Health Desk

Shots - Health News
2:34 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Surgeons Discover Quirky Knee Ligament All Over Again

An anatomical drawing shows the ligaments on the outside surface of the knee. The anterolateral ligament connects the thigh bone to the shinbone.
Courtesy of University Hospitals Leuven

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 2:12 pm

About 150 years ago, a prestigious surgeon in Paris found a new body part while dissecting cadavers. He described the structure as a pearly, "fibrous band" on the outside of the bones in the knee.

That sure sounds like a ligament. But nobody really gave it much thought. And poof! Over the next hundred years or so, the body part was pretty much forgotten.

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Shots - Health News
11:36 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Why Doctors Are Testing An Epilepsy Drug For Alcoholism

Gabapentin, sold under the brand name Neurontin, helps some people cut down on drinking.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 6:36 am

In the hunt for new ways to help people fight alcoholism, doctors are studying gabapentin, a generic drug that's commonly used to treat epilepsy and fibromyalgia.

In a 12-week clinical trial conducted by the Scripps Research Institute, people taking taking gabapentin were much better at reducing their alcohol intake than those who got a placebo. The research, involving 150 people, was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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The Salt
10:41 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Washington State Says 'No' To GMO Labels

Cars in Tacoma, Wash., promote a "yes" vote on a ballot initiative that would have required genetically engineered foods to be labeled.
Ted S. Warren AP

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 12:58 pm

Voters appear to have defeated another attempt to require labels on genetically modified foods in Washington state. In early counts, the "no" campaign has what appears to be an insurmountable lead with 54 percent of votes.

The ballot initiative would require labels on the front of packages for most food products, seeds and commodities like soy or corn if they were produced using genetic engineering.

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The Takeaway
9:53 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Advice for Returning Vets?

The Takeaway is teaming up with the Center for Investigative Reporting to collect advice from veterans, for veterans, and by veterans.

We want to hear from you: veterans, what advice do you have for those who have recently returned? What advice do you wish you’d been given after your service?

We also want to hear from vets who have recently returned: what questions do you have? What advice are you seeking?

Give us a call at 877-8-MY-TAKE or tweet us at @TheTakeaway using the hashtag #vetadvice.

Shots - Health News
1:57 am
Thu November 7, 2013

How The Affordable Care Act Pays For Insurance Subsidies

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 2:44 pm

The new health care law will provide around $1 trillion in subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans over the next decade to help them pay for health insurance.

Johanna Humbert of Galien, Mich., was pleasantly surprised to discover that she qualifies for an insurance subsidy, since her current plan is being canceled. Humbert makes about $30,000 a year, so she'll get a subsidy of about $300 a month. The new plan is similar to her current one, but it will cost $250 — about half of what she pays now.

But where will the money come from to pay for subsidies like these?

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Shots - Health News
4:17 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

IVF Doesn't Raise Overall Risk For Childhood Cancers

Tina Nevill of Essex, England, holds Poppy, who was conceived by in vitro fertilization. The U.K.'s health system records all IVF cycles performed in the country.
Barcroft Media/Landov

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 8:51 pm

Children who were conceived with in vitro fertilization have the same overall chance of developing childhood cancers as those conceived naturally, scientists reported Wednesday.

"It's a reassuring finding," says pediatrician Alastair Sutcliffe of University College London, who led the study. "It's a bellwether to the future health of these kids as they grow up."

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Shots - Health News
12:46 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Babies' Immune Systems May Stand Down To Let Good Microbes Grow

He's not just getting a cold. He's building his microbiome.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 2:27 pm

Here's possible solace for parents who are up at night with a baby who gets sick all the time: There appears to be a good reason why infant immune systems don't fight off germs.

A newborn's immune system is deliberately not doing battle with every germ that comes along so that "good" microbes have a chance to settle in, researchers say. That explanation is at odds with the widely held belief that those new immune systems are just too weak to do the job.

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Shots - Health News
11:31 am
Wed November 6, 2013

A New Look At An Old Epilepsy Drug Yields Treatment Clue

In epilepsy, the normal behavior of brain neurons is disturbed. The drug valproic acid appears to help the brain replenish a key chemical, preventing seizures.
David Mack/Science Source

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 3:38 pm

About one-third of people with epilepsy aren't helped by existing drugs.

But a commonly prescribed medicine used for almost 50 years to treat the disorder has revealed new information about how the disorder works that could lead to improvements in treatments.

That drug, valproic acid, is used to treat epilepsy, migraines and bipolar disorder. It's the active ingredient in drugs like as Depakote or Depakon, among other names.

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Shots - Health News
9:48 am
Wed November 6, 2013

How Pictures Of Infant Boy's Eyes Helped Diagnose Cancer

A milky eye can be a sign of early cancer of the retina.
Courtesy of Bryan Shaw

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 8:51 pm

Bryan Shaw never expected to write a research paper about a rare eye cancer.

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Shots - Health News
8:17 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Administration Looks To Give Labor Unions Health Tax Relief

Union member Tom Stensberg holds a sign thanking Congress for the Affordable Care Act during a rally hosted by the AFL-CIO at the U.S. Capitol in May 2010.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Weeks after denying labor's request to give union members access to health law subsidies, the Obama administration is signaling it intends to exempt some union plans from one of the law's substantial taxes.

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Politics
3:42 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Obama To Visit Dallas To Smooth Bumps In Health Care Sign-Up

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 8:47 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Today, President Obama meets some of the volunteers trying to sign up Americans for health insurance. The volunteers work in Texas, where the president is traveling.

MONTAGNE: The trip to Dallas is partly to raise money for Democratic Senate candidates, and partly the promote the new health care law. But in Dallas, it's hard to miss the current gap between that law's ambition and its current execution.

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Shots - Health News
2:51 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

In Colorado, A Couple Finds Relief In Obamacare

Lela Petersen, owner of the Anything And Everything store in Flagler, Colo., expects the cost of health insurance for her and her husband to drop by my more than half next year.
Jeff Brady

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 3:07 pm

There's plenty of criticism of the Affordable Care Act and how it's being implemented.

But let's introduce you to someone who is quite pleased with her Obamacare experience: Lela Petersen of Flagler, Colo. She's a small business owner with a very big health insurance bill.

But thanks to the health law, she expects that bill will be cut by more than half in January.

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The Salt
2:49 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Make Room For Mushrooms: Fungi Compete With Meat In Burgers

Richard Blais' Earth & Turf Burger, served at the Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta, is 50 percent beef, 50 percent mushroom.
Courtesy of Flip Burger Boutique

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 5:00 pm

With so many people reconsidering their meat consumption, the mushroom industry is hoping their product can become the next "other" white meat.

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Shots - Health News
1:05 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Wondering If You Need A Strep Test? Crowdsourcing Might Help

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to skip the strep test sometimes?
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 1:35 pm

Most sore throats aren't strep. But because strep bacteria can in rare cases cause rheumatic fever, people often feel like they should get tested for possible strep infection.

It might be possible to skip that step someday by checking whether your neighbors have been getting strep throat, researchers say. Aside from reducing the cost and inconvenience of needless clinic visits, the neighborhood strep check could reduce the risk of being needlessly treated with antibiotics.

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Shots - Health News
10:17 am
Tue November 5, 2013

For Many Workers, It's Time To Consider Insurance Options

It's open enrollment time again, the autumn period when many people with job-based health insurance ante up for another year.

Although news reports have fixated on the problems with the online health marketplaces that launched Oct. 1, for the vast majority of people that's a nonissue. If they get insurance through a job at a company that has at least 50 employees, they probably won't be using the marketplaces, also called exchanges.

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Shots - Health News
9:32 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Insurance Cancellations: The Price Of Mending A Broken System?

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 11:36 am

Lisa Dieckman, a retired psychologist in Los Angeles, likes the Affordable Care Act's promise that everybody can get health insurance. But she's not happy about being told she can't keep her own coverage and will have to pay considerably more for a policy she doesn't consider any better.

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Health Care
3:02 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Insurance Firms Forced To Cancel Many Individual Policies

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 4:08 am

More than 12 million Americans buy health insurance on their own, and many are getting cancellation notices because their individual coverage does not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act. This is causing anxiety and anger — especially since most of these people can't get onto the healthcare.gov website to figure out their options for 2014.

The Salt
2:00 am
Tue November 5, 2013

For Mind And Body: Study Finds Mediterranean Diet Boosts Both

A crostini of smoked trout, hard-boiled egg, aioli and roe at The Red Hen in Washington, D.C. Owner/Chef Michael Friedman says Mediterranean cooking is simply a tweaking of basic cooking ideas.
Courtesy of Brian Oh

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 10:36 am

For all of us nearing middle age, or slogging through it, yes, there is a benefit in eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish, nuts, vegetables and fruit.

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that women who followed this pattern of eating in their 50s were about 40 percent more likely to reach the later decades without developing chronic diseases and memory or physical problems, compared to women who didn't eat as well.

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Shots - Health News
1:58 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Call Centers Got Big Deals Under Health Law, But How Big?

Do you have questions about the bronze plan?
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 4:08 am

Before the Affordable Care Act was even open for enrollment, Viviana Alvarado was already taking calls from people who wanted to know more.

She and about 40 of her colleagues are staffing the phones for Maximus, the company Connecticut has contracted to run its call center.

The government contractors running the troubled HealthCare.gov website have been under intense scrutiny in the past month, but those businesses aren't the only ones being paid to rollout Obamacare.

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Shots - Health News
4:43 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Childhood Maltreatment Can Leave Scars In The Brain

Girls are particularly vulnerable to brain changes caused by stress or trauma, researchers say.
Allen Johnson iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 11:21 am

Maltreatment during childhood can lead to long-term changes in brain circuits that process fear, researchers say. This could help explain why children who suffer abuse are much more likely than others to develop problems like anxiety and depression later on.

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Shots - Health News
3:31 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Oregon's State Exchange May Be Worse Than HealthCare.gov

Matthew Collier, an uninsured entrepreneur, speaks at a rally sponsored by Cover Oregon in Portland, Ore., on Oct. 1.
Don Ryan AP

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 8:51 am

As the federal government consumes humble pie over failures in the health insurance exchanges, some states that have set up their own exchanges are also struggling. Oregon has yet to enroll one single person, and it's been reduced to pawing through paper applications to figure out eligibility.

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Shots - Health News
3:29 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Bariatric Surgery Can Keep Pounds Off For Years

Just knowing that someone is obese doesn't mean they would benefit from bariatric surgery, doctors say.
iStockphoto.com

Weight-loss surgery is becoming increasingly popular because it's the only treatment that pretty much guarantees weight loss.

There is very little evidence on how it will affect people's health over the long haul. But people who had surgery maintained substantial weight loss three years later, according to a study that's trying to figure out if it works.

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Shots - Health News
1:45 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Johnson & Johnson To Pay $2.2 Billion In Marketing Settlement

The schizophrenia drug Risperdal was at the heart of government investigations into improper marketing that stretched back more than a decade.
JB Reed Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 3:00 pm

Like professional baseball, the drug industry may need to slap asterisks next to some of its standout sales accomplishments.

Johnson & Johnson became the latest drugmaker to reach a costly agreement with the federal government over charges of improper marketing. The widely anticipated settlement, unveiled Monday, covers Natrecor, a drug for congestive heart failure, and antipsychotics Risperdal and Invega.

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Politics
11:00 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Cutting SNAP Benefits Not A Snap Decision

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 1:57 pm

Transcript

CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Michel Martin is away. Coming up, we'll get an update on the humanitarian crisis in Syria. But first, we turn to an issue that affects one out of every seven humans in America, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP. Back in 2009, in the depths of the recession, President Obama increased SNAP benefits using stimulus funds, but the temporary increase expired this past Friday.

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Shots - Health News
2:45 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Exploring The Invisible Universe That Lives On Us — And In Us

Benjamin Arthur for NPR

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 2:28 pm

The next time you look in a mirror, think about this: In many ways you're more microbe than human. There are 10 times more cells from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi in and on our bodies than there are human cells.

Scientists increasingly think that these microorganisms have a huge influence on our health. Without them, our bodies don't seem to do as well. We don't seem to be as healthy and might actually get sick more often.

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Shots - Health News
2:16 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Getting Your Microbes Analyzed Raises Big Privacy Issues

Say hello to your microbiome, Rob Stein. Our intrepid correspondent decided to get his gut bacteria analyzed. Now he's wondering if he needs to eat more garlic and onions.
Morgan Walker NPR

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 2:28 pm

After spending months working on a series of stories about the trillions of friendly microbes that live in and on our bodies, I decided it might be interesting to explore my own microbiome.

So I pulled out my credit card and paid the $99 needed to sign up for the American Gut Project, one of a couple of "citizen science" or crowdsourced microbiome projects.

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Health Care
6:11 am
Sun November 3, 2013

Some Amish Opt Out Of Government-Sponsored Insurance

Originally published on Sun November 3, 2013 11:18 am

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now, to Indiana, where members of the Amish community are trying to figure out what the Affordable Care Act means for them, specifically the law's requirement that every person have health insurance. The Amish are religiously opposed to commercial insurance and they pride themselves on taking care of their own. Here's Dennis Lehman. He is the president of an Amish community health clinic in Topeka, Indiana.

DENNIS LEHMAN: We've always shared each other's burdens, so to speak. We help each other with free-will donations.

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Shots - Health News
3:22 am
Sun November 3, 2013

Minnesota Reaches Out To Uninsured Latinos, Wherever They Are

Health workers know places like Karina Cardoso's beauty salon in St. Paul, Minn., are prime places share information about the state's new health insurance options.
Elizabeth Stawicki for NPR

Originally published on Sun November 3, 2013 11:18 am

Minnesota's new online health insurance marketplace, MNsure, has been open for about a month, but getting the word out to hard-to-reach populations is just ramping up.

Outreach efforts have been slow to start due to delays in training navigators and finalizing MNsure's contracts with organizations who provide one-on-one help.

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Politics
4:49 pm
Sat November 2, 2013

How Is White House Handling HealthCare.gov Debacle?

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

This week, the secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, testified before Congress about the botched rollout of the HealthCare.gov website. It was the latest attempt at damage control by the Obama administration since the site went live a month ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SECRETARY KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: The website has never crashed. It is functional but at a very slow speed and very low reliability - and has continued to function.

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Health
4:38 pm
Sat November 2, 2013

With Rise Of Painkiller Abuse, A Closer Look At Heroin

The amount of prescription painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors' offices quadrupled between 1999 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Toby Talbot AP

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 10:26 am

Abuse of prescription painkillers is a "growing, deadly epidemic," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Oct. 24, the Food and Drug Administration recommended putting new restrictions on hydrocodone, sold as Vicodin and other brand names.

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