Trending News Today: City Sues OxyContin Manufacturer Alleging Negligence in Opioid Epidemic

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

The Senate approved Seema Verma as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services yesterday, according to The New York Times. The Indiana health care consultant was approved by a 55 to 43 vote. Verma said she wants government programs to improve health and not just pay bills, heavily criticizing Medicaid, and calling the status quo unacceptable for the federal-state insurance program. Verma designed a Medicaid expansion along conservative lines for Pence in Indiana, the NY Times reported. However, critics have called the plan confusing for beneficiaries, with some being penalized through no fault of their own. At the Senate confirmation hearing, Verma defended her approach by saying that low-income individuals are fully capable of making health care decisions based on rational incentives. Verma also noted that she does not support turning Medicare into a voucher plan, where retirees would get a fixed federal contribution to purchase private coverage from government-related private insurance plans, the NY Times reported.

New research finds that Canadians with cystic fibrosis live nearly a decade longer than Americans with the same disease. According to the NY Times, children with cystic fibrosis seldom survived elementary school, but now earlier diagnoses and improved treatment options allow more patients to live into adulthood and middle age. In a new study, investigators analyzed data from the national registries of cystic fibrosis patients in each country from 1990 to 2013. The results of the study showed that the median age of survival in Canada was almost age 51, compared with nearly 41 years for patients in the United States. The findings suggest that access to lung transplants and health insurance may play a significant role in the survival gap, the authors concluded.

The opioid epidemic is an ongoing problem in the United States. To address this issue on a local level, the mayor of Everett, WA, stepped up patrols, hired social workers to ride with police officers, and pushed for more permanent housing for chronically homeless individuals to help combat the epidemic. The city has spent millions combating OxyContin and heroin abuse, according to the NY Times. Now, Everett is suing the OxyContin drug maker Purdue Pharma, alleging that the drug manufacturer knowingly allowed pills to be funneled into the black market and the city, and did not make any attempts to stop it. The lawsuit accuses Purdue of gross negligence and nuisance, and seeks to hold the company accountable for damages caused to the community. In a company statement, Purdue Pharma said the lawsuit paints a flawed and inaccurate picture of the events that led to the crisis in Everett.