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What We’re Reading: Global Pandemic Prevention Strategy; Change Healthcare Hearing; FDA Heart Pump Recall

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The Biden administration recently launched the Global Health Security Strategy, a new effort to combat the spread of infectious diseases; lawmakers zeroed in on the risks of massive consolidation in health care during the first congressional hearing on the Change Healthcare hack; the FDA recently announced the recall of a pair of heart devices linked to numerous deaths and injuries.

US Creates Global Strategy to Prevent the Next Pandemic

The Biden administration recently launched the Global Health Security Strategy, a new effort to improve the country’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to the spread of infectious diseases, according to NPR. With this new strategy, the White House strives to make the US better prepared for future pandemics, outbreaks, and biological threats, regardless of where they occur. Consequently, the US will also be expanding its health security partnerships to 50 countries worldwide; the US will help these countries improve their abilities to identify and respond to diseases, including improved testing, surveillance, lab capacity, and immunizations. However, some experts worry the new strategy does not go far enough and financial realities will limit its impact. The new plan, which is based on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, will roll out over 5 years.

Lawmakers Target Mergers in First Change Healthcare Hack Hearing

Lawmakers zeroed in on the risks of massive consolidation in health care on Tuesday during the first congressional hearing on the Change Healthcare hack, according to Axios. Lawmakers expressed concerns about the impact of mergers forming health care giants like UnitedHealth Group, Change Healthcare’s parent company, after the late February attack against Change Healthcare, the country’s largest medical claims processor, halted payments and crippled operations at some hospitals and clinics. During the hearing, several lawmakers expressed frustration that UnitedHealth did not send a representative or provide answers to key questions; UnitedHealth CEO Andrew Witty is expected to testify soon before the Senate Finance Committee. Although Congress is in the early stages of forming a possible response, lawmakers’ comments suggested the possibility of crackdowns on vertical mergers that have allowed health care companies to expand their reach.

FDA Recalls Heart Pumps Linked to Deaths, Injuries

The FDA recently announced the recall of HeartMate II and HeartMate 3, a pair of heart devices linked to hundreds of injuries and at least 14 deaths, according to KFF Health News. The recalled devices are mechanical pumps that help the heart pump blood when it cannot do so on its own; the devices are implanted in patients with end-stage heart failure. The recall affects nearly 14,000 devices. According to the recall notice, the devices can cause a buildup of biological material that reduces the ability to help the heart circulate blood and keep patients alive; the buildup accumulates gradually and can appear 2 years or more after a device is implanted. The FDA advised doctors to watch for low-flow alarms on the devices and, if an obstruction is present, to either monitor the patient or perform surgery to implant a stent, release the blockage, or replace the pump. Despite the recall, the devices are not currently being removed from the market.

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