Undermining Genetic Privacy? Employee Wellness Programs and the Law

NEJM, 24 May 2017
Authors: Kathy L. Hudson, Karen Pollitz
“Genetic information is becoming ubiquitous in research and medicine. The cost of genetic analysis continues to fall, and its medical and personal value continues to grow. Anticipating this age of genetic medicine, policymakers passed laws and regulations years ago to protect Americans’ privacy and prevent misuse of their health-related information. But a bill moving through the House of Representatives, called the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (H.R. 1313), would preempt key protections. Because the bill, which was sent to the full House by the Education and the Workforce Committee in March, would substantially change legal protections related to the collection and treatment of personal health and genetic information by workplace wellness programs, it should be on the radar screens of physicians, researchers, and the public.”
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State Sepsis Mandates — A New Era for Regulation of Hospital Quality

NEJM, 21 May 2017
Authors: Tina B. Hershey, Jeremy M. Kahn
“Sepsis is a major cause of illness and death in the United States, affecting more than 1.5 million Americans each year at an annual cost of over $20 billion. To improve outcomes of sepsis, policymakers are increasingly using regulatory mechanisms intended to provide incentives to clinicians and hospitals to improve the quality of sepsis care. One such initiative is an unprecedented set of New York State regulations implemented in 2013 and collectively known as “Rory’s Regulations.” Named after Rory Staunton, who died at 12 years of age from sepsis resulting from a soft-tissue infection, Rory’s Regulations mandate that all hospitals in the state use evidence-based protocols for sepsis identification and management and that they report to the state government data on their sepsis-protocol adherence and clinical outcomes.”
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Alzheimer’s Deaths Jump 55 Percent: CDC

WebMD, 25 May 2017
Author: Steven Reinberg
“As more baby boomers age, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have jumped 55 percent, and in a quarter of those cases the heavy burden of caregiving has fallen on loved ones, U.S. health officials report. “Alzheimer’s disease is a public health problem that affects not only people with Alzheimer’s disease, but also the people who provide care to them, which is often family members,” said report author Christopher Taylor.”
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Many patients with early-stage breast cancer receive costly, inappropriate testing

EurekAlert, 24 May 2017
Author: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
“A study from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center shows that asymptomatic women who have been treated for early-stage breast cancer often undergo advanced imaging and other tests that provide little if any medical benefit, could have harmful effects and may increase their financial burden.”
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Toward Responsible Human Genome Editing

JAMA 2017; 317(18):1829-1830
Authors: Richard O. Hynes; Barry S. Coller; Matthew Porteus
“The speed at which the science is advancing raises important questions about human genome editing, such as how to balance potential benefits against risks of unintended harms, how to regulate the use of genome editing and incorporate societal values into policy decisions, and how to respect the diverse perspectives of individuals, nations, and cultures that will influence whether and how to use these technologies. A new report from the US National Academies of Sciences and Medicine addresses these questions and makes recommendations for the application and oversight of human genome editing in 3 major settings.”
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Abortion pill group’s Facebook page deleted over promoting ‘drug use’

The Guardian, 12 May 2017
Author: Julia Carrie Wong
“Facebook has censored the page of an organization that helps women obtain abortion pills, citing its policy against the “promotion or encouragement of drug use”. Women on Web, which is based in Amsterdam, helps connect women with doctors who can provide abortion pills if they live in countries where abortion access is restricted. Facebook’s has faced particular difficulty enforcing its rules for “regulated goods” – prescription drugs, marijuana, firearms, and ammunition.”
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Billions saved because FDA didn’t rush approval of Alzheimer’s drug

Reuters, 10 May 2017
Author: Gene Emery
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision not to rush approval for Eli Lilly’s experimental Alzheimer’s treatment solanezumab – a drug that turned out to be ineffective – may have saved American taxpayers as much as $100 billion over the past four years, an analysis concludes. The analysis comes amid pressure on FDA to use less-strict standards in deciding whether a drug should be approved. Some agency critics have called on the government to approve all drugs that are not toxic and let market forces determine which are best.”
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The multi-billion-dollar subsidy for private health insurance isn’t worth it

The Conversation, 27 April 2017
Author: Elizabeth Savage
“Almost 20 years after the 30% subsidy for private health insurance was introduced, premiums continue to rise every year. This comes at a cost to the federal budget – which was forecast at A$6.5 billion in the 2016 federal budget from the subsidy alone. Meanwhile, consumers continue to view private health insurance as poor value for money. It would be sensible for the government to face evidence the subsidy is bad and costly policy, as health bureaucrats and commentators predicted long ago.”
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