Overnight Health Care: CDC reports 60 new measles cases in past week | Instagram 'pop-up' messages to counter vaccine misinformation | House tees up drug pricing, ObamaCare votes

Overnight Health Care: CDC reports 60 new measles cases in past week | Instagram 'pop-up' messages to counter vaccine misinformation | House tees up drug pricing, ObamaCare votes
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Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care.  

The number of measles cases keeps climb, especially in New York. Instagram is trying to crack down on anti-vaccine misinformation, and in the Capitol, the House is teeing up a bunch of health votes this week.

We'll start with a measles update...


CDC reports 60 new measles cases in the past week

The number of measles cases are continuing to climb. There have been 60 new cases of measles reported in the U.S. in the past week, with much of the increase coming from New York, according to federal officials. 

Of the 60 new individual cases, 52 were reported in New York, where two large outbreaks are occurring in Rockland County and in New York City.

That brings the current total to a staggering 764 cases, and it's only May. Less than two weeks ago, the country broke the record of 667 cases reported in 2014, which is the most since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.


To put it in perspective: The new numbers mean that a little over four months into the year, there have been almost 100 more cases than there were in all of 2014. There are more than 630 cases in New York alone.

Just because the disease is declared eliminated, doesn't mean that unvaccinated people can't catch it abroad, and then spread it among pockets of unvaccinated people in the U.S. This happens every year, and CDC said typically 2 out of 3 of these unvaccinated travelers are Americans.

This year has been much worse, primarily because of anti-vaccine groups that spread misinformation among vulnerable groups. The New York outbreak started when an unvaccinated child visited Israel, contracted measles, and returned home and spread it among the Orthodox Jewish population of Brooklyn and Queens.

Getting vaccinated can largely prevent people from catching the disease, but there is no cure.

Read more on the outbreaks here.


Instagram developing 'pop-up' message to crack down on vaccine misinformation

In a related move, Instagram is taking a new step to crack down on misinformation about vaccines.

An Instagram spokesperson told The Hill that the company has been working on a message that would appear when people search for vaccine misinformation, adding that the feature is still in the works.

Details about what the pop-up will say were not immediately available, but it is likely that the feature will be similar to other pop-ups the app already employs. In recent months, the photo-sharing platform has created features to provide resources and support to users searching for content related to opioids and self-harm.

Is Congress doing anything? The anti-vaccine movement has been able to use social media as a tool to promote their agenda to massive audiences very quickly, and lawmakers have set their sights on trying to crack down. But so far, there have been no legislative solutions proposed, and tech companies have voluntarily begun policing themselves.

What are the companies doing? Pinterest late last year began suppressing search results on vaccinations. YouTube also said it would begin removing videos with "borderline content" that "misinform users in harmful ways."

The new Instagram feature comes two months after Facebook, which owns Instagram, announced a plan to limit the circulation of anti-vaccine content on its platforms. The company at the time said Instagram would no longer promote posts spreading misinformation about the possible side effects of vaccines.

Read more here.


FDA asking manufacturers to study safety of chemicals in sunscreen

As we get ready for summer, lots of people will be using sunscreen. Now the FDA is asking some questions about the safety of common ingredients.

Several ingredients commonly found in sunscreens may be absorbed into the bloodstream rather than remaining on the surface of the skin, suggesting the need for further study by manufacturers, according to an FDA study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Don't stop using sunscreen, though: "The systemic absorption of sunscreen ingredients supports the need for further studies to determine the clinical significance of these findings," the study abstract states. "These results do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of sunscreen."

"Just because they are absorbed doesn't mean they are unsafe," co-author Dr. Theresa Michele, director of the division of nonprescription drug products at the FDA, told NBC News. "That's why we are asking for additional data."

Read more here.


This week: House tees up drug pricing, ObamaCare votes

House Democrats are planning a series of votes this week on prescription drug price legislation, as well as on a bill that they say will roll back some of the administration's "sabotage" to ObamaCare.

The drug pricing bills are fairly modest. Essentially, the intent of both bills is to improve transparency for generic drug and biologic manufacturers, respectively, over access to patents and exclusivity. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bills aren't expected to do much to demonstrably lower drug costs.

Democrats are also planning to vote on a bill (H.R. 986) that would block the Trump administration's efforts to allow "state innovation waivers" that would waive certain ObamaCare coverage requirements. Democrats say states would be able to waive the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The administration says it just wants states to have more flexibility from burdensome regulations.

No state has actually tried to apply to use the waivers like the administration wants, but Democrats say the mere fact that such options are being promoted shows the administration's continued disregard for the law.

The bill is expected to pass but is likely to be a non-starter in the GOP-controlled Senate. Still, Democrats took the House by attacking Republicans on health care, and they don't seem eager to let up anytime soon.


What we're reading

Bennet: Medicare for All supporters 'need to level with the American people' (Politico)

W.Va. opioid addiction centers to pay $17 million fraud settlement (Modern Healthcare)

Insys case raises risks for drug industry over opioids (Financial Times)


State by state

Georgia seeking ideas for federal Medicaid waiver proposals (Associated Press)

Georgia's governor is expected to sign a controversial abortion bill into law (CNN.com)

House Rep. Davids feels heat from the left as activists push her to support Medicare-for-all (Wichita Eagle)


From The Hill's opinion page

VA's nursing home ratings transparency is a step in the right direction