RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 03/16/2016

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CDC Issues Tough Guidelines on Rx Painkillers
Reinberg & Mundell, HD
Hoping to stem an epidemic of drug abuse tied to prescription narcotic painkillers such as Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin, federal officials on Tuesday issued tough new prescribing guidelines to the nation's doctors. The new advisory, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stresses that doctors -- especially primary care physicians -- should try to avoid these addictive "opioid" painkillers whenever possible for patients with most forms of chronic pain.

CDC Guidelines Unlikely to Affect Physicians
Steven Ross Johnson, MH
Physicians trained in the 1960s and 1970s—amid a wave of urban heroin use—were taught to reserve opioids for the most severe forms of pain, such as cancer or end-of-life care. That approach remains accepted. But in the 1990s, some specialists argued that doctors were undertreating common forms of pain that could benefit from opioids, such as backaches and joint pain.

Painkillers Increasingly Given after Low-Risk Surgery
Alice Park, Time
Addiction to painkillers is a growing epidemic in the U.S., fueled in large part by changing ways that doctors are expected to help their patients address pain. In a study published in JAMA, researchers show that the use of painkillers, even after low-risk operations, has increased over the past eight years.

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies believe it’s important to take medications as directed by your doctor for the best health and safety. Learn more.

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Short Seller, Mallinckrodt CEO Go Head to Head
Krysia Lenzo, CNBC
In a heated exchange on Tuesday, Andrew Left, a short seller and founder and executive editor of Citron Research, took on Mallinckrodt's CEO, Mark Trudeau, about the value of his pharmaceutical company and how it differs from Valeant. Left, who called the decline in Valeant back in October, told CNBC's "Fast Money" on Tuesday that Mallinckrodt makes Valeant look like a "choirboy" by comparison.

Valeant Investors Flee a 'Broken Company'
Ed Silverman, Pharmalot
The beleaguered drug maker held a lengthy and much-anticipated briefing on Tuesday for investors, and the news wasn’t pretty — the company cut its 2016 revenues and earnings forecast more than expected and disclosed weakness in areas of its business that caught investors by surprise. Particularly disturbing is the possibility that Valeant is in danger of defaulting on some of its debt.

The Tradeoffs of Medicaid Expansion Waivers
Rachel Sachs, HA Blog
As of this blog post, six states have expanded their Medicaid programs under the auspices of Section 1115 waivers. Each state has customized a slightly different package of changes to the standard Medicaid expansion, and the details of each waiver are particular and complex, but many of the general changes they have sought are common across states.

Republicans Shed Light on Plans for Medicaid
Caitlin Owens, Morn. Cons.
The budget savings bill passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday will probably never become law. Even so, it gives insight as to how Republicans would change Medicaid’s federal financing.

In 7 Words, NFL Does About-Face on CTE
Belson & Schwarz, N.Y. Times
Perhaps no one will remember the setting, a hearing room for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, or the person who asked the question, a member of the House of Representatives from Illinois. But seven words spoken in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington on Monday could profoundly affect the country’s most popular sport.

Study: Vaccine Refusers Helped Spark Outbreaks
Julia Belluz, Vox
Measles and whooping cough, two infectious diseases US public health officials had gotten pretty good at preventing, have made a disturbing comeback in recent years. Why? Many believe the recent outbreaks were closely tied to people who refuse vaccinations for all kinds of reasons. And a new paper in JAMA confirms they're right.

Doctors Ponder Delicate End-of-Life Talks
Phil Galewitz, KHN
Physicians can now bill Medicare $86 for an office-based, end-of-life counseling session with a patient for as long as 30 minutes. Medicare has set no rules on what doctors must discuss during those sessions. Patients can seek guidance on completing advance directives stating if or when they want life support measures such as ventilators and feeding tubes, and how to appoint a family member or friend to make medical decisions on their behalf if they cannot, for instance.

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies believe it’s important to take medications as directed to make sure you get the right dose at the right time. Following doctors’ directions, remembering to take medicines and disposing of them properly are all important for better health and safety. Learn more.

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