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Daily Archives: January 9, 2018

HHS Nominee Vows To Tackle High Drug Costs, Despite His Ties To Industry

Senate Democrats on Tuesday pressed President Donald Trump’s nominee for the top health post to explain how he would fight skyrocketing drug prices — demanding to know why they should trust him to lower costs since he did not do so while running a major pharmaceutical company.

Alex M. Azar II, the former president of the U.S. division of Eli Lilly and Trump’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, presented himself as a “problem solver” eager to fix a poorly structured health care system during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. Azar said addressing drug costs would be among his top priorities.

But armed with charts showing how some of Eli Lillyâ€s drug prices had doubled on Azar’s watch, Democrats argued Azar was part of the problem. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the committee’s top Democrat, said Azar had never authorized a decrease in a drug price as a pharmaceutical executive.

“The system is broken,â Wyden said. “Mr. Azar was a part of that system.”

Azar countered that the nation’s pharmaceutical drug system is structured to encourage companies to raise prices, a problem he said he would work to fix as head of HHS.

“I don’t know that there is any drug price of a brand-new product that has ever gone down from any company on any drug in the United States, because every incentive in this system is towards higher prices, and that is where we can do things together, working as the government to get at this,” he said. “No one company is going to fix that system.”

Azar’s confirmation hearing Tuesday was his second appearance before senators as the nominee to lead HHS. In November, he faced similar questions from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a courtesy hearing.

If confirmed, Azar would succeed Tom Price, Trump’s first health secretary, who resigned in September amid criticism over his frequent use of taxpayer-paid charter flights. A former Republican congressman who was a dedicated opponent of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, Price had a frosty relationship with Democrats in Congress as he worked with Republicans to try to undo the law.

Price and the Trump administration often turned to regulations and executive orders to undermine the Affordable Care Act, since Republicans in Congress repeatedly failed to enact a repeal. “Repeal and replace” has been the president’s mantra.

But at the hearing, Azar was circumspect about his approach, noting that his job would be to work under existing law. “The Affordable Care Act is there,” he said, adding that it would fall to him to make it work “as best as it possibly can.”

Senate Republicans touted Azar’s nearly six years working for the department under President George W. Bush, including two years as a deputy secretary. Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) praised Azar’s “extraordinary résumé,” adding that, among HHS nominees, he was “probably the most qualified I’ve seen in my whole term in the United States Senate.” Hatch, who is the longest-serving Republican senator in history, has been a senator for more than 40 years.

In addition to drug costs, Azar vowed to focus on the nation’s growing opioid crisis, calling for “aggressive prevention, education, regulatory and enforcement efforts to stop overprescribing and overuse,” as well as “compassionate treatment” for those suffering from addiction.

Pressed about Republican plans to cut entitlement spending to compensate for budget shortfalls, Azar said he was “not aware” of support within the Trump administration for such cuts.

“The president has stated his opposition to cuts to Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security,” Azar said. “He said that in the campaign, and I believe he has remained steadfast in his views on that.

But Democrats pushed back, pointing out that Trump had proposed Medicaid cuts in his budget request last year. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said such cuts would hurt those receiving treatment for opioid addiction.

“What happens to these people?” he said.

Despite such Democratic criticism, Azar is likely to be confirmed when the full Senate votes on his nomination. An HHS spokesman Tuesday pointed reporters to an editorial in STAT supporting Azar, written by former Senate majority leaders Bill Frist and Tom Daschle — a Republican and a Democrat. We need a person of integrity and competence at the helm of the Department of Health and Human Services,” they wrote. “The good news is that President Trump has nominated just such a person, Alex Azar.€

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Defendiéndose de la mortal temporada de gripe: 5 cosas que hay que saber ahora

El país está teniendo una horrible, terrible, mala, muy mala temporada de gripe.

El virus está muy extendido en 46 estados, según informes de los Centros para el Control y Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC).

Desde mediados de diciembre, al menos 106 personas han muerto a causa de esta enfermedad infecciosa, a nivel nacional.

Además, todos los estados informan m¡s hospitalizaciones y visitas a salas de emergencia a causa de la gripe que en una temporada promedio. Las tasas de hospitalizaciones son mayores entre las personas de más de 50 años y los niños menores de 5.

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En California, uno de los estados más afectados, el virus golpeó sorprendentemente temprano esta temporada. La temperatura más cálida en general significa que las personas pasan menos tiempo en sus casas durante los meses de invierno. Como resultado, la temporada de gripe normalmente ataca ms tarde que en otras regiones.

Los expertos no están seguros por qué esta temporada es diferente.

“Estamos viendo lo peor en este momento”, dijo el doctor Randy Bergen, pediatra que dirige el esfuerzo contra la gripe de Kaiser Permanente-Northern California. “Estamos realmente en territorio histórico, y simplemente no sé cuándo va a parar”. (Kaiser Health News no tiene relación con Kaiser Permanente).

Aquí hay cinco cosas que debes saber sobre esta temporada de gripe:

  1. Se perfila como uno de las peores en los últimos años.

El subtipo de influenza AH3N2 que parece ser más prevalente este año es particularmente desagradable, con síntomas más severos que incluyen fiebre y dolores en el cuerpo. Australia, un país que los funcionarios de salud pública de los Estados Unidos siguen de cerca en su pronóstico de la gripe -en parte porque su invierno es nuestro verano- informó un número récord de casos confirmados de gripe en 2017. También está circulando otro subtipo del virus de la influenza B, “y eso tampoco es divertido”, agregó Bergen.

La temporada de gripe en los Estados Unidos generalmente comienza en octubre y termina en mayo, alcanzando un máximo entre diciembre y febrero.

  1. Es probable que la vacuna de esta temporada sea menos efectiva que en años anteriores.

Los expertos en gripe dicen que no sabrn completamente cuán efectiva es esta vacuna hasta que la temporada se acabe. Pero la experiencia de Australia sugiere que la efectividad es solo del 10%. En los Estados Unidos, tiene una eficacia del 40% a 60% en una temporada promedio. Las vacunas protegen menos si las cepas son diferentes a las que se predijeron, y ocurren mutaciones inesperadas.

  1. De todos modos, las personas se deben vacunar contra la gripe.

Incluso si no coincide con el virus que circula actualmente, si se contrae la gripe, la vacuna ayuda a aliviar la gravedad y la duración de los síntomas.

A los niños se los considerada altamente vulnerables a la enfermedad. Estudios muestran que, para los pequeños, la vacuna puede reducir significativamente el riesgo de muerte.

Se recomiendan las vacunas de dosis altas para las personas mayores, que también son excepcionalmente vulnerables a la enfermedad, la hospitalización y la muerte relacionada con la gripe, según los CDC.

“Cierta protección es mejor que ninguna protección”, dijo Bergen, “pero sí es decepcionante tener una vacuna que no sea tan efectiva como nos gustaría”.

Es posible que tu médico o clínica local todavía tenga vacunas disponibles, así como algunas cadenas de farmacias. Consulta el sitio web de Vaccine Finder para encontrar un lugar cercano.

  1. Las precauciones bÃsicas pueden evitar que tú y tu familia pasen d­as enteros en cama.

En la medida de lo posible, hay que evitar a las personas que están enfermas. Hay que lavarse las manos con frecuencia y no tocarse la boca, la nariz y los ojos.

Las máscaras no son particularmente efectivas para prevenir el contagio, aunque pueden ayudar a evitar que las personas enfermas que las usan propaguen sus gérmenes aún más.

Si estás enfermo, cúbrete al toser y, si es posible, no trabajes, aconsejó Bergen. Mantenerse hidratado, comer alimentos nutritivos y hacer ejercicio también puede ayudar a fortalecer tu sistema inmune.

Debido a que las personas mayores son tan vulnerables a la gripe, algunos hogares y centros de vida asistida pueden limitar las visitas y las actividades de los residentes, según el nivel de enfermedad.

  1. No confundas los s­ntomas de la gripe con los de un resfriado común.

Las características de la gripe son fiebre y dolores corporales que acompañan a la tos y la congestión, dijo Bergen.

Si sientes que tienes problemas para respirar o si no puedes controlar la fiebre con medicamentos como Tylenol, consulta con tu médico. Es aún más importante que los pacientes vean a un médico si tienen una afección médica crónica como diabetes o enfermedad cardíaca, o si son niños o adultos mayores.

Actualmente, muchos médicos recetan medicamentos antivirales como Tamiflu -en forma de píldora o, para los niños, en forma oral- incluso sin una prueba de laboratorio para la influenza, explicó Bergen. Sin embargo, según un informe publicado en Los Angeles Times, los suministros de Tamiflu se están agotando.

Y Bergen advirtió que estos medicamentos son solo parcialmente efectivos, reduciendo el tiempo de la enfermedad en solo uno o dos días.

Esta historia fue producida por Kaiser Health News, que publica California Healthline, un servicio de la California Health Care Foundation

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Viewpoints: The Power Of The Flu, Other Infectious Diseases; Smartphone Addiction

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Tough Policy Talk: Azar Takes To The Hill – With Lots Of Questions To Answer; Congress Should Step Up For Kids’ Insurance

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State Highlights: Enrollment In N.H. Medical Marijuana Program Nears 5,000; Ga. Lawmakers Focus On Data, Solutions To Improve Care

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Maryland Gets OK From Feds To Extend Program Aimed At Reducing Medicare Costs

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Conn. Lawmakers Restore Medicaid Program For Seniors, Disabled

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It’s Like Having ‘Superman Eyes’: New Video Microscope Could Revolutionize Brain Surgery

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An Invisible Killer: This Fatty Particle Triples Risk Of Heart Attacks But Most People Don’t Even Know It Exists

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Everyone’s Talking About Trump’s Mental Health. But How Do You Actually Detect Cognitive Decline?

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