News & Commentary

Briefly Noted March 2017


Frank Diamond

A federal judge has ruled that Mumia Abu-Jamal should be treated with one of the new expensive antiviral medications for hepatitis C if his condition warrants it, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing a police officer in 1982. His death sentence was later reduced to life without parole.

A special hostage negotiating team created by the San Francisco police department seems to be moving in the right direction when it comes to dealing with people in distress from mental health issues, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Officers on the team responded to 80 calls last year, more than triple the number they responded to in 2013. The mental health calls make up the bulk of the team’s activity, in a city where police receive more than 3,000 calls a month regarding someone in an altered mental state, according to the newspaper.

Nursing home residents and their families can be much more engaged in care and discharge plans, thanks to new Medicare and Medicaid regulations, Kaiser Health News reports. The regulations, the first of which went into effect last November, will also give the 1.4 million nursing home residents across the country more variety in meals and snacks, greater review of drug regimens, smoother grievance procedures, better security, and scrutiny of involuntary discharges. Residents can also choose their roommates, a change that may lead to more siblings and same-sex couples living together.

CREs (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), the deadly bacteria that most antibiotics are helpless against, have an unusual ability to transfer to other bacteria the genes that make them antibiotic resistant, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Klebsiella species and E. coli are examples of Enterobacteriaceae that can become carbapenem-resistant. The CDC estimates that there are 600 deaths a year from CRE infections. Researchers examined CREs recovered from patients in three Boston hospitals and a hospital in Irvine, Calif., and discovered “a riot of diversity”.

Mental health and substance abuse programs are no longer just a second thought for employers, according to a survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. The survey found that 93% of North American employers offer some sort of mental health/substance abuse benefits.

Doctors are responding to the opioid addiction crisis by cutting back on prescriptions but not without some serious misgivings, according to the Boston Globe. Examining data by the physician polling company SERMO, the newspaper reports that almost 10% of responding doctors have stopped prescribing the drugs, while more than half have reduced the prescriptions. On the other hand, 36% of physicians said that patients suffering from chronic pain have been harmed by the cutback.

Cigna has jumped into the EpiPen controversy with its decision to require prior authorization for the branded version of the medication, STAT reports. Cigna, which covers about 15 million Americans, is the first major health insurance company to take this stand. Cigna is also requiring prior authorization for Adrenalick, an EpiPen competitor.

There’s been a big push in recent years for veterans to seek health care outside the VA system, but there may be some risk involved in that, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. A retrospective study of data collected in 2010 from national VA outpatient facilities looked at the difference between veterans who received care for dementia in only the VA system (80%) and those who received care both in the system and elsewhere (20%). Dual users had almost double the odds of exposure to potentially unsafe medications than VA-only patients.

Too many hospitals around the world do not follow guidelines to reduce cases of central line–associated bloodstream infections, according to online survey results published in Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control. The online survey was completed by doctors and nurses working in ICUs in 95 countries.

Medical schools must move from a “culture of perfectionism” to one that allows students to learn from mistakes, understand the importance of self-forgiveness, and avoid counterproductive shame, according to Neha Vapiwala, MD, the advisory dean at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Primary care physicians should offer healthy heart and lifestyle counseling to adults, even if their risk of heart disease is low or average, according to draft recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The recommendation applies to people ages 18 or older who are not obese.

Approaching wellness from an ergonomic point of view means addressing how work places can be designed to help with both physical and mental health, according to Employee Health Advisor. Such an approach can bring better results than the usual fare, such as walking competitions.

For the most part, preterm births in a healthy woman are a mystery. But Ohio State researchers believe they have found a clue with findings that point to calciprotein particles in the amniotic fluid as a possible cause.

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