Editors’ pickHealth

Lethal Insulin Prices; Concussion Rays; New VA Questions

Welcome to the post-Labor Day weekend edition of MedPage Today‘s Investigative Roundup, a quick look at the latest watchdog pieces and deep dives into healthcare from around the web. Here’s the latest on what health journalists and investigators have been investigating: deadly insulin prices, potentially weaponized microwaves, and shady PTSD treatments for veterans.

Insulin Pricing Turns Deadly

The high cost of insulin has forced some diabetics to ration the intake of the drug, NPR reported in its “Shots” series, sometimes leading to deadly consequences. Leading U.S. insulin makers now charge $250 for a single vial, double the price from 2012. Trapped in the chasm between expensive insulin and high deductible insurance plans, patients may see rationing as their only option. Although rationing insulin is dangerous, a quarter of people with diabetes have reported doing so. Currently, some of these patients are suing the three lead manufacturers of insulin — Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, and Eli Lilly — because of the increasing, often prohibitive, costs.

Microwaves Blamed for Havana Mystery

Can microwaves be weaponized? It may be possible, some experts told the New York Times. Microwave radiation could explain the bizarre neurological symptoms reported by dozens of American diplomats and their families in Cuba and China. Although a recent study in JAMA does not mention microwaves as a culprit in the 2o16-2017 Cuban incident, the study’s lead author now says he considers microwaves a main suspect.

VA Nursing Home Abuses Exposed

A joint investigation by The Boston Globe and USA Today provides a look inside one of the lowest rated nursing homes for veterans in the United States: the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts. The facility, which cares for more than 200 veterans, is among 10 to receive a one-star rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs for quality and after surprise inspections. According to documents obtained by the news outlets, Bedford’s low rating is based on a range of issues, including bed sores and the overall decline of veterans’ health.

Questionable PTSD Treatments Touted

In another investigation targeting the VA, a federal advisory commission on veterans’ health services may be looking favorably at unproven treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Reveal. In the wake of comments from commission chairman (and beer company head) Jake Leinenkugel that some services should be privatized, offers from PTSD treatment providers have started coming in. At a hearing in late August, the commission — dubbed Creating Options for Veterans’ Expedited Recovery Commission or COVER — discussed several of these pitches.

Marsden McGuire, MD, the VA’s acting assistant deputy undersecretary for health for patient care services, warned against “quackery”: “There is some concern that if we put out these things as a magic bullet, we will redirect attention from things that actually have stronger evidence, that are going to work,” McGuire said.

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