Albuquerque, Jun 29 (AP/UNB) — Taxpayers and patients in the U.S. could save millions of dollars a year if they were able to pay what people in other countries do for insulin and other medications required by diabetics, a lawmaker said Friday.
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, a New Mexico Democrat, released a report she had commissioned from a congressional oversight office on the high costs of diabetes medications in her district, which includes the state’s most populous area.
The review found that the costs are burdening patients — from those on Medicare to those without any insurance.
Haaland said what’s happening to constituents in her district is no different than in countless districts across the country.
Haaland called the findings startling, noting that Medicare does not have the ability to negotiate drug prices so the costs to the federal program are more than six times higher than in the United Kingdom and nearly nine times more than in Australia, for example.
The average insulin price nearly tripled from 2002 through 2013, and prices have risen 10% or more a year since then, forcing many diabetics to ration their insulin.
Physicians and other experts said Friday that some patients are embarrassed to say they can’t afford the medications and have ended up hospitalized as a result.
“It’s just wrong. Plain and simple,” Haaland said.
The congresswoman outlined the findings while flanked by children and parents who have been dealing with diagnoses of Type 1 diabetes.
About 30 million Americans and more than 420 million people worldwide have diabetes. Most cases are Type 2, the kind tied to obesity. Patients with diabetes don’t produce enough insulin to control their blood sugar, or their body uses insulin inefficiently, forcing them to inject the hormone, usually several times a day.
In Haaland’s district, there are an estimated 17,000 seniors and disabled Medicare beneficiaries who have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the report.
The top 50 diabetes medications cost the Medicare program and beneficiaries in the district more than $16 million in 2016. The report contends they could see a savings of anywhere from $8 million to $12 million if prices were comparable to what patients pay in neighboring Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Some U.S. lawmakers are pushing to give Medicare authority to negotiate directly with drugmakers for better prices. Also pending is legislation that would reauthorize and increase spending for national diabetes research programs.
“Getting out information I think and raising the issue is the best way we can get all of us to care about this issue,” Haaland said.
James and Kelly Martinez talked about the midnight and 3 a.m. glucose checks they have to do with their two daughters. The family’s insurance deductibles are so high that they end up paying out of pocket for most of what they need.
Katie Bone also has Type 1 diabetes. She remembers feeling achy and thirsty and getting headaches before her diagnosis. She ended up in urgent care and soon learned — at the age of 11 — what it meant to be diabetic.
Now 13, Katie said Friday she can do anything but dreams of living in a world where she doesn’t have to change her insulin pump, put on a glucose sensor or take 10 shots a day to stay alive.
Her mom, Tammy Bone, has counted the days — 892 — and all the finger pricks — 3,649 — since her daughter’s diagnosis. She described the disease as unyielding and pervasive.
“There is so much we do not know about diabetes, but what we do know is that insulin is non-negotiable,” she said. “In order to get the very best possible outcomes, people with diabetes need access to affordable insulin and diabetes management tools.”
Jerusalem, June 29 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Israeli researchers have discovered how sea urchins build their skeleton, which could lead to new treatment for cancer, the northern University of Haifa (UH) reported on Thursday.
In the UH study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), it was found that the sea urchin builds its skeleton in much the same way as mammals and other vertebrates develop their circulatory system.
This means that about 550 million years ago, the sea urchins, along with other echinoderm phylum animals, made a change in their genetic program of building blood vessels, and turned it into a calcium-based skeleton.
According to the researchers, it is easier to change an existing program than to build a whole new genetic one.
Thus, animal phylums independently developed their way of taking minerals from the environment to build a skeleton, and there is no "ancestor" who developed one way that everyone inherited.
The researchers focused on the process of biomineralization (in the embryonic stage), in which an animal uses the minerals it absorbs from the environment and turns them into skeletons - with in sea urchins the mineral is calcium carbonate.
The researchers found that the skeleton that develops in the sea urchin embryos is tubular, very similar to the structure of a human's blood vessels, except that instead of blood inside the tube there is calcite.
The researchers also showed that the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene, which is responsible for the formation of the vascular system in humans, also plays an active role in the formation of the skeleton of sea urchins.
VEGF is known to play an active role in the formation of cancer metastases, providing them with new blood vessels with oxygen supply.
Therefore, a better understanding of VEGF control mechanisms can help fight cancer and develop new drugs.
In addition, by learning how the sea urchin controls the features of crystals, as it does with calcite crystals, it will be possible to produce strong artificial crystals in any form.
Dhaka, Jun 28 (AP/UNB) - Get ready to see another world from the eyes of a dragonfly — at least, a robotic one.
NASA said Thursday that it's sending a drone called Dragonfly to explore Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Using propellers, the drone will fly and land on several spots on the icy moon to study whether it can support microbial life.
The nuclear-powered mission is part of NASA's competitive New Frontiers program, which launched the New Horizons spacecraft that became the first to visit dwarf planet Pluto.
Dragonfly beat out nearly a dozen proposed projects, including a mission to collect samples from a nearby comet. The drone is slated to launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in 2034. The plan is to land on some of Titan's dunes and later on a crater. Development costs for the mission are capped at around $850 million.
"What really excites me about this mission is that Titan has all the ingredients needed for life," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's planetary science division.
Titan is a haze-covered world with a thick atmosphere. The moon has lakes of methane, mountains of ice and an ocean below the surface, making it an attractive place to explore whether its environment can support primitive life.
"We are absolutely thrilled, and everyone is just raring to go and take the next steps in exploring Titan," said project leader Elizabeth Turtle of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
Titan was last studied by the international Cassini-Huygens mission. In 2017, the Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn, ending two decades of exploration.
Cape Canaveral, Jun 25 (AP/UNB) — SpaceX has launched its heftiest rocket with 24 research satellites.
The middle-of-the-night rideshare features a deep space atomic clock, solar sail, clean and green rocket fuel, and even human ashes, including an astronaut's.
The Falcon Heavy rocket blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida Tuesday morning at 2:30. It was the third flight of a Falcon Heavy, but the first ordered up by the military.
The Defense Department mission is expected to provide data to certify the Falcon Heavy — and reused boosters — for future national security launches. It was the military's first ride on a recycled rocket.
Both side boosters landed back at Cape Canaveral several minutes after liftoff, just as they did after launching in April. But the new core booster missed an ocean platform.
Moscow, Jun 25 (AP/UNB) — Three astronauts safely returned to Earth on Tuesday after spending more than six months aboard the International Space Station.
The Soyuz capsule with astronauts from Canada, Russia and the United States landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 8:47 a.m. (0247GMT), less than a minute ahead of the scheduled time, on Tuesday after a 3 ½ hour flight from the orbiting lab.
Two of the astronauts had completed their maiden flights: Anne McClain of the United States and David Saint-Jacques of Canada. The expedition commander Oleg Kononenko of Russia has ended his fourth space mission. All three spent 204 days in space.
Americans Nick Hague and Christina Koch and Russia's Alexey Ovchinin remain aboard the space station.
The space veteran Kononenko who was the first one to have been extracted from the capsule looked visibly tired and pale. McClain and Saint-Jacques were more energetic and gave a thumbs-up to the recovery team who greeted the three with applause.
The astronauts were put on camping chairs in the sun just by the capsule for a respite and initial medical checks.
When asked by a reporter on site if he liked the weather Kononenko said he was "happy to see any kind of weather" after spending over 200 days in space.
The crew is expected to be taken to a local airport and fly to their home bases.