Week in Review: March 17

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.

Industry News

Calls for Ibuprofen Sale Restrictions after Study Finds Cardiac Arrest Risk

There have been fresh calls for restrictions on the sale of the painkiller ibuprofen after another study found it heightens the risk of cardiac arrest. Taking the over-the-counter drug was associated with a 31% increased risk, researchers in Denmark found. Other medicines from the same group of painkillers, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), presented an even higher risk, according to the findings published in the European Heart Journal. Via The Guardian.

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As Drug Costs Soar, People Delay or Skip Cancer Treatment

One-quarter of all cancer patients chose not to fill a prescription due to cost, according to a 2013 study in The Oncologist. And about 20 percent filled only part of a prescription or took less than the prescribed amount. Given that more than 1.6 million Americans are likely to be diagnosed with cancer this year, that suggests 168,000 to 405,000 ration their own prescription use. "Patients are being harmed daily" by high treatment costs, says Dr. Hagop Kantarjian, a leukemia specialist and professor at Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center. "It's causing more deaths than necessary." For instance, one-third of Medicare patients who were expected to use Gleevec—a lifesaving leukemia medication that costs up to $146,000 a year—failed to fill prescriptions within six months of diagnosis, according to a December study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Via NPR.

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Fish Oil Supplements May Not Help Prevent Heart Disease

A new scientific advisory report from the American Heart Association (AHA) concludes that omega-3 fish oil supplements, which have long been touted as a path to heart health, may not be useful as a heart disease preventive. According to the new report, published in the journal Circulation, only heart attack survivors and those who have already been diagnosed with heart failure seemed to benefit from taking the supplements. Meanwhile, other evidence supports the benefits of eating fish—such as salmon and sardines—for protecting against heart disease. About 21 percent of Americans take fish oil supplements, according to a 2015 nationally representative survey of more than 2,000 people from the Consumer Reports National Research Center. This new AHA report suggests that many of them probably aren’t getting the protective benefits they’re banking on. Via Consumer Reports.

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Employees Who Decline Genetic Testing Could Face Penalties under Proposed Bill

Employers could impose hefty penalties on employees who decline to participate in genetic testing as part of workplace wellness programs if a bill approved by a U.S. House committee this week becomes law. In general, employers don't have that power under existing federal laws, which protect genetic privacy and nondiscrimination. But a bill passed Wednesday by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce would allow employers to get around those obstacles if the information is collected as part of a workplace wellness program. Via Washington Post.

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NIH Would See Huge Budget Cut under President’s Proposal

The National Institutes of Health would absorb an enormous $5.8 billion cut under President Trump’s first budget proposal—equal to about 19% of its current $30.3 billion discretionary budget. The plan “includes a major reorganization” of NIH’s 27 institutes and centers and would eliminate the Fogarty International Center, a $69.1 million program dedicated to building partnerships between health research institutions in the United States and abroad. With few details available in the budget outline, it is unclear what kind of reorganization the administration envisions at NIH, the crown jewel of U.S. biomedical research. The agency funds research into a vast array of diseases and conditions, including cancer, heart disease, developmental disorders, and mental illness. Via Washington Post.

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Mayo Clinic News

New Blood Test Could Help Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke

Scientists can tell by your blood whether you have cancer cells, how well your organs are functioning, and if they've been affected by cancer. Now, there’s a new blood test that could help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Jeff Meeusen, Ph.D., developed the test at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Meeusen told "Voice of America" in a Skype interview that the test will determine who’s at risk for a heart attack or stroke, "and it seems to have a chance to determine who’s at risk, even accounting for current gold standard tests like LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol." LDL cholesterol is considered the "bad" cholesterol because it becomes part of plaque, the waxy stuff that can clog arteries. Via Voice of America.

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Insurance Coverage for Hearing Loss Is Spotty

Researchers are trying to better understand how problems develop, how they can be prevented, and how best to help people who are suffering from hearing loss. A major obstacle for many, however, is that insurance often doesn't cover treatments or devices that improve hearing. What’s Not Covered: Hearing aids for adults are not covered by the "vast majority" of insurance plans, according to Mayo Clinic expert Colin Driscoll., M.D. This coverage is more common for children. Hearing aids can cost anywhere from $500 to about $2,000. Via U.S. News & Health Report.

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How to Get Rid of the Flu Faster

Antiviral treatment can literally be a lifesaver for folks at higher risk of complications from the flu, including the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with underlying medical issues (such as diabetes, cancer, or heart, or lung disease). For those at lower risk, it may not be necessary. “Most healthy people who develop influenza infection do just fine by getting plenty of fluids and rest and do not need an antiviral medication unless they have severe infection,” says Pritish Tosh, M.D., an infectious diseases physician and researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Via Health.

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Potential Changes Could Extend Doctor Shifts

Doctors work long hours each day to save lives and it can take a toll. For new doctors, that can be an even bigger burden. Right now, first-year doctors in training can only work up to 16 hours at a time, but that may soon change. "At the end of the day, that 24-hour shift always ended up being 26, 28, even sometimes 30 hours of just unfinished work,” says Mayo Clinic research trainee Ryan Greene. Greene participated in a residency program that took part in a 24-hour trial. He says you can get by performing that type of schedule. "But at the end of the day, if you are honest and truthful with yourself, many mistakes are made,” says Greene. Via KAAL.

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Schools within Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science included in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Graduate Schools Rankings

U.S. News & World Report released its 2018 rankings for Best Graduate Schools across the nation. Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences, two schools within Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, are included on the list. Mayo Clinic School of Medicine advanced to a top 20 ranking in the report. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.

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Gina Chiri-Osmond

Gina Chiri-Osmond is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She manages public relations and media outreach. Gina has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2011. Outside of work, Gina is going for gold in volleyball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo . . . or at small-town summer festivals.