Almost four years after Protein Sciences began selling its innovative flu vaccine, the Meriden company still struggles to gain a foothold in a marketplace dominated by pharmaceutical powerhouses. Orders for Flublok – the only flu vaccine not derived from eggs – remain well below company goals, and officials haven’t been able to get it into some major pharmacy chains such as CVS and Walgreens. “We’re doing better than last year, but we’re still not doing as well as I would like to do,” said CEO Manon Cox. The company aims to sell 900,000 doses of Flublok by the end of the current flu season in late March, she said. So far, it has sold just 250,000, even as widespread flu outbreaks spread across several parts of the country.
In a move intended to underscore the growing importance of independent, in-depth journalism, the Knight Foundation has launched an end-of-year program that will match donations to C-HIT and select other nonprofit news organizations. Dubbed the Knight News Match, the program will match donations from individual donors to C-HIT and 56 other news groups nationwide, up to a total of $1.5 million, through Jan.19. Individual organizations are eligible to receive up to $25,000 in matching funds. “News Match is a call to action for everyone who believes in quality, trustworthy, in-depth journalism and the role nonprofit news organizations play in building strong communities,” the Knight Foundation said in announcing the program. “Successful journalism organizations need a passionate, dedicated community of supporters.
Observing the brain activity of preschool children with autism can help predict their response to treatment for the disorder, according to a study by Yale University researchers. The finding is groundbreaking because it can help match children with a treatment that will work for them, said Pamela Ventola, senior author of a study published today in the journal Translational Psychiatry. “We hope that we can use this information to better develop treatments for autism and better match kids with autism to a treatment that’s going to work for them,” said Ventola, an assistant professor at the Yale Child Study Center. In the study, researchers worked with 20 autistic preschoolers for 16 weeks, for seven hours each week. During sessions, children underwent pivotal response treatment, a well-established behavioral treatment for autism that dates to the 1970s and is play-based.
For the roughly 9 percent of Connecticut’s population who live with diabetes, eating healthy and knowing how foods can affect the disease is crucial to managing it. The Conn. Health I-Team, (www.c-hit.org) in collaboration with ConnectiCare and the Hispanic Health Council, is hosting a public forum featuring a sampling of healthy food choices on Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Lyceum in Hartford, where experts will discuss the latest developments in diabetes treatments and offer advice about how adopting a healthy lifestyle can help combat the disease. The free event, “Recipes for Healthy Living: Defeating Diabetes,” will include a social hour, cooking demonstration and food tasting starting at 5 p.m. Billings Forge Executive Chef Becky Stevens-McGuigan will present her picks for good food choices, including grilled chicken skewers with salsa verde, watermelon and feta skewers, roasted sweet potato salad and a roasted cauliflower salad.
Five Connecticut facilities have won national quality awards and a West Hartford nursing home is one of only three homes in the U.S. to receive the highest level of recognition from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living. Hughes Health and Rehabilitation Center in West Hartford, which was started 55 years ago by Dr. Eugene Flaxman and is still owned by him, won the Gold Quality Award. Nationally, only 31 nursing homes have gained the distinction and before this, Manchester Manor Health Care Center and Glen Hill Center in Danbury were the only Connecticut homes to reach the gold level, Matthew V. Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, said in a press release. Touchpoints at Manchester received a Silver Quality Award, and three Connecticut facilities, Arbors of Hop Brook in Manchester, Lutheran Home of Southbury and Brighton Gardens of Stamford, received the Bronze Quality Award this year. Mark Finkelstein, the administrator and vice president at Hughes Health, said winning the award was years in the making.
Five technical high school programs that prepare students to become licensed practical nurses have stopped taking applications for new students as state officials are debating their future. While no decision has been made to close the programs, Ed Leavy, president of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, said administrators have been told to stop accepting new students who would have started class in January. “I am obviously concerned about the future of these programs,” he said. “We think these programs are too important to eliminate.”
Leavy said his union will lobby legislators to save the programs, if need be, because they are affordable programs that set people on a solid career path. The union represents about 25 LPN teachers and department heads.
In hospitals across Connecticut and nationwide, workarounds to compensate for medication shortages are daily routines for treating patients – and health experts say it’s not about to change any time soon. Some acute-care drugs in short supply nationally are antibiotics, antipsychotics, intravenous saline, and morphine, according to the most recent shortage list from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In Connecticut, hospital officials say they are turning to alternative drugs, rationing supplies, or seeking new suppliers to work around the shortages. At St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Dr. C. Steven Wolf, chief of emergency medicine, said doctors most recently have been dealing with shortages of dextrose, used to treat dehydration and low blood sugar, as well as intravenous saline and other basic medications.
By 1900, there had already been some three-dozen deaths by motor vehicles. This was at a time when the top speed of the Columbia, made by Hartford-based Pope Manufacturing, was 13 miles an hour. Cars got faster, and ubiquitous. Just a half century later, the number of motor vehicle deaths had reached epidemic proportions, 53,000 and rising. All along, safety features were being added, from turn signals in the ‘20s to padded dashboards in the ‘40s.
Over a dozen of the cooperative health insurers that started under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have failed, but leaders of Connecticut’s co-op say it is on track to turn a profit next year. “We’re very viable,” said Ken Lalime, CEO of Wallingford-based HealthyCT, a member-run, nonprofit health insurance co-op. “There are a lot of stable pieces of” HealthyCT. The co-op is enduring when others have died off, he said, by strategically adapting to changes in the ACA, and diversifying its portfolio. About a third of its business is insuring individuals, a third is small group policies and a third is large group insurance policies, he said.
More than 60 medical experts, state health directors and advocacy groups have asked federal Medicare officials to remove questions related to pain treatment from hospital patient surveys that are used to rate hospital quality, saying such questions “have had the unintended consequence of encouraging aggressive opioid use in hospitalized patients and upon discharge.”
In a letter to Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the group said “aggressive management of pain should not be equated with quality healthcare, as it can result in unhelpful and unsafe treatment, the end point of which is often the inappropriate provision of opioids.” The coalition asked that CMS survey questions such as “During this hospital stay, how often was your pain well controlled?” be removed. The group sent a similar letter to the Joint Commission, which accredits U.S. hospitals, asking that it revise its pain management standards – specifically, guidelines directing doctors to ask patients to assess their pain, as they assess other “vital signs.”
“Mandating routine pain assessments for all patients in all settings is unwarranted and can lead to overtreatment and overuse of opioid analgesics,” they wrote. The letters come as Connecticut and other states grapple with a surge in opioid-related overdoses. Last week, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., joined several other senators to support a bill that would factor-out the pain-related questions on patient surveys from hospitals’ Medicare reimbursement determinations. Meanwhile, at the state legislature, the Public Health Committee has proposed a bill that would cap initial prescriptions of opioids to seven days for acute pain.