RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 03/29/2016

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Obama Plan Will Broaden Access to Addiction Rx
Alex Wayne, Bloomberg
President Barack Obama will travel to Atlanta today to participate in the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit to discuss the opiate abuse epidemic, a rising issue in U.S. politics that has found its way into the presidential campaign. The Obama administration will also propose today allowing doctors who prescribe medicine to treat opiate addiction to accept as many as 200 patients, twice as many as currently allowed.

Officials, Advocates Push Pill-Tracking Databases
Matthew Perrone, AP
The nation's top health officials are stepping up calls to require doctors to log in to pill-tracking databases before prescribing painkillers and other high-risk drugs. The move is part of a multi-pronged strategy by the Obama administration to tame an epidemic of abuse and death tied to opioid painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin. But physician groups see the proposed requirement to check the databases as overly burdensome, another time-consuming task that takes away from patient care.

Feds to States: Expand Medicaid to Fight Addiction
Sarah Ferris, The Hill
The Obama administration is redoubling its call for holdout states to expand Medicaid amid growing worries nationwide about opioid use and mental health. The Department of Health and Human Services released a report Monday that makes the case for the 19 remaining states — 18 of which are led by Republican governors — to accept the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare to help people fighting addiction and other mental health problems.

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Preserve Medicare Advantage to protect those with chronic conditions who need the quality, coordinated care it provides. Learn more.

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Hackers Shut Down MedStar Health Computers
John Cox, et al., WP
A virus infected the computer network of MedStar Health early Monday morning, forcing the Washington health-care behemoth to shut down its email and vast records database and raising additional concerns about the security of hospitals nationwide. The FBI is investigating the breach, which comes just weeks after similar cyberattacks on at least three other medical institutions in California and Kentucky.

Study Questions Accuracy of Theranos Tests
John Carreyrou, W.S. Journal
A study by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai showed that results for cholesterol tests done by Theranos Inc. differed enough from the two largest laboratory companies in the U.S. that they could throw off doctors’ medical decisions.

The Lessons from Valeant's Fall from Grace
Ed Silverman, Pharmalot
As reversals of fortune go, Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ would be hard to beat. The drug maker became a Wall Street darling by purchasing products and then jacking up prices to new heights. Bankers collected fees on deals, investors profited on a soaring stock price, and Valeant successfully held itself out as a new industry growth model by pooh-poohing investments in research and development. Now, though, the Valeant bubble — and it was a bubble — has popped.

Lawmakers Seek Reduced Prices for Prostate Drug
Susan Kelly, Reuters
A group of lawmakers is calling on the National Institutes of Health and Department of Health and Human Services to step in and reduce the cost of Medivation Inc's and Astellas Pharma Inc's prostate cancer drug Xtandi. In the letter signed by Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), the lawmakers urged NIH to hold a public hearing to consider overriding the patent on Xtandi to make the drug available at a lower price.

Using Mortgages to Fund Expensive Health Care
Michelle Andrews, KHN
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist and Harvard oncologist have a proposal to get highly effective but prohibitively expensive drugs into consumers’ hands: health care installment loans. Writing last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the authors liken drug loans to mortgages, noting that both can enable consumers to buy big-ticket items requiring a hefty up-front payment that they could not otherwise afford. Some consumer advocates and health insurance experts see it differently.

Military Med Chiefs Queasy about New EHR
David Pittman, Politico
The Defense Department’s current electronic medical records system is clunky and inefficient. But at least military doctors know how to use it. When the Pentagon switches to a new EHR starting later this year — at an overall cost of nearly $9 billion — it will force clinicians to act and think differently when they handle patients, and that worries the DoD’s top doctor.

Infant Ear Infections Becoming Less Common
Amy Norton, HealthDay
Painful ear infections remain a scourge of childhood, but fewer American babies are getting them now compared with 20 years ago, new research shows. The study didn't dig into the reasons for the decline. But experts say the credit likely goes to certain childhood vaccines, rising rates of breast-feeding and the drop in Americans' smoking rate.

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Millions are facing new cuts to Medicare Advantage that will undermine chronic care management for those who don’t qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. That means fewer choices and higher costs. Proposed changes to Medicare Advantage should be delayed to find a solution that works for everyone. Learn more.

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