Overnight Health Care: House panels launch probe into Alzheimer's drug | Half of public health workers experiencing mental health strain | Puerto Rico presses Congress to prevent 'Medicaid cliff'

Overnight Health Care: House panels launch probe into Alzheimer's drug | Half of public health workers experiencing mental health strain | Puerto Rico presses Congress to prevent 'Medicaid cliff'
© Greg Nash

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Today: Public health workers are under an intense strain. House panels are launching an investigation into the approval and pricing of Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm, and Puerto Rico is lobbying to stave off another Medicaid cliff.


We'll start with Aduhelm:

House panels launch investigation into controversial Alzheimer's drug

An important next step in the furor over the new Alzheimer’s drug: Two House committees on Friday announced they are launching an investigation into the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) controversial approval of Aduhelm, and the drug’s $56,000 a year price.

The announcement from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyOvernight Defense & National Security: US-Australian sub deal causes rift with France Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Oversight Republicans seek testimony from Afghanistan watchdog MORE (D-N.Y.) comes as the approval of Biogen’s drug earlier this month has provoked an outcry on numerous fronts.

The FDA has faced questions as to why it approved the drug given doubts about whether it actually works. The FDA’s advisory committee had recommended against approval, and three members resigned in protest of the approval. 

Biogen then priced the treatment at $56,000 a year, stirring additional controversy and furthering Democratic calls for the government to lower drug prices. 

“We have serious concerns about the steep price of Biogen’s new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm and the process that led to its approval despite questions about the drug’s clinical benefit,” Pallone and Maloney said in a statement. 


Read more here.


Half of public health workers experiencing mental health strain: study

More than half of public health workers reported experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions, according to a new study, a toll that disproportionately falls on those who spent most of their time treating patients suffering from COVID-19.

The study, to be published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found nearly a third of the 26,000 health care workers polled suffered from symptoms of depression in the last two weeks. Three in 10 reported suffering from anxiety, and more than a third say they have experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Eight percent, or about one in twelve, told researchers they experienced suicidal ideation.

All of the mental health conditions were more prevalent among public health workers under the age of 29, among those who worked more than 60 hours per week and among those who reported they were unable to take time off work.

The symptoms were particularly pronounced among those who spent most of their time in COVID-19 wards. Among public health workers who spent three-quarters of their time responding to the pandemic, nearly half reported symptoms of PTSD within the last two weeks alone and more than a third reported signs of depression and anxiety.

Read more here


AP analysis: Almost all US coronavirus deaths among unvaccinated

Almost all recent deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are among those who have not been vaccinated, an analysis of government data by The Associated Press found.

The data from May showed only 0.8 percent of COVID-19 deaths were people who were fully vaccinated. That is only 150 people out of the more than 18,000 who died from the virus last month, according to AP.

The rate of hospitalization among fully vaccinated individuals was also incredibly low in May at 0.1 percent. Out of more than 853,000 hospitalizations, fewer than 1,200 were among fully vaccinated people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the data analyzed most likely understates the number of infections among vaccinated people, the AP noted, as there are limitations in collecting it, such as how well individual states are tracking infections.

Read more here


Puerto Rico presses Congress to prevent 'Medicaid cliff'

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro PierluisiPedro Rafael PierluisiPuerto Rico limiting alcohol sales, gatherings as coronavirus cases rise Puerto Rico orders businesses to require proof of vaccination Puerto Rico to receive nearly billion in pandemic relief funds MORE (D) said Thursday that a looming “Medicaid cliff” and a slew of political and economic challenges all come back to the island’s status as a U.S. territory.

The debate over status will remain at the core of the island's politics indefinitely, he said, unless Puerto Rico becomes a state or a sovereign nation.

"Whenever I'm told about prioritizing, I say the status issue permeates everything else. It is an existential issue. You always have to deal with this issue until you resolve it," Pierluisi told The Hill in an interview.


The latest issue to shine a spotlight on the deficiencies of the territorial arrangement with the U.S. is the allocation of Medicaid resources to the island's more than 3 million residents.

Why the concern: Unlike all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico is not guaranteed a certain percentage of Medicaid resources in the federal government’s annual budget. Puerto Rico is subject to capped federal spending and a fixed matching rate, meaning that not only does it get less money from the federal government than states, the formula doesn't allow for additional funding. 

Once the funding is exhausted, there is no more.  

Without additional Congressional action, the island will lose the vast majority of its Medicaid financing which could result in reductions in coverage— a major problem given the  long-term health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beyond statehood: Many opponents of statehood — those who want to remain a territory or seek independence — have also sought a better deal for territories on Medicaid and other social services, regardless of their opposition to a permanent union between Puerto Rico and the United States.

Read more here.



Solid majority say abortion should be illegal after first trimester: poll

A solid majority say abortion should be illegal after the first trimester, a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found.

The poll released Friday showed 65 percent of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in most or all circumstances in the second trimester, or 4-6 months into pregnancy, and 80 percent believe it should be illegal in the third trimester.

Sixty-one percent said it should be legal in the first few months of pregnancy.

Those who said that abortion should be illegal starting in the second trimester include 35 percent who said it should be illegal in all circumstances and 30 percent who said it should be illegal in most circumstances. Twenty-six percent said it should be illegal in most cases in the third trimester, while 54 percent said it should be illegal in all cases then.

The poll included some exceptions. The majority of Democrats and Republicans said they believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest, if the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or if the baby will be born with a life-threatening illness.

Read more here


What we’re reading

No vacancy: How a shortage of mental health beds keeps kids trapped inside ERs (Kaiser Health News)

Coronavirus FAQ: I've been vaccinated. Do I need to worry about variants? (NPR

Perna set to retire from Warp Speed later this summer (Stat)


State by state

'Reckless and irresponsible': Tony EversTony EversFederal court says Wisconsin redistricting case can proceed Wisconsin governor seeks to intervene in redistricting case Former Wisconsin lieutenant governor launches gubernatorial campaign MORE blasts Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLiberal group launches campaign urging Republicans to support Biden's agenda Domestic extremists return to the Capitol GOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes MORE's plans to highlight adverse reactions to COVID vaccines (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Oregon emergency COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted no later than June 30, Brown says (Oregon Live)

Nursing homes struggle to reduce a serious COVID risk: many employees resist vaccination (Boston Globe)