First Edition: November 10, 2021


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


KHN:
Hormone Blocker Sticker Shock — Again — As Patients Lose Cheaper Drug Option


Sudeep Taksali thought he’d won his battle to avoid a steep price tag on a medicine for his daughter. He was wrong. In 2020, he’d fought to get insurance to cover a lower-priced version of a drug his then-8-year-old needed. She’d been diagnosed with central precocious puberty, a rare condition marked by early onset of sexual development — often years earlier than one’s peers. KHN and NPR wrote about Taksali and his family as part of the Bill of the Month series. (Lupkin, 11/10)


KHN:
How One Health Center Is Leading Chicago On Kid Covid Shots


As the medical assistant put on rubber gloves and readied the syringe, 5-year-old Victoria Macias, wearing a pink Minnie Mouse mask and white blouse, turned her head away and closed her eyes. “It’s not going to hurt, OK? I’ll hold your hand, I’ll hold your hand,” said her older sister, Alondra, 8. “Deep breath, deep breath.” The medical assistant, Rachel Blancas, poked Victoria’s left arm for about a second. Victoria opened her eyes. And with that, the Macias sisters were among the first 5- to 11-year-olds to get the covid-19 vaccine in the Midwest’s largest city. (Bruce, 11/10)


KHN:
Western Boom Cities See Spike In Harmful Ozone


The reduction of harmful ground-level ozone across most of the U.S. over the past several decades has been an air pollution success story. But in some parts of the country, especially in the heavily populated mountain valleys of the West, the odorless, colorless gas has remained stubbornly difficult to reduce to safe levels. Meanwhile, a growing body of research shows that the levels considered safe may still be too high and should be substantially lowered. (Robbins, 11/10)


The New York Times:
Pfizer Asks F.D.A. To Authorize Covid Booster Shots For All Adults


Pfizer and BioNTech asked federal regulators Tuesday to authorize their coronavirus booster shot for those 18 and older, a move that would likely make every adult in America eligible for an extra injection. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant the request, perhaps before Thanksgiving and well ahead of Christmas travel and gatherings. The prospect of all 181 million fully vaccinated adults in the nation having access to extra shots is a turnaround from two months ago, when an expert advisory committee to the F.DA. overwhelmingly recommended against Pfizer-BioNTech’s request to authorize boosters for all adult recipients of that vaccine. (LaFraniere, 11/9)


The Wall Street Journal:
Pfizer, BioNTech Ask FDA To Expand Covid-19 Booster Use To All Adults


Pfizer Inc. PFE -2.13% and partner BioNTech SE BNTX -6.69% asked U.S. health regulators to expand the authorization of their Covid-19 booster to people as young as 18 years old, as the government explores expanding access to extra doses. The application opens the door for authorization of the extra dose potentially before the end of the year, which could provide millions of people with another layer of security as winter drives many indoors where the risk of transmission is higher. (Hopkins and Armour, 11/9)


The New York Times:
Canada Approves Pfizer-BioNTech Boosters For All Adults


Canada’s health agency authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine nationwide on Tuesday, broadening eligibility to anyone over the age of 18, regardless of what vaccine they received initially. Health Canada, the federal department responsible for approving drugs, and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization had previously updated vaccine guidelines in September to recommend booster shots for seniors living in congregate settings and for people with compromised immune systems. (Isai, 11/9)


The New York Times:
Oklahoma Supreme Court Throws Out $465 Million Opioid Ruling Against J.&J.


Oklahoma’s highest court on Tuesday threw out a 2019 ruling that required Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $465 million for its role in the opioid epidemic. It was the second time this month that a court has invalidated a key legal strategy used by plaintiffs in thousands of cases attempting to hold the pharmaceutical industry responsible for the crisis. The Oklahoma Supreme Court, 5-1, rejected the state’s argument that the company violated “public nuisance” laws by aggressively overstating the benefits of its prescription opioid painkillers and downplaying the dangers. (Hoffman, 11/9)


Stat:
Oklahoma Court Overturns $465 Million Opioid Verdict Against J&J


The Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned a $465 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) in a lawsuit alleging the health care giant fueled the opioid crisis through deceptive marketing of painkillers and created a public nuisance. In a 5-to-1 ruling, the court determined that the state’s public nuisance law does not extend to the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of prescription opioids and that a trial judge went too far when held the company liable two years ago. A public nuisance generally refers to an action that damages or interferes with a community. (Silverman, 11/9)


The Washington Post:
Oklahoma Supreme Court Overturns Historic Opioid Ruling Against J&J 


Oklahoma’s highest court reversed a historic ruling against drugmaker Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday, finding a judge incorrectly interpreted public nuisance laws in the nation’s first major trial over the opioid epidemic. The 5-to-1 decision that overturned the $465 million verdict issued by Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman in 2019 is a blow to the argument that companies that marketed, sold and distributed opioids created a public nuisance and should abate some of the damage drugs have caused in communities. Oklahoma communities alleged they were inundated by billions of pills while people were becoming addicted and overdosing. A similar claim is being tested in courts by other communities nationwide that are suing companies, arguing they are in part responsible for the public health crisis that has killed more than 500,000 people in two decades. (Kornfield and Bernstein, 11/9)


The New York Times:
Moderna And U.S. At Odds Over Vaccine Patent Rights


A spokeswoman for Moderna, Colleen Hussey, said the company had “all along recognized the substantial role that the N.I.H. has played in developing Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.” But she said the company was legally bound to exclude the agency from the core application, because “only Moderna’s scientists designed” the vaccine. Scientists familiar with the situation said they saw it as a betrayal by Moderna, which has received $1.4 billion to develop and test its vaccine and another $8.1 billion to provide the country with half a billion doses. John P. Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University, called it a matter of “fairness and morality at the scientific level,” adding, “These two institutions have been working together for four or five years.” (Gay Stolberg and Robbins, 11/9)


The Washington Post:
Moderna Disputes NIH Invention Of Covid Vaccine


Moderna is disputing some claims by the National Institutes of Health that it was behind the invention of the company’s mRNA coronavirus vaccine, raising the stakes in the debate over the government’s ability to exert influence over the availability and price of the vaccine in the future. At the core of the dispute is the contribution of NIH-funded scientists who worked closely with Moderna at the dawn of the pandemic to develop the groundbreaking vaccine. The dispute was revealed in patent applications filed by Moderna that were reviewed by researchers for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. (Rowland, 11/9)


Reuters:
U.S. Government To Buy $1 Billion More Worth Of Merck’s COVID-19 Pill


The U.S. government will buy another $1 billion worth of the COVID-19 pill made by Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the companies said on Tuesday. The government in June agreed to buy 1.7 million courses of molnupiravir for $1.2 billion and is now exercising options to buy 1.4 million more. That brings the total secured courses to 3.1 million and worth $2.2 billion. Merck said the government has the right to buy 2 million more courses as part of the contract. (Mishra, 11/9)


Roll Call:
Lobbyists, Advocates Seek To Revise Budget Bill’s Drug Price Changes


Lobbyists and advocates are pressing for a number of changes to a drug pricing overhaul as the focus on a $1.75 trillion budget bill shifts from the House to the Senate. The lobbyists are angling for tweaks on everything from the time period of drug exclusivity to the tax treatment of rare disease drugs and provisions affecting the pharmacy benefit managers that manage prescription drugs for insurance companies. (Clason and McIntire, 11/10)


AP:
Biden To Continue FEMA Virus Aid For States Until April 1


President Joe Biden is extending the federal government’s 100% reimbursement of COVID-19 emergency response costs to states, tribes and territories through April 1, 2022, the White House is announcing Tuesday. On a conference call Tuesday morning, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients informed governors that Biden is approving the extension of Federal Emergency Management Agency support to help continue FEMA-backed efforts like vaccination clinics and public education campaigns surrounding the shots. (Miller, 11/9)


Politico:
Schumer Scores Billions For New York’s Decaying Public Housing


The stakes are high for the 2 million people who reside in 1.2 million public housing units receiving federal funding, with many living in substandard or even dangerous conditions. The cost of the nationwide need for repairs is $81 billion, according to the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. The $65 billion allocation is 63 percent more money than Biden proposed for public housing in the spring. After Biden released a plan with $40 billion for improvements, Schumer vowed in April that it would be among his “No. 1 priorities” to double that figure and direct money to the New York City Housing Authority. (O’Donnell, 11/10)


The Washington Post:
Thomas Farley, Former Philadelphia Health Commissioner, Joins D.C. Health Department


Former Philadelphia health commissioner Thomas Farley made national headlines in May when he admitted to ordering the cremation and disposal of human remains that belonged to victims of a 1985 police bombing in West Philadelphia years ago, without notifying their surviving family members. Farley was asked to resign. And even though the Philadelphia Inquirer reported afterward that one of Farley’s subordinates had apparently disobeyed his orders in 2017 and preserved the victims’ remains instead, Farley’s admission still outraged members of the Black radical liberation group MOVE, whose headquarters were targeted in the attack some 36 years ago. (Brice-Sadler and Portnoy, 11/10)


The Hill:
DOJ Investigating Alabama Over Wastewater In Majority-Black County


The Justice Department (DOJ) will investigate allegations that the state of Alabama’s wastewater management program discriminates against Black residents of a rural county. In a press call Tuesday morning, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the department’s Civil Rights Division said the department has received allegations that state and county officials have “failed to carry out their responsibilities to abate raw sewage conditions, thereby placing black residents of Lowndes County at higher risk for disease.” Lowndes County, located in the so-called Black Belt, is largely low-income and home to many residents who do not have access to municipal sewer systems. (Budryk, 11/9)


AP:
DOJ Announces Environmental Justice Probe In Alabama County


The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that it has embarked on a historic environmental justice investigation into an impoverished Alabama county’s longstanding wastewater problems, which have left some residents with sewage in their yards. Federal prosecutors in the department’s civil rights division will examine whether state and local health departments have discriminated against Black residents of Lowndes County and have caused them to unjustifiably bear the risk of hookworm infections and other adverse health effects associated with inadequate wastewater treatment, officials said. (Chandler, 11/9)


AP:
Whistleblowers To Play Key Role In Enforcing Vaccine Mandate


To enforce President Joe Biden’s forthcoming COVID-19 mandate, the U.S. Labor Department is going to need a lot of help. Its Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t have nearly enough workplace safety inspectors to do the job. So the government will rely upon a corps of informers to identify violations of the order: Employees who will presumably be concerned enough to turn in their own employers if their co-workers go unvaccinated or fail to undergo weekly tests to show they’re virus-free. (Wiseman, 11/9)


CBS News:
Education Secretary Cardona Says There Should Be “No Need” For Hybrid Or Remote Learning After Kids Are Vaccinated


Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Tuesday that it “wasn’t a mistake” to keep schools closed for as long as they were throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, an issue that has become one of the biggest flashpoints in the U.S. In an interview with “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan, Cardona said that communities have all the tools they need going forward to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and there should be “no need” for remote or hybrid learning. (Peller and Hayes, 11/9)


The Washington Post:
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla Says People Who Spread Vaccine Disinformation Are ‘Criminals’


Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday that people who spread disinformation about coronavirus vaccines are “criminals.” Bourla, in an interview with the Atlantic Council think tank, said a “very small” group has been responsible for spreading vaccine disinformation to the millions who remain hesitant about getting vaccinated. “Those people are criminals,” he said to Atlantic Council CEO Frederick Kempe about 40 minutes into a nearly hour-long interview. “They’re not bad people. They’re criminals because they have literally cost millions of lives.” (Bella, 11/9)


CNN:
Surgeon General On Matthew McConaughey’s Opposition To Vaccine Mandates For Kids: ‘Covid Is Not Harmless In Our Children’ 


US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy stressed Tuesday that parents need to recognize that “Covid is not harmless in our children” after actor Matthew McConaughey said his kids aren’t vaccinated and that he’s against mandating vaccines for children. “Many kids have died. Sadly, hundreds of children — thousands — have been hospitalized, and as a dad of a child who has been hospitalized several years ago for another illness, I would never wish upon any parent they have a child that ends up in the hospital,” Murthy told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront.” (LeBlanc, 11/9)


The Hill:
Newsmax Reporter Permanently Suspended From Twitter After COVID-19 Claims


Newsmax White House correspondent Emerald Robinson has been permanently suspended from Twitter for repeatedly violating the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policy, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday night. The permanent suspension follows a temporary 7-day Twitter suspension Robinson received last week in the wake of false claims she made about the COVID-19 vaccine. Social media users began noticing on Tuesday evening that Robinson’s Twitter account had been shut down, just hours after she had been regranted access to the platform. (Polus, 11/9)


The Hill:
Publishing Company Sues Warren For Criticizing COVID-19 Book


A publishing company is suing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), accusing her of violating the First Amendment after she criticized Amazon’s algorithm for allegedly promoting a book that contains COVID-19 misinformation. Chelsea Green Publishing, Inc., which is behind the book “The Truth About COVID-19: Exposing the Great Reset, Lockdowns, Vaccine Passports, and the New Normal,” filed the lawsuit against Warren in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on Tuesday, according to a statement from the group. (Schnell, 11/9)


AP:
Study: Fox Viewers More Likely To Believe COVID Falsehoods


People who trust Fox News Channel and other media outlets that appeal to conservatives are more likely to believe falsehoods about COVID-19 and vaccines than those who primarily go elsewhere for news, a study has found. While the Kaiser Family Foundation study released this week found the clear ties between news outlets that people trusted and the amount of misinformation they believe, it took no stand on whether those attitudes specifically came from what they saw there. “It may be because the people who are self-selecting these organizations believe (the misinformation) going in,” said Liz Hamel, vice president and director of public opinion and survey research at Kaiser. (Bauder, 11/10)


The New York Times:
N.F.L. Fines Green Bay Packers And Aaron Rodgers For Covid Violations


The N.F.L. has fined the Green Bay Packers $300,000 and two of its players, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard, $14,650 each for failing to follow the Covid-19 protocols agreed on by the league and players’ union. The penalties come about a week after Rodgers tested positive for the coronavirus and his subsequent public statements espousing false and unfounded claims about the Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. Those comments were condemned by public health officials and by some fellow athletes but the league’s decision focused on his compliance with the rules. (Belson, 11/9)


The New York Times:
Saturday’s Cal-U.S.C. Game Has Been Delayed By Covid


The University of California, Berkeley postponed its Saturday football game because of positive coronavirus cases among players, the school announced Tuesday evening. The matchup against the University of Southern California became the first game of the 2021 season at the sport’s top level to be rescheduled because of the virus.Cal will instead host U.S.C. on Dec. 4, the school announced on Twitter. (Easterling, 11/9)


Bloomberg:
Idaho Confirms State’s First Covid-19 Child Death, An Infant


Health officials in Idaho confirmed the state’s first pediatric Covid-19 death — an infant who succumbed in October, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced Tuesday. “To protect the privacy of the child’s grieving family, no further details will be released to the public,” according to the statement, noting about 900 children nationwide have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic erupted. (Del Giudice, 11/9)


Los Angeles Times:
‘Winter Is Coming,’ Newsom Warns, As COVID Threat Persists


Gov. Gavin Newsom turned to a familiar phrase Tuesday to issue a warning about the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic in California. “Winter is coming,” he said during remarks at the California Economic Summit in Monterey. “COVID is not taking the winter off.” Newsom is far from the first official to cast a wary eye on winter’s approach and express concern about what it might mean for the state. California has yet to shake off the last vestiges of the months-long surge of the Delta variant, and there are indications that conditions are heading in the wrong direction in some parts of the state. (Money and Lin II, 11/9)


The Boston Globe:
Jamaica Plain School Shut Down After COVID Outbreak Swells To 46 Cases


A rapidly spreading outbreak of COVID-19 at a Boston school prompted city officials on Tuesday to close the Curley K-8 School for 10 days, marking the first time this school year they have taken such action. On the recommendation of the Boston Public Health Commission, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said she decided to close the 900-student school in Jamaica Plain, as the outbreak swelled over the past week to a total of 46 cases, spreading across multiple classrooms and grade levels. Both staff members and students have tested positive, including some who were vaccinated. (Vaznis, 11/9)


The Washington Post:
Unvaccinated Texans 40 Times More Likely To Die Of Covid Than Those Fully Vaccinated This Year, State Report Shows


A vast majority of Texans who have died of covid-19 since the beginning of the year were unvaccinated, according to a grim new Texas health department report released Monday. The report from the Texas Department of State Health Services examined data from Jan. 15 to Oct. 1 and found that unvaccinated people were much more likely to get infected and die of the coronavirus than those who got their shots. Of the nearly 29,000 covid-linked fatalities in Texas during that period, more than 85 percent were of unvaccinated individuals. Nearly 7 percent of the deaths were among partially vaccinated people, while nearly 8 percent were fully vaccinated. (Firozi, 11/9)


The Hill:
AAA Expecting Thanksgiving Travel Near Pre-Pandemic Levels


AAA said Tuesday it is expecting Thanksgiving travel to near pre-pandemic levels as air travel rebounds from the pandemic shutdowns. AAA expects travel to be up 13 percent from 2020 with 53.4 million people traveling for the holiday. That will put Thanksgiving travel for 2021 within five percent of holiday travel in 2019, before pandemic began. Air travel has almost completely rebounded from 2020 as the U.S. opened the door for international air travel this week for the first time in 18 months. (Lonas, 11/9)


Politico:
Facebook Places New Restrictions On Ad Targeting


Meta, the parent company of Facebook, announced on Tuesday that it would place further limits on ad targeting on its platform, eliminating the ability to target based on users’ interactions with content related to health, race and ethnicity, political affiliation, religion and sexual orientation. The changes will go into effect on Jan. 19, 2022, when it will no longer allow new ads to use those additional targeting tools. The change will be fully implemented by March 17, 2022, at which point ads that were already running using those targets will no longer be allowed. (Schneider, 11/9)


AP:
US Food Banks Struggle To Feed Hungry Amid Surging Prices


U.S. food banks already dealing with increased demand from families sidelined by the pandemic now face a new challenge — surging food prices and supply chain issues walloping the nation. The higher costs and limited availability mean some families may get smaller servings or substitutions for staples such as peanut butter, which costs nearly double what it did a year ago. As holidays approach, some food banks worry they won’t have enough stuffing and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Har, 11/10)


The Washington Post:
Exposure To Extreme Urban Heat Has Tripled Worldwide Since The 1980s, Study Finds


Over the past 40 years, as climate change leaped into global awareness, exposure to extreme heat jumped by close to 200 percent in more than 10,000 of the world’s biggest urban areas, according to a study published in October in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Increases in dangerously high temperature and humidity were responsible for roughly a third of the global boost in exposure, while increased population accounted for the rest. The study adds vivid context to the threats posed by a human-warmed planet, and to the challenges facing delegates at the United Nations climate summit taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. (Henson, 11/9)


CIDRAP:
World Flu Activity Remains Low, But Plenty Of Sporadic Detections


Flu activity across the world remained at lower than expected levels, though sporadic detections and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity continue in many regions, according to an update from the World Health Organization (WHO) that covers the middle 2 weeks of October. Levels are still classified as interseasonal in temperate regions of both hemispheres. In Southern Asia, the pace of flu activity is similar to past seasons, with both influenza A and B circulating. Flu levels in China are still low, with influenza B detections rising in the country’s north while declining in the south. (11/9)


CIDRAP:
Long COVID Symptoms May Have Causes Other Than SARS-CoV-2


A French study finds that, of 20 persistent physical symptoms reported by adults who said they had recovered from COVID-19, only 1 was linked to SARS-CoV-2 infection, as indicated by the presence of antibodies to the virus. The researchers, however, said that the results don’t discount the presence of symptoms but rather underscore the importance of considering all possible causes in addition to COVID-19, such as other diseases, anxiety, or deconditioning related to the pandemic but not the virus itself. (Van Beusekom, 11/9)


CIDRAP:
SARS-CoV-2–Like Coronavirus May Be Widespread In Bats In Southeast Asia


A coronavirus sharing 92.6% of nucleotide identity with SARS-CoV-2 was detected in bats in Cambodia in 2010, according to a new study in Nature Communications, adding to the understanding of natural reservoirs for the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Before this study, the closest genomic relatives to SARS-CoV-2 were identified from horseshoe bats sampled in southern China’s Yunnan province. This is the first study to suggest probable reservoirs outside of China, and the authors said the samples suggest that this viral lineage circulates in a much wider geographic area than previously reported. (11/9)


Reuters:
Biogen Probes Death Of Aduhelm User After Brain Swelling


Biogen Inc (BIIB.O) said on Tuesday it was investigating the death of a 75-year-old patient who had taken the company’s newly approved Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm, adding that it was not yet known whether it was related to the treatment. The drugmaker’s shares were down about 1.2% in afternoon trading. The patient was hospitalized after taking Aduhelm and was diagnosed with swelling in the brain before dying, the company said. (11/9)


Stat:
Psilocybin Trial Finds Psychedelic Is Effective In Treating Depression 


Eagerly awaited results of the largest-ever study of psilocybin were announced Tuesday, with Compass Pathways revealing the psychedelic drug was highly efficacious as a therapy for treatment-resistant depression. Still, the company’s stock price dropped 16.4% by the close of trading, perhaps because of safety concerns among investors. The Phase 2b study is the largest randomized, controlled, double-blind trial of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms. The company said it found that patients who were given the highest dose, 25 milligrams, had a significant decrease in depressive symptoms compared to those given 1 milligram, which is such a low dose it functions as a placebo. (Goldhill, 11/9)


Reuters:
AstraZeneca To Set Up Division For Vaccines And Antibody Therapies


AstraZeneca (AZN.L) is creating a separate division for vaccines and antibody therapies, the drugmaker said on Tuesday, to focus on its COVID-19 shot and coronavirus treatments after a series of setbacks during the pandemic. Reuters reported in July that the Anglo-Swedish company was exploring options for its vaccine business and expected to have greater clarity on the matter by the end of 2021. The new division, which will be led by executive vice-president of Europe and Canada, Iskra Reic, will combine research and development, manufacturing, as well as commercial and medical teams, a company spokesperson said. (Aripaka, 11/9)


Bloomberg:
Clogged Ports Are Pushing Up Costs, Cardinal Health CEO Says


Cardinal Health Inc. is seeing congested ports and pricier commodities drive up the cost of manufacturing and distributing medical supplies such as gloves and syringes.  Container costs spiked ten times and commodity prices doubled from prepandemic levels during the drug distributor’s fiscal-first quarter, which ended Sept. 30, Chief Executive Officer Mike Kaufmann said in an interview Tuesday. International freight posed a major headache, Kaufman said, with the company’s shipping partners reporting packed ports and too few people to work through backlogs. (LaVito, 11/9)


Bloomberg:
Apple Adds Johnson & Johnson CEO to Board in Health Push


Apple Inc. named outgoing Johnson & Johnson Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky to its board, underscoring a push to become a bigger force in health services. Gorsky, 61, will become the ninth member of Apple’s board and the second new director named this year. In January, Apple appointed Monica Lozano, the president of the College Futures Foundation, to its board. Gorsky, who has worked at Johnson & Johnson since 1988, is stepping down from the CEO job in January. He has overseen efforts to innovate in pharmaceuticals, medical devices and consumer health services — experience that could be useful to Cupertino, California-based Apple. (Gurman, 11/9)


Stat:
Journal Editor’s Company Ties Raise Concerns About Conflicts Of Interest


Over the past seven years, a top editor at a medical journal devoted to obesity research received $1.2 million from companies that sold or were developing prescription weight-loss treatments, raising concerns about how potential conflicts of interest among those with especially influential roles in academic publishing are treated. During that time, Obesity associate editor-in-chief Donna Ryan co-authored a paper describing the added benefits of a diabetes treatment sold by a company that paid her the bulk of those fees. The same company paid a communications firm to provide writing assistance. She also co-authored an editorial praising the pricing approach taken by a manufacturer with which she had a financial relationship, although the effectiveness of the diet drug was modest. Unlike the paper, the editorial did not disclose her ties. (Silverman, 11/10)


Stat:
Foundation Stands By Ouster Of Aubrey De Grey After Probe Ends 


Aubrey de Grey, the anti-aging research pioneer who was removed in August as chief scientific officer of the SENS Research Foundation, will not be reinstated to a leadership position following the conclusion of a second independent investigation into additional allegations of sexual misconduct against him. A five-page executive summary of the investigation detailed a handful of incidents that fit a pattern of unprofessional, boundary-crossing behavior previously reported by STAT. Beyond these incidents — and ones described in an initial report made public in September — investigators from the law firm Van Dermyden Makus wrote they did not find evidence that de Grey had engaged in non-consensual sexual contact or communications toward anyone associated with the foundation, including current or former employees. (Molteni, 11/9)


AP:
General Electric To Split Into 3 Public Companies


General Electric, one of the most storied names in U.S. business, will divide itself into three public companies focused on aviation, healthcare and energy. The company, founded in 1892, has refashioned itself in recent years from the sprawling conglomerate created by Jack Welch in the 1980s into a much smaller and more focused entity. It was heavily damaged by the financial crisis. With its announcement Tuesday that it would spin off its healthcare business in early 2023 and its energy segment — including renewable energy, power and digital operations — in early 2024, General Electric may have signaled the end of the conglomerate era. (Chapman, 11/9)


Modern Healthcare:
MedPAC Wades Back Into Outpatient Site-neutral Payments


The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission wants to keep exploring aligned payment for care provided at hospital outpatient departments, ambulatory surgical centers and physician offices in an effort to reduce incentives for healthcare consolidation and make sure beneficiaries aren’t paying more than needed, commissioners said Tuesday. (Goldman, 11/9)


Modern Healthcare:
Vizient Alliance Will Push For Drug Supply Chain Solutions


Vizient is launching a new effort to make sure healthcare providers have adequate access to drug supplies, the company announced Tuesday. The company’s End Drug Shortages Alliance seeks to bring together organizations from all points on the supply chain, from manufacturers to distributors to group purchasing organizations to providers, to resolve longstanding problems with pharmaceutical supplies by sharing information. (Gillespie, 11/9)


Modern Healthcare:
Oak Street Health Under Federal Investigation


The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Chicago-based Oak Street Health for possible violations of the False Claims Act, according to a regulatory filing Monday. The Justice Department requested information from Oak Street on Nov. 1 on its arrangements with third-party marketing agents over the free transportation services the primary care provider offers to its adult Medicare patients, Oak Street said in the filing. (Christ, 11/9)


The Hill:
Kansas State Lawmakers Move To Protect Employees Who Refuse COVID-19 Vaccine


© gettyKansas state lawmakers are pushing to enact legislation that will protect workers who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The state’s Senate president, Ty Masterson (R), urged lawmakers Tuesday to reconvene for a special session before Thanksgiving to consider proposals that will make it easier for workers to use religious exemptions from vaccine mandates, The Associated Press reported. The proposals also push for workers to get unemployment benefits if they’re fired for not getting the shot. (Prieb, 11/9)


Los Angeles Times:
78% Of LAPD At Least Partially Vaccinated; Few Refuse To Sign Mandate Notice


About 78% of Los Angeles police personnel have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccination dose, with 172 LAPD employees receiving their first dose just in the last week, officials said Tuesday. The increase came as police supervisors began hand-delivering notices to unvaccinated LAPD employees informing them that they must start paying for regular COVID-19 testing and be vaccinated by Dec. 18 unless they receive a medical or religious exemption. (Rector, 11/9)


AP:
Colorado Addresses Hospital Staffing Crisis, COVID Boosters


Colorado has reactivated crisis guidelines for staffing at healthcare systems across the state as COVID-19 hospitalizations and infections continue to rise, and state health officials said Tuesday that anyone 18 and older qualifies for a booster shot. “Crisis standards of care” allow hospitals to maximize the care they can provide in their communities with the staff they have available. More than a third of hospitals reporting to the state said they expected a shortage of intensive care beds in the next week, and nearly two in five said they would be short-staffed, The Denver Post reported. On Tuesday afternoon, 1,426 people were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19. (11/10)


AP:
Pennsylvania’s Home Care Program Has Big Problems, Advocates Say


Advocates for people with disabilities gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday to protest what they say is the eroding quality of home care services under Pennsylvania’s new managed care system, problems being accelerated by the pandemic. Part of the problem, they say, is the increased difficulty in getting direct care workers and the need to pay them more through the state’s Medicaid reimbursement system. (11/9)


AP:
Phoenix Children’s Sued After Revealing Unvaccinated Workers


Two Phoenix Children’s Hospital workers are suing after employees with a vaccine-mandate exemption were able to see each other’s email addresses. Hospital administrators sent an email last month with safety protocols to unvaccinated workers but did not put the 368 recipients in the blind carbon copy field. The workers allege the hospital was negligent with their private health information. Their lawyer, Alexander Kolodin, is seeking-class action status. (11/9)


The New York Times:
Frontline Health Workers In England Must Be Vaccinated By April


All frontline health workers in England must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by next spring to keep their jobs, Britain’s health secretary said on Tuesday, a move that employers and trade unions warned could aggravate staff shortages. “We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the N.H.S., protect colleagues in the N.H.S. and, of course, protect the N.H.S. itself,” Sajid Javid, the health secretary, told Parliament, referring to the National Health Service. He added that about 90 percent of the service’s workers had received at least two vaccine doses. (Castle, 11/9)


AP:
Germany Reports Daily High Number Of New Coronavirus Cases


Germany’s national disease control center reported a record-high number of new coronavirus cases Wednesday as one of the country’s top virologists warned that another lockdown would be needed if vaccinations do not quickly accelerate. The 39,676 cases registered by the Robert Koch Institute surpassed the previous daily record of 37,120 new cases reported Friday. The institute said Germany’s infection rate rose to 232.1 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days. (Grieshaber, 11/10)


Reuters:
Japan Reports First Bird Flu Outbreak Of Season, Culling 143,000 Chickens


Japan has detected its first outbreak of bird flu for the 2021 winter season, with confirmation of a case of “highly pathogenic avian influenza” at a poultry farm in the northeast of the country, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday. About 143,000 egg-laying chickens are being exterminated at the farm in Yokote city in Akita Prefecture, the ministry said in a statement on its website, adding that restricted zones up to 10 kms (6.2 miles) from the site have been established. (11/10)


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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