Health and health care news

PORTLAND, Maine — Several hundred more schoolchildren have received vaccinations for measles in the past year, boosting the state’s protection against a measles outbreak.

The Portland Press Herald reports that up to 400 more grade school children received the measles vaccination in the past school year. Maine’s voluntary opt-out rate remains among the nation’s highest, so health officials are cheering the improvement.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

One of the many challenges of Maine’s opioid epidemic is getting people into effective drug treatment as quickly as possible. A shortage of treatment providers means that some patients can wait weeks or months to be seen.

But in Brunswick, the Addiction Resource Center at Mid Coast Hospital has figured out how to cut those wait times to just a few days, and the effort appears to be paying off.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — A philanthropic foundation is giving The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor more than $8 million to improve cancer diagnostics and treatments.

The money is coming from the Harold Alfond Foundation. Jackson Laboratory was one of the first cancer genetics research institutions in the world.

The laboratory has a cancer center at its Bar Harbor headquarters and at its genomic medicine lab in Farmington, Connecticut.

Maine’s three largest cities are among others across the U.S. identified in a recent British newspaper for using testing protocols that could hide lead contamination. But water district officials in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor say the newspaper investigation unfairly compares past testing practices to new federal recommendations released just months ago.

Riverview Psychiatric Center has let go its director of nursing, following the resignation of the hospital’s superintendent and clinical director earlier this year.

But Dan Wathen, the court master who oversees a consent decree that protects the rights of Riverview patients, says the director of nursing was a contract position that was not renewed.

“I would prefer that always the employment situation was stable and happy, but every instability doesn’t mean that the hospital is in serious difficulty,” he says.

Courtesy photo

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug to treat opiate addiction called Probuphine. Its manufacturer calls it a game-changer, because it’s an implant that releases medication over months. But some Maine physicians who treat those with opiate addiction are more skeptical about the drug’s potential promise.

LEWISTON, Maine - Maine is seeing a spike in sexually-transmitted diseases. 

State epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett says when comparing the number of STDs year-to-date to the five year median year-to-date, "syphilis has more than doubled, gonorrhea has more than doubled, and chlamydia is probably about 25 percent higher this year than the median over the last five years." 

Bennett says the spike in Maine mirrors a national trend.  A number of factors are likely the cause, she says, including the fact that many people who have STDs don't show immediate symptoms.

The smoking rate among American adults is declining, according to a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control.

In 2015, 15 percent of U.S. adults were smokers, a 2 percent reduction from the previous year. Lance Boucher of the American Lung Association of the Northeast says Maine’s adult smoking rate is also declining, but trends higher than the national average.

“We’ve been stuck in the 19 or 20 percent range for the last couple of years, through 2014 data,” he says.

Linda Coan O'Kresik / Bangor Daily News

By Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA, Maine — More than 3,000 Mainers face bills from the state or federal government because they received too much food stamp funding due to errors by the state.

A Bangor nonprofit that provides addiction counseling and services for the poor will be closing its two faith-based drug and alcohol treatment centers after accepting more than $1 million in Medicaid overpayments from the state.

Leeanne Hewey, a board member for Manna Industries Inc., said that the board has been advised by Manna executive director Bill Rae that the publicity surrounding Manna’s financial problems now threatens contributions that fund its other services.

Mal Leary / MPBN

Gov. Paul LePage says he will ask lawmakers to change the language in a $10 million bond issue for senior housing the voters approved last November.

Appearing on Maine Public Radio’s Maine Calling program, he said he supports the goal of the bond but said its authorizing language needs to be tightened up and sent back to the voters.

“I want to release the bonds but I want them to do good. I want to either keep people in their homes longer by having ramps and mobility issues dealt with,” LePage said.

For years, the cost of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone, often called by its brand name Narcan, has been relatively low, a few dollars a vial. Recently, prices have soared. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other members of congress are demanding to know why.

Naloxone is made by several manufacturers but that hasn’t kept a lid on pricing. For example: one auto-inject version of the drug has gone from $575 for two-doses to more than $3,500. Even a generic version used by hospitals went from $1.84 a vial to $31.66 a vial last year. Collins says she is baffled at the price hikes.

A new study finds that people of French-Canadian descent are more likely to have a genetic disease called Familial Chylomicronemia Syndrome, or FCS. This disease puts them at greater risk for acute pancreatitis – a painful, sometimes fatal condition. Researchers say the study shows the need for more and better screening – and effective treatment.

Yasmeen / Flickr/Creative Commons

The federal Food and Drug Administration has approved an overhaul on food nutrition labels. Among the changes is a requirement to include the amount of added sugar in products.

Dr. Tory Rogers of Let’s Go, a childhood obesity prevention program, says that information will be a huge help for consumers.

“The added sugar is one of the biggest issues people have right now when consuming food, and that has a lot of negative health consequences,” she says.

Caroline Losneck / MPBN

The city-run India Street Health Center in Portland will be managed by a private, nonprofit health center by July of next year. Portland city councilors approved a city budget Monday night that draws to a close a contentious debate about the fate of the longstanding clinic.