KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Longer Looks: Terri Schiavo Case; Stem Cell Tourism In China; Fall Protection For The Elderly

Every week KHN reporter Marissa Evans finds interesting reads from around the web. ??

ProPublica: MIA In The War On Cancer: Where Are The Low-Cost Treatments?
Increasingly, Big Pharma is betting on new blockbuster cancer drugs that cost billions to develop and can be sold for thousands of dollars a dose. In 2010, each of the top 10 cancer drugs topped more than $1 billion in sales, according to Campbell Alliance, a health-care consulting firm. A decade earlier, only two of them did. Left behind are low-cost alternatives ... that have shown some merit but don't have enough profit potential for drug companies to invest in researching them. The newer drugs have in some cases shown dramatic life-extending results for patients. Yet cancer remains the second-most-common cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease, killing about 580,000 people a year. Worldwide, 60 percent of all cancer deaths occur in developing countries .... That has added urgency to an active debate about whether efforts to combat cancer — and where to put scarce research dollars — need to be rethought (Jake Bernstein, 4/23).  

The New York Times: From Private Ordeal To National Fight: The Case Of Terri Schiavo 
For 15 years, Terri Schiavo was effectively a slave — slave to an atrophied brain that made her a prisoner in her body, slave to bitter fighting between factions of her family, slave to seemingly endless rounds of court hearings, slave to politicians who injected themselves into her tragedy and turned her ordeal into a national morality play. To this day, the name Schiavo is virtually a synonym for epic questions about when life ends and who gets to make that determination. It would be nice to believe that since Ms. Schiavo’s death nine years ago, America has found clear answers. Of course it has not (Haberman, 4/20).

That's Magazine: We Can Rebuild You: Stem Cell Tourism Comes To China
Consigned to a wheelchair and rapidly losing motor functions, 9-year-old Kara Anderson, who suffers from cerebral palsy, faced an uncertain future in her native US. With doctors recommending invasive surgery that would sever tendons, nerves and ligaments to help restore mobility, her family began searching overseas for alternatives. ? ??After months of research, her uncle David Mair, who is also CEO of a medical tourism company, suggested stem cell therapy in China. This largely experimental field of medicine uses undifferentiated (or "blank") cells that can take on the functions of depleted or damaged cell lines and repopulate within the patient’s body. While many stem cell treatments remain years, if not decades away from being approved as safe in the West, a combination of more lenient regulations and a distinctly different model of medical ethics has seen a surge of these advanced procedures in China over the past decade ? (Oscar Holland, 4/23). 

The Atlantic:  Who Will Watch You Fall? A Radar Detection Program ?F?or ?T?he Elderly
In the next three decades, the number of Americans over 65-years-old will double. That's good news if you are the proprietor of any retirement homes, retirement villages, or retirement centers. But as many Americans opt to "age in place"—a popular term that might conjure the stagnation of a potted plant but is used in rebellion to the nursing-home-exile trope, describing continued independent living in one's own home—there will be an increasing need for affordable, large-scale systems to monitor for emergencies. The most common injury-related reason that elderly people are admitted to the hospital is that they fell over. It has been reported that almost one in one thousand of those falls results in death. Wearable devices and home-monitoring video cameras have become widely popular, but they have drawbacks in that they can be invasive or annoying. So an expert in radar imaging is on the case (James Hamblin, 4/21). 

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