Dems lose key piece of health agenda in spending bill

Democrats’ plan to control drug prices for 180 million Americans with private health insurance has suffered yet another setback.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Saturday that a core piece of the party’s plan can’t pass the chamber with fewer than 60 votes, following arguments from both parties last week.

Albeit a blow to the majority party, which had hoped to campaign this fall on lowering drug prices for all Americans, the nonpartisan parliamentarian’s vetting means the core of the plan Democrats are trying to steer past the GOP filibuster is finally cleared for floor debate, more than a year after they began crafting the far more sweeping version once called Build Back Better.

Yet the plan will now move forward without a provision that would have penalized drugmakers for hiking costs faster than inflation in private insurance plans as well as Medicare.

The exclusion of the private insurance price limits means there is little left that will reduce costs for the vast majority of Americans who receive health insurance through their private sector employer. Democrats are still waiting on a separate parliamentarian ruling on their policy to cap the cost of insulin both inside and outside of Medicare.

The decision also means tens of billions less in federal savings in the bill overall, a potential threat to Democrats’ hopes of offsetting the cost for shoring up Obamacare’s subsidies.

Still, Democrats argue that the bill will move forward in the coming weeks with its most important provision intact: a repeal of the longstanding ban on the federal government directly negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the parliamentarian’s ruling “good news” in a statement Saturday.

“Medicare will finally be allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices, seniors will have free vaccines and their costs capped, and much more,” he said.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a key negotiator on the House version of the bill, said the provision “would break the iron curtain Big Pharma has maintained against negotiating drug prices, and that’s game-changing. If it passes, Pharma won’t be able to continually stick it to the consumer at their will and whim. And that’s especially important with inflation hammering folks at the pump and the grocery store.”

But Welch, who is running to replace the retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), acknowledged the parliamentarian’s ruling is still a big win for the drug industry.

“It would essentially mean that pharma companies could raise price increases well beyond inflation,” he said in an interview in the days leading up to the vote.

Drug companies and Senate Republicans had planned for months to target the inflation caps provision — through a process known on Capitol Hill as a “Byrd bath.” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters that they went through the bill “line by line” in an effort to bring every challenge they could find.

Democrats who have pushed the policy for years had been confident it could pass under the Senate’s strict reconciliation rules, which limit what kinds of bills can pass with a simple majority. Only proposals that are primarily related to federal spending or revenue can fly, but not those that make major policy changes and only have an “incidental” impact on the federal budget.

Democrats argued that the bill needs inflation caps for drug prices across the board in order to function, warning that failing to do so will mean that pharmaceutical companies can hike prices even higher for people with private insurance to make up for what they lose from the cost controls the bill still imposes on Medicare.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said such points are “normally the kind of argument that is persuasive with the parliamentarian.”

“You can’t untangle the private sector from the public sector — one doesn’t work without the other,” he said.

Backers of the provision also pointed to the Congressional Budget Office’s finding last year that the inflation caps provision would save the government around $80 billion over a decade to argue that it should be allowed to remain in the bill.

Yet reconciliation experts and industry insiders were equally certain that the provision would get knocked out of the package.

Democrats do not currently have a backup plan for the policy, though some advocates are now pushing to try to apply inflation caps to other federal insurance programs such as Medicaid and the insurance for federal employees.

Even if they are able to do so, progressives who originally pushed for much more sweeping drug price controls are disappointed that their already watered-down plan has become even weaker over the past year.

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who worked for months on crafting the drug pricing language and wrangling the votes to pass it, blamed the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on Capitol Hill for the inflation cap provision’s demise.

“The special interests always work against us getting relief to hard-hit Americans, particularly seniors,” he told POLITICO ahead of the parliamentarian’s ruling. “So what a surprise that the special interests — and you’ve seen the numbers on how many lobbyists they have — are trying to protect their profits.”

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  • 1 час, 24 минуты назад 09.08.2022Health Care
    High blood pressure: The 3 popular types of meat you should ‘keep to a minimum’ – doctor

    Eating too much salt can massively raise a person’s blood pressure. Therefore any foods with an excess of salt should ideally be “avoided.” One expert spoke with Express.co.uk about how to maintain a healthy diet.

    GP and advisor for LoSalt, Doctor Sarah Jarvis, explained: “Excess salt in the diet is a major international health issue.

    “If salt intake fell by a third, it would prevent 8,000 premature deaths in the UK and could save the NHS over £500 million annually.

    “Salt raises blood pressure and high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke.”

    Around 9.5 million people in the UK are currently diagnosed with high blood pressure, with numbers rising since 2005.

    And it’s estimated that for every 10 people diagnosed with high blood pressure, seven remain undiagnosed and untreated.

    But some of the nation’s favourite foods could be making things worse.

    She warned specifically against eating too much bacon, ham and sausages due to their high salt content.

    “Keep processed meats to a minimum,” she said.

    Doctor Jarvis shared some other tips for reducing salt intake.

    She said: “Avoid seasoning and adding salt to food at home.

    “Using herbs, spices and lemon juice can be good alternatives to flavour your food instead.

    “Weaning yourself off salt can take some getting used to, but your palate will adjust.

    “If you can’t go without salt, I advise you to season with sense and use a reduced sodium salt like LoSalt instead.

    “It’s the sodium in salt which is linked to high blood pressure.”

    She added: “Don’t be duped into thinking posh gourmet sea and rock salts are better for you.

    “Some of these manufacturers make very misleading claims.

    “They all contain exactly the same amount of sodium as regular table salt and any other trace minerals will be present in such small quantities that you won’t get any benefit.”

    Blood pressure is measured by two numbers, the systolic pressure (the higher number) and diastolic pressure (lower).

    High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80).

    Ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.

  • 1 час, 24 минуты назад 09.08.2022Health Care
    Statins side effects: Study uncovers surprising truth behind 90 percent of side effects

    Statins are a controversial subject in medicine. The cholesterol-lowering drugs are the subject of countless studies exploring their impact on the body, and up to a third of people are said to suffer side effects. But a study by Imperial College London, in conjunction with the British Heart Foundation, puts everything about statins’ side effects into question.

    In the clinical trial, some participants were given statins while others were given a placebo pill – a treatment that doesn’t do anything to the body.

    Ninety percent of people in the study who experienced side effects because of what they thought were statins were actually consuming a placebo.

    This suggests the side effects are not caused by anything chemical.

    It’s a significant finding because many people choose to avoid the drugs because of worry about their side effects.

    “If I’m looking forward to a curry, thinking about it will make my mouth water. It’s not the food that’s making my mouth water, it’s my mind.

    Talking about the study, Professor Darrel Francis, a professor of Cardiology at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London said: “Some people experience a reaction, and it may be real, without it being caused by the chemical effect of the statin.

    “Also, you might be unlucky and happen to get ill when you start taking a statin. So you stop taking it and your symptoms go away – but they could have gone away anyway.

    “Even if you try a second time, your body and mind could have linked the two, so you expect to feel ill when you take the statin, and you do.”

    Statins are designed to slow down the production of “bad” LDL cholesterol in the liver. Because there is less cholesterol being created, the body moves cholesterol from the blood back to the liver where it can be used to create bile. This causes a drop in your cholesterol levels.

    During the study, 62 participants were given 12 bottles of “medication” for a year. One bottle was consumed a month.

    In four of the bottles were statins, in another four were identical-looking placebo pills, and the last four were empty.

    Each month, participants were assigned a bottle at random to consume. They then recorded how they were feeling every day after consuming the pill. They rated how they felt on a scale of one to 100.

    In the end, they found people were likely to temporarily stop taking their placebo because of reported side effects. In fact, they were just as likely to stop taking them as the statins and felt better when they weren’t taking any tablets.

    According to the authors of the study, it points towards a “nocebo effect” where the negative perceptions people have about statins cause side effects rather than any chemical processes.

    They suggest that the side effects, such as aches and pains, might be a natural consequence of ageing.

    Doctor James Howard, Clinical Research Fellow at Imperial College London and Cardiologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Our findings are significant because they are further evidence that side effects from statins are minimal.

    “These drugs play a significant role in keeping patients who are at risk of cardiovascular disease healthy.

    “One way to help encourage patients to take or stay on their medication is for doctors to talk to their patients about the nocebo effect. In more severe cases patients could be referred for talking therapies.”

    Statins are offered to patients when their level of LDL cholesterol becomes dangerous.

    Having high levels of LDL cholesterol can cause the hardening and narrowing of arteries due to the buildup of plaque.This can then lead to complications like coronary heart disease and heart attacks.

  • 1 час, 24 минуты назад 09.08.2022Health Care
    Vitamin deficiencies: The insufficiency linked to high levels of inflammation – new study

    Chronic inflammation is problematic because it contributes to other diseases involving the heart and brain. Although the addition of anti-inflammatory foods to the diet offers strong chances of avoiding inflammation, new research suggests attention should be paid to the foods excluded from the diet too. According to the new findings, low vitamin D levels could set the stage for high levels of inflammation unless corrected.

    The research of more than 294,000 participants found a direct link between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of inflammation.

    Lead researcher, Doctor Ang Zhou, explained: “Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting your tissues if you’ve been injured or have an infection.

    “High levels of C-reactive protein are generated by the liver in response to inflammation, so when your body is experiencing chronic inflammation, it also shows higher levels of C-reactive protein.”

    Professor Zhou and his team discovered a one-way relationship between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of C-reactive protein, expressed as inflammation.

    This discovery led the team to the conclusion that “boosting vitamin D in people with deficiencies may reduce chronic inflammation, helping them avoid a number of related diseases”.

    The study also raised the possibility that having adequate vitamin D concentrations may mitigate complications from obesity, as well as reduce the risk of chronic illnesses with an inflammatory component.

    Senior investigator and Director of UniSA’s Australian Centre for Prevision Health, Professor Elina Hyppönen said the result provides some important insight into the reported associations with vitamin D.

    Professor Hyppönen said: “We have repeatedly seen evidence for health benefits for increasing vitamin D concentrations in individuals with very low levels, while for others, there appears to be little to no benefit.

    “These findings highlight the importance of avoiding clinical vitamin D deficiency and provide further evidence for the wide-ranging effects of hormonal vitamin D.”

    Research conducted by Purdue University last year found evidence that an active metabolite in vitamin D may be involved in shutting down inflammation in the body.

    It is widely believed that the nutrient plays a role in the modulation of the inflammatory response resulting in the production of cytokines and immune cells.

    These are both vital for the pathogenesis of immune-related diseases.

    These findings ignited discussions over the benefits of taking vitamin D to prevent severe illness from a Covid infection.

    It has long been known that vitamin D levels have been linked to several inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.

    Other known complications of a deficiency include loss of bone density, which can eventually cause osteoporosis and fractures.

    To date, however, it’s remained unclear whether increasing vitamin D levels will stave off these illnesses or prevent age-related diseases.

    Vitamin D is produced in the skin through the action of sunlight, so some populations are more deprived than others.

    The nutrient, however, can also be obtained through food, but only a few foods contain adequate amounts of vitamin D.

    WebMD explains: “Your body makes it when your skin is in sunlight. But it’s also in fact fish, liver, beef, and egg yolks. And it’s added to some foods such as milk.”

    In the advanced stages of a deficiency, symptoms may include bone pain, muscle weakness, fatigue, and mood changes according to the Cleveland Clinic.

  • 1 час, 24 минуты назад 09.08.2022Health Care
    Bowel cancer: The symptom that’s ‘worse at night’ – can signal a cure is ‘highly unlikely’

    Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Like all forms of cancer, spotting the symptoms earlier rather than later determines the prognosis. That’s because cancerous cells become harder to treat once they spread to other areas of the body.

    Bowel cancer that’s spread is known as advanced bowel cancer. This means the cancer has spread from the back passage (rectum) and large intestines (colon) to other parts of the body, such as the liver.

    One telltale sign the cancer has spread to the lungs is a “cough that doesn’t go away (often worse at night)”, warns Cancer Research UK.

    Other telltale signs include:

    Unfortunately, a complete cure is not always possible at this stage and there’s sometimes a risk that the cancer could come back at a later stage.

    “A cure is highly unlikely in more advanced cases that cannot be removed completely by surgery,” warns the NHS.

    That’s why acting on abnormal changes as soon as they emerge is critical.

    According to the NHS, more than 90 percent of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms:

    The health body advises seeing a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.

    “When you first see a GP, they’ll ask about your symptoms and whether you have a family history of bowel cancer.”

    The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown. However, research has shown several factors may make you more likely to develop it.

    Your risk of developing bowel (colon and rectal) cancer depends on many things including age, genetics and lifestyle factors.

    Many studies have shown that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.

    It’s estimated that around 13 out of 100 bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to eating these meats.

    Processed meat is any meat that has been treated to preserve it and/or add flavour – for example, bacon, salami, sausages, canned meat or chicken nuggets.

    Obesity is also a cause of bowel cancer. It is estimated that 11 out of 100 bowel cancers (11 percent) in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese.

    Obesity means being very overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. And being overweight is a BMI of between 25 and 30.

    BMI is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight for your height.

    According to Cancer Research UK, the risk of bowel cancer is higher in people who are obese compared to those who have a healthy BMI.

    This underscores the importance of keeping healthy weight by being physically active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

    Indeed, there is strong evidence which shows that people who are more physically active have a lower risk of bowel cancer.

  • 1 час, 24 минуты назад 09.08.2022Health Care
    The type of kitchenware that releases ‘toxic fumes’ and raises the risk of cancer – expert

    One expert shared how some everyday items we have around the house could contain potentially lethal chemicals. Speaking with Express.co.uk, Neil McIntosh – the UK country manager of GreenPan – explained more about perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. He said: “PFAS (poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances) are chemicals that are relatively unknown by consumers, however they are used to make everyday items water resistant.

    “Found in toiletries, food packaging, raincoats, beauty products and traditional non-stick pans.

    “These unassuming chemicals are dubbed ‘forever chemicals’ as they are extremely durable and decompose very slowly, taking as long as 1,000 years to do so.

    “Not only are they virtually indestructible but they can be very harmful to our health – especially when inhaled or consumed.”

    These chemicals are most deadly when involved in cooking.

    In non-stick cookware production, polytetrafluoroethylene – a form of PFAS – is most commonly used.

    “Traditional non-stick cookware releases toxic fumes in the cooking process and the non-stick coating starts to decompose when used over particularly high heats,” Mr McIntosh said.

    “These fumes and other PFAS are ingested daily, with 99 percent of Europeans calculated to have PFAS in their bodies.”

    Research has shown PFAS in the body can increase the likelihood of health problems.

    These include:

    Mr McIntosh’s warning comes as the EU is set to announce a ban on “non-essential” products that contain PFAS, which will come into force no later than 2025.

    He added: “An overwhelming majority of non-stick pans on the market are still made using harmful PFAS.

    “In the next few years, we anticipate an announcement in the EU to ban these harmful chemicals in non-essential items.

    “We can only hope that the UK follows suit and continues the conversation on the dangers of PFAS in cooking.”

    PFAS are also deadly for the environment due to the length of time they take to decompose.

    They are known to contaminate lakes, streams, groundwater and soil, and, ultimately, the food chain.

    There are some brands that offer pans made without PFAS.

    GreenPan, for example, uses Thermolon – a toxin-free alternative derived from sand.Mr McIntosh said: “A fitting analogy is that our PFAS-free cookware is the zero-emitting electric car while the traditional non-stick pan is the carbon-emitting petrol or diesel car.

    “We all know which is the future.”

  • 3 часа, 24 минуты назад 09.08.2022Health Care
    How to sleep: Dr Hilary’s simple hack to stay cool at night involves two cheap ingredients

    Hot weather conditions are set to affect the sleep cycles of millions of Britons in the coming weeks, as the country braces for a second heatwave. In fact, a 2019 survey showed that modest increases in nocturnal temperatures affect the sleep of roughly 62 percent of the population. Fortunately, one simple hack could help quell indoor temperature rises, according to Doctor Hilary. Speaking on ITV’s Lorraine, the expert said all you need is tin foil and soapy water.

    Doctor Hilary said: “There’s a viral hack on TikTok going mad at the moment.

    “Everyone is picking up on this, and all you have to need are two very inexpensive ingredients.

    “All you need is a cheap roll of aluminium foil and a spray bottle of soapy water.

    “And you go up to your window, you spray the soapy water on it, and then you put your foil on there with the shiny bit facing outwards.

    Other effective hacks to help the body doze off in the heat include using a sleep mask and magnesium spray, according to Doctor Hilary.

    The sleep mask is one of the more expensive alternatives, explained the expert, adding: “This costs £55. You wear this when you want to go to sleep.

    “It plays music through [in-built] speakers, which you can connect to your own music.

    “It massages the muscles […] around the temple area.”

    The magnesium sleep spray also aims to relieve tension from the muscles, which enhances relaxation.

    “Magnesium spray is good for relaxing muscles, it’s very good for people with cramps,” explained Doctor Hilary.

    “As a spray on the skin, it relaxes muscles, it soothes the nervous system.”

    He added that sleep gummies can also promote relaxation because they contain ingredients which increase the production of GABA, which are receptors in the brain that favour sleep.

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Health Care Dems lose key piece of health agenda in spending bill