Public health: Frequency of dialysis treatment questioned, chemotherapy drug shortages

News outlets report on a variety of public health issues.

CQ Health Beat: A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health suggests that receiving dialysis six days a week results in better self-reported patient health than the conventional treatment of three times per week.  "Since the brunt of dialysis costs is borne by Medicare, a boost in frequency could mean increased spending by the program, however. … Might the study eventually lead to increased Medicare outlays for dialysis? Washington, D.C. health policy consultant Alec Vachon says the question isn't easy to answer. 'Our kidneys work 24/7, so it should not be a surprise that more frequent dialysis — beyond standard thrice weekly — is better,' he said. 'But the wild cards are what CMS, patients, or dialysis providers think. Dialysis is already the single largest Medicare line item, and many patients are not keen on even three sessions per week. And would dialysis providers — most of which are for profit — find it attractive to sharply expand capacity even if Medicare would pay for added sessions?'" (Reichard, 11/23).

National Journal: Following a new report Tuesday predicting that nearly half the U.S. population could have diabetes by 2020, researchers estimate "that the diabetes problem will continue to grow without aggressive intervention that primarily focuses on weight management and combating obesity. 'Because diabetes follows a progressive course, often starting with obesity and then moving to prediabetes, there are multiple opportunities to intervene early on and prevent this devastating disease before it's too late,' said Deneen Vojta, senior vice president of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization (Fung, 11/23).

St. Louis Beacon: The St. Louis Diabetes Coalition is "taking its message out of doctors' offices and to the public" through education seminars in collaboration with Saint Louis University's Center for Outcome Research. "The coalition's programs are free and open to everyone, but the group is especially interested in reaching people who are clueless about how best to handle a disease that's claiming more victims as Americans get less or no exercise and eat more unhealthy foods. … The coalition's work with SLU's Center for Outcome Research is financed by a $99,000 grant from the St. Louis Community/University Health Research Partnership. Set up in 2009, the partnership focuses on research into diabetes and other health problems" (Joiner,  11/23).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe:  "[A]lcohol-related problems are sending nearly 1,000 college-age residents to hospital emergency rooms each year," according to an analysis by the Boston Public Health Commission. "[S]ince 2008, 18- to 22-year-olds have made 40,000 visits to city emergency rooms, and of that number, more than 2 percent were alcohol-related. Commission Executive Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer calls the numbers 'a serious problem and a burden on the health care system'" (11/24).

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog: Amid an "ongoing problem of drug shortages," chemotherapy drugs "are among those most in demand. … Drug shortages occur for a range of reasons that vary by medication: the unavailability of raw ingredients, FDA enforcement actions that halt production, voluntary recalls, poor inventory ordering, a change in product formulation and even rumors of an impending shortage, which can cause hoarding, according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices" (Hobson, 11/23).

Charleston, S.C. WCBD: "People eat what is convenient and affordable -- and if it's sodium laden fast food, that's what they'll chow down on. A team of Medical University of South Carolina researchers studied the Chicora Cherokee neighborhood for 6 months. They looked at the impact of the environment on the people who live in the community and on the students attending Burns and Chicora elementary schools in North Charleston. They discovered the lack of affordable, healthy food options in urban communities ironic in a country with an abundance of food. 'We determined that there were only 13 stores within a mile of Chicora Cherokee and of those 13 stores there were "zero" grocery stores', says Amy Painter of MUSCs Center for Communities in Health Partnerships" (Murray, 11/24).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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