Low-income women in Connecticut who have just given birth and know they don’t want to get pregnant again anytime soon are now offered a long-acting birth control option postpartum. Medical providers say the policy by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, as well as lead to better maternal health outcomes by ensuring pregnancies are spaced a healthy length of time apart. Connecticut’s HUSKY program is one of 26 state Medicaid programs nationwide that reimburses hospitals for administering long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)—namely, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and subdermal implants—to Medicaid patients. HUSKY started reimbursing for the devices last year. “It’s a great thing,” said Dr. Elizabeth Purcell, an obstetrician and gynecologist practicing in Hartford.
Stephanie Almada’s journey to opioid addiction began with a prescription to relieve her premenstrual symptoms and accelerated after she had a cesarean section. “The pain pills came, you know, very quickly and I had bottles at home anyway,” she said. “And then it became energy for me. It became the way I coped with life.” Today Almada, 44, is a peer recovery specialist at Wheeler Clinic in Plainville, where she helps women get off opioids. Americans are using opioids at record rates.
Thousands of metastatic breast cancer patients nationwide have given researchers access to their tumors and DNA in the hopes it will lead to breakthrough treatments and therapies for one of the most deadly forms of cancer. As the groundbreaking study enters its second year, more than 2,900 women and men have signed on to participate in the Metastatic Breast Cancer Project (MBCproject) since it launched Oct. 20, 2015. Spearheaded by the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, the project aims to find possible new treatments for the disease by examining patient-submitted DNA and medical records. Thirty-eight patients from Connecticut have expressed interest in the project and 21 of them have taken the next step and signed consent forms granting researchers access to their medical files and DNA as of November, according to Corrie Painter, the cancer researcher directing the MBCproject.
Reported cases of tuberculosis jumped 17 percent in Connecticut from 2014 to 2015, mirroring a national and global trend and prompting federal officials to ask primary care providers to be on the alert for at-risk patients. The state Department of Public Health (DPH) said 70 people, in 29 towns, were reported with active TB, the contagious form of the disease, in 2015, compared with 60 the year before. About 80 percent of Connecticut patients were foreign-born, many from Asian countries. Nationally, TB cases totaled 9,563 last year, an increase of 157 over 2014. It was the first jump in cases after more than two decades of annual declines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.
A Superior Court judge is expected to decide by year’s end whether to limit the allegations in a lawsuit filed by the estate of a newborn, Calvin Jimmy Lee-White, who died after being given a dietary supplement at Yale New Haven Hospital in 2014. The infant’s grandfather, Rickie Hanes of North Haven, on behalf of the baby’s estate, is suing the hospital and the supplement manufacturer, Solgar, and its parent company NBTY. Yale New Haven, Solgar and NBTY argued in court in August that various claims against them—including reckless disregard for safety and fraudulent misrepresentation of a product’s safety—should be eliminated. Angelo Ziotas, an attorney representing the Lee-White estate, says a written ruling by New Haven Superior Court Judge Steven Ecker will likely come by the end of December, and the judge has set June 2017 as the date to complete discovery and fall 2018 as the trial date. Lee-White, the son of Samantha Pineapple Lee and Aaron White, was born prematurely by C-section on Oct.
Nearly 60,000 Connecticut children under age 6 were reported with lead exposure in 2013, and an additional 2,275 children had high enough levels of the toxin in their blood to be considered poisoned. While those numbers, the latest available from the state Department of Public Health, may seem high, health experts say they actually must be higher because of significant gaps in state-mandated testing. Even though Connecticut has some of the strictest lead-screening laws in the country – requiring every child to be tested twice, before age 3 – DPH figures show that only half were screened twice, as mandated. Unlike in Flint, Mich., whose residents were poisoned when a corrosive water source was directed through aging lead-lined pipes, the main culprit in Connecticut is lead paint. Though banned in 1978, lead-based paint is present in countless older apartment buildings and homes, especially in urban centers, such as Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.
The high cost of insulin, which has risen by triple-digit percentages in the last five years, is endangering the lives of many diabetics who can’t afford the price tag, say Connecticut physicians who treat diabetics. The doctors say that the out-of-pocket costs for insulin, ranging from $25 to upwards of $600 a month, depending on insurance coverage, are forcing many of their low-income patients to choose between treatment and paying their bills. “Some of my patients have to make the choice between rent or insulin,” said Dr. Bismruta Misra, an endocrinologist with the Stamford Health Medical Group. “So they spread out taking insulin [injecting it less frequently than a doctor has prescribed] or don’t take it.”
Experts and recent studies point to drug companies’ long-standing patents and the lack of generic or “biosimilar” insulin as key reasons why the drug is so expensive. A study by Philip Clarke, a professor of health economics at the University of Melbourne in Australia, reported that the price of insulin has tripled from 2002-2013.
Despite laws in many states that protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke, exposure remains especially high for children ages 3 to 11, African-Americans, and those who live in poverty or rental housing, according to a recent report. Jessica Hollenbach, the director of asthma programs at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, agreed with the report, done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and said tobacco is a negative toxin that can make other illnesses worse. Hollenbach studies the relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and asthma in children. She said tobacco is an asthma trigger, and children with asthma often have higher exposure to second-hand smoke. In Connecticut, 13.9 percent of public school students have asthma, according to a state Department of Public Health report released last year.
Candid online posts describing the challenges of breastfeeding fill the Facebook page of Breastfeeding USA’s Connecticut chapter. The daily stream of anecdotes, questions and comments alternate in tone from exasperated to celebratory. “Small victory for today. I actually breastfed in the open with my husband and day care provider in the same room (with a nursing cover, of course), but I haven’t done that yet, so I feel good about it. “
By analyzing dynamic brain scans, Yale researchers have pinpointed a different brain response between male and female smokers, a finding that could lead to breakthroughs in developing gender-specific treatments to help smokers quit. The study, published today in The Journal of Neuroscience, measured in a new way how and where nicotine affects pleasure receptors in the brain, according to Evan Morris, senior author of the study and an associate professor of diagnostic radiology, biomedical engineering and psychiatry at Yale University. Previous research has shown smoking cigarettes affects men’s and women’s brains differently, but this study marks the first time that PET (positron emission tomography) scans were used to create “movies” of how smoking affects dopamine, the neurotransmitter that triggers feelings of pleasure in the brain, Morris, the Co-Director of Imaging Section, Yale PET Center, said. Movies were made of 16 addicted smokers’ brains, eight men and eight women. Each smoked their cigarette of choice while undergoing a PET scan that lasted about 90 minutes.