What Happened, What You Missed: November 28-December 2


New Drug Shows Potential to Slow Alzheimer’s Disease

The experimental drug lecanemab has the potential to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, according to late-stage clinical trial data from drugmakers Biogen and Eisai.  While Phase 2 trial data released in the summer did not show a large difference between lecanemab and a placebo in Alzheimer’s disease patients over 12 months, newly released Phase 3 trial data found that the drug was associated with less cognitive decline after 18 months of use.  However, instances of patients experiencing brain swelling and brain bleeding have raised concerns over the drug’s safety.  The news follows controversy over the decision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year to approve another Alzheimer’s drug from Biogen, in spite of clinical trial data that showed the drug’s efficacy to be limited.

Senate Panel Discusses Prior Authorization, Kids’ Mental Health

Senators from both parties touted legislation to expand mental health integration into pediatric care in a Wednesday hearing from the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families that focused on how the pandemic has exacerbated mental health challenges facing adolescents.  Other bipartisan legislation discussed in the hearing would streamline transitions from high school to college for students with disabilities and increase Medicaid reimbursement for children’s mental health services.  Prior authorization reform was also a topic of discussion during the hearing, as several witnesses pointed out that long wait times and high administrative costs are preventing many teens from accessing mental health care services in a timely manner.

HHS Proposes Changes to Privacy Records for Substance Use Disorder Patients

Currently, a substance use disorder patient must provide consent every single time a health care provider needs to share the patient’s records.  However, a newly proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would allow providers to share a patient’s records multiple times after receiving a patient’s consent only once.  According to a press release, the new privacy rules would ensure individuals are not denied “life-saving care” due to concerns about records disclosure.  The rule would also increase coordination among providers of treatment for substance use, expand HHS enforcement authority under 42 CFR part 2, and update breach notification requirements to HHS.  Stakeholders have until January 31, 2023, to comment on the proposed rule.

CDC: Deaths Linked to Substance Abuse Climb among Seniors

Deaths associated with drug and alcohol abuse are steadily rising, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  According to the data, death rates from drug overdoses among people 65 and over have more than tripled since 2000, while alcohol-related deaths among seniors have jumped more than 20% from 2019 to 2020.  The CDC also noted that alcohol-related death rates are higher overall among men over the age of 65, with older men seeing death four times higher than women when considering seniors 75 and older.   The report additional found growing use of fentanyl and synthetic opioids among seniors.

CDC to Start Wastewater Testing for Polio

The CDC announced on Wednesday plans to begin wastewater surveillance for polio in select communities with low vaccination rates.  The CDC will use data from the surveillance program to assist with vaccination programs if necessary.  Communities in Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania will be the first to adopt the wastewater testing programs, which will last for at least four months.  The CDC first hinted that it may begin wastewater testing program for polio in the summer when a single case of paralytic polio was found in Rockland County, New York.  The risk of polio to the public remains low because more than 92% of Americans were vaccinated during childhood.

ICYMI: White House Celebrates 100th Lighting of National Christmas Tree 

President Joe Biden celebrated the 100th lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Wednesday in a ceremony that included performances from Shania Twain and Gloria Estefan.  During the ceremony to light the 27-foot white fir, President Biden emphasized the importance of national unity and called on Americans to reflect on their blessings. The lighting of the National Christmas Tree began as a tradition a century ago under President Calvin Coolidge.

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