Health care

Health Care — Abortion pill access diminishes across states

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Is reaching your daily “move goal” worth it? A gym in Australia got raided by police this week after a trainer’s Apple Watch called emergency services on accident. 

Today in health, the White House’s policies aimed at expanding access to abortion pills are getting stymied by state-level abortion laws. 

Welcome to The Hill’s Health Care roundup, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. We’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here.

Abortion pill access falling out of reach in some states

The Biden administration’s efforts to loosen access to medication abortion pills are running into a headwall of opposition in dozens of states, threatening to put the drugs out of reach for many patients.  

Many states with strict abortion bans also limit the availability of mifepristone, either through restrictions on who can prescribe and dispense the pill or outright bans. 

  • According to the Guttmacher Institute, 18 states require the clinician providing a medication abortion to be physically present when the medication is administered.
  • Texas prohibits the use of medication abortion starting at seven weeks of pregnancy, while Indiana bans its use at 10 weeks. 

In most instances, federal law takes precedence over state laws. Under that logic, states shouldn’t be able to restrict mifepristone because it is a federally approved drug. 

But it’s not clear if federal law takes precedence in states with abortion bans, and so far, the government has not tried to put that theory to the test.  

Legal experts and advocates said the patchwork of laws across states will continue until a court steps in, creating uncertainty for patients and providers. 

The federal government could be the one that brings a lawsuit against state restrictions on mifepristone, but that could open the FDA up to an unwanted challenge over the limit of its power. 

States have the power to regulate the practice of medicine, but there is a question of intent, said Rachel Rebouché, dean of Temple University Beasley School of Law. 

“So, in states banning mifepristone or trying to regulate it … are they making a judgment about the safety and efficacy or are they banning it because of moral grounds?” she asked. 

Read more here. 

Activists refocus ahead of Roe’s 50th anniversary

March for Life
Supporters against abortion are seen during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Friday, January 20, 2023. This is the first march since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.

Activists and lawmakers on both sides of the abortion issue are marking the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling on Sunday by seeking to re-energize supporters and refocus their goals after the landmark decision was struck down last summer by the Supreme Court.

  • Both sides are using the anniversary to remind supporters what’s still at stake, and highlight how the battle over abortion rights has shifted from the courts to Congress and the states.
  • A split Congress means federal action on abortion is unlikely for the next two years. But officials at all levels of government acknowledge it is an animating issue for millions of voters that will linger well beyond the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

“With a divided Congress for the next two years, and a 2024 presidential race that will certainly bring surprises and some uncertainty for the nation, here’s what we do know: The key battles for reproductive access will be fought at the state level for the next two years and beyond,” said Rob Bonta (D), California’s attorney general. 

The anti-abortion movement is also crafting a new state-based strategy, as its leaders come to terms with the fall of Roe. 

“After all those years, finally that moment came true. And while we prepared, nothing really prepares you for a reality in this area,” said Marjorie Dansfeller, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, one of the country’s leading anti-abortion groups.

“This is week one of the very beginning of a new life for our movement.” 

The end of Roe also brought a significant change for the annual March for Life rally on the National Mall.

Anti-abortion groups have held the event every year since 1974 — the year after the Roe decision was issued.

While the original aim of the march has been achieved, supporters turned out Friday for the latest march to show their support for Roe’s overturning and chart out new goals.

FTC wants to hold Shkreli in contempt

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Friday asked a federal judge to hold the infamous “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli in contempt for failing to pay a $65 million fine and for violating a lifetime ban from working in the pharmaceutical industry. 

In a motion filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, the FTC and regulators from several states said Shkreli has “flouted” the court’s order by ignoring requests to provide documents and sit for interviews.  

Shkreli in July announced the formation of a new company, Druglike. The company’s press release described it as “a Web3 drug discovery software platform co-founded by Martin Shkreli” that purports to revolutionize early-stage drug discovery.  

The FTC said it couldn’t assess whether the company violated Shkreli’s lifetime ban, because he did not send documents or sit for interviews with regulators.  

“Martin Shkreli’s failure to comply with the court’s order demonstrates a clear disregard for the law,” Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement. “The FTC will not hesitate to deploy the full scope of its authorities to enable a comprehensive investigation into any potential misconduct.” 

Read more here. 

CANCER DIAGNOSIS RAISES SUICIDE RISK BY 26 PERCENT: RESEARCH

Individuals diagnosed with cancer between 2000 and 2016 had a 26 percent higher risk of suicide compared with the general population, new research shows.  

Both insurance status and ethnicity contributed to the elevated risk, authors wrote. Those with poor prognosis at the time of diagnosis were at a heightened risk of suicide within two years of learning they had the disease. Patients who had cancers prone to long-term quality-of-life impairments were at a greater risk after these first two years. 

However, the highest risk was seen within the first six months after a patient received a cancer diagnosis, where the risk was seven times greater than that of the general population. 

Findings underscore the need for timely symptom management and targeted psychosocial interventions for suicide prevention in individuals diagnosed with cancer, researchers said.  

“These require joint efforts by federal and state governments, as well as healthcare providers, to ensure comprehensive health insurance coverage for psycho-oncological, psychosocial, and palliative care, development of appropriate clinical guidelines for suicide risk screening, and inclusion of suicide prevention in survivorship care plans,” senior author Xuesong Han said in a release. Han is the scientific director of health services research at the American Cancer Society.  

Read more here. 

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT HOW COVID VACCINES MAY AFFECT CYCLE

Since early in the pandemic, women have reported experiencing changes in their menstruation after they got COVID-19 or were vaccinated against it. 

Their cycles had gotten longer, some said. Their bleeding was heavier. Research has backed up those anecdotal reports, showing COVID-19 vaccination having a temporary but noticeable impact on women’s periods and their accompanying symptoms. 

Research suggests that the changes to menstrual cycle length may be happening because of how the immune system might affect sex hormones. Inflammatory responses to the COVID-19 vaccine may also affect the ovaries and uterus. 

Here is what we know: 

  • study of almost 4,000 women in the U.S. found that menstrual cycle lengths were extended by about 0.7 day after a first dose and 0.9 day after a second dose. Though the cycles were longer overall, however, researchers did not find a change in how many days women’s periods lasted.
  • Another recent study indicates that women may be more likely to experience a range of symptoms accompanying their periods after getting vaccinated. 

Read more here. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • With Roe dead, a very different March for Life returns to Washington (Washington Post
  • FDA rejects Lilly’s bid for accelerated approval for its Alzheimer’s drug (Stat
  • New tech gives hope for a million people with epilepsy (NPR

STATE BY STATE

  • Luring out-of-state professionals is just the first step in solving Montana’s health worker shortage (Kaiser Health News
  • N.Y.U. Langone withdraws from type 1 diabetes vaccine trial in adolescents (The New York Times
  • New Georgia House Speaker: No Medicaid expansion to all poor for now (Atlanta Journal Constitution

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week.

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