Amid the AP/DOJ, IRS, and other acronym-laden scandals, health news was still happening. Yes, really. Like these stories:
- D is for danger. Or something. An investigation by ProPublica has revealed that Medicare’s drug program (Part D) suffers from weak oversight, resulting in unsafe prescribing behaviors. Here’s the tricky thing about feds regulating these drugs: in 2010, 27.5 million Medicare beneficiaries filled over 1 billion prescriptions. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services—which oversees both public programs—only has about 5,000 employees. Quite the conundrum.
- Where movie stars and the Supreme Court collide. You probably heard that Angelina Jolie recently underwent a double-mastectomy as a preventive measure after learning she carries a gene that makes her more susceptible to breast cancer than most women. This resulted in a flurry of coverage about whether or not women should be screened—the test is prohibitively expensive at about $3,000. It seems like many stories skimped on why: Myriad Genetics, the company that manufactures the test, owns a patent on the gene. Yes, the gene, in everyone (in the United States). If that sounds controversial, it is: the Supreme Court is expected to decide this summer whether the company can “own” a gene, writ large.
- Meanwhile in Oregon… cloning, not Medicaid! Media buzz took a mad-science twist Wednesday when a paper was published in Cell reported that scientists had finally succeeded in cloning human embryonic stem cells, which hold promise for developing replacement tissues to treat diseases. But was it overhyped? The researchers, from Oregon Health and Science University, used essentially the same technique that created Dolly the sheep—back in 1997. A more sophisticated process was developed in 2007.
- Something ventured, nothing gained? Republicans have voted 37 (or 38, depending on your count) times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite lacking the political might in Congress to succeed in their efforts. These votes have largely been dismissed as a waste of time–but Sarah Kliff has another take. Repeated talk of repeal—no matter how futile in the present—might actually be changing public perception and discourse about the law.
- It’s the cupcakes, stupid. The Labor Department’s most recent Consumer Price Index had some bad news for the gourmet personal dessert industry: the index for “fresh cakes and cupcakes” is falling. This sparked a hashtag (#cupcakedeflation), and hilarity ensued.
Bottom line? Keep calm and collect more data.