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First flu vaccine with immune-boosting adjuvant approved for US market

first_img Fluad has been used in Europe for more than a decade. First approved in Italy in 1997, it is now sold in 38 countries, including Canada. While it is the first flu vaccine on the US market to include an adjuvant, it isn’t the only one using a special formulation to try to increase protection for seniors. Sanofi Pasteur sells a high-dose flu vaccine called Fluzone High-Dose, which contains four times as much vaccine per shot as regular vaccines.Infectious diseases expert Michael Osterholm said the approval gives seniors another option to help them avoid the flu. “It’s an incremental step in a positive way toward improving flu vaccine protection,” he said. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, has long advocated for “game-changing” influenza vaccines, ones that would be much more effective than the current generation.The FDA said the approval was based on a clinical trial in which Fluad elicited a stronger immune response against most of the influenza strains than a comparable non-adjuvanted vaccine. The study included more than 7,000 elderly participants.Fluad was created by a division of the Swiss drug giant Novartis, which sold the product to the Australian vaccine maker CSL in August. Earlier this month, CSL announced it was changing its name to Seqirus. Getting a flu shot every year? More may not be better Senior Writer, Infectious Disease Helen covers issues broadly related to infectious diseases, including outbreaks, preparedness, research, and vaccine development. Related: The FDA on Tuesday approved the first adjuvanted flu vaccine. Jacquelyn Martin/AP For the first time, an influenza vaccine containing an immune-boosting compound called an adjuvant has been cleared to enter the crowded US flu vaccine market.The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that it has approved Fluad for people 65 and older.As people age, their immune systems wane and vaccines don’t generate as much protection for them. Adding an adjuvant helps to trigger a stronger immune response.advertisement @HelenBranswell The compounds can also be used at times of vaccine shortage to stretch out supplies by allowing less vaccine to be used for each person. Several countries used adjuvanted vaccines during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic; the United States was not among them.Fluad protects against three strains of flu — the influenza A viruses H3N2 and H1N1, and one family of influenza B viruses. Some seasonal flu vaccines protect against four strains — two As and two Bs.advertisement About the Author Reprints Helen Branswell HealthFirst flu vaccine with immune-boosting adjuvant approved for US market By Helen Branswell Nov. 24, 2015 Reprints Tags FDAfluinfectious diseaselast_img read more

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Watch: Study to seek early signs of damage in NFL players’ brains

first_img Drag the blue handles to filter the data by year.Data visualization: TALIA BRONSHTEINSources: NFL injury report Dozens of researchers nationwide will team up to try to find a way to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy in living patients, with the help of a $16 million grant from from the National Institutes of Health.The NIH grant, announced Tuesday, will fund a seven-year study on the degenerative brain disease, which has been identified posthumously in scores of former football players. CTE is making headlines in part because of the upcoming movie “Concussion,” which tells the story of the doctor who identified the disease in the brain of a deceased NFL star, “Iron Mike” Webster, in 2002.CTE can now only be diagnosed after death, by examining a person’s brain. The disease has been found only in individuals who sustained many hits to the head, but scientists don’t know precisely what causes it.advertisement Concussions, or even more mild, repetitive head trauma, may lead to a degenerative brain disorder called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Alex Hogan, Hyacinth Empinado/STAT Inside the battered brainVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/2015/12/22/study-nfl-brains-damage-cte/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0001:5201:52  In the LabWatch: Study to seek early signs of damage in NFL players’ brains By Ike Swetlitz Dec. 22, 2015 Reprintscenter_img In recent months, Dr. Betsy Nabel, the NFL’s chief health and medical adviser, has criticized Boston University researchers for their work on another aspect of CTE research — a  brain bank that contains many specimens from deceased NFL players.Nabel told STAT this fall that the BU team has  “selectively gathered brains,” choosing to focus “on individuals who had the strongest track record of head trauma or are on the extreme end of the spectrum.” NFL concussions and head injuries by year and by team In recent years the NFL has implemented new rules to reduce concussions among players. But with two weeks to go in the 2015 regular season, players have already suffered more concussions than in either of the previous two seasons. Here are the recent statistics, by team. 0501001502012201320142015 Nabel said the league’s neurology experts are “very concerned” about bias in the brain bank. She said she worried researchers are “making foregone conclusions about cause and effect without any direct evidence or a control group.”Nabel did not name Stern specifically in her critique. The brain bank that made headlines in the fall for finding CTE in 96 percent of the former NFL players it studied is under the direction of Dr. Ann McKee, one of Stern’s colleagues.“For better or for worse, the media has really glommed onto these messages and created a lot of concern in the general public,” Nabel said.Stern told STAT this fall that the brain bank isn’t meant to be representative and isn’t “a way to learn about the prevalence of the disease.” Instead, the goal is to learn more about how the disease works in individuals who have it.The new, NIH-funded study has nothing to do with the brain bank.Researchers in 17 centers across the country will examine 120 former NFL players and 60 former college football players, using a variety of tests and imaging technologies to look for signs of CTE. Participants will be tested initially, and then again three years later, to see how their brains change over time. They will be compared to a control group of 60 individuals who did not play contact sports or experience brain trauma.Stern has done similar research before. In October, he concluded a study, known as DETECT, that examined approximately 100 former NFL players to advance understanding of CTE. Stern described the new initiative as “the DETECT study on steroids.”Karen Weintraub contributed to this report.This story has been updated to include the NFL’s critique of CTE research at Boston University and a statement from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health on the funding of the new study. High ImpactAn occasional series on the science of concussions and how new findings are reverberating through sports and society.Concussion, Inc.: The big business of treating brain injuriesNFL union urges players to see ‘Concussion,’ but warns ‘it is scary’How the NFL’s concussion-spotting system is — and isn’t — workingNew study will examine NFL players’ brains in bid to spot CTEMy muddled brain: A fall, a concussion, and weeks of confusionA pill for concussions remains a brain-busting challengeAfter concussions, young football player’s plea: Donate my brain to scienceDisqualified after concussions, college football players recruited back onto the fieldCan chocolate milk speed concussion recovery? Experts cringeExperts debate: How many concussions are too many for an athlete?The NIH had planned to use a portion of a $30 million grant from the NFL to fund the new research, ESPN reported on Tuesday. But the NFL nixed that idea, according to ESPN, because of discomfort with the lead researcher in the new study: Robert Stern, co-director of a CTE research center at Boston University.An NFL spokesperson said the league “has no ‘veto power’” over how the $30 million is used and said the NIH made all funding decisions on the study. The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health issued a statement saying that the league “was willing to contribute” to the new study. But neither the foundation nor the NFL answered specific questions Tuesday about what such a contribution might have involved or why it didn’t come to pass.advertisement Tags brainconcussionshigh impactlast_img read more

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Autism may affect not just brain but sensory nerves, mouse study suggests

first_imgIn the LabAutism may affect not just brain but sensory nerves, mouse study suggests Is the dramatic rise in autism tapering off? And over time these mice don’t acclimate to touch the way that normal mice do — akin to feeling your clothes on your skin all the time, Ginty said. “We would argue that’s pretty disruptive.”Perhaps most intriguingly, the mutation just in touch cells had dramatic effects on the mice’s social lives.When the researchers placed the mice in cages with a strange mouse, the mice with touch sensitivity were as antisocial as mice with the gene mutation in their whole bodies.That is one of the most fascinating questions the study raises, Ginty said: “What is it about having normal sensation that shapes the brain to give rise to normal cognitive behavior?” Autism impacts kids and adults socially and behaviorally — but it also impacts their senses. For instance autistic individuals may dislike being touched, or be especially averse to things like scratchy wool or buzzing refrigerators.New research, for the first time, gives a hint as to why. A study in mice finds that autism has effects not just on the brain but also on the nerves in the skin that respond to touch. And this heightened sensitivity affects not just their sensory experience of the world but also their social interactions.David Ginty and colleagues at Harvard Medical School studied mice with genetic mutations that are associated with autism and also with a developmental syndrome called Rett syndrome that often causes autism. Mice with these mutations share some similarities to patients with autism and Rett syndrome — they’re anxious, avoid social contact, and have a hypersensitivity to touch.advertisement By Anna Vlasits June 9, 2016 Reprints A 7-year-old student with autism receives help painting from his teacher at a school in Havana. Franklin Reyes/AP The team engineered mice with the mutation in only some of their cells, in either the brain or in touch receptor cells throughout their skin that go into the spinal cord.When they tested the mice’s reaction to puffs of air on their backs, they found that the Rett syndrome mutation in the nerves caused them to be especially startled, which wasn’t true if the mutation was just in the brain. Looking at the cellular level, scientists saw that the touch nerves were overactive. “Everything’s coming in with the volume turned all the way up,” Ginty said.advertisementcenter_img Related: Related: The findings were published Thursday in Cell.“I’m very excited about this study,” said Caroline Robertson, a postdoctoral autism researcher at Harvard University who was not involved in the study “Importantly, it demonstrates a direct link between very low level symptoms,” like touch sensation, “and higher order differences in behavior,” like antisocial behavior.However, Robertson points out that autism in humans is more complicated than a single mouse model. “The tricky thing about autism is that everyone has their own hypersensitivities, and sometimes even hyposensitivities,” or things they have reduced sensitivity toward.Helen Bateup, a professor of neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees. “There are a lot of autism genes that are only expressed in the brain,” and therefore wouldn’t affect the nerves in the skin. “I don’t see how this could be a general mechanism for all of autism. [But] this might be an interesting mechanism for some kinds of causes of autism.”Its meaning for treatment is less clear at this point. Ginty is looking into it: “Can we add back the gene in sensory neurons and reverse the tactile dysfunction — and maybe even the anxiety-like behavior?” A drug therapy could also theoretically tamp down overactive touch nerves, and maybe reduce touch sensitivity, though whether that would affect social interactions would need to be studied. Is too much folic acid during pregnancy a contributor to autism? Tags autismbrainlast_img read more

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Tim Kaine just became the prevention candidate of 2016

first_img Hillary Clinton could draw extraordinary attention to breast cancer. Would it matter? Hillary Clinton has picked Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her vice presidential nominee. Andrew Harnik/AP Tags abortionopioidspolicyPresidential campaign Privacy Policy Marilyn Tavenner, president and chief executive officer of America’s Health Insurance Plans, who served as Virginia’s health secretary while Kaine was governor, recalled that he saw the prevention of health problems as a top-tier goal.“He was very interested in prevention and education,” she said.advertisement By David Nather July 22, 2016 Reprints Leave this field empty if you’re human: Kaine did express reservations about one preventive health initiative as governor. In 2007, he signed legislation requiring all sixth grade girls in Virginia to get the human papillomavirus vaccine, which can prevent cervical cancer. But he initially said he had “some qualms” about the mandate, and wanted a stronger provision to allow parents to refuse to let their daughters get it if they had religious or other objections.Eventually, however, he decided the language was already good enough to give some discretion to parents. At the time, Virginia was only the second state in the country to require the vaccine.On other health care issues, Kaine tends to stick to the standard Democratic line. Like Clinton, he has called for Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, a proposal he began making in his 2012 race for the Senate, when he used it as a campaign issue against Republican George Allen.He has also shared other Democrats’ outrage against drug price hikes, like Martin Shkreli’s decision to increase the price of Daraprim, a drug manufactured by Turing Pharmaceuticals and used to treat people with AIDS, by more than 5,000 percent.“It’s basically a profit opportunity. It is the patient as a hostage, the patient as a profit center,” Kaine said at a Senate Aging Committee hearing in April on the price increase.The health care industry has been a consistent contributor to Kaine’s campaigns, but has become more prominent in this election cycle. Since 2015, health care political action committees — which include pharmaceutical companies, physicians, and health care services — have donated $63,500 to Kaine, making them his most important source of PAC funds, according to Political Moneyline.Among the largest donors in this cycle were $9,000 from 21st Century Oncology Inc., a Florida-based company that has affiliated doctors around the world; $5,000 from Centene Corporation, which provides services for uninsured and uninsured people; $5,000 from Fresenius Medical Care North America, which focuses on patients with kidney failure and other chronic diseases; and $3,000 from Novo Nordisk Inc., a pharmaceutical company that specializes in diabetes medications.Dylan Scott and Sheila Kaplan contributed reporting. Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. WASHINGTON — As the governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine pushed to ban smoking in the state’s restaurants and made a priority of driving down infant mortality. As a senator, he called on doctors to stop prescribing so many opioids to help curb addiction.Now, he’s the prevention candidate of 2016.In picking Kaine as her vice presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton is putting the spotlight on an issue that many in the medical field believe gets short shrift: preventive health care.advertisementcenter_img PoliticsTim Kaine just became the prevention candidate of 2016 Please enter a valid email address. Related: “This is just one solution. Obviously the real solutions, the important ones, are still around prevention,” Kaine said in a Senate floor speech in November 2015. “Why do Americans get prescribed so many more opioids than folks in other nations? What do you do about prescriptions when the quantities that are given are too big, and then you end up with a lot of unused opioids that can be taken by young people or stolen and sold?”“There’s a lot of issues that we have to solve. But there is this bit of good news — that naloxone saves lives, and it’s easy to administer, it doesn’t have a negative side effect, and if we can broaden access to naloxone for those who have been prescribed opioids, we’ve saved lives in the past and we’re going to save a lot more,” Kaine said.As Virginia governor, Kaine signed into law a ban on smoking in most restaurants in 2009, a measure he had been pushing since he took office in 2006. He also commissioned a plan to fight obesity and visited classrooms to talk to schoolchildren about the importance of exercise.Kaine also launched a campaign to reduce the state’s high infant mortality rate, noting in 2007 that “there is no excuse for a state with one of the highest incomes in the nation to have so many babies die in the first year of life.” By 2009, the state’s infant mortality rate had dropped to fewer than seven deaths for every 1,000 babies, though the reasons were unclear.And Kaine said the health care system had to do a better job of encouraging people to live healthier lives.“You’ll see me out there, getting my weight and blood pressure checked, getting my flu shot, walking, hiking and riding my bike,” he said in 2007. “I hope to see you there with me.”Kaine has drawn attention for expressing his personal reservations about abortion, even though he insists he supports women’s right to the procedure as a matter of public policy. That has been a concern for abortion rights groups, who don’t want to see the Democrats nominate a vice presidential candidate who would waver on the issue — especially in a debate against Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee who signed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country.But there, too, Kaine’s approach has always focused on supporting education and access to contraception as a means of preventing the need for abortions, said Tavenner, who added that he fought against attempts by the Virginia legislature to restrict abortions by imposing strict facility standards.“He was strongly committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose, but he was also committed to prevention and education so that they don’t have to make that choice,” he said. Related: That’s a new dimension that the Virginia senator and former governor is likely to add to Clinton’s campaign. Much of Clinton’s focus has been on the health care coverage side, and on medical research to find new cures.But for Kaine, keeping people from getting sick — and taking care of their health care needs at the front end — is just as important as figuring out how to get the best medical care after they’ve gotten sick.Tavenner, who also headed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama, recalled that Kaine made his interests clear when she interviewed with him for the health secretary job.“He said, ‘Marilyn, maybe we should be a little more focused on health and a little less on the hospitals,’” Tavenner said — meaning, “the more we do on the front end, the less need we’ll have to send people to hospitals.”The prevention issue is a good match for Kaine’s overall political image. Like Kaine himself, preventive health care isn’t buzzy. But health care advocacy groups say it’s important and often overlooked, and they’ve spoken up when they believe it hasn’t gotten enough attention in major initiatives, as in Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer research program.Kaine has also stressed the importance of prevention to address the nation’s opioid epidemic. Legislation he introduced last year, which has since been approved by the Senate health committee, would encourage physicians to prescribe naxolone — a drug that’s used to reverse the effects of opioid or heroin overdoses — any time they prescribe painkillers. Clinton vs. Trump: A race between a policy wonk and a ‘black box’ last_img read more

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Dope Sick: A harrowing story of best friends, addiction — and a stealth killer

first_imgBy then, DJ’s father had thrown him out of his home. It was December and temperatures were falling below zero at night. Angela and DJ’s father, who were divorced, had no idea where their son was living. They worried he would die.They devised a plan to save him.They told the Swanton Police that DJ had stolen several items from their home, including a snowboard, two pairs of snow boots, a music mixer, and a microphone, Angela said. They let the police know DJ would be coming by his father’s house later to pick up clothes — and that he was driving with a suspended license. DJ’s arrestVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:5000:50  Swanton Police recording of DJ Shanks’ arrest. The police were waiting on Dec. 13, 2013, when DJ rolled into town in his white Hyundai Sonata. They confirmed the suspended license and opened the trunk, where they found the snowboard and boots. They also discovered three clear plastic baggies in the car, one of which tested positive for traces of heroin. DJ was charged with possession of drugs, receiving stolen property, and driving with a suspended license.“We set our son up basically to be arrested,” Angela said.At least DJ was not freezing to death. At least he wasn’t overdosing. It was a relief. “And how sad is that?”An excerpt from DJ’s diary. Courtesy Angela ShanksChapter 3Feeling the devilThe arrest was a jolt for DJ.He spent his first few days out on bail sleeping on the floor of a house with other addicts he barely knew. He told his mother he was worried he would have to prostitute himself to stay there. He begged her to allow him to come home. She refused.Out of options, DJ checked himself into the Arrowhead Behavioral Health center near Toledo, in his second stab at rehab. He was admitted for only a week. Angela fought with her insurance company and the center to keep her son there longer.The best they could do, Angela said, was allow DJ to participate in a day program for an additional two weeks. During that time, she dropped DJ off in the morning and picked him up on her way home from her job at a local bank. She didn’t want him alone in her house. Reading from DJ’s diaryVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:4400:44  DJ’s mother reads from his journal. “I’ve never been so happy in my life now that I am finally clean,” DJ wrote on a yellow legal pad while at Arrowhead. “I can now think straight, I have good goals set ahead for me. I want to get a good factory job and start making some real money.”“I really want to be done with this drug,” he continued. “I really hate this and what I was doing. I can’t believe that I stole from my own mother and father. I really wish I could go back in time and never start this thing. It has ruined my whole life right now.”DJ pleaded with himself, and offered himself encouragement. On one sheet of paper he wrote “I can do this” 49 times.“I cannot give up on this,” he wrote on another page. “I got this. I know that I can do this. I really can. I will use all the tools I can to stay on top of this nasty disease. DJ you can do this.”After Arrowhead, DJ was convicted of the drug charge and sent to jail on March 14, 2014. He was released eight months later, after successfully completing another drug treatment program.With DJ out of his life for nearly a year, Justin had also stopped using drugs. The tight restrictions placed on him by his grandmother kept him away from old temptations. His father was able to get him a job at the auto parts plant where several family members were employed. Justin worked the second shift as a laser technician, making parts for the Acura RDX. It was more money than he had ever made. He found a new girlfriend and was thinking about getting married.The Tim Hortons in Toledo where DJ worked. Sean Proctor for STATThe apartment complex where DJ and Justin lived in Toledo. Sean Proctor for STATWhen he was off drugs, Justin got a job at this auto parts plant. Sean Proctor for STAT“I just came back up,” Justin said. “I made a name for myself. I just got a truck. I got my family back.”DJ was released the week before Thanksgiving in 2014. He landed a job as a baker at the Tim Hortons and was making enough money to put some in savings. He, too, had a new girlfriend.“I thought he was good. I really did,” said Angela. “I thought … he was moving forward with his life. He was so happy.”A short while later, Angela walked into her house — and saw Justin. “Oh my God, what are you doing here?” Angela recalled saying. “Why are you here?”Justin tried to put Angela at ease. He said he was just checking in on DJ after not talking to him for months. “DJ is like my brother,” Justin told her. “I just wanted to come and see him.”DJ’s sister Julia knew better. She was a year younger than DJ and the two were close. She had helped get him the job at Tim Hortons, where she worked part-time. She had also introduced him to his new girlfriend. The reappearance of Justin rattled her. The friendship needed to endVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:2300:23  DJ’s sister Julia worried about her brother’s friendship. “I could feel the devil,” Julia said. “You could feel that this was not supposed to happen … that these two needed to stop being friends.”Justin’s family shared those fears.“He knew not to go back to him, and he did,” said Justin’s grandmother, Marilyn Laycock. “You know they were inseparable. One looked out for the other no matter what you say or did.”Justin was using heroin again when he showed up at DJ’s house. Grief-stricken by another friend’s fatal overdose, he had relapsed about a month before DJ finished his jail term.“It went downhill from there,” he recalled. “This was the worst I’ve ever been in my entire life. Using, using, using, using.”He was found passed out in his truck during his shift at the auto parts plant and failed a drug test. Justin knew he needed help and agreed to go to Arrowhead, the treatment center where DJ had gone earlier that year. The facility initially refused to take him because a urine test didn’t turn up any drugs, Justin said. So he left, did heroin, and came back.He was discharged in less than a week. Justin’s father, Ron, was stunned. My son went to rehabVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:2200:22  Justin’s father, Ron, talks about his son’s experience in rehab. “He’s calling, ‘Come and get me, they said I’m not bad enough,’” Ron said. “They should know better.” He said the message to addicts such as Justin is that “nobody cares, why should I?”Arrowhead’s chief executive declined to comment. The center did give Justin a prescription for Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction by suppressing symptoms of craving and withdrawal.Justin knew just what to do with it.There’s a black market for Suboxone. Some addicts who have developed high tolerances for heroin switch to Suboxone for a few weeks as a way to reduce their tolerance without getting dope sick. When they resume using heroin, the euphoric effect is heightened in what addicts describe as a “virgin high.”So as soon as he was out, Justin went to his drug dealer — and traded the Suboxone for heroin.His relapse was not unusual. Typically, 40 percent to 60 percent of drug addicts relapse in the first year after treatment. One study found the rate was even higher for opioid detoxification programs, with 91 percent of patients relapsing — more than half within a week of release. Some studies of newer medications used to treat opioid addiction have reported more promising results.Justin said DJ had already started using heroin again before they reunited around Thanksgiving. DJ was trying to use less than before. His job at Tim Hortons was going well, and he didn’t want his family or his girlfriend to know what he was up to.Macey Fruth was a high school senior from Ottawa Hills, a wealthy Toledo suburb that is home to the area’s professional and business elite. While Ottawa Hills is only 17 miles from Swanton, it was a foreign land to DJ.Despite their different backgrounds, the couple hit it off. Macey loved how DJ easily connected with and looked out for people. When they went sledding one day, DJ pulled his car over to help a stranger stuck in the snow.DJ and Macey on a ski trip shortly before he died. Lucas County Prosecutor’s OfficeThe couple went to a Christmas Eve church service with her family and took a ski trip to Michigan. Six days before he died, DJ updated his Facebook profile picture with a snapshot from that trip: Macey was kissing his cheek, and he was smiling.Behind the smiles, though, DJ was spinning out of control.Before dawn one February morning, Julia woke up her mother with alarming news: DJ had relapsed.A few days earlier, he had been admitted to a hospital with pneumonia-like symptoms, after Justin had put him in a tub of ice at a drug dealer’s house when DJ began to overdose.“He was embarrassed about it,” Macey said. “He didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. He got upset and was crying. He needed to show everyone he was doing better.”DJ’s family mobilized in an urgent attempt to save him. The first priority: making sure he was never alone with Justin.Macey would do her homework at a table at Tim Hortons during DJ’s shift, watching to be sure Justin didn’t come in. Angela would drop by DJ’s place unannounced. Julia reached out to DJ’s other friends, asking everyone to keep an eye on him.Angela called DJ’s probation officer in early February, pleading with him to come out and give her son a drug test. She desperately wanted DJ back in jail. It had been the only place that could keep him safe from heroin.Angela said the probation officer told her that if she was worried, she should take DJ to the hospital. “It was not the answer I was really looking for,” she said.The Fulton County Probation Department said it couldn’t comment on DJ’s case because parole records are not public.On Feb. 18, Angela found out that Justin was planning to stop by and visit her son. She sent DJ an anguished text.DJ was enraged, and texted his mother back.Angela persisted.DJ didn’t respond.He wasn’t scheduled to work at Tim Hortons on Feb. 19, but was called in for a short afternoon shift. Normally, Macey would have been there, doing her homework and watching for Justin. But on this day, she was attending an event at her father’s real estate company.She wanted to be at the restaurant instead. She knew DJ was in a bad way. He had just found out a friend’s little brother had died from an overdose. He also had told her he wanted to hang out with Justin that night, a signal to her that he was thinking of heroin.Macey wrote DJ a text message at 3:31 p.m.Two minutes later, DJ texted back.He was close to passing out, having already snorted the fatal doses of fentanyl delivered by Justin.Macey could sense something was wrong.After getting no response, she texted again 15 minutes later.DJ couldn’t reply. He was sprawled across the doughnut shop counter.DJ lay there for more than a half-hour after falling unconscious. A coworker noticed him after about four minutes. Twice, she came over to try to wake him before placing her hand on her headset and walking away toward the drive-thru window. She returned at one point, but only to walk around DJ’s limp body, open an oven door just above him, and put a tray inside. Two customers came through the side entrance, with a clear view of DJ behind a glass partition, and either failed to recognize something was wrong or decided not to do anything. Only then did the manager arrive and call 911. DJ passed out at Tim HortonsVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:2700:27  DJ Shanks was passed out for more than a half-hour at his job at Tim Hortons before someone called for medical help. A detective investigating DJ’s death, Sgt. Brian Bortel, said later that the coworker’s delay in summoning help for DJ was likely costly. “He has a better chance of survival if she calls our fire department,” he said in an interview. The coworker told another investigator that she panicked.As word spread of DJ passing out at work, his family scrambled to the hospital.“It was just disbelief,” said Macey. “I’m looking at his gray dead body with blood all over his teeth, thinking, I just talked to you two hours ago. We were fine two hours ago.”Julia hugged her big brother goodbye and felt sticky doughnut glaze in his hair.“That’s just not how he wanted to go out,” she said.The family was overcome with despair. They had desperately tried to keep DJ alive. Nothing had worked. The grip of addictionVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:1800:18  DJ’s sister on addiction. “I want to sit here and give people a good message about my brother,” said Julia. “But, at the same time, I don’t know what to say to help them. I don’t. What can you do besides praying to God that you won’t have that itch tomorrow?”Justin, meanwhile, had no idea what had happened to his friend.He was waiting for DJ down the street from Tim Hortons, at the Knights Inn. The hotel is hard by Interstate 475 and offers rooms by the week. Weeds spring from cracks in the parking lot asphalt. The rooms are bare, with hooks where pictures once hung. As he waited, he continued to inject what he believed was heroin with a young woman he grew up with, a former standout athlete in high school.Justin thought DJ would finish work at around 4 p.m. At seven seconds past 4, he started calling his friend. No response. He texted him.Shortly before 5, he messaged DJ again.An hour and a half later, he called DJ. The manager at Tim Hortons answered DJ’s phone. He wanted to know who was calling. “The police want to talk to you.”Volume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:4100:41  Chapter 1Helping a friendTOLEDO, Ohio — DJ Shanks was early into his afternoon shift as a baker at the Tim Hortons doughnut shop when the craving, and the dread, began. He called the one person he knew would help. Fast.Justin Laycock and DJ had met on their first day of kindergarten in nearby Swanton. Now in their early 20s, they remained best friends. “Do you have anything?” DJ asked Justin. “I’m sick.” Justin didn’t hesitate: “I got you, bud.”He didn’t need to ask what DJ needed. The childhood pals were consumed by heroin addiction, and Justin knew DJ was dope sick.advertisement Justin Laycock Special ReportDope Sick The judge was surprised by the harshness of the mandatory sentence as well. He saw in Justin someone more in need of help than punishment. He wasn’t a drug dealer, the judge explained later in an interview: “This wasn’t a crime of profit.”In the courtroom, he called Justin’s public defender and the prosecutor to the bench and proposed a novel alternative: He could craft a sentence that included less jail time and the treatment Justin was seeking for his addiction — but Justin would have to admit to a more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter. In the rigid world of mandatory drug sentences, the only way the judge would have discretion was if Justin admitted to killing his best friend.“I read the charge over and over and over in my head,” Justin said. “I am thinking to myself that if there’s anybody that looks at my record and sees that, they are going to know that somebody died.” His attorney advised against it, warning Justin that it would be difficult to find a job and start a new life with a manslaughter conviction. Only murder and child molestation are considered more serious felonies in Ohio.Justin’s family was mystified by the need to plead to the higher charge. “He didn’t murder him intentionally,” Justin’s grandmother said. “But in order to get help he had to take that charge, and I don’t think that was right at all.” Living with thisVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:2200:22  DJ’s mother talks about Justin. Even members of DJ’s family acknowledged Justin acted without ill intent. “In no way shape or form do I think that Justin intentionally meant to hurt DJ,” Angela said. “I think Justin was simply DJ’s friend, DJ’s connection for what he wanted to get.”Justin ultimately decided the trade-off was worth it. He wanted treatment that would give him a legitimate chance to stay off drugs, even if it meant being labeled a killer. On April 21, he stood before the judge in an orange jumpsuit with a chain around his waist, attached to manacles for his hands and feet. His head was shaved. No family members came to support him.“I never knew it was fentanyl,” Justin told the judge. “It wasn’t my intention to kill my best friend at all. It was to help him out.”He begged for a chance to get treatment. “I am just asking if I can please just get help, your honor,” he said.The prosecutor said a young man was dead and that justice required Justin be punished with a prison term. DJ Shanks with childhood friends in January 2015, a month before he died. STAT DJ Shanks’s grave site at Toledo Memorial Park in Sylvania, Ohio. Sean Proctor for STAT“If you’re asking if it’s on my mind, it comes and goes,” he said. “Whenever I imagine myself doing it again, I imagine this place. I imagine my friends dying. I imagine myself overdosing, dying myself. I imagine going back to prison. You know, I mean none of this is worth it.” He talked about losing the girlfriend he wanted to marry, as well as the respect of his family, and the hurt he caused DJ’s family.“I am not willing to do it again,” he said.This is the tragedy of America’s opioid crisis: A young man goes to help his best friend and ends up helping to kill him. Their families, seeing what’s coming, can’t stop it. They turn to an overwhelmed health care system for treatment and instead mostly find indifference. In the end, they see jail, of all things, as their only hope.What will become of Justin? Despite an eight-year sentence hanging over his head, will he go back to drugs when he is released?The man who gave Justin one last chance didn’t hesitate to answer.“Yes,” Judge English said. “He will get out, maybe find a job. He will have money, and the people who do heroin that he hung around with will find him.”EpilogueDJ Shanks would have turned 23 on May 18 this year. His father, David Sr., declined to participate in this story.Justin Laycock turned 24 this past Saturday. He is scheduled to finish his jail term next April. He will then begin a six-month treatment program in another locked facility, with his release set for October 2017. His prison caseworker reported to Judge English in May that Justin has been cooperative with staff, attends AA meetings, and participates in other programs designed to teach life skills.Angela Shanks, DJ’s mother, is active in a local support group for families of victims of the opioid crisis. She is open to the idea of speaking with Justin one day.Macey Fruth, DJ’s girlfriend at the time of his death, will be a sophomore at Ohio University this fall. She spent this summer as a marketing intern in Florida. She goes home to Toledo infrequently.Ron Laycock, Justin’s father, has not communicated with his son in jail. Justin has written several letters to his father apologizing for his actions and expressing hope they can have a relationship in the future.Marilyn Laycock, Justin’s grandmother, remains in contact with her grandson. She said he is welcome to stay with her when he is released.Julia Shanks, DJ’s younger sister, suffered from depression and anxiety in the months after her brother’s death. She said she is doing much better today and recently started a job as a bank teller.DJ was one of 215 people to die from heroin- or fentanyl-related overdoses in the greater Toledo area in 2015. This year, based on cases in the first few months of 2016, the local medical examiner projects there will be even more deaths — at least 236.ContributorsStory by: David ArmstrongVideos by: Matthew OrrStory editor: Gideon GilPhoto editor: Alissa AmbroseArt direction: Alex HoganMotion graphics: Dom SmithWeb Development: Corey Taylor, Ryan DeBeasi, Jim ReeviorPage Design: Jen KeefeProject manager: Tony GuzmánCopy editor: Sarah MupoEditor’s note: Excerpts from DJ’s journal and text messages between DJ, Justin, and family members appear verbatim. They were not edited for spelling or grammar. A harrowing story of best friends, addiction — and a stealth killer By David Armstrong Aug. 2, 2016Videos by Matthew Orr center_img After DJ’s call, Justin phoned his heroin dealer and ordered an “80” — street slang for $80 worth of heroin, about a half-gram. A half-hour later, Justin walked up to the doughnut shop counter and slid a folded dollar bill toward his friend. DJ, wearing white baker’s pants and a Tim Hortons baseball cap, grabbed it and quickly walked to the back of the shop, where he snorted the powdery substance concealed inside the money. Justin, meanwhile, went to the bathroom and injected some of the drug, then returned and handed DJ another bill. DJ went into the bathroom to snort more of the powder. The day DJ diedVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:1900:19  Justin Laycock describes buying drugs for his friend, DJ Shanks, who was working at Tim Hortons. Feeling good about taking care of his friend, Justin left the doughnut shop around 3:15 p.m. with plans to meet up with DJ later.DJ went back to work, stopping occasionally to wipe his eyes and face — an apparent side effect addicts call the itchies. After about 20 minutes, video from the shop’s surveillance system shows he became unsteady, bobbing back and forth while pouring glaze over a tray of doughnuts. Slowly, he began to slump forward, as if attached to a winch gently lowering him down. His head came to rest on a sheet of glaze. His body, bent over the counter at the waist, appeared lifeless.The Tim Hortons manager saw DJ as soon as he came through the shop’s side door. He took off his coat, dragged DJ to a back room, and called 911.“I just walked in and this guy was passed out,” the manager told the dispatcher. “I have no idea how long he’s been passed out, but he’s got blue lips, no pulse.”The manager performed CPR, but it was too late. DJ never regained consciousness. At 5:12 p.m. on Feb. 19, 2015, a doctor at the University of Toledo Medical Center pronounced David Andrew Shanks Jr. dead. He was 21. DJ Shanks passes out after snorting fentanylVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:0900:09  A surveillance camera captures DJ Shanks as he passes out after snorting fentanyl. Toledo Police, in a report filed two weeks later, concluded there was “no indication of foul play in the immediate cause of Shanks death.”By all appearances, this was just another fatal heroin overdose — something that happens more than once an hour in a country awash in opioids. But it wasn’t heroin that killed DJ. It was fentanyl, an opioid manufactured in hidden laboratories to be up to 100 times more powerful than heroin. It’s what killed the musician Prince.Fentanyl is a stealth killer, often sold to clueless buyers as heroin, prescription pain pills or the anti-anxiety medication Xanax. DJ and Justin had no idea they were snorting and injecting it.The drug has flooded the marketplace as street dealers on up to major international cartels have discovered that it delivers heroin’s high at a fraction of the cost. This creates a paradox where the profit margin for drug sellers skyrockets as the street price for opioids drops.The result: Fentanyl is poised to become the catastrophic exclamation point to 20 years of escalating opioid addiction in the United States.STAT spent months interviewing friends and relatives of DJ, including hours of conversation with Justin, to piece together this report. DJ’s journals, written in the months before he died, offered insights into the turmoil he felt as he fought to get off drugs while forever chasing the next high. STAT also examined court files, police and medical examiner reports, phone records and text messages, and the surveillance camera recordings from Tim Hortons.Justin was shattered by DJ’s death. He blamed himself, and dulled the pain with heroin. His family feared he would overdose like his best friend. But when he least expected it, Justin would get one last chance at salvation.The subdivision in Swanton, Ohio, where DJ Shanks grew up. Sean Proctor for STATStorefronts in downtown Swanton. Sean Proctor for STATAs a boy, DJ lived in a subdivision in Swanton called Westpointe Estates, near the end of a cul de sac where neighborhood kids gathered to skateboard, ride bikes, or play games like Ghost in the Graveyard. Justin, who lived with his father and grandmother in a remote part of town, was a frequent visitor.About a dozen miles west of the Toledo city limits, Swanton is home to just under 4,000 people. On Main Street downtown, there is an Elks Lodge and a few insurance agents operating out of storefronts. Other buildings appear empty. The biggest event of the year is the Swanton Corn Festival, which was first held in 1908.Justin said he was attracted to DJ’s thirst for adventure, and they both considered themselves daredevils. When skateboarding or snowboarding, they would try to one-up each other with tricks. In school, it was a contest to see who could come up with the funniest joke or pull off the best prank.At Swanton High School, DJ, a catcher on the baseball team, was the rare athlete who also performed in the show choir and school drama productions. He played Bob Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol” and was part of the cast of “The Wizard of Oz.”Justin was a talented illustrator who could sketch intricate comic book covers that looked professional. He aspired to work in the video production industry and did on-air reports for his high school television station. He also ran on the cross country and track teams.Toward the end of sophomore year, the venturesome spirit that bonded DJ and Justin resulted in a fateful decision. The boys had tried cigarettes before, mostly out of adolescent curiosity. On this day, they were at a friend’s house and noticed smoke with a different odor. It was marijuana. The boys tried it and were quickly buzzed. Trying marijuana for the first timeVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:2000:20  “I felt more laid-back, carefree,” said Justin of that first experience with drugs, “just like everything was kind of pushed off to the side.”DJ, in a journal he kept in a drawer next to his bed, wrote that he started smoking pot at 15 because “it was the cool thing to do, all the cool kids were doing it. So I felt like I needed to. … Big mistake.”The two smoked more marijuana the next day, and within a few months they were smoking daily. It became a ritual before they went outside and tried stunts on their skateboards. The drug emboldened them to try riskier moves.DJ’s grades, which had been average, plummeted to D’s and F’s. He stopped playing sports and performing.“I would skip school with my buddies to get high,” DJ wrote. “It was the life I was having soo much fun, not knowing I was going down a terrible path.”When he did go to school, DJ was getting in trouble. He had always been an extrovert, the class clown. He delighted in the attention and in making people laugh. But his behavior was more reckless now. He was given long suspensions, once for starting a massive food fight, and another time for writing insults about an administrator on a school wall. In his senior year, having fallen hopelessly behind, he left school.He worked to get his GED and found a job at a pizzeria, but not being in school or playing sports left him ample time to experiment with drugs. He became a heavy user of Percocet, one of the most commonly prescribed opioid pain pills. It was an escalation that worried his family. He seemed to need the drug.Justin’s behavior also changed after he started regularly smoking pot. He would become loud when high. He woke up one morning with mustard all over his face, having no memory of making a sandwich the day before.Justin transferred to a vocational high school a half-hour away for his junior year, to enroll in a digital video production program. He transferred to another high school the next year, when his family moved to a new town about 20 minutes west of Swanton.By then, he wasn’t seeing much of DJ, who had moved to Toledo with his mother. But he made new friends. And they introduced him to Percocet.Soon, Justin was taking the pain pills between classes. He remembers being high during a broadcasting class and going on air to anchor the school news report.“I’m on screen and I’m feeling good,” he said.Despite his drug use, Justin managed to graduate high school on time and moved into an apartment in Toledo in early 2013.He and DJ found each other a short time later. A mutual friend visiting Justin’s apartment told him DJ was living just around the corner. Justin left immediately to find DJ’s house and knocked on the door. DJ was surprised and delighted to see Justin on his front step.“It was a connection right away,” Justin said. “I mean, it was good. He started coming over every day, hanging out.”The friends picked up where they had left off — doing drugs every chance they could.Justin (left) made this photo, with DJ, his Facebook cover image in April 2013. via FacebookChapter 2‘Kissed by Jesus’DJ’s mother kept a silver serving platter in their house for special occasions. In July 2013, DJ and Justin decided to use it for a memorable moment of their own — the first time they would use heroin together.The gleaming platter was the perfect surface for chopping the drug into fine lines. As they leaned over and snorted the powder, Justin recalled, their faces reflected back at them.Justin was leery of heroin — he’d refused several requests from DJ that they do it together. He had heard that it grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. He had seen homeless addicts in Toledo, strung out on the drug, and didn’t want to end up like them.But this time, he gave in. They had been smoking synthetic marijuana, called K2, which gave them a more intense buzz than regular pot, but they were out. He needed to get high.The next day, the friends woke up with the same thought: We need more heroin. Falling in love with heroinVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:2000:20  “I absolutely fell in love with it,” Justin said. When he was high on heroin, all of the problems with his family and the shame he felt from his drug use washed away.“People say you literally have been kissed by Jesus,” he said. “It’s like escaping reality.”DJ had first used heroin more than a year earlier, and he was despondent as he fell under its spell again.“I couldn’t believe that I went back to this stupid drug,” DJ later wrote in his journal. “I hated myself soo much. But I kept getting high, and so did my best friend Justin.”The two were off on a months-long binge.Everything else became subservient to the need for a daily fix. Family, girlfriends, jobs — none of them mattered.Both were unemployed, and any money they had was going toward the drugs and alcohol. They weren’t paying rent for the apartment they now shared. They weren’t even buying food.When DJ’s mom, Angela, showed up at their apartment one day, she discovered the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator were empty. She drove to a supermarket and returned with cans of beef stew and other groceries.“They were so thankful,” Angela said. “Made me feel like a million dollars.”Angela had a soft spot for Justin. He was introverted and shy, and didn’t make friends as easily as DJ. Tall and slightly built, Justin appeared younger than he was. Whenever Angela was around, he was polite and courteous. When DJ’s mother met JustinVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:2200:22  “I would have never in a million years pegged him for a kid that would get in trouble,” she said.So when the two were evicted from their apartment, Angela let them move into her place and helped them get jobs at a landscaping company. It was good money — some weeks they earned as much as $800 each. Eventually, every cent went to purchase heroin and marijuana. They soon lost their jobs.“My mom knew that we were on drugs and she was very worried,” DJ wrote in his journal. But her concern had no impact, DJ wrote, as he was “sucked in deep.”Angela had been down this road before with DJ.He told his mother he started on heroin around the beginning of 2012, when he was having difficulty getting Percocet. At one point, desperate for the painkillers, DJ intensely questioned his ill grandmother about her pain medications. She worried DJ might try to steal her pills.Then he discovered heroin could fill the void.DJ’s path is a well-traveled one: Four out of five new heroin addicts in the United States started by using prescription painkillers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The shift to heroin has occurred as prescription pain medications like Percocet and OxyContin have become harder to find and more expensive on the street because of tighter controls on prescribing, as well as the development of abuse-deterrent versions of the drugs.A photo of DJ from his girlfriend Macey Fruth’s photo album. Courtesy Macey FruthDJ tried many times to break his addiction.His first attempt failed. A Toledo treatment center was reluctant to accept him because no drugs were detected in his urine, Angela said. DJ was baffled. He was smoking marijuana and using heroin. The detox center finally agreed to take him, but just for three or four days. It did nothing to curb his desire to get high.Soon he had moved from snorting heroin to injecting it for a quicker and more powerful high.“I started shooting it up, and this was terrible,” he wrote. “About 2 weeks after I started shooting, I died for the first time. My heart stopped. My friend had to rush me to the hospital, and they had to stab me in my heart with adrenaline to bring me back to life. To most people that would have taught them a lesson and make them want to quit. But I loved it. I was playing on the edge of life and death. I was in a whirlpool of emotions.”To support their habits, Justin and DJ pawned the Wii game consoles and an iPod of DJ’s younger siblings. They stole Angela’s camera.Angela kicked them out of her basement. Justin moved in with his grandmother, and DJ went to live with his father. They were back in Swanton — and little changed. One day, DJ’s father called Justin to confront him about the pair stealing items from his house. Justin was playing the card game Rummy with his grandmother, and she overheard the conversation. She knew Justin was doing drugs and wasn’t going to put up with it. If he wanted to stay at her house, he was to have no more contact with DJ. She took Justin’s phone and broke it. If he was going anywhere, he had to clear it with her.“She put me on house arrest,” Justin said.Justin with his grandmother, Marilyn Laycock. via Facebook My grandson is on drugsVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:2300:23  “It wasn’t my intention to kill my best friend at all. It was to help him out.” Many heroin addicts don’t fear death. Dope sickness is another matter. When the body doesn’t get the heroin it lusts for, it retaliates with brutal force: vomiting, diarrhea, profuse sweating, intense cramping, paralyzing anxiety. Addicts will do whatever they can to avoid it — stealing, lying, or pimping themselves to get heroin. Justin once took his grandmother’s debit card. DJ had pawned his little sister’s video game console.Two ordinary kids from Middle America, DJ and Justin were caught up in the most pressing public health crisis of the day — a wave of opioid addiction that’s killing nearly 30,000 Americans a year. But their story comes with a terrifying twist.Their descent began with marijuana use in high school, then escalated to prescription painkiller abuse and heroin. It would end with something even more wicked.advertisement The judge said that he struggled with the decision but that the punishment had to include jail time because a life was lost. He sentenced Justin to a year in jail — half the mandatory minimum sentence he faced under the original drug charge. More importantly, he ordered that the jail term be followed by six months of treatment in a locked facility. When Justin finishes treatment, he will be required to wear an electronic monitor for six months, undergo drug tests, and attend 12-step meetings.The judge told Justin that he was giving him “a chance for treatment so that you can make the life you took worth something.” He warned that if Justin used drugs again, he would impose an eight-year prison sentence. He then wished Justin good luck.DJ’s family, and even some of Justin’s, were hoping he would get a longer jail term. The more time he is forced to go without heroin and other drugs, the more likely he is to break his addiction, they said.“It would have been nice to see it be longer,” said Angela, who saw her own son struggle to get off drugs. She figured if Justin received a sentence of seven years or so, that “maybe that will be long enough for him where he’ll have a chance. And it will get him where he needs to be. And he’s going to be alive.”Justin said he is focused on redemption, starting with repairing his relationships with his grandmother, father, and sisters. During an interview at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio a month after his sentencing, he said he thinks often of DJ. “He’s on my mind all the time,” Justin said. “He’s in my dreams.”He acknowledged he also thinks of heroin. Staying off drugsVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:2200:22  Justin talks about staying off drugs. Justin injected drugs at this Knights Inn while waiting for DJ. Sean Proctor for STAT“I said, ‘This is Justin,’ and he says, ‘Justin who?’”“Laycock, his best friend,” Justin replied. “Is DJ there?”“Hold on,” the manager said. “I think the police want to talk to you.”Justin hung up.Assuming DJ had been caught with the drugs, Justin continued getting high.Julia, meanwhile, was quickly putting together the last moments of her brother’s life. She found out Justin had been at Tim Hortons that afternoon and correctly assumed it was to bring her brother drugs. Later in the evening, she started sending Justin messages.“My phone blows up,” Justin said. “I mean notification, notification, notification … and I am thinking to myself, what is going on.”Julia had sent him a series of Snapchat videos. He hit play: “You killed my brother. You’re a killer. You’re a murderer.”Justin was stunned. “I didn’t believe it,” he said. Justin in a visitors room at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio. Chapter 4An offer of redemptionDJ was buried beneath a temporary stone marker engraved with a baseball bat and a ball and inscribed with the words “Fun Loving Free Spirit.” Justin didn’t attend the funeral — his best friend’s family made clear he wasn’t welcome.Justin retreated to his grandmother’s house in Swanton, where he numbed himself with heroin to escape the pain of DJ’s death, and his role in it.He began stealing again from his family, pawning his father’s laptop and making off with his grandmother’s debit card to withdraw $150 for a day’s worth of heroin.It was “the lowest I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Justin said. His grandmother, after all, had helped him get off drugs for a while and taken him in when no one else would.Now, as DJ’s parents had done two years before, Justin’s grandmother turned to the law as a last resort. She called the police, who came and arrested Justin. “Get him out of here.”Volume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:2800:28  After he was hauled away to jail, she found a note Justin left behind. “I’ll be watching over you all … til we meet again,” he wrote. “I love you all and I’ll miss you all.” Was Justin contemplating death? His family was unsure.“Any day I expected to lift up the phone and (hear) Justin overdosed or he got killed or whatever,” his grandmother said.The withdrawal from heroin while locked up was punishing. Justin defecated on himself. He sweated profusely. He couldn’t eat or sleep. He would sit in the shower for hours, hardly able to move. Still, all he could think about was doing heroin again.Justin was released on bail after two weeks and went to stay with a friend. He never unpacked his bag. Only hours after leaving jail, he removed an ankle monitor with tree limb cutters and stole a truck parked in his friend’s driveway. He drove straight to his dealer. After a four-day binge, he was out of money and the police were looking for him.He sent his family a group message apologizing for the pain he had caused and telling them he didn’t expect to live through the night. They begged him to turn himself in and let him know they loved him. His dad told him he was still young and had a chance to turn his life around. The outpouring surprised Justin. “How do you love somebody like me?”Volume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:1200:12  “I mean, how do you love someone like me when I don’t even love myself?” he said.Just after midnight on April 19, in the middle of a residential street on the south side of Toledo, Justin walked toward a police cruiser with his arms in the air and surrendered.While Justin unraveled in the weeks after DJ’s death, Lucas County chief toxicologist Robert Forney and his staff meticulously screened DJ’s blood for drugs. Forney’s team didn’t find any heroin.What they did discover was a lethal dose of fentanyl.Forney has been on the job for 40 years. His lab does testing for 21 counties in Ohio and Michigan and has chronicled the rise of drug overdose deaths, which have now surpassed auto accident fatalities nationally. He started testing for fentanyl in 2014, when there were 13 fentanyl-related deaths. By the next year, the number was 66. It’s still growing.In no state is the fentanyl crisis more dire than in Ohio, where officials last year requested emergency assistance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, there were 502 fatal fentanyl-related overdoses in the state, a 500 percent increase from 2013. The victims tended to be younger, single white males, according to the CDC’s review. But the drug’s reach is long. A third of the victims were women, and the ages of those who died ranged from 17 to 71.Natalia Bronshtein/STATThe most terrifying aspect of the rise in fentanyl is that many victims, like DJ, have no idea they are using it. In the Sacramento, Calif., area earlier this year, 12 people died after taking counterfeit Norco pills, a common prescription painkiller, that contained fentanyl. In Florida, nine people died from counterfeit Xanax pills containing fentanyl.And in Akron, Ohio, police have identified an even more potent version of fentanyl that is being cut into heroin. Called carfentanil, it is the main suspect in 296 overdoses and 23 deaths since July 5, said Lt. Rick Edwards, a police spokesman. Carfentanil is used to sedate elephants and other large animals — to confirm what it was, detectives obtained a sample of the drug from the Cleveland Zoo.Calling it an “unprecedented threat,” the US Drug Enforcement Administration warned last month of an “expansion of the fentanyl market” that “will likely result in more opioid-dependent individuals, overdoses, and deaths.”Although it is legally prescribed for pain sufferers, such as those with cancer, almost all of the street-level fentanyl is illicitly produced in places such as China. A kilogram of fentanyl purchased from a lab in China for $3,000 to $5,000 can generate $1.5 million in revenue on the street, according to the DEA. That is about 20 times the return for a similar amount of heroin. The reason is the potency of fentanyl: It can be mixed with cutting agents in low doses to stretch the supply.Forney doesn’t know why DJ died and Justin survived, or whether DJ would have lived if he used heroin instead of fentanyl. There was alcohol in DJ’s blood, the equivalent of two and a half beers, which could have exacerbated his distress. And everyone’s tolerance level for opioids is different. Justin on fentanylVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:1400:14  On Nov. 19, 2015, exactly nine months after DJ’s death, Justin was indicted and charged with one felony count of corrupting another with drugs. Toledo Police activated the dormant case after obtaining the Tim Hortons surveillance tape and the toxicology results. The charge against Justin came amid a nationwide push by prosecutors to punish those supplying fatal doses of fentanyl.Those charged have mostly been street-level dealers rather than major players in drug rings. In the case of DJ’s death, the dealer who drove to Tim Hortons to deliver the fatal dose was never charged. Toledo Police said they were unable to positively identify the dealer — a man in his 20s Justin knew as BG.Justin decided early on not to fight the charge. He admitted to detectives that he bought the drugs that DJ used just before he died.He was brought in to Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Ian English’s courtroom on March 17 to plead no contest — admitting that the allegations in the complaint against him were true. A prosecutor for 13 years, English had been a judge for a year and was known as a critic of harsh sentences for substance abusers. Justin hoped for leniency.Instead, he learned the charge carried a mandatory sentence of at least two years in prison and a maximum of eight. “I was devastated,” Justin said. Moreover, under the charge, the judge could not require that he get drug treatment while locked up.Justin listens during his sentencing by Judge Ian English at Lucas County Common Pleas Court in Toledo. Laura Mcdermott for STAT Sending Justin to prisonVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/feature/opioid-crisis/dope-sick/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0000:4500:45  Judge English discusses Justin’s case. Tags addictionfentanylopioidslast_img read more

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For truly affordable health care, we need to pay for outcomes, not services

first_img @nashpophealth [email protected] By Rita E. Numerof and David B. Nash March 29, 2017 Reprints That’s exactly what we saw in the second annual State of Population Health Survey, published by Numerof & Associates. It showed that fewer than 1 in 5 health care executives are confident that their institutions are ready to assume financial risk for cost and quality. The majority of providers surveyed said that under 10 percent of their revenue comes from risk-based reimbursements, which is virtually unchanged from the prior year.Executives are also dialing back their expectations for how fast this percentage will grow. In this year’s survey, respondents projected that just 20 to 40 percent of their revenue will flow through alternative models within two years, down from 40 to 60 percent the year before. That’s worrisome, as changes in payment models are essential to achieving better health outcomes at a sustainable cost.If left to choose between the new path of assuming accountability for the total cost of care and outcomes or the current one of being paid for every service performed, most providers will choose the status quo. Recent government pilots demonstrated that phenomenon. In the Medicare Shared Savings Program, for example, only 1 percent of participants chose the track that exposed them to shared losses, while 99 percent chose shared savings only, steering clear of downside financial risk.But incentives can change behavior. As the largest purchaser of health care in the United States, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is in a unique position to influence delivery organizations. One provision in the embattled Affordable Care Act sought to promote progress toward changing how we pay for health care by directing CMS to test new payment mechanisms that hold providers accountable for costs and outcomes. Some of these mechanisms, like bundled payments, use financial risk to focus providers on the value of their care and lay the groundwork for population health.While some of these pilots have shown promise in moderating the spiraling cost of care, they’re not moving the industry fast enough toward new models of care delivery and payment. And the progress they’ve made has been accompanied by reams of regulations for providers to navigate, encouraging consolidation to deal with burdensome administrative requirements and taking the focus off providing the best possible care. President Trump and the Republican Party have been clear about their intention to replace the ACA with a more market-driven system. Less certain is the administration’s commitment to the idea of value-based care and the pace at which it will push for changes; the AHCA has little to say on the issue. It will be important to differentiate between the baby (payment reform and greater emphasis on prevention) and the bathwater (onerous regulations and reporting requirements) if we’re ever going to get to true value in health care.If the transition from fee-for-service to value-based accountable care is allowed to happen at a pace that makes health care delivery organizations comfortable, it will be decades before we see meaningful change. By that time, the confluence of the boomer age wave and inflation that is almost certainly in the near future promises to swamp the federal budget in a torrent of health care costs.To have any chance of success, real health care reform needs to dramatically change how we pay for what we get. Payers (public and private) need to rapidly increase provider participation in payment models with meaningful risk, while at the same time moving faster to put the old model and its perverse incentives to rest. We also need industry and policymakers to establish the transparency in cost and outcomes essential for enabling patient choice and keeping providers accountable for value.Until we reward population health, we won’t get it.Rita E. Numerof, PhD, is president of Numerof & Associates. David B. Nash, MD, is dean of the Jefferson College of Population Health. Many of today’s value-based care efforts aren’t transforming the way health care is paid for and delivered. They tend to make only minor modifications to the fee-for-service model, starting with existing fee schedules and adding incentive payments for reporting certain data, meeting cost benchmarks, and the like. But these efforts largely don’t make providers responsible for the total cost of caring for their patients or for the health outcomes achieved. First OpinionFor truly affordable health care, we need to pay for outcomes, not services Tags insurancephysicians Related: Broad implementation of population health would challenge providers to assume greater financial risk for their patients’ outcomes and so take a different approach to delivering and coordinating care. Since most organizations are entrenched in today’s fee-for-service model, it’s no surprise to find resistance to this shift.advertisement About the Authors Reprints Health insurers and hospitals have talked a lot about their successful forays into value-based care. But the broader shift from volume to value needs to accelerate if we are to finally tame the increases in health care costs that threaten long-term economic growth in the United States.Fee for service, the dominant payment model in health care today, relies on an elaborate fee schedule for every identifiable procedure. Unfortunately, it has created incentives for doing more tests and surgeries than may be necessary.The concept of population health stands in contrast to the fee-for-service model. It focuses on managing the health of a population by providing the right interventions for patients at the least costly point in the care continuum — from preventive care programs to post-acute services. Population health management means paying providers or health systems on a per-patient, per-month basis rather than sticking with the fee-for-service system of paying for each service rendered. With quality reporting and guarantees built in, this change provides incentives to keep people healthy — not just treat them when they are injured or sick.advertisement [email protected] David B. Nash @RitaNumerof Rita E. Numerof APStock True value-based care is a trillion-dollar unicorn for the health care industry last_img read more

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Pharmalot, Pharmalittle: Mylan to meet with Grassley to discuss EpiPen rebates

first_img Pharmalot, Pharmalittle: Mylan to meet with Grassley to discuss EpiPen rebates Pharmalot Log In | Learn More @Pharmalot Alex Hogan/STAT Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTED STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. [email protected] Ed Silverman What’s included?center_img And so, another working week will soon draw to a close. Not a moment too soon, yes? This is, you may recall, our treasured signal to daydream about weekend plans. Our agenda is rather modest. We plan to tidy up around the castle, promenade with the official mascots, and, otherwise, catch up on reading and naps. And what about you? This may be a good time to enjoy the great outdoors, especially since the climate change accord may be in jeopardy. You could reach out to someone special or simply plan the rest of your life. Well, whatever you do, have a grand time, but be safe. Enjoy, and see you soon …Mylan executives have offered to meet with Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, next Wednesday, June 7, The Street reports. The lawmaker threatened to subpoena the company for documents concerning rebates paid to Medicaid for EpiPen. U.S. taxpayers may have overpaid as much as $1.27 billion for the device, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, much more than a purported $465 million settlement. About the Author Reprints GET STARTED By Ed Silverman June 2, 2017 Reprints Pharmalot Columnist, Senior Writer Ed covers the pharmaceutical industry. What is it? Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Tags drug pricingMedicaidpharmaceuticalsSTAT+last_img read more

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FDA rejects Ocular Therapeutix eye drug, citing manufacturing issues

first_img What’s included? What is it? About the Author Reprints FDA rejects Ocular Therapeutix eye drug, citing manufacturing issues Senior Writer, Biotech Adam is STAT’s national biotech columnist, reporting on the intersection of biotech and Wall Street. He’s also a co-host of “The Readout LOUD” podcast. Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTED Log In | Learn More Adam Feuerstein STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Tags biotechdrug developmentFDAcenter_img Andrew Harnik/AP [email protected] GET STARTED Ocular Therapeutix failed for a second time to secure approval of its eye drug Dextenza. On Tuesday, the FDA rejected the drug, citing unresolved problems with manufacturing and quality control testing.Shares of Ocular were halted at $7.60 in Tuesday’s after-market session. The company has approximately $2 per share in cash on hand. By Adam Feuerstein July 11, 2017 Reprints Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. @adamfeuerstein Biotech last_img read more

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Tell us what you really think: A survey on drug prices, biotech, and Alex Azar

first_img Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. What’s included? General Assignment Reporter Liz focuses on cancer, biomedical engineering, and how patients feel the effects of Covid-19. Log In | Learn More STAT Plus subscribers, we want to know what you think.The last time we polled you, the new tax law was wending its way through Congress, Tom Price still had a seat in the Trump cabinet, and PhRMA was launching its “Go Boldly” campaign on the heels of a hike in membership fees. Opinions+ Tags STAT+ What is it? STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. @cooney_liz center_img Elizabeth Cooney Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTED Tell us what you really think: A survey on drug prices, biotech, and Alex Azar [email protected] By Elizabeth Cooney Aug. 16, 2018 Reprints Alex Hogan/STAT GET STARTED About the Author Reprintslast_img read more

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The latest roadblock to Trump’s plan to put drug prices in ads: House Republicans

first_img GET STARTED The latest roadblock to Trump’s plan to put drug prices in ads: House Republicans Politics By Nicholas Florko Sept. 13, 2018 Reprints WASHINGTON — President Trump’s splashiest idea for lowering the cost of prescription drug prices was to force pharmaceutical companies to include the prices of their products in TV and other advertisements.But when Capitol Hill had a chance Thursday to help him achieve that goal, lawmakers failed. And counterintuitively, it was House members in the president’s own party who ultimately nixed the provision. In fact, it was a Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, pushing the measure hardest. What is it? Log In | Learn More [email protected] Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Washington Correspondent Nicholas Florko reports on the the intersection of politics and health policy. He is the author the newsletter “D.C. Diagnosis.”center_img What’s included? About the Author Reprints Nicholas Florko Tags Congressdrug pricingpolicyWhite House Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), left, and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), right. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTED @NicholasFlorko STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond.last_img read more

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