Healthcare Roundup—Cancer death rates dropping in U.S.; House passes right-to-try legislation

Cancer mortality rates among men, women and children have dropped in the U.S. (Pixabay)

NIH: Cancer mortality dropping in the U.S.

First the good news: Cancer death rates among men, women and children in the U.S. have been dropping between 1999 to 2014, according to the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer released by the National Cancer Institute. Overall cancer incidence, or rates of new cancers, also decreased in men.

As for the not-so-good news: Incidence of cancer among women stabilized during that time period, the incidence of late-stage prostate cancer has increased and, after decades of decline, prostate cancer mortality has stabilized.

"As overall death rates continue to decline for all major racial and ethnic groups in the United States, it’s clear that interventions are having an impact,” said NCI director Ned Sharpless, M.D. “The report also highlights areas where more work is needed. (Report)

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House passes right-to-try legislation

A measure that would allow patients with terminal diseases or conditions to try investigational therapies will head to the president's desk after it passed the U.S. House on Tuesday.

The measure, which passed the House by a vote of 250-169, is the same measure which previously passed the Senate by unanimous consent in August 2017. President Trump has spoken in strong support of right-to-try laws and is expected to sign the measure. (Stat article)

Azar pledges support for Ebola outbreak response

Speaking at the World Health Assembly in Geneva on Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar pledged up to $7 million toward the response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The assistance would come in addition to technical help from American experts, as well as $1 million in aid announced last week.  

During his remarks, Azar also promised conditional support for a World Health Organization "that excels at its mission." Specifically, he pointed to the priorities of infectious disease threats such as pandemic flu and multidrug resistant organisms, as well as diseases such as Ebola. He also expressed disappointment that Taiwan was not invited to participate in the assembly.  

"I strongly urge WHO to focus on its core purpose by continuing, as its first mission, to fix the problems it has had in the past in coordinating worldwide responses to health emergencies and emerging infectious disease threats," Azar said. (Statement)

AMVETS Commander writes to White House about VA leadership transition

The head of national veterans group AMVETS sent a letter to the White House on Monday calling for President Donald Trump to let deputy Veterans Affairs secretary Thomas Bowman lead the agency until the current acting secretary is officially confirmed. 

Last week, Trump said he planned to nominate Robert Wilkie, who is the acting secretary of the VA. Commander Marion Polk pointed out that Wilkie would be expected to step down once his nomination was official. 

"Mr. Wilkie has proven himself capable and willing to fulfill this extraordinarily important leadership position within your presidential cabinet," Polk said, adding AMVETS would back his confirmation.  "Colonel Bowman is immensely qualified and already working as Mr. Wilkie’s right-hand, so I have complete confidence he can be an outstanding steward of the federal government’s second-largest agency while the Senate considers your nomination." (Statement)

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