RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 04/07/2016

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Employers Decry Sutter Health's Tactics, Prices
Chad Terhune, KHN
Sutter Health, long accused of abusing its market power in California, is squaring off against major U.S. employers in a closely watched legal fight over health care competition and high prices. The latest fight has erupted over Sutter’s demand that employers sign an arbitration agreement to resolve disputes. Without it, Sutter says employers must pay sharply higher rates — 95 percent of its full charges — for out-of-network care at its hospitals, surgery centers and clinics.

Why Are So Few Kids Getting the HPV Vaccine?
Michael Ollove, Stateline
Ten years after the federal government approved the first vaccines to combat the cancer-causing human papillomavirus, nine years after those vaccines were recommended for all adolescent girls, and five years after they were recommended for all adolescent boys, less than half of girls and only a fifth of boys are getting immunized.

Senate Advances Medical Cures Bill
Peter Sullivan, The Hill
The panel advanced five bills aimed at speeding up Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of new drugs and devices. The measures will be combined with several other bills to become the Senate’s version of the House-passed 21st Century Cures Act. But a crucial element of the bill still remains to be worked out: new funding for medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which Democrats have made a deal breaker.

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Bezos, Gates Chase Dream of Cancer Blood Test
Caroline Chen, B'berg
An even bigger prize may be on the horizon: a simple-to-administer yet all-encompassing blood test that would screen for every kind of known cancer in the human body even before a person showed or felt any symptoms. Bezos, Gates and others are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to make such a super-screening test a reality. If they’re successful, the market opportunity may reach $200 billion a year in sales, according to the technology’s boosters.

Pfizer, IBM Launch Innovative Research Project
Laura Lorenzetti, Fortune
The “blue sky” approach will use a system of hundreds of off-the-shelf sensors and mobile devices to provide real-time, around-the-clock disease symptom information to researchers and doctors. It will then leverage IBM’s machine learning capabilities to find unique connections between recorded symptoms and other clinical data, such as timing and dosing of medicine.

Pfizer Beats Lawsuits Alleging Zoloft Birth Defects
Jessica Dye, Reuters
A federal judge in Philadelphia dismissed more than 300 lawsuits against Pfizer Inc alleging that its antidepressant Zoloft caused birth defects in children born to women who took the drug while pregnant. The decision late Tuesday from U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said that plaintiffs had not produced enough evidence to show a plausible scientific link between the drug and birth defects, following several previous decisions that excluded testimony from key expert witnesses for plaintiffs.

Drug Addiction Fuels Demand for "Sober Homes"
Carla Johnson, AP
The nation's epidemic of addiction to painkillers and heroin is fueling runaway demand for a once-obscure form of housing known as "sober homes," where recovering addicts live together in a supervised, substance-free setting to ease their transition back to independence. The facilities are rarely run by credentialed professionals and are only lightly regulated - a situation that has prompted at least five states to pass or consider legislation to impose basic rules on how they operate.

Diabetes Has Quadrupled in Just Over 30 Years
Susannah Cullinane, CNN
It's a potentially fatal disease whose risks can in many cases be prevented through lifestyle measures. So why has diabetes seen a massive increase in sufferers? The number of people living with the potentially fatal disease has quadrupled since 1980, to more than 400 million, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Restaurants Cut Calories in Kids' Meals
Randy Dotinga, HealthDay
Popular restaurants have cut calories in children's meals and are offering some healthier side dishes, such as fruits and vegetables, a new study reports. But, the researchers added, while these restaurants appear to be making some progress in providing lower-calorie menu options, the meals are still packed with too much salt and fat.

Junk Food Habits Start in Toddler Years
Ariana Eunjung Cha, Wash. Post
The first few months of a child's life are a glorious — and healthful — time for eating. There are the tentative swallows of soupy cereal grains. The sweet bites of neon-green pureed peas. The smears of earthy carrots. How and when do things go so horribly wrong for so many Americans? Why is it that by the time millions of us are adults, we are subsisting on diets full of saturated fats and processed sugars?

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