Merck, Pfizer drug combo extends kidney cancer survival: study

(Reuters) – A combination of Merck & Co’s immunotherapy Keytruda and Pfizer Inc’s Inlyta helped patients with advanced kidney cancer live longer than those receiving and older Pfizer standalone therapy, according to data from a late-stage study presented on Saturday.

A logo of American pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer Inc., is pictured in Toluca, Mexico October 1, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Nearly 90 percent of patients who received the combination therapy were still alive after 12 months compared with about 78 percent of patients who were alive after a year when treated with the older drug Sutent, data showed.

France suggests glyphosate exit could be even slower than planned

PARIS (Reuters) – Only half of France’s farmland could do without glyphosate-based weed-killers by 2021, the country’s farm minister suggested, further lowering an initial ambition to get rid of the controversial chemical by then.

French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume attends an interview with Reuters in Paris, February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

In November 2017, President Emmanuel Macron pledged to ban glyphosate in France within three years, rejecting a European Union decision to extend its use for five years after a heated debate over whether the weed-killer, developed by Bayer-owned Monsanto, can cause cancer.

Indonesia to postpone halal label deadline amid industry concerns

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia will push back by as much as seven years an October deadline for halal labels on food, drugs and cosmetics, after industry voiced fears the move could bring chaos and threaten supplies of life-saving vaccines and other products.

A shopkeeper arranges medicines to sell at a wholesale market in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

In 2014, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country adopted a measure for labels certifying whether products are halal, or suitable for consumption in line with Islamic laws. If not labeled, they would face sale bans.

U.S. Medicare plans to track CAR-T cancer therapy outcomes

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Friday proposed coverage of expensive CAR-T cell therapies at cancer centers that meet criteria including an approved registry of patient results or clinical study to monitor patients for at least two years after treatment.

New hospital payment terms from Medicare, the federal government healthcare program for the elderly and disabled, are expected later in the year.

Both Gilead Sciences Inc’s Yescarta and Novartis AG’s Kymriah have U.S. prices for advanced lymphoma patients of $373,000. Kymriah is also approved for a type of pediatric leukemia at a price of $475,000. Cancer centers have to be certified to administer the CAR-Ts.

Asthma classes in school may help reduce attacks

(Reuters Health) – School-age children with asthma who receive education on managing the condition may have fewer attacks, emergency room visits and hospitalizations than those who don’t get such classes, a recent study suggests.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood. Severe asthma attacks and breathing problems are associated with an increased risk of health problems like obesity as well as academic challenges like chronic absences from school and cognitive impairments that can lead to lower grades and test scores.

Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ “Medicare-For-All” For Dummies

Republicans are still in charge of the White House and the Senate, but the “Medicare-for-all” debate is in full swing. Democrats of every stripe are pledging support for a number of variations on the theme of expanding health coverage to all Americans.

This week, KHN’s “What the Health?” podcast takes a deep dive into the often-confusing Medicare-for-all debate, including its history, prospects and terminology.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post and Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

Utah’s Novel Plan For Medicaid Expansion Opens Door To Spending Caps Sought By GOP

Utah this week became the 35th state to approve expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but advocates for the poor worry its unusual financing could set a dangerous precedent and lead to millions of people losing coverage across the country.

That’s because the plan includes unprecedented annual limits on federal and state spending.

Those restrictions would be a radical change for Medicaid. Since it began in 1966, the state-federal health program for low-income residents has been an open-ended entitlement for anyone who meets eligibility criteria. State and federal spending must keep pace with enrollment.

Nearly 1,000 Madagascar children dead of measles since October – WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) – At least 922 children and young adults have died of measles in Madagascar since October, despite a huge emergency vaccination program, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The number of deaths is based on official numbers, but these are likely to be very incomplete, as is the current total of infections, at 66,000, Dr. Katrina Kretsinger of WHO’s expanded program on immunization told a news briefing.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that can cause complications including blindness and brain swelling and increase susceptibility to other diseases.

Paramedics not washing their hands nearly enough

(Reuters Health) – Hand hygiene compliance among paramedics may be “remarkably low,” according to a study that monitored ambulance workers in Scandinavia and Australia over six months.

Paramedics tended to wash their hands more often after handling patients than before, and to rely on gloves too much, which suggests they’re thinking more of their own infection risk than of the patient’s risk, the study authors note in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

“‘Emergency medical services’ implies that a high number of invasive procedures are performed outside of controlled hospital environments on a regular basis, potentially leading to an increased risk of infection,” said lead study author Heidi Vikke of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense.

Texans Can Appeal Surprise Medical Bills, But The Process Can Be Draining

In Texas, a growing number of patients are turning to a little-known state mediation program to deal with unexpected hospital bills.

The bills in question often arrive in patients’ mailboxes with shocking balances that run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When patients, through no fault of their own, are treated outside their insurers’ network of hospitals, the result can be a surprise bill. Other times, insurers won’t agree to pay what the hospital charges, and the patient is on the hook for the balance.