First Edition: Sept. 21, 2022

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

Formula May Be Right For Infants, But Experts Warn That Toddlers Don’t Need It 

Formulas for toddlers are a burgeoning business in the United States: Sales of the drinks more than doubled in recent years as companies convinced parents that their little ones needed the liquid boost. But many experts warn that these products, designed for children ages 1 to 3, fill no nutritional needs beyond what is available in a typical toddler diet, are subject to less regulation than infant formula, and are expensive. In addition, some parents feed the toddler versions to infants even though they do not meet federal standards for infant formula and may not provide babies with adequate nutrients to sustain their growth. (Szalinski, 9/21)

Genetic Tests Create Treatment Opportunities And Confusion For Breast Cancer Patients 

The past decade has witnessed a rapid expansion of genetic tests, including new instruments to inform patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer about the risk of recurrence and to guide their treatment. But the clinical significance of many of the inherited mutations that can now be identified remains unclear, and experts are torn on when and how to deploy all the new tests available. Patients are sometimes left paying out-of-pocket for exams that are not yet the standard of care, and even the most up-to-date oncologists may be uncertain how to incorporate the flood of new information into what used to be standard treatment protocols. (Andrews, 9/21)

Covid Still Kills, But The Demographics Of Its Victims Are Shifting 

As California settles into a third year of pandemic, covid-19 continues to pose a serious threat of death. But the number of people dying — and the demographics of those falling victim — has shifted notably from the first two years. Given the collective immunity people have garnered through a combination of mass vaccination and protections built from earlier infections, Californians overall were far less likely to die from covid in 2022, when the omicron variant dominated, than during the first two years of the pandemic, when other variants were largely at play, amplifying a national trend. (Reese, 9/21)

The New York Times:
Health Panel Recommends Anxiety Screening For All Adults Under 65

A panel of medical experts on Tuesday recommended for the first time that doctors screen all adult patients under 65 for anxiety, guidance that highlights the extraordinary stress levels that have plagued the United States since the start of the pandemic. The advisory group, called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said the guidance was intended to help prevent mental health disorders from going undetected and untreated for years or even decades. It made a similar recommendation for children and teenagers earlier this year. (Baumgaertner, 9/20)

US Adults Should Get Routine Anxiety Screening, Panel Says 

The recommendations are based on a review that began before the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluating studies showing potential benefits and risks from screening. Given reports of a surge in mental health problems linked with pandemic isolation and stress, the guidance is “very timely,” said Lori Pbert, a task force member and co-author. Pbert is a psychologist-researcher at the University of Massachusetts’ Chan Medical School. The task force said evidence for benefits, including effective treatments, outweighs any risks, which include inaccurate screening results that could lead to unnecessary follow-up care. (Tanner, 9/20)

The Hill:
Nearly 1 In 10 Americans Suffer From Depression, Study Says

A growing number of Americans are struggling with depression and most are not seeking treatment or are undertreated for the mental health disorder, according to a new study. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found almost 1 in 10 Americans reported suffering from depression in 2020, with rates of the mental health disorder higher among adolescents and young adults. (Guzman, 9/20)

The Hill:
VA Finds Veterans Suicides Drop In Past Two Years, But Data May Be Lacking

The average number of veteran suicides per day in the United States has fallen to the lowest it’s been since 2006, according to new Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) data, but those figures might not paint the whole picture.  The VA’s National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, released Monday, found that there were 6,146 veteran suicide deaths in 2020, or about 16.8 a day.  (Mitchell, 9/20)

ABC News:
Internal FDA Report On Infant Formula Crisis Details Shortfalls In Response

An internal review of the Food and Drug Administration’s actions leading up to the infant formula crisis finds a combination of human error, antiquated technology, and poor communication and accountability amongst an already threadbare food workforce all contributed to a perfect storm of problems which exacerbated the supply shortage. The issue was only worsened by the FDA’s lack of a robust mandate to strong-arm industry players’ compliance, the review found. (Pezenik, 9/21)

The Wall Street Journal:
FDA Baby Formula Oversight Is Criticized In Internal Review

Problems ranged from outdated technology at the FDA to limited training on formula among FDA investigators, the report said. It said funding limitations and gaps in the understanding of cronobacter, the type of bacteria that prompted Abbott’s recall, impeded the FDA’s response to this year’s incidents and the agency’s ability to regulate and oversee formula. (Newman, 9/20)

The Hill:
Biden Clarifies COVID Comments: Pandemic ‘Basically Is Not Where It Was’ 

President Biden on Tuesday sought to clarify his comments from days earlier that the coronavirus pandemic “is over,” telling guests at a fundraiser that the COVID-19 situation is not as bad as it was. Biden attended a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in New York City ahead of his speech Wednesday to the United Nations General Assembly. At one point, speaking about efforts on the pandemic, Biden referenced his comments to Scott Pelley of CBS last week in which he said the pandemic was “over.” (Samuels, 9/20)

The Washington Post:
FDA Releasing Millions Of Moderna Boosters As States Warn Of Shortages 

The federal government is releasing millions of Moderna booster shots that were delayed by the Food and Drug Administration as a result of a safety inspection at an Indiana packaging plant, even as states report shortages and encourage people to get Pfizer boosters instead. (Diamond, 9/20)

Where To Get The Moderna Booster Shot? Some US Pharmacies See Shortages

The US government supply of Moderna’s shot is currently limited, causing appointments for the product to vary across the country, a Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. pharmacy spokesperson said in an emailed statement. Meanwhile, CVS Health Corp. says some of its drugstores have used all of the updated shots they received from the government, and the company is trying to get more doses. (Peebles, Langreth and Edney, 9/20)

Supreme Court To Consider New York’s Vaccine Mandate 

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an NYPD detective’s challenge to New York City’s vaccine requirement for municipal workers after all. Last month, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a request by Det. Anthony Marciano to take up his legal challenge — the outcome of which could have significant implications for Mayor Eric Adams’ administration. But Marciano resubmitted the exact same request to conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, and the high court’s press office confirmed Tuesday the case will be deliberated at a conference Oct. 7. (Anuta, 9/20)

NYC Ending Vaccine Mandate For Private Employers On Nov. 1 

New York City will lift its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private-sector employers on Nov. 1, Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday in another sign of the city’s gradual return to pre-pandemic norms. The city began requiring almost all private businesses to ban unvaccinated employees from the workplace in December 2021, just as the Omicron wave began claiming hundreds of lives in the city. It remains the largest place in the U.S. to have made vaccines mandatory as a workplace safety measure. (Matthews, 9/20)

Court Strikes Down School Mask Mandate Ban

The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the governor’s influence over school mask mandates in an opinion issued Tuesday, ruling in favor of doctors and parents who challenged a state law that at one point effectively blocked masking requirements in public schools. (Martinez-Keel, 9/20)

Canada To Drop COVID Vaccine Requirement To Enter Country On Sept 30-Source

Canada’s federal government will likely drop its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for people entering Canada at the end of the month, a government source said on Tuesday. … Canada will also drop random coronavirus testing on the same day, and make it optional to use its ArriveCAN app, where travelers have been required to upload their proof of vaccination, the source said. (9/20)

New York Spent $250M On Tech To Fight Covid That No One Uses 

Forced into a hectic international competition for goods like many states during the early months of the pandemic, New York never procured anywhere close to what it supposedly needed. But the collection it did manage to build hasn’t done much more than gather dust. The state acquired 8,555 ventilators at a cost of $166 million and 1,179 X-ray machines for $86.4 million, state officials told POLITICO this month. And now they’re stacked in warehouses across New York with no plans to distribute them or put them to any immediate use; Covid treatments have largely moved away from ventilators, and hospitals say they have plenty available to deal with their immediate needs. (Spector, 9/20)

The Wall Street Journal:
U.S. Charges 47 People In Connection With $250 Million Covid-Aid Fraud 

The Justice Department charged 47 people in connection with an alleged scheme that stole more than $250 million from a federal program that fed low-income children, in what officials called the largest theft yet uncovered from a coronavirus pandemic aid program. Federal prosecutors said those charged created entities that claimed to be providing meals to tens of thousands of children who didn’t exist. (Gurman, 9/20)

Detroit Free Press:
White House Blasts GOP After Report Of DePerno Likening Plan B To Fentanyl

President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday blasted a reported comment from Michigan Republican attorney general nominee Matt DePerno likening Plan B to the drug fentanyl, saying he and other GOP officials want to “ban contraception” in the U.S. (Spangler and Boucher, 9/20)

The Hill:
Graham Throws Another Wrench Into GOP’s Abortion Messaging 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) created new headaches for Republicans on Tuesday with his claim that abortion is “not a states’ rights issue,” keeping the debate in the headlines and undercutting the party’s messaging heading into November’s midterms.  (Weaver, 9/20)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Democrat Files Bill To Repeal Missouri Abortion Ban

The top Democrat in the Missouri House filed legislation Tuesday to repeal the law that triggered the state’s near-total abortion ban after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The measure, sponsored by House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, is almost certainly dead on arrival during Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s special session on tax relief. (Suntrup, 9/20)

Boston Public Schools Reports First Monkeypox Case

Boston public schools (BPS) yesterday announced the first monkeypox case in an “adult member of the BPS community,” according to a letter sent to parents. The school district said the person was isolating at home, and the district was working to identify exposed individuals. (9/20)

The Wall Street Journal:
When To Get Your Flu Shot And Other Advice For This Flu Season 

Doctors say they expect more influenza cases than in the past two years, and possibly as many cases or more as there were in prepandemic flu seasons. Australia has reported more than 217,000 cases of influenza so far this flu season, which is tracked between April and October each year, after they fell sharply earlier in the pandemic. This year’s reported number is almost double the prepandemic five-year average of about 114,000 cases, according to Australia’s Department of Health and Aged Care. (Jan, 9/20)

Modern Healthcare:
Walgreens To Acquire Shields Health Solutions

Walgreens Boots Alliance has agreed to spend $1.37 billion to acquire the remaining 30% of specialty pharmacy company Shields Health Solutions that it didn’t already own. In September 2021, Walgreens spent $970 million to become a majority stakeholder in Shields, and the company will acquire the remaining stake from other equity holders. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2022, the companies said Tuesday. (Devereaux, 9/20)

Modern Healthcare:
DOJ Evaluating Next Steps In Blocking UnitedHealth-Change Healthcare Merger

The Justice Department is weighing whether to appeal a federal judge’s decision that denied its legal challenge to UnitedHealth Group’s $13 billion proposed acquisition of technology company Change Healthcare. (Tepper, 9/20)

Modern Healthcare:
AMA-AHA Surprise Billing Lawsuit Dropped

“We have serious concerns that the August 2022 final rule departs from congressional intent just as the September 2021 interim final rule did. Hospitals and doctors intend to make our voices heard in the courts very soon about these continued problems,” the AHA and AMA said in a joint statement. (Goldman, 9/20)

NBC News:
New Bill Aims To Curtail Surprise Medical Bills For Sexual Assault Survivors

A bill introduced Monday in the House of Representatives would require private health insurance to cover forensic exams for sexual assault survivors in full. The legislation came after research published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that nearly 18,000 out of 113,000 emergency visits related to sexual violence in 2019 resulted in out-of-pocket costs for the survivors. The average cost was $3,551 per person. (Bendix, 9/20)

Juul Sues FDA For Documents Said To Justify E-Cigarette Ban 

Juul Labs has sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over the agency’s refusal to disclose documents supporting its order banning the company, which has been blamed for fueling a teenage vaping crisis, from selling e-cigarettes on the U.S. market. (Stempel, 9/20)

Modern Healthcare:
St. Vincent Charity In Ohio To Lay Off Almost 1,000 Workers

Affected positions range from physicians to nurses, support service aides and physical therapists. Some of the most affected areas include medical/surgical, chemical dependency, dietary, laboratory management and housekeeping. As of 2021, the 162-bed hospital reported more than 800 full-time-equivalent positions. The pending layoffs account for just over 640 FTE positions. (Hudson, 9/20)

Modern Healthcare:
Labor Shortage: Hospitals Grow Apprenticeships To Stabilize Workforce

Charnika Wilson has been looking to get more involved in patient care after working as administrative faculty for a community-based clinic in Chicago. Her search led her to Rush University System for Health. Wilson was one of 22 people selected from more than 3,000 applicants for a new medical assistant apprenticeship run by Rush and Harper College, which pays for students’ tuition and books while offering them hourly pay and benefits. (Kacik, 9/20)

Rural Hospitals Face Funding Cliff

Rural hospitals that weathered the pandemic are facing a funding cliff, in danger of losing some $600 million in Medicare funding at the end of this month unless Congress intervenes. (Dreher, 9/21)

The Hill:
Dangerous Arsenic Levels May Be Lurking In California Prison Water: Study

Incarcerated Californians — and those who live in neighboring rural communities — may be exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic in their drinking water, a new study has found. Arsenic concentrations in the water supply of the Kern Valley State Prison and three nearby Central Valley communities exceeded regulatory limits for months or even years at a time, according to the study, published on Wednesday in Environmental Health Perspectives. (Udasin, 9/21)

W.Va. Announces $147M Opioid Settlement With CVS, Walmart 

Walmart and CVS Pharmacy have settled with the state of West Virginia for a combined total of $147 million in a lawsuit over the companies’ roles in contributing to the oversupply of prescription drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic in the country’s most impacted state, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Tuesday. Walmart and CVS were two lawsuits that were part of a larger trial that was pushed back to June of next year along with Kroger and Walgreens. Morrisey recently announced a settlement with Rite Aid for up to $30 million to resolve similar litigation. (Willingham, 9/20)

More States Extend Postpartum Medicaid Since Roe’s Demise

Indiana and West Virginia, two states that recently banned nearly all abortions, received federal approval this month to offer women Medicaid-funded health care during their pregnancy and for 12 months after they give birth. They join 23 other states and the District of Columbia that already have extended postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to a full year after childbirth. Eight additional states — Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — have applications pending. (Vestal, 9/20)

Senate Leader: NC Hospitals’ Medicaid Proposal Not ‘Serious’ 

North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger on Tuesday called an offer from state hospitals to expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of the working poor “not a serious proposal,” saying loosened regulations for medical construction projects didn’t go far enough. Berger’s dismissal of the proposal late last week from the North Carolina Healthcare Association short-circuited any expectations — though much improved compared to months ago — that a Medicaid expansion agreement could be at hand. Still, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, an expansion advocate, urged Berger separately Tuesday to make a counteroffer. (Robertson, 9/20)

The Hill:
Scientists Identify Mutated Protein Linked To Alzheimer’s Disease Risk 

New research is uncovering the role a specific protein might play in developing Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects 5 million people in the U.S., according to estimates from 2020. In a study published today in Molecular Psychiatry, researchers identified a new gene from mitochondrial DNA that encodes for a “microprotein,” named SHMOOSE. They analyzed the default and mutated versions of this small protein and found that the mutated version is associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, brain atrophy and changes in energy metabolism. (Hou, 9/20)

NBC News:
Cancer Death Rates Continue To Fall, Driven By New Treatments And Improved Screening

“This is a really exciting time in cancer management,” said Dr. Stephen Ansell, the senior deputy director for the Midwest at the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center in Rochester, Minnesota, who wasn’t involved with the report. “We see the death rate from cancer keeps going down.” (Sullivan, 9/21)

Study: Too Few Kids With Sickle Cell Get Stroke Screen, Care 

Too few U.S. kids with sickle cell anemia get a needed screening for stroke, according to a study released Tuesday. The study found fewer than half get the screening and only about half or fewer get a treatment that can help with pain and anemia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study, and called for more screening and treatment. (Stobbe, 9/20)

CBS News:
Don’t Cook Your Chicken In NyQuil: FDA Issues Warning Against Social Media Challenge

The American Academy of Pediatrics also advised parents to speak with their teens about which challenges are trending on social media or at school. “Sometimes kids are more willing to talk about their peers than themselves. Asking questions about school trends, friends and fads may yield more answers than direct questions about their own activities,” the AAP said on its website. (Singh, 9/20)

NTSB Wants All New Vehicles To Check Drivers For Alcohol Use

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that all new vehicles in the U.S. be equipped with blood alcohol monitoring systems that can stop an intoxicated person from driving. The recommendation, if enacted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, could reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes, one of the biggest causes of highway deaths in the U.S. (Krisher, 9/20)

USA Today:
Railroad Strike Hinged On Lack Of Paid Sick Leave. How Common Is That?

One of the major sticking points in negotiations between the nation’s railroads and the unions representing railroad workers this summer was a request for paid sick leave. Since more than 95% of employers offer at least some paid sick days to their employees, many outsiders to the industry were shocked to learn that railroad employees didn’t have that benefit in their contracts. (Wedell, 9/20)

USA Today:
Aaron Rodgers Insists Ayahuasca Is ‘Not A Drug’ And Says He May Be ‘Called’ To Take It Again

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, ayahuasca is a liquid-based psychedelic that can cause a person to hallucinate. The active chemical in ayahuasca is dimethyltryptamine (DMT). DMT is a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, which means it is illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, or distribute the drug. (Kuhagen, 9/20)

In Canada, Supervised Injection Sites Aim To Prevent Overdose Deaths

As record numbers of people in the U.S. die from drug overdoses, communities are searching for tools to prevent them. A new program in Canada could serve as a model. Over the past few years, government-approved clinics have opened across the country, where people can use street drugs under medical supervision. If they overdose, they can get life-saving care immediately. Some doctors are even prescribing powerful opioids to patients to keep them from using street drugs that may be laced with deadly chemicals. (9/20)

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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