KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Weekend Reading: Chemo Revolution, Lyme Disease Confusion and The Residency Mismatch

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting articles from around the Web.

The New York Times: Pregnant, Pill-Free And Panicked
Because I've lived so long with anxiety, there were lots of things I figured I'd never, ever do — having children was one of them. In fact, in my 20s, before I'd managed to stumble on the combination of drugs and exercise that allows me to be as sane as I can expect to be, I was so sure I'd never give birth that I got a tattoo of a giant koi fish extending from one end of my abdomen to the other. ... I found myself in a very ironic situation: my decision to have a child was the result of a sense of stability I enjoyed due to taking an array of anti-anxiety medications that I would be strongly advised by most doctors to stop taking now that I was pregnant (Alissa Nutting, 6/23).

Time: No More Chemo: Doctors Say It's Not So Far-Fetched
There's a revolution occurring in cancer treatment, and it could mean the end of chemotherapy. When it comes to taming tumors, the strategy has always been fairly straightforward. Remove the offending and abnormal growth by any means, in the most effective way possible. And the standard treatments used today reflect this single-minded approach — surgery physically cuts out malignant lesions; chemotherapy agents dissolve them from within; and radiation seeks and destroys abnormally dividing cells. ... But as effective as they are, these interventions can be just as brutal on the patient as they are on a tumor. So researchers were especially excited by a pair of studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week that showed a new type of anti-cancer drug, which works in an entirely different way from chemotherapy, helped leukemia patients tally up to an 83% survival rate after being treated for two years (Alice Park, 6/26).

The New Yorker: The Lyme Wars
Kaleigh Ahern was twelve years old when a tick bit her. She noticed it "perched" on her shoulder when she was taking a shower one morning. "I thought it was your average, everyday bug," Ahern told me recently. But, when she tried to brush it off, the tick wouldn’t budge. ... nearly everything else about Lyme disease -- the symptoms, the diagnosis, the prevalence, the behavior of the borrelia spirochete after it infects the body, and the correct approach to treatment -- is contested bitterly and publicly. Even the definition of Lyme disease, and the terminology used to describe it, has fuelled years of acrimonious debate. ... Public-health officials say that a few weeks of antibiotic treatment will almost always wipe out the infection, and that relapses are rare. In this view, put forth in guidelines issued by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Lyme is normally easy to treat and easy to cure. For many people, though, the clinical situation is far more complicated (Michael Specter, 6/26).

New England Journal Of Medicine: The Residency Mismatch
For generations, the supply of practicing physicians in the United States has swung from too small to too large and back again. In 2006, alarmed about a growing physician shortage, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recommended that medical school enrollments be increased by 30% over the next decade. ... But there's another barrier to creating enough practicing physicians: there are insufficient residency posts to accommodate all these medical graduates (John K. Iglehart, 6/19).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.