Recent studies examine Rx medication use and fall risk in older adults

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Man with cowboy hat walking with a cane

Photo: Adam Cohn via Flickr

Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Those with cognitive impairment are two to three times more likely to fall than those who are cognitively intact. We also know that certain medications can increase the risk of falls in older adults. According to researchers at Texas A&M University, those with dementia who regularly took pain medication and those with probable dementia who took pain medication two or more days a week in the prior month were more likely to fall compared to those without dementia, according to the researchers. Continue reading

How they did it: Reporting on junk health insurance plans

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Early in May, ProPublica health care reporter Jenny Deam wrote about the financial ruin that often results when unknowing consumers enroll in short-term health insurance plans. Her article of more than 3,000 words, “He Bought Health Insurance for Emergencies. Then He Fell Into a $33,601 Trap,” is an excellent example for any journalist looking to cover the complex world of health insurance plans that do not comply with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare.

Maya Miller, an engagement reporter with ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, also contributed.

As the article notes, the Trump administration’s efforts to deregulate health insurance led to the proliferation of short-term health plans, boosting health insurers’ profits while leaving patients with unexpected bills. Deam also explained the steps the Biden administration has taken to bolster ACA-compliant plans offered through www.healthcare.gov and the state health insurance marketplaces. We reported on those efforts in February, in March and in April. Continue reading

Court ruling validates speech rights for health workers

About Deborah Schoch

Deborah Schoch (@DeborahSchoch) is a California-based independent journalist whose COVID-19 coverage has appeared in The New York Times and AARP. She is a member of the AHCJ Right-to-Know Committee.

A federal appeals court in Boston has upheld the right of a hospital employee to speak to the media, in a case likely to ripple across the private sector and make it harder for employers to issue blanket gag orders.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, ordered a Maine hospital last month to repudiate a rule that barred employees from answering inquiries from the media or providing information without the “direct involvement” of the Community Relations Department. It also ordered the hospital to reinstate an employee who was fired after writing a letter to the local newspaper that described staff turnover and morale problems. Continue reading

Alzheimer’s drug approved Monday by FDA raises questions for journalists

About Liz Seegert and Tara Haelle

Liz Seegert (@lseegert) is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today and other outlets. Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is medical studies core topic leader, helping journalists translate evidence into accurate information.

Beakers

Photo: Knowing Roger via Flickr

Part two of two parts; the first ran Thursday, June 10.

There’s still a great deal we don’t yet understand about aducanumab (brand name Aduhelm) or its longer-term effects. If early-stage Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed in time for someone to begin taking the drug, are the potential adverse effects cumulative? Could long-term toxicity build up over time? How long might the drug stave off development of the plaque, and how long might it slow down the process of cognitive decline, if at all, and how will clinicians assess its benefit in patients? Continue reading

FDA approves new Alzheimer’s drug, but controversy persists

About Liz Seegert and Tara Haelle

Liz Seegert (@lseegert) is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today and other outlets. Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is medical studies core topic leader, helping journalists translate evidence into accurate information.

Beta-amyloid plaques and tau in the brain.

National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of HealthBeta-amyloid plaques and tau in the brain.

Part one of two parts; the second runs tomorrow, Friday, June 11.

You might think that the first new drug to treat Alzheimer’s in 18 years — and the first to treat underlying disease and not just symptoms — would be heralded by patients, families, and medical professionals alike. After all, the FDA’s approval on Monday of  aducanumab (brand name Aduhelm) sounds like a tremendous breakthrough for the estimated 6 million Americans, and 50 million people globally, who suffer from the disease.

However, because of the supporting clinical data on its effectiveness, the drug has been controversial from the start. Drug maker Biogen actually halted its parallel Phase 3 studies, ENGAGE and EMERGE, because they failed to meet their primary endpoints. Those original endpoints were a change in the Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB), which is similar to a composite endpoint because it assesses improvement in multiple different domains. Continue reading