Trending News Today: Medicaid Offered More Flexibility in Serious Mental Illness Treatment

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

Merck’s cancer drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) met its main goal in a late-stage clinical trial evaluating the treatment in patients with cancers of the digestive tract, Reuters reported. According to the article, the study showed that pembrolizumab enabled certain patients with esophageal cancer to survive longer compared with chemotherapy. Pembrolizumab, which is a PD-1 inhibitor, has already been approved to treat several forms of cancer, including skin and lung cancer, the article reported.

The Trump administration is providing more flexibility for treating patients with serious mental illnesses, The Hill reported. According to the article, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wants states to apply for waivers to allow Medicaid to pay for long-term mental health at inpatient facilities. The waivers would allow Medicaid to pay for patients with severe mental illness for an average of 30 days, similar to substance abuse waivers that have been granted in 17 states, the article reported.

At least 252 cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) have been reported to the CDC thus far this year, including 90 that have been confirmed through November 9, NPR reported. According to the article, officials still do not know the cause of the condition, but they say there is a possibility it is being caused by a virus known as enterovirus or by an overreaction of the immune system to an infection. Half of patients with AFM eventually fully recover, but the other half appear to be left with permanent disabilities, the article reported.