Opioid Prescriptions Drop Sharply Among State Workers

The agency that manages health care for California’s massive state workforce is reporting a major reduction in opioid prescriptions, reflecting a national trend of physicians cutting back on the addictive drugs.

Insurance claims for opioids, which are prescribed to help people manage pain, decreased almost 19% in a single year among the 1.5 million Californians served by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. CalPERS manages health benefits for employees and retirees of state and local agencies and public schools, and their families.

Supreme Court gives Merck another shot to avoid Fosamax lawsuits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday gave Merck & Co a new opportunity to avoid lawsuits accusing the company of failing to properly warn patients of debilitating thigh-bone fractures from taking its osteoporosis drug Fosamax, throwing out a lower court decision that had revived the litigation.

FILE PHOTO: The Merck logo is seen at a gate to the Merck & Co campus in Linden, New Jersey, U.S., July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Doctors end life support for French patient in landmark right-to-die case

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – Doctors stopped giving food and water to French quadriplegic Vincent Lambert on Monday, lawyers said, renewing a fierce debate over the right to die that has split his family and country.

The 42-year-old former psychiatric nurse has been in a vegetative state since a motorcycle accident in 2008. He has almost no consciousness but can breath without a respirator and occasionally moves his eyes.

His wife Rachel and some of his siblings say care should be withdrawn. But Lambert’s Catholic parents, backed by other relatives, say he should be kept alive and have launched a series of legal bids to keep his care going.

Listen: After Its Hospital Closes, A Pioneer Kansas Town Searches For What Comes Next

KHN senior correspondent Sarah Jane Tribble is interviewed on NPR’s “Morning Edition” about the challenges faced by rural communities when their hospitals close. She is spending a year following Fort Scott, Kan., as it copes and recovers from the loss. Listen to the conversation here:

And read the first installment of the series, “No Mercy,” here.

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Missouri follows Alabama by passing restrictive abortion bill

(Reuters) – Missouri lawmakers passed a bill on Friday that prohibits women from seeking an abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy, days after Alabama enacted the most restrictive abortion law in the United States.

The legislation allows for an abortion after the eighth week only in the case of medical emergencies. On Wednesday, Alabama banned abortions at any time, with the same exception.

Similar laws have been proposed in more than a dozen other states as Republican-controlled legislatures push to restrict the rights of women to terminate their pregnancies.

Too much screen time tied to school problems even in little kids

(Reuters Health) – Kindergarteners who get more than two hours of screen time a day may be more likely to have behavior and attention problems in school than their classmates who spend less time in front of televisions, smartphones and tablets, a Canadian study suggests.

Doctors urge parents of young kids to limit screen time or avoid it altogether because all of those hours watching videos or gaming have been linked to slowed development of speech and language, fine and gross motor skills, and social and behavioral skills. After all, time spent in front of screens means less time for scribbling with crayons or playing games that help kids learn how to kick a ball or take turns.

As ER Wait Times Grow, More Patients Leave Against Medical Advice

Emergency room patients increasingly leave California hospitals against medical advice, and experts say crowded ERs are likely to blame.

About 352,000 California ER visits in 2017 ended when patients left after seeing a doctor but before their medical care was complete. That’s up by 57%, or 128,000 incidents, from 2012, according to data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

Another 322,000 would-be patients left the emergency room without seeing a doctor, up from 315,000 such episodes in 2012.

Missouri assembly passes restrictive abortion bill, days after Alabama

(Reuters) – The lower house of the Missouri General Assembly passed a bill on Friday to prohibit women from seeking an abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy, days after Alabama enacted the most restrictive abortion law in the United States.

The House of Representatives gave its final legislative approval in a 110-44 vote after protesters were removed from the public gallery. Missouri senators overwhelmingly approved the legislation on Thursday.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign the bill into law. He has said he would make Missouri “one of the strongest pro-life states in the country.”

U.S. FDA labels J&J surgical staplers’ recall as severest

FILE PHOTO: A Johnson & Johnson building is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned of risks of serious injury or death from surgical staplers made by Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit, labeling a recent recall of the device as its most serious.

The recall, initiated early April by Ethicon, covers 92,496 surgical staplers and is now labeled as “Class-1” – the strictest form of recall issued by FDA, where use of faulty devices may cause serious injury or death.

Sudoku, Crosswords Could Make Your Brain Years Younger

News Picture: Sudoku, Crosswords Could Make Your Brain Years Younger

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THURSDAY, May 16, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Mornings spent figuring out Sudoku or finessing a crossword could spell better health for aging brains, researchers say.

In a study of over 19,000 British adults aged 50 and over who were tracked for 25 years, the habit of doing word or number puzzles seemed to help keep minds nimble over time.

“We’ve found that the more regularly people engage with puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku, the sharper their performance is across a range of tasks assessing memory, attention and reasoning,” said research leader Dr. Anne Corbett, of the University of Exeter Medical School.