The Pulse

The Pulse is written by Kristin Gourlay, an award winning health care reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Full archive of The Pulse can be found here.

At a public hearing yesterday at the Dept. of Health, doctors, dentists, physician assistants, and advanced practice nurses voiced their opposition to the department's proposed regulations governing the prescribing of opioids. The new rules would require prescribers to sign a fairly lengthy agreement with patients, alerting them to the risks of taking prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, and agreeing to certain kinds of monitoring. Many health care providers feel these agreements aren't necessary and that, in fact, they're patronizing.

What do you think?

No surprise here: the Philadelphia Transportation Authority is suing Gilead, maker of the expensive new hepatitis C drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni, over the cost of those drugs. A course of Sovaldi, not including drugs you might have to take in combination with it, as some patients do, costs $84,000. Harvoni, which won FDA approval more recently, costs $94,000.

According to the Philadelphia Star Tribune:

Timothy Flanigan

A Rhode Island doctor has just returned from Liberia where for three months he trained health care workers fighting the deadly Ebola virus. Dr. Timothy Flanigan is one of several Rhode Islanders who have traveled to the West African nation to fight the disease that the World Health Organization estimates to have killed some 6500 people.

Shortly after arriving back home, he sat down with me to talk about what he saw and where he sees hope.

You can listen to our conversation here.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Pun intended.

It's National Influenza Vaccination Week (according to the CDC), which I read as yet one more way to snap us out of complacency and into a clinic for a flu shot.

But it seems no amount of exhortation will move some people closer to the needle (or nasal spray).

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says he hopes legislation to boost funding to treat addiction will move forward this week. Whitehouse and colleagues from both sides of the aisle hosted addiction experts on Capitol Hill this morning to learn more about the challenges that remain for addicts even in recovery.

For the past several weeks we've been airing stories from our series, "At the Crossroads: The rise of hepatitis C and the fight to stop it." Maybe you've been wondering, hey, should I get tested? Where can I do that? And what's it like?

Wonder no more. Here's a collection of resources to get you started.

My recent story about the high cost of new hepatitis C treatments focused on the difficulty of deciding who gets these new drugs now and who has to wait. That's because, while new drugs like Sovaldi and Harvoni (both made by Gilead) promise to cure a lot of people, they're so expensive we simply couldn't afford to treat everyone who's infected right now.

HealthSource RI director Christine Ferguson has penned an op-ed in the Providence Journal to plead her case for keeping the health insurance exchange in local hands. Her commentary comes days after a Projo editorial arguing the state should scrap its exchange.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island health officials have unveiled the state’s Ebola emergency response plan. The plan spells out the steps state agencies will take to handle potential cases.

FILE / RIPR

Individuals and families can enroll in health insurance plans through HealthSource RI starting November 15. If you're new to the exchange or already have coverage through it, here are a few things you should know about what's new for this year.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

School nurse teachers in Rhode Island say they need to have an opioid overdose rescue drug called Narcan on hand in schools. That’s one of several findings of a first-ever survey of school nurses about the use of opioids like prescription painkillers in schools and experiences with overdoses in schools. Overdose educator and University of Rhode Island pharmacy professor Jef Bratberg presented the findings. He says it’s not surprising that schools are affected.

Addiction usually leaves a wake of chaos, and all kinds of casualties - marriages, jobs, health. Most tragically, the current crisis of opioid addiction (to prescription painkillers and heroin) in Rhode Island has cost too many lives. Well over 160 Rhode Islanders have died from accidental opioid overdoses so far this year. Hundreds more might have joined them had it not been for the rescue drug naloxone.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Scan the headlines from around the country, and you might think the nation was under attack, that Ebola is stalking children in classrooms and on school buses, a stowaway on every flight, contaminating neighborhoods.

There’s no doubt of course that Ebola is a horrible, often deadly disease. Thousands of West Africans have been lost to it.

But fears about Ebola seem often unfounded, as they often did about AIDS.

Early AIDS fears
Consider the lead for this article by Judy Foreman in the Boston Globe, Sept. 1985:

The main promise of the Affordable Care Act was - and is - to get more Americans covered by health insurance. But news today about Walmart's dropping coverage for 30,000 part-time workers reminds us there's still a rocky road to coverage for some.

With open enrollment for coverage through the health insurance exchanges right around the corner (Nov. 15), I thought it might be a good time to shine a spotlight on a couple of groups affected.

Higher Ground International

Rhode Island has one of the largest Liberian communities in the country. Their homeland is at the center of the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa. Many Liberians living in Rhode Island have been working hard to help their compatriots back home with supplies and donations. Rhode Island Public Radio’s health care reporter Kristin Gourlay speaks with one of them, Henrietta White-Holder, founder of an organization called Higher Ground International.

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