Celebrate Earth Day—Think globally, act locally!

Nearly 200 countries celebrate Earth Day on April 22—a day for encouraging awareness and action for the environment. How can you make your voice heard this year? Let Medicare help! Medicare has several electronic resources to help you manage your health care better.

One great way is to sign up to get your “Medicare & You” handbook electronically. If you have an eReader (like an iPad, Kindle Fire, Surface, or Galaxy Tab) you can download a free digital version to your eReader and take it with you anywhere you go.

U.S. appeals court blocks Indiana ‘selective’ abortion law

(Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Thursday declared unconstitutional an Indiana law signed by then-Governor Mike Pence that banned women from having abortions because of the gender, race or disability, including Down’s syndrome, of their fetuses.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence participates in the opening session of the Americas Summit in Lima, Peru April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Stapff

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said the 2016 ban on “selective” abortions imposed an “undue burden” on the ability to have the procedure.

Biogen boosts investment in neurology with $1 billion Ionis deal

(Reuters) – Biogen Inc struck a $1 billion neurology drug development deal with Ionis Pharmaceuticals on Friday, expanding a partnership that developed the company’s potential blockbuster drug for spinal muscular atrophy.

A sign marks a Biogen facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Biogen’s shares, however, fell about 2 percent as investors were looking for a larger deal, especially after rival Novartis AG last week said it would buy AveXis Inc for $8.7 billion to gain access to its gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy.

Researchers discover new information related to rare form of leukemia

April 20, 2018

International research consortium led by researchers from the University of Helsinki, Finland, discovered new information related to a rare form of leukemia called aggressive NK-cell leukemia. Potential new treatment options were found which are highly warranted as currently this disease usually leads to rapid death of patients.

The study was published in Nature Communications.

Aggressive NK-cell leukemia (ANKL) is a cancer in which leukemia cells consist of natural killer cells, a part of our immune system in normal conditions. The disease is very rare and aggressive: with the current treatment options (cytostatic drugs and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation) patients usually survive only a couple of months. This leukemia type is more common in the Asian population. However, related diseases such as NK/T-cell lymphomas occur also in western countries.

Interaction between dioxin and HLA gene variant activates events associated with rheumatoid arthritis

April 19, 2018

It has been known for more than three decades that individuals with a particular version of a gene -; human leukocyte antigen (HLA) -; have an increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis.

Meanwhile, in recent years, there has been a growing interest in the relationship between rheumatoid arthritis and environmental factors, such as cigarette smoking. In smokers who develop rheumatoid arthritis, the disease hits harder. Smokers who also carry the HLA gene variant have even higher likelihood to develop RA, and their disease is more severe. For these patients, this means not only greater pain and swelling, but also more severe bone destruction -; a lesser known and more dangerous aspect of the disease.

Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Nothing In Health Care Ever Goes Away

Congressional Republicans have struck a decidedly different tone when talking about the Affordable Care Act, and the Democrats have introduced a new Medicare expansion bill.

Meanwhile, states are talking about Medicaid expansion, and a federal court’s ruling on Maryland’s proposal to battle drug price-gouging sends shock waves nationwide. Both chambers of Congress have been busy introducing legislative fixes for the nation’s opioid epidemic with lawmakers promising that legislation will land this spring.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Sarah Jane Tribble of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post.

New Medicare Perk For Diabetes Prevention Stumbles At Rollout

Several weeks ago, Medicare launched an initiative to prevent seniors and people with serious disabilities from developing Type 2 diabetes, one of the most common and costly medical conditions in the U.S.

But the April 1 rollout of the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program, a major new benefit that could help millions of people, is getting off to a rocky start, according to interviews with nearly a dozen experts.

In all but a few locations, experts said, Medicare’s new prevention program — a yearlong series of classes about healthy eating, physical activity and behavioral change for people at high risk of developing diabetes — isn’t up and running yet. And there’s no easy way (no phone number or website) to learn where it’s available.

Novartis CEO feels heat on U.S. generics, Cosentyx drop

ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss drugmaker Novartis’ first quarterly results under new CEO Vas Narasimhan have been marred by a prized psoriasis treatment that disappointed and a sharp slump in sales by its U.S. generics unit.

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Swiss drugmaker Novartis is seen at its branch in Schweizerhalle near Basel, Switzerland, March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

The stock declined 2.2 percent at 1200 GMT, more than double the fall of the broader European Healthcare index after the company released first-quarter earnings.

While Narasimhan confirmed 2018 growth targets, his Cosentyx drug for psoriasis and arthritis missed analyst expectations with revenue plunging from the fourth quarter.

Large spleen helps explain deep-diving skills of Southeast Asian ‘sea nomads’

(Reuters Health) – An age-old nomadic community of Southeast Asian boat-dwellers who get their food from the sea appear to have evolved enlarged spleens that may help explain their extreme diving prowess, a new study suggests.

The spleen stores oxygen-rich red blood cells that it can release into the bloodstream, enabling divers to hold their breath for longer periods of time under water. While competitive divers can train to boost their lung capacity or increase their red blood cell count, the current study offers fresh evidence of the potential for humans to adapt genetically to a lack of oxygen and support a lifestyle centered on diving for food.

Environmental pollutants found to worsen rheumatoid arthritis

By April 19, 2018

Scientists have uncovered a link between the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and environmental pollutants, such as cigarette smoke.

Credit: JPC-PROD/Shutterstock.com

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. It is characterized by pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints, most commonly those of the hands, feet and wrists.

Although the symptoms can be managed with treatment, patients commonly experience unpredictable and debilitating flare-ups during which the pain and swelling worsens significantly.