The Friday Breeze
Newsletter editor Brianna Labuskes, who reads everything on health care to compile our daily Morning Briefing, offers the best and most provocative stories for the weekend.
From nursing home bullies to do-it-yourself gene editing in teenagers’ garages, this week was a wild — or should we say “royal” in anticipation of a certain big event across the Atlantic — ride in health news. So, buckle up, here’s what you might have missed.
This is the story that you’ll get sick of reading over the next six months, but it’s important because you can bet that the rising health law premiums will play a big role in the midterms. The only question is: Who’s going to win the blame game? As the first glimpse of sky-high rate hikes come out, Democrats are eager to point fingers, but Republicans say their liberal colleagues should “look in the mirror” when it comes to assigning responsibility.
• The Hill: Premium Hikes Reignite the ObamaCare Wars
In a decision that was expected, the Trump administration is resurrecting a Reagan-era policy that would add abortion restrictions to federally funded family planning programs. Abortion advocates say the policy — which they call a domestic “gag order — puts government into the middle of the doctor-patient relationship. But the other side sees it as another victory from an administration that is living up to its campaign promises.
• The Associated Press: Trump to Deny Funds to Clinics That Discuss Abortion
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Pharma remained in the spotlight this week after all the attention from President Donald Trump’s plan to curb high drug costs, announced last Friday. While HHS Secretary Alex Azar is busy adamantly defending that blueprint, the Food and Drug Administration is naming names of companies accused of hindering generics development, in hopes that public shaming can get some bad actors to “end their shenanigans.” Celgene is one of those drugmakers in the hot seat.
• The Associated Press: FDA Names Drugmakers Accused of Blocking Cheaper Generics
• NPR: Celgene’s Patent Fortress Protects Revlimid, Thalomid
And you know how Viagra was a happy accident? Well, researchers want fewer oopsie successes and more that are deliberately planned.
• The Washington Post: Viagra and Many Other Drugs Were Discovered by Chance. Now Science Is Hoping to Change That.
It was a good week to keep an eye on the states. Up in Vermont, the governor signed legislation that could allow the state to import drugs from Canada. HHS still has to approve the policy, though, and since Azar has called the tactic “a gimmick,” there’s no sure bet that it will move forward. The health world’s eyes are also on the state because its experimental plan to control costs is going to come within 1 percent of its financial target. An “impressive” feat, experts say.
• Politico: Vermont Becomes First State to Permit Drug Imports From Canada
• The Associated Press: Eyes Turn to Vermont As It Sees Success With Health System
And Maryland remains on the forefront of innovative thinking to control costs with the approval of its unique all-payer model.
• The Associated Press: Maryland Announces Agreement on All-Payer Health Model
“It’s one of the big demographic mysteries of recent times,” fertility experts say of the nation’s record-low birth rate for the second year in a row. Researchers aren’t sure why the numbers haven’t increased along with the improved economy as would be expected. But some suspect that younger women are putting off having babies as they focus on their careers.
• The New York Times: U.S. Fertility Rate Fell to a Record Low, for a Second Straight Year
And this doctor is pushing the boundaries of what is considered possible in fertility research with “three-parent babies” — sparking talk of sci-fi dystopian worlds. But critics worry there’s no oversight to stop the slide down the slippery slope of tinkering with human life.
• The Washington Post: Fertility Doctor John Zhang Pushes Boundaries in Human Reproduction
In the miscellaneous gotta-read files: An in-depth investigation reveals just how far a center once renowned for its heart transplant program has fallen; a tragic suicide sparks debate over whether colleges should tell parents when students are struggling; what the president’s proposed border wall means for a community burdened by extremely poor health; and a keyless ignition jaw-dropper. People are leaving their cars in the garage — not realizing the motors are still running — and suffering fatal consequences.
• ProPublica: At St. Luke’s in Houston, Patients Suffer As a Renowned Heart Transplant Program Loses Its Luster
• The New York Times: His College Knew of His Despair. His Parents Didn’t, Until It Was Too Late.
• The Wall Street Journal: Youth Suicidal Behavior Is on the Rise, Especially Among Girls
• US News & World Report: A Battle for Community Health in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley
• The New York Times: Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll
Have a great weekend!