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What We're Reading: Florida Doctor Stole Millions; Rural Areas and HIV Risk; Disposable Vapes Replace Juul


A vascular surgeon in Florida allegedly stole $26 million from insurers and the government; a new report finds many rural areas are still at risk of an HIV outbreak; new disposable flavored vape pens have largely replaced Juul use among teens.

Florida Doctor Stole $26 Million from Insurers, Federal Government

A vascular surgeon stole $26 million from health insurers and the government with the goal of possibly funding a political campaign in his native country of Ghana, The Associated Press reports. Recently unsealed indictments allege Dr. Moses deGraft-Johnson falsely billed Medicare and Medicaid, along with other insurers, for work he did not perform. HHS investigators found deGraft-Johnson claimed to have completed more than 3600 atherectomies over a 5-year period. The doctor’s bank account shows at least $1.8 million in international wire transfers to Ghana.

Rural Places Remain at Risk for HIV Outbreak

In 2015, an HIV outbreak hit rural Indiana, infecting 235 people who contracted the disease from intravenous drug use. A new report from NPR and Kaiser Health News found that fewer than a third of the 220 counties deemed vulnerable to similar outbreaks by the CDC have working syringe exchanges, a measure that helped stem the Indiana outbreak. In response to the outbreak, states like Ohio and Kentucky have made it easier for syringe exchange programs to take hold in the states. However, legislation in Missouri, Iowa, and Arizona to allow syringe exchanges has been unsuccessful, mitigating effective reponses should an outbreak occur.

Disposable Flavored Vape Pens Replacing Juul

Flavored disposable vape products are largely replacing Juul use among teens, according to a recently published NPR article. In October, Juul pulled most of its flavored pens from the market, creating a window for alternatives. Puff Bar, Stig, and Viigo are among the brands now being used by teens despite the Trump administration’s partial ban on flavored e-cigarettes. A disposable Puff Bar can have as much nicotine as 2 or 3 packs of cigarettes, and comes in a variety of flavors like pink lemonade. The FDA could at any time regulate new e-cigarette products it finds are marketed to minors, the article notes.

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