First Edition: Sept. 13, 2022

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

Medical Coding Creates Barriers To Care For Transgender Patients

Last year, Tim Chevalier received the first of many coverage denials from his insurance company for the hair removal procedure he needed as part of a phalloplasty, the creation of a penis. Electrolysis is a common procedure among transgender people like Chevalier, a software developer in Oakland, California. In some cases, it’s used to remove unwanted hair from the face or body. But it’s also required for a phalloplasty or a vaginoplasty, the creation of a vagina, because all hair must be removed from the tissue that will be relocated during surgery. (Santoro, 9/13)

As State Institutions Close, Families Of Longtime Residents Face Agonizing Choices 

Mike Lee’s way of life has faded away in most of the United States, and it soon will vanish from southwestern Iowa. Lee, 57, has spent 44 years at the Glenwood Resource Center, a state-run institution for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. He has autism and epilepsy, and his parents decided when he was 13 that he needed the structure and constant oversight offered by a large facility. Theirs was a common decision at the time. It no longer is. (Leys, 9/13)

The Washington Post:
Minnesota Faces Largest Private Sector Nurses Strike In U.S. History 

About 15,000 nurses in Minnesota walked off the job Monday to protest understaffing and overwork — marking the largest strike of private-sector nurses in U.S. history. Slated to last three days, the strike spotlights nationwide nursing shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic that often result in patients not receiving adequate care. Tensions remain high between nurses and health-care administrators across the country, and there are signs that work stoppages could spread to other states. (Gurley, 9/12)

Thousands Of Minnesota Nurses Launch 3-Day Strike Over Pay

Scores of nurses began walking the picket line at 7 a.m. outside Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, one of 15 hospitals affected. Clad in the red T-shirts of the Minnesota Nurses Association and carrying signs with such slogans as, “Something has got to give,” several said their chief concern was patient safety. Tracey Dittrich, 50, a registered nurse at the hospital for nearly 24 years, said nurses are tired of “hospital administrators and managers that are telling us to do more.” The hospitals need more nurses and more support staff, and higher pay will help, she said. (Ahmed and Ehlke, 9/13)

Pioneer Press:
MN Nurses Strike For More Pay, Better Staffing; Hospital Officials Say Demands Unrealistic

Hospital leaders have said they cannot afford nurses demands for a 30 percent pay hike and they want to maintain flexibility over staffing levels. They’ve offered roughly 12 percent in wage increases for the next three years. Hospital officials also say they want to address nurses’ concerns about retention and patient safety. The two sides negotiated over the weekend, but so far, there are no new talks expected until next week. (Magan, 9/12)

Biden Signs Order To Boost Biomanufacturing, Compete With China 

President Joe Biden signed an executive order laying out a strategy to bolster domestic biomanufacturing and reduce reliance on China for new medicines, chemicals and other products. Biden signed the order Monday morning before giving a speech in Boston. The White House will also hold a summit Sept. 14 to discuss the initiative and announce new investments in domestic research, development and production capabilities, according to a statement. (Griffin, 9/12)

Biden To Announce New Support For US Biotech Production

The initiative will seek to boost biomanufacturing in pharmaceuticals but also in other industries such as agriculture, plastics and energy. A senior administration official wouldn’t say how much funding will be announced Wednesday. Biomanufacturing processes can program microbes to make specialty chemicals and compounds, the fact sheet said. Biomanufacturing can be used to make alternatives to oil-based chemicals, plastics and textiles. (Rugaber, 9/12)

Biden Hopes Ending Cancer Can Be A ‘National Purpose’ For US

President Joe Biden on Monday urged Americans to come together for a new “national purpose” — his administration’s effort to end cancer “as we know it.” At the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Biden channeled JFK’s famed moonshot speech 60 years ago, likening the space race to his own effort and hoping it, too, would galvanize Americans. “He established a national purpose that could rally the American people and a common cause,” Biden said of Kennedy’s space effort, adding that “we can usher in the same unwillingness to postpone.” (Miller and Johnson, 9/13)

The Wall Street Journal:
New Cancer Drug Beats Chemotherapy In Study 

New data from the first of a new type of cancer drug suggest its benefits and limitations, while leaving room for other candidates seeking to enter the lucrative market. Amgen Inc.’s lung-cancer pill Lumakras beat out a common chemotherapy in a late-stage study, helping patients survive without their tumors getting worse, though it failed to prove that it reduced overall deaths, the company said. (Walker, 9/12)

AstraZeneca Looks To More Than Double New Cancer Drugs By 2030

AstraZeneca Plc is aiming to more than double its portfolio of new cancer drugs by the end of this decade, seeking the top spot in the world’s most lucrative category of medicines. The UK drugmaker has added seven new cancer medicines since 2014, after Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot made a risky bet on an oncology pipeline to revive growth and ward off a hostile takeover from Pfizer Inc. (Kresge and Lyu, 9/12)

The Hill:
FDA Schedules Meeting On OTC Birth Control Pill Application

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has scheduled a joint meeting to discuss pharmaceutical company Perrigo’s application for what could be the first over-the-counter (OTC) daily birth control pill available in the U.S., the company announced Monday. The joint meeting will be held on Nov. 18 with the FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and the Obstetrics, Reproductive, and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee, according to Perrigo. (Choi, 9/12)

Indiana Court Hearing Set After Abortion Ban Takes Effect 

An Indiana judge won’t hear arguments until next week on a lawsuit seeking to block the state’s abortion ban, leaving that new law set to take effect on Thursday. The special judge overseeing the case issued an order Monday setting a court hearing for Sept. 19, which is four days after the ban’s effective date. (Davies, 9/12)

S.Carolina House To Meet After Divergent Senate Abortion Ban 

South Carolina Republican lawmakers will keep trying to enact new abortion restrictions later this month. Speaker Murrell Smith announced Monday that the House will meet on Sept. 27, more than two weeks after the Senate sent back a markedly different proposal from the one passed earlier by the lower chamber. Contentious debates among Republicans over exceptions have emerged in a special session on abortion that convened after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (Pollard, 9/12)

The Hill:
Harris: ‘Probably By Design’ That Attacks On Abortion, Voting And LGBTQ Rights Come From Same ‘Sources’

Vice President Harris on Monday said it was “not by accident, but probably by design” that the same “sources” who threaten abortion rights also work against voting rights and LGBTQ rights. Harris made the remarks at a meeting she convened with civil rights and abortion rights activists. Attendees included Rev. Al Sharpton, Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson and Center for Reproductive Rights CEO Nancy Northup. (Choi, 9/12)

USA Today:
Democratic Women Strive To Channel Abortion Outrage Into Senate Wins

“I was just home for the last couple of weeks and everywhere I went Nevadans approached me about their concerns about the repeal of Roe vs. Wade and that was both women and men, so it is an issue that people who are in Nevada are rightfully concerned about,” Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto told USA TODAY. (Chambers, Wells and Tran, 9/12)

Abortion Clinic Moves Up The Street To Escape Tennessee’s Ban 

he women’s health clinic in Bristol, Tennessee, had a seemingly simple solution to continue providing abortions after its home state banned the procedure this summer: It moved a mile up the road to Bristol, Virginia, where abortion remained legal. But relocating between the twin cities brought a host of challenges. (Borter, 9/12)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Get The New COVID Bivalent Booster Shot By Halloween, White House Urges

In an interview for Andy Slavitt’s “In the Bubble” podcast, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said high-risk individuals should get the new shots right away and everyone else should get it in early fall. “I think it’s really important for people to get it by Halloween,” he said. “Why Halloween? Because three weeks after Halloween is Thanksgiving, and there’s a lot of travel, and you’re seeing family, and you’re seeing friends. And few weeks later, it’s the holidays.” (Fracassa and Vaziri, 9/12)

The Boston Globe:
Boston Children’s Hospital Researchers Find Antibody That Neutralizes All Major Coronavirus Variants In Tests On Mice

Using genetically modified mice, hospital researchers, collaborating with colleagues from Duke University, found the antibody SP1-77, which neutralizes the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and its variants including Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Omicron, the hospital said. SP1-77 “potently neutralized all major SARS-CoV-2 variants through the recently emergent BA.5 variant,” researchers said in the study, which was published in August in the journal Science Immunology. (Finucane, 9/12)

COVID Vaccine May Cut Long-Term Symptoms Up To 80%

COVID-19 patients who had received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine reported 8 of the 10 most common long-COVID symptoms 50% to 80% less often than their unvaccinated counterparts, finds an ongoing Israeli study published in the Nature journal npj Vaccines. (Van Beusekom, 9/12)

The Hill:
These 10 States Still Have COVID Emergency Orders In Place 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Monday that she will end the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency amid falling case numbers and rising criticism. While the COVID-19 pandemic has faded as a major concern for much of the American public, there are still 10 states across the U.S. with emergency orders in place. (Dress, 9/12)

Monkeypox On Campus: Reports Raise Concerns About Fall Semester Spread

When Pennsylvania State University junior Nick Ribaudo got an email last month saying that a fellow student had tested positive for monkeypox, his first thought was, “Oh boy, here we go again.” Several US colleges have confirmed cases of the virus, raising concerns as students return to campus for the fall semester. That’s especially so as many students, like 22-year-old Ribaudo, saw earlier school years cut short or moved online due to Covid-19. (Taylor, 9/12)

Bill Gates: Technological Innovation Would Help Solve Hunger

Bill Gates says the global hunger crisis is so immense that food aid cannot fully address the problem. What’s also needed, Gates argues, are the kinds of innovations in farming technology that he has long funded to try to reverse the crisis documented in a report released Tuesday by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates points, in particular, to a breakthrough he calls “magic seeds,” crops engineered to adapt to climate change and resist agricultural pests. The Gates Foundation on Tuesday also released a map that models how climate change will likely affect growing conditions for crops in various countries to highlight the urgent need for action. (Beaty, 9/13)

Programs To Fight HIV, TB, And Malaria Partially Recover From COVID Punch

Programs to fight HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria in 2021 rebounded from a 2020 drop in key efforts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Fund said today in its latest annual assessment. It said in 2020 that the pandemic had a devastating impact on the fight against the three diseases, which led to the first decline in results in the Global Fund’s 20-year history. (9/12)

GE Healthcare To Be Spun Off In January, Gets New Board

General Electric on Monday set the first week of 2023 to complete the spinoff of its healthcare unit and named a new board for the planned independent company. The new board members of the unit, which will be named GE HealthCare, include its chief executive officer, Peter Arduini, as well as executives from Honeywell International Inc and Amazon Web Services. (9/12)

Gilead Settles Patent Fight With Generic Drugmakers Over HIV Drugs 

Gilead Sciences Inc has settled patent disputes with five drugmakers over proposed generic versions of its blockbuster HIV drugs Descovy and Odefsey and hepatitis B drug Vemlidy, it said Monday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Generic drugmakers Apotex Inc, Lupin Ltd, Cipla Ltd, Macleods Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Hetero Labs Ltd will receive non-exclusive licenses to the patents, allowing them to sell generic versions of the HIV drugs starting in October 2031 and Vemlidy in January 2032, according to the filing. (Brittain, 9/12)

Modern Healthcare:
YouTube Partners With Morehouse, Others On Health Equity Videos

YouTube and Kaiser Family Foundation will provide video training and resources for staff at not-for-profits that support underrepresented and underserved communities. The program is designed to help organizations get health information to a broader audience through YouTube. The program is dubbed THE-IQ, for tackling health equity through information quality. (Kim Cohen, 9/12)

US Support To Go For Mental Health Crisis Teams In Oregon 

Saying that a police response is often an improper solution to mental health crises, Biden administration officials announced Monday financial support for expansion of mobile crisis intervention teams in Oregon. This Pacific Northwest state, which has pioneered the use of unarmed intervention teams, became the first to receive the infusion of aid under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. (Selsky, 9/13)

Class Action Claiming Walgreens Opioid Policy Harms Pain Patients Tossed

A federal judge has dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit accusing pharmacy giant Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc of discriminating against people with disabilities by discouraging pharmacists from filling high dose opioid prescriptions. The decision by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco Friday comes as Walgreens and other pharmacy operators face thousands of lawsuits nationwide accusing them of failing to stop illegal opioid distribution, contributing to an epidemic of addiction that has killed more than half a million people over two decades. (Pierson, 9/12)

5 Doctors Plead Guilty In West Virginia In Pain Pill Scheme 

Five doctors pleaded guilty in a pain pill prescription scheme involving clinics in West Virginia and Virginia, federal prosecutors said Monday. The scheme was tied to the Hope Clinic and involved prescribing oxycodone and other controlled substances that weren’t for legitimate medical purposes from 2010 to 2015. Some prescriptions provided up to seven pills per day, and several Hope locations averaged 65 or more daily customers during a 10-hour workday with only one practitioner working, prosecutors said in a news release. (Raby, 9/12)

USA Today:
Texas Doctor Warmed IV Bags, Causing Cardiac Issues And Death: Board

A Texas physician has been suspended and federal officials are investigating him after multiple patients suffered serious cardiac complications and one died, the Texas Medical Board said. The board found that if Dr. Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr. continues to practice medicine, he’d pose a threat to public health and safety. (Martin, 9/12)

CBS News:
Privacy Concerns Prompt States To Reexamine Storing Newborns’ Heel Blood Tests

Close to 4 million babies are born in the United States every year, and within their first 48 hours nearly all are pricked in the heel so their blood can be tested for dozens of life-threatening genetic and metabolic problems. The heel-stick test is considered such a crucial public health measure that states typically require it and parents aren’t asked for their permission before it’s done. (Andrews, 9/13)

Psychologist: School Shooter Suffered Fetal Alcohol Damage

Attorneys for Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz began building their argument Monday that his birth mother’s alcohol abuse left him with severe behavioral problems that eventually led to his 2018 murder of 17 people at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Paul Connor, a Seattle-area neuropsychologist, said medical records and testimony by prior witnesses show that Brenda Woodard drank and used cocaine throughout much of her pregnancy before Cruz’s birth in 1998. Woodard, a Fort Lauderdale prostitute, gave up the baby immediately after to his adoptive parents, Lynda and Roger Cruz. Woodard died last year. (Spencer, 9/12)

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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