollins walked into the bathroom of his Beacon Hill home, he was stunned to find his wife lying on the uneven tile floor covered in blood. Rollins and his wife, Jane Weeks, were physicians and researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and lived steps from some of the world’s best hospitals. But Weeks didn’t want medical help. Instead, without looking at her husband, she calmly explained that she was dying. (Bartlett, 11/14)

Brains Of Black Americans Age Faster, Study Finds

The brains of Black adults in the U.S. age more quickly than those of white and Hispanic adults, showing features linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias as early as mid-life, according to a new study. (McFarling, 11/14)

Artificial Light While Asleep Linked To Higher Diabetes Risk

Sleeping in a room exposed to outdoor artificial light at night may increase the risk of developing diabetes, according to a study of nearly 100,000 Chinese adults. People who lived in areas of China with high light pollution at night were about 28% more likely to develop diabetes than people who lived in the least polluted areas, according to the study published Tuesday in the journal Diabetologia. (LaMotte, 11/14)

Skin-To-Skin ‘Kangaroo’ Care Boosts Premature Babies’ Chances – WHO 

Babies born too early or too small should be kept in “skin-to-skin” contact with a caregiver rather than being put in an incubator straight after birth to improve their chances of survival, the World Health Organization said. The new guidelines around “kangaroo mother care” mark a significant shift from current protocols for premature babies and the U.N. health agency’s earlier advice. The guidelines are also particularly pertinent for births in areas with poor access to technology and reliable electricity, the WHO said. (Rigby, 11/15)

The New York Times:
Puberty Blockers Can Help Transgender Youth. Is There A Cost?

There is emerging evidence of potential harm from using blockers, according to reviews of scientific papers and interviews with more than 50 doctors and academic experts around the world. The drugs suppress estrogen and testosterone, hormones that help develop the reproductive system but also affect the bones, the brain and other parts of the body. (Twohey and Jewett, 11/14)

5 Deaths At NYC Nursing Home Blamed On Legionnaires’ Disease 

Five people died of Legionnaires’ disease over the summer at a New York City nursing home that had been cited repeatedly for improper maintenance of the cooling towers where the Legionella bacteria can spread, The New York Times reported. The outbreak at Amsterdam Nursing Home, a 409-bed facility in upper Manhattan, was the city’s worst since 2015 when a cooling tower in the Bronx was blamed for an infection that caused 16 deaths. (11/14)

The Wall Street Journal:
How Meth Worsened The Fentanyl Crisis. ‘We Are In A Different World.’ 

When Jeannette Martinez hugged her grandson on the last night of his life, she could feel his heart pounding. “Rio, are you doing meth?” she asked. The powerful stimulant methamphetamine can cause cardiac strain, and Rio Ryan had complained of chest pains. Also alarming that evening in March: pinholes Ms. Martinez saw between Mr. Ryan’s fingers, where she said the 21-year-old injected drugs. He giggled in response. He died the next morning in his basement bedroom at his grandmother’s house. (Kamp and Campo-Flores, 11/14)

A Guard Stopped A Gunman From Entering A Buffalo Methadone Clinic

On Thursday morning, a man walked into the lobby of the Alba de Vida substance abuse treatment clinic in Buffalo, N.Y., holding an AR-15. He fired one round into the wall before an unnamed security guard forced the man against a wall, took him outside and then pinned him to the ground with the help of another security guard. (Adams, 11/15)

Health Harms Of Mass Shootings Ripple Across Communities

But a growing body of research reveals that the negative effects of mass shootings spread much farther than previously understood, harming the health of local residents who were not touched directly by the violence. Mental health experts say the recognition should prompt authorities to direct more attention and resources toward preventing such events — and helping a broader group of people after they occur. (Ollove, 11/14)

Roberta Flack Has ALS, Now ‘Impossible To Sing,’ Rep Says 

A representative for Roberta Flack announced Monday that the Grammy-winning musician has ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and can no longer sing. The progressive disease “has made it impossible to sing and not easy to speak,” Flack’s manager Suzanne Koga said in a release. “But it will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon.” (11/14)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.


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