Helping make the health care system work for you

Journal formally retracts disputed vaccination study

AIDS Healthcare Foundation Offers Free Meningitis Vaccinations

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Last month we told you about the latest viral flare up over vaccines and autism. The journal Translational Neurodegeneration published - and then quickly pulled - a study "purporting to find that black children are at substantially increased risk for autism after early exposure to the measles-mumps-rubella [MMR] vaccine," as described by the blog Retraction Watch. 

The journal said it had pulled the article because of  "serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions," and it promised "definitive editorial action...pending further investigation."

People in the anti-vaccination movement immediately hurled accusations of a coverup. In the meantime, Translational Neurodegeneration appears to have concluded its investigation. Here is an editorial note the journal published this past Friday:


Next up for #PriceCheck: How much for diabetes test strips?

About 23 million adults have Type 2 diabetes, and most of them are overweight or obese.


Using a test strip and glucose meter.

If you have diabetes: How many test strips do you use each day to check your blood sugar? And how much do they cost?

As I’ve waded into the next phase of our #PriceCheck collaboration, I’ve learned these are not simple questions.

The basics

People with diabetes have a problem with insulin - a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Either their bodies don't produce it (Type 1 diabetes, which only affects about 5 percent of diabetics), or don't use it properly (Type 2 diabetes, the most common form).

Diabetics must constantly check their blood sugar levels. This involves a glucose meter. You insert a test strip into the meter, then use a special needle to prick a finger and place a drop of blood on the test strip; the meter displays the result.

The number of test strips people use each day "varies depending on the frequency that you need to be testing," explains Manny Hernandez, the president of the Diabetes Hands Foundation, which connects diabetics with information and social networks.


2 cases of enterovirus D68 reported in LA County

13-year-old Will Cornejo of Lone Tree, Colo., recovers at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver from what doctors suspect is enterovirus 68. His parents found him unconscious on the couch and called 911. He was flown to Denver for treatment.

Cyrus McCrimmon/Denver Post/Getty Images

13-year-old Will Cornejo of Lone Tree, Colo., recovers at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver from what doctors suspect is enterovirus D68.

Remember enterovirus D68? It’s the disease we were all talking about before the first case of Ebola was confirmed in the U.S. yesterday.

And now both Los Angeles County and the City of Long Beach (which runs its own health department) have each confirmed one case of EV-D68, as it's known.

One thing you need to remember about this disease: There’s no need to panic.

But first...

A little refresher

In case you’ve been flooded with Ebola news, here’s some background on EV-D68: It can cause mild to severe respiratory illness, including fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, body and muscle aches, wheezing and difficulty breathing.

The disease likely spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches contaminated surfaces.

Anyone can get EV-D68, but in the recent outbreak, kids with asthma seem to be at higher risk for severe respiratory illness, the CDC says.


A new law helps you pick a health plan based on its drug coverage

pills capsule drugs prescription medication

Photo by higlu via Flickr Creative Commons

It's hard for California consumers to shop for a health plan based on their prescription drug needs. That process is going to get easier - eventually - thanks to a new law signed Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown.

We first told you about SB 1052, written by State Senator Norma Torres (D-Pomona), back in May. It requires the state's Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance to jointly develop a standard template for health insurance companies to use when sharing their drug formularies. A formulary lists the medications an insurer covers, at what cost, and for how long.

This is important, because right now it's really hard to comparison shop based on which medications you use - insurers currently share their drug formularies in different formats.

The new law requires that insurers update their formularies every month. And Covered California will have to provide a link to each company's information.


State Farm drops Rob Schneider ad amid outcry over his anti-vaccine stance

US Hollywood actor and stand-up comedian

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Rob Schneider performs during 'Black Dog - Comedy Evenings' in Bangalore in 2011.

State Farm has apparently decided that someone who's outspoken against vaccines is not a good neighbor — or at least, not a good pitchman for the company. The insurer is pulling an ad featuring anti-vaccination activist Rob Schneider, a comedian and actor who's better known for his work on Saturday Night Live and movies like Deuce Bigalow.

Schneider's stance

In 2012, Schneider campaigned against a California law requiring parents to meet with a doctor before they obtain a Personal Belief Exemption, which allows them to opt out of vaccinating their children.

"You can't make people do procedures they don't want," Schneider said in this video interview with News10 Sacramento, posted on the Huffington Post in 2012. "The parents have to be the ones who make the decisions for what's best for our kids."