Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 5/4-5/10

[Ed. Note: This will be the last intern round-up of the academic year, to resume in the Fall.  Thanks, Hyeongsu and Kathy!]

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 4/20-4/26

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

  • Harvard University announced on Wednesday that it would shut down its primate research center over the next two years. The facility has been cited for animal welfare violations, but the university said that it was closing the research center due to a tough economic climate.
  • After a federal judge recently ordered the Food and Drug Administration to make the morning-after pill available to women of all ages without a prescription, a New York Times article discusses a broader issue that follows: whether birth-control pills should require a doctor’s prescription. Various groups, gynecologists, and politicians are sharply divided on this issue. The author discusses procedural hurdles and safety issues around making the morning-after pills over-the-counter drugs.
  • Utah recently became the first state to explicitly permit general prisoners (not death-row inmates) to donate their organs if they die while incarcerated. The New York Times introduces discussions among various academic and health professionals regarding the law allowing prisoners to become organ donors.
  • After Colorado voters approved a measure in November legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, Colorado legislators will discuss taxes on marijuana and the plan to use the tax revenues this week. The legislators are considering excise and sales taxes on marijuana of up to 30 percent combined. The goal is to set taxes high enough to finance the administration of new laws, but not so high that customers are driven back to the black market.
  • A group of Texas optometrists is lobbying the State Legislature for more power to negotiate contracts with health insurance companies, and the measure they support could hit consumers’ wallets.
  • British antitrust authorities accused the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline of paying three rivals to delay the introduction of a generic version of antidepressant drug.
  • A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday threw out three of seven murder charges against Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was charged with killing viable fetuses while performing abortions.

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 3/29-4/5

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 3/16-3/22

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 3/09-3/15

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

  • As individual states continue their internal political debates over state-by-state Medicaid expansion, Florida’s Senate Committee rejected the measure. However, the panel continued to debate a possible compromise that would allow the state to receive more federal funding while also encouraging citizens to seek alternative options to Medicaid.
  • An opinion piece in the New York Times called for holding generic drug manufacturers more accountable for damaging side effects. The case of Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett will be argued this month in the Supreme Court. Bartlett, who experienced painful, debilitating effects from taking a generic drug manufactured by Mutual, is seeking to hold Mutual liable for its defective drug design.
  • A new UN report frames bioethics from another point of view, calling for its application as an “anti-torture” ethic. This report on torture and healthcare phrases many of the health and rights violations of torture practices as important bioethical considerations.
  • In the international sphere, the Australian state of Tasmania has taken steps to liberalize its abortion laws.
  • As debate swirls around the mandatory labeling of foods with GMO ingredients, Whole Foods has announced that it will require such labels in all its stores by 2018.
  • Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are expecting a litigious year, as reported by a survey of chief IP counsels working in the industry. This highlights the growing importance and conflict over the protection of patents and intellectual property in the sector.
  • Small businesses have been trying to exploit a “loophole” in the ACA requirement for small business health insurance marketplaces by offering self-insurance. This practice, more typical of large companies, allows small businesses to simply pay most of their workers’ health expenses directly.
  • Employers are protesting a fee charged by the federal health care law, which would require them to pay $63/person that they insure. This fee was intended to offset the cost of covering people with high medical bills, but opponents claim it is unfairly subsidizing individual plans.

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 3/2-3/8

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 2/23-3/01

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

  • As the federal government clambers to meet deadlines and broker deals ahead of the sequestration, Medicare remains, again, one of the more contentious issues. While Medicare spending has slowed, Democrats are resisting any further spending cuts to such entitlement programs beyond the $300 billion reduction agreed upon last year.
  • The healthcare sector has been suffering from a lack of consensus and resources, both financial and in human capital. Adding to these burdens is the federal panel on the health care work force that, two and a half years after its creation, has never met because they were never appropriated any funding. The commission was created to debate over crucial details of the health care law.
  • Despite the hullabaloo in Europe over the contamination of beef products with horse meat, the U.S.D.A. is on the verge of approving a horse-slaughter plant in New Mexico for the human consumption of equine meat.
  • Lower-income consumers have been waiting for the release of knockoff versions of highly expensive biotech drugs, but it seems that they will have to wait some more. Pharmaceutical company projects to create such “biosimilar” drugs have faltered and policy has not been clearly established as to how to proceed.

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 2/09-2/22

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

  • In an unexpected reversal of policy, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced his support for a three year expansion of Medicaid in Florida. Once a critic of the federal health care proposals, Governor Scott joins a growing number of Republican officials who have swapped sides on the Medicaid expansion debate.
  • While considering the terms of health care packages, the Obama administration decided that mental health care coverage must be a component in health care insurance. This mandate was met with mixed reactions, as health insurance plans have been also split into multiple tiers offering varying degrees of services and provisions.
  • In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court reinforced the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to block hospital mergers under antitrust legislation. While hospitals have been arguing that these mergers allow for a broader provision of services, the FTC pointed out it also increases hospital leverage with insurance companies, potentially raising prices.
  • A Kentucky hospital and 11 cardiologists are facing a lawsuit backed by hundreds of individuals over the use of unnecessary, risky procedures over more than two decades of operations.
  • The FDA recently released warnings strongly advising against the use of codeine for children. Codeine had been used as pain relievers after the removal of tonsils or adenoids, but there had been a series of overdoses and deaths even when it was prescribed within an acceptable range.
  • A controversial piece of legislation pending in Texas offers the possibility of allowing doctors to place do not resuscitate (DNR) orders on their patients if the patients are deemed “medically ineffective.”
  • A recent NPR debate showcased various experts considering the question of whether we should prohibit the genetic engineering of babies, and to what extent parents’ choices could constitute genetic engineering.

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 2/02-2/08

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 1/26-2/01

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 1/19-1/25

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 1/12-1/18

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

  • After an estimated 500,000 patients in the United States have received all-metal hip replacements that are failing early in many cases, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing rules that will require manufacturers to produce clinical data to support their devices’ safety and effectiveness.
  • A study published in Science identified people from online searches of DNA sequences, age, and a state. The result raises concerns about the difficulty of protecting the privacy of volunteers involved in medical research.
  • The Obama administration says it will give states more time to comply with the new health care law after finding that many states lag in setting up insurance exchanges.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $1.5 billion in new grants Thursday for states to continue building their insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. California, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Vermont received funding.
  • Pharmacies around New York City struggled to meet the demand for flu vaccinations on Sunday, a day after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared a public health state of emergency in response to a drastic increase in the number of flu cases this year.
  • A new type of flu vaccine that requires less manufacturing steps and shorter production time won regulatory approval on Wednesday, and its manufacturer said that limited supplies are expected to be available this winter.
  • Quebec is slowly moving towards legal euthanasia. A committee of legal experts has delivered a 400-page report to the provincial government which argues that it should allow “medical assistance to die” when a patient is close to death and is suffering from unbearable physical or psychological pain.

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 1/5-1/11

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 12/29-1/4

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 12/22-12/28

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-up: December 8 – December 21

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

  • Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett joined other Republicans in vowing not to set up a state-wide health care exchange, citing a lack of resources and preparation in order to do so. In making this decision, the Corbett administration will be allowing the Presidential administration to take charge of its exchange. This decision comes amidst large debate that basically broke down along partisan lines, with Democrats strongly pushing for a state-specific exchange.
  • Even as some states have been resisting setting up these health care exchanges, other states are moving ahead and have already garnered conditional approval for their health insurance marketplaces. These nine states, all of which are headed by Democratic governors, have expressed strong interest in carrying out the health care overhaul as swiftly as possible. Other states have been attempting to bargain for a partial expansion of Medicaid, although they have largely been met by rejection from the administration.
  • The European Institute of Bioethics released a study last week on the state of Belgium’s legalized euthanasia law, which was worded with the intent to protect the vulnerable. However, the report found several failings in the law and corresponding processes, finding on-going abuses in several areas.
  • In Australia, the most recent bioethics debate has been around overseas commercial surrogacy, as authorities attempt to reconcile legalized commercial surrogacy and the potential exploitation of women and the protection of surrogates, commissioning parents, and children.
  • Last week, AP reported that there are “fewer health care options for illegal immigrants,” highlighting a controversial point in the newly passed health care bill. Since most states do not question immigration status, it has been difficult to establish the cost of treatment of illegal immigrants.
  • In the ever-controversial debate about abortion laws, Wisconsin and Michigan have recently joined the fray. In Wisconsin, its chapter of Planned Parenthood intends to sue over abortion medication. Meanwhile, in Michigan, two bills limiting abortion moved closer to becoming law.
  • Meanwhile, overseas, the Irish government made a statement on Tuesday suggesting it would allow abortion under limited circumstances. This action is seen largely as a response to comply with demands of the European Court of Human Rights. In addition, in the Philippines, a bill intended to expand birth control to give access to the poor and those who live in rural areas was finally passed through legislation, pushing through much religious and sociopolitical challenge. As a country that is 80% Catholic, this measure had been debated for over a decade with strong opposition from the Church.
  • Last Friday, the Supreme Court decided that it would rule on a case regarding generic medicines, which has the potential to answer longstanding questions as to whether pharmaceutical companies buying out generics is a violation of antitrust law. These “pay-for-delay” deals are largely intended to allow pharmaceutical companies to continue to charge higher prices for their brand-name drugs.
  • A NY Times article highlights alternative methods of addressing the problem of a shortage of doctors, primary care physicians in particular, by relying on other medical professionals and expanding their capacities. Initiatives to allow non-doctors to take a larger role in medical care seem to be promising ways of filling this supply gap.
  • In the aftermath of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, federal inaction has allowed marijuana proponents in California to renew their challenge of federal government closures of one of the state’s largest marijuana dispensaries.

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 12/1-12/7

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-up: Nov 17-Nov 30

By Kathy Wang and Hyeongsu Park

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-Up: 11/10-11/16

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-up: 11/03-11/09

By Kathy Wang and Hyeongsu Park

  • One of the lesser-heralded decisions to come from the elections this Tuesday was the LA county ballot measure requiring male actors in the porn industry to wear condoms during filming. Those opposed to the measure have begun a very vocal dissent, arguing that the industry should be able to regulate itself and that these private concerns should not be up to the discretion of the public. A porn industry trade group also made the argument that this restriction would infringe upon the freedom of expression.
  • Two foreign tobacco companies have protested a Canadian lawsuit that would impose a $50 billion dollar fine on the companies for withholding information from Ontario smokers in the 1950s about the adverse health effects of smoking.
  • On his MSNBC blog, ethicist Art Caplan questioned an expensive NIH study on the use of chelation therapy for heart patients, which showed marginal benefits at best.  He argues that heart patients should focus on what we already know works, but is harder to do: lifestyle changes.
  • California’s ballot included a measure that would require the labeling of all genetically modified food (Proposition 37).  However, this proposal was defeated, renewing conflict between advocates of those claiming the “right to know what is in our food” and biotechnology companies that have repeatedly tried to reassure the public of the safety in consuming such products. Some proponents of the measure are now hoping companies will begin voluntarily labeling or consumers will make more conscious food-purchasing decisions.
  • After Massachusetts voters decided to legalize medical marijuana, a landlord group approached lawmakers with a proposal for an “opt-out” option. The group was concerned that their constituents could be held accountable for tenants growing marijuana in their homes, and appealed to the Department of Public Health to consider this in deciding on zone ordinances and laws.