Health News Roundup

Racial disparities in deaths linked to pregnancy, explaning the politics and money of drug pricing debates, and more in this week’s roundup


Huge racial disparities found in deaths linked to pregnancy
Roni Caryn Rabin, The New York Times, May 7
African-American, Native American and Alaska Native women die of pregnancy-related causes at a rate about three times higher than those of white women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday. The racial disparity has persisted, even grown, for years despite frequent calls to improve access to medical care for women of color. Sixty percent of all pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented with better health care, communication and support, as well as access to stable housing and transportation, the researchers concluded.

Black patients, black physicians, and the need to improve health outcomes for African Americans
Erika Stallings, NBC News, May 6
Research shows that health outcomes for black patients are better when they are treated by black doctors. That research is critical given that African Americans in the United States generally experience poorer health outcomes across a variety of diseases and conditions. Currently, black men have the lowest life expectancy of any major demographic group in the United States and live on average 4.4 years fewer than non-Hispanic white men. There is also a documented maternal mortality crisis among African American women in the United States.

Heart failure deaths on the rise among younger US adults, researchers say
Jacqueline Howard, CNN, May 7
A recent decline in heart failure-related deaths in the United States has reversed, and those types of deaths are now climbing nationwide, especially among adults ages 35 to 64. The trend, which also revealed some racial disparities, was found in a research paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. All in all, “we are demonstrating for the first time that heart disease deaths from heart failure are increasing and that increase is disproportionately higher in young black men and women,” said Dr. Sadiya Khan, an assistant professor of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who was first author of the paper.

Opioid addiction drug going mostly to whites, even as black death rate rises
Martha Bebinger, NPR, May 8
White drug users addicted to heroin, fentanyl and other opioids have had near exclusive access to buprenorphine, a drug that curbs the craving for opioids and reduces the chance of a fatal overdose. That’s according to a study that appears in JAMA Psychiatry. The dominant use of buprenorphine to treat whites occurred at the same time opioid overdose deaths were rising faster for blacks than for whites. “This epidemic over the last few years has been framed by many as largely a white epidemic, but we know now that’s not true,” said Dr. Pooja Lagisetty, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and the study’s corresponding author.


The money and politics of prescription drugs: What you need to know
Jon Greenberg, PolitiFact/Kaiser Health News, May 8
If there’s one area of health care where Republicans and Democrats might strike a deal, it’s prescription drugs. Why do prescription drugs draw so much attention? Because millions of Americans rely on them, and 8 out of 10 say the cost is “unreasonable.” Tracking the money challenges the savviest of analysts. Between the drugmakers and the patients lie an array of middlemen, who end up masking the true prices through discounts to one another and rebates to patients. Here are a few benchmarks to help you navigate the realm of prescription drugs.