Obama administration extends states’ deadline for insurance exchanges for second time in a week; Senate takes on FDA commissioner about meningitis outbreak and compounding pharmacy regulations; plus, increased antibiotic resistance a growing problem, potentially due in part to unnecessary use. Read these and more public health news stories for Nov. 16th, 2012.
New York Times– States’ deadline extended for insurance exchanges
For the second time in a week, the Obama administration said on Thursday that it was extending the deadline for states to decide whether they will establish and operate online markets where consumers can shop for health insurance under the new health care law. Friday was the original deadline. Now, the White House says, states do not have to decide until the middle of next month.
Politico– Senators grill FDA commissioner on outbreak
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg acknowledged Thursday that the FDA could have acted more decisively against the company implicated in the meningitis outbreak but asked lawmakers to clarify and strengthen the agency’s powers to regulate compounding pharmacies.
BBC– Antibiotic resistance ‘big threat to health’
Resistance to antibiotics is one of the greatest threats to modern health, experts say. The warning from England’s chief medical officer and the Health Protection Agency comes amid reports of growing problems with resistant strains of bugs such as E. coli and gonorrhoea. They said many antibiotics were being used unnecessarily for mild infections, helping to create resistance.
Washington Post– Employers are giving employees the option of choosing their own health insurance plan
For some American workers, picking the right health insurance is becoming more like hunting for the perfect business suit: It takes some shopping around to find a good fit and avoid sticker shock. In a major shift in employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, companies such as Sears Holdings Corp. and Darden Restaurants Inc. are giving employees a fixed amount of money and allowing them to choose their own coverage based on their individual needs.
Kaiser Health News– Feds say nursing homes overbilled Medicare by $1.5 billion
At a time when the nursing home industry is lobbying Congress to avoid cuts in Medicare payments, a federal watchdog agency is reporting that taxpayers overpaid nursing homes $1.5 billion. The study released this week by the inspector general’s office of the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that nursing homes billed about a quarter of claims incorrectly in 2009 – the year it studied.
New York Times– For Alzheimer’s, detection advances outpace treatment options
When Awilda Jimenez started forgetting things last year, her husband, Edwin, felt a shiver of dread. Her mother had developed Alzheimer’s in her 50s. Could his wife, 61, have it, too? He learned there was a new brain scan to diagnose the disease and nervously agreed to get her one, secretly hoping it would lay his fears to rest. In June, his wife became what her doctor says is the first private patient in Arizona to have the test.
Washington Post– States deciding if they’ll help carry out a key component of Obama’s health care overhaul
After two years of political battles and a Supreme Court case, many if not most states are expected to tell the federal government Friday if they’re willing carry out a key part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. At issue is the creation of new health insurance markets, where millions of middle-class households and small businesses will shop for private coverage. The so-called exchanges will open for business Jan. 1, 2014, and most of their customers will be eligible for government subsidies to help pay premiums.
Tulsa World– Oklahoma’s rise in diabetes is highest in nation
Among all states, Oklahoma saw the highest increase in adult diabetes from 1995 to 2010 and nearly one in 10 Oklahomans have the disease, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of diabetes increased by 226.7 percent in the period studied. The median increase in the United States and Puerto Rico was 82.2 percent, according to the report.
U.S. News & World Report– 5 steps would lower preemie rates in richest countries: Study
About 58,000 premature births could be prevented each year if the world’s 39 richest nations implemented five recommended measures to prevent preterm birth, a new study suggests. The study also said that the reduction in premature births would save those countries about $3 billion a year in related medical and economic costs.
Reuters– Pfizer’s once-daily Lyrica trial fails to meet goals
Pfizer Inc said on Friday a late-stage trial of a once-a-day formulation of its drug pregabalin did not significantly reduce the frequency of some types of seizures in patients with epilepsy. The drug, sold under the brand name Lyrica, is currently used to treat epilepsy when given several times a day in combination with other drugs.
The Atlantic– Study: Oxytocin (‘the Love Hormone’) makes men in relationships want to stay away from other women
PROBLEM: Oxytocin — a hormone released by the pituitary gland (notably during both orgasm and childbirth) — is known to affect our behavior. It promotes bonding, sometimes to the extent of making us conformists. Researchers in Germany suspected that a dose of the so-called “love hormone” during a flirtatious encounter with a sexy stranger might cause us to draw in closer, perhaps going so far as to spark a dangerous liaison.
Reuters– Novartis wins EU okay for first meningitis B vaccine
The first vaccine against meningitis B has been recommended for approval in Europe in a boost for its maker Novartis, which has struggled in the vaccines field against larger rivals. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday that its experts had given a green light to Bexsero for the prevention of “MenB”. There is currently no approved vaccine offering broad protection against this particular type of meningitis.
BBC– Growing concerns over ‘in the air’ transmission of Ebola
Canadian scientists have shown that the deadliest form of the ebola virus could be transmitted by air between species. In experiments, they demonstrated that the virus was transmitted from pigs to monkeys without any direct contact between them. The researchers say they believe that limited airborne transmission might be contributing to the spread of the disease in some parts of Africa. They are concerned that pigs might be a natural host for