Merck Drug sees failures in head and neck cancer treatment

Keytruda, a cancer drug from Merck, failed to improve the duration of event-free survival in patients with head and neck cancer. Doctors joining unions, nurse burnout, nurses working remotely, rising healthcare industry profit projections, and more are also making industry news.

Reuters: Merck’s Keytruda fails head and neck cancer trial

Merck & Co Inc said Wednesday that its cancer treatment Keytruda failed to meet the primary endpoint of a late-stage trial testing it in patients with head and neck cancer. The company said Keytruda, its blockbuster cancer drug, in combination with chemoradiation therapy showed improved event-free survival, or the length of time a patient remains complication-free compared to a placebo. (7/20)

In news on health worker issues —

Modern healthcare: more and more doctors are looking for unions in a changing landscape, COVID-19

Dr. Monique Hedmann, a family medicine resident at Harbor-University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center in West Carson, works with patients from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. But his day does not end there. (Christ, 7/20)

Bloomberg: Nurse burnout hits new high with latest Omicron variant surges

Lots of people may be leaving Covid, but nurses certainly aren’t – and as the latest variant sweeps across the US, mental strains on the profession have reached new heights. A survey of 2,500 nurses released on Wednesday found that 64% are considering leaving the healthcare profession, an increase of nearly 40% from a similar survey a year ago. Three-quarters of those surveyed said they had suffered from burnout since the start of the pandemic and half said they had experienced feelings of trauma, extreme stress or PTSD. (Johnson, 7/20)

Stat: As healthcare faces nursing shortages, nurses flock to remote jobs

Exhausted and tired of their working conditions, nurses are leaving the bedside in droves, leaving empty posts and lingering signs for hire in hospitals and clinics across the country. (Palmer, 07/21)

On other industry developments –

Axios: Health industry profits expected to rise following pandemic

Health care profits will rise dramatically over the next few years, according to a new estimate from McKinsey & Company – further evidence that providers and payers are doing very well in the wake of the pandemic. (Owens, 7/20)

Bloomberg: Apple says it’s now a major force in healthcare

Apple Inc. on Wednesday released a nearly 60-page report outlining all of its health features and partnerships with medical institutions, saying such offerings are key to the tech giant’s future. The company highlighted the breadth of its existing services – from sleep monitoring and fitness classes to atrial fibrillation detection and cycle tracking – and promised to build on this foundation. Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who oversees Apple’s health efforts, said in a statement attached to the report that the company will continue to innovate in “science-based technologies.” (Gourman, 07/20)

Bloomberg: Spotify’s top backer invests $101 million in mental health company

A Swedish nonprofit focused on improving the mental wellbeing of young adults has attracted 100 million euros ($101 million) in funding from its founders, Annika Sten Parson and Par-Jorgen Parson. The Inner Foundation was created by the husband and wife duo this year and has already made several investments, including Meela, a platform offering personalized therapy for women, and StrongMinds, a nonprofit for the treatment of depression in Sub-Saharan Africa. . (Liman, 07/21)

Reuters: Biogen relies on new Alzheimer’s drug to ease investor concerns

Biogen Inc (BIIB.O) tried to assuage investor concerns on Wednesday by laying out a plan for its Alzheimer’s disease drug being developed with Eisai Co Ltd (4523.T) and promising to learn lessons of the setbacks of his Aduhelm treatment. Biogen also revealed that it agreed to pay $900 million to resolve a whistleblower lawsuit accusing it of paying bribes to doctors to prescribe multiple sclerosis drugs. The case was due to go to trial next week in Boston. He did not admit any wrongdoing. (Misha, 07/20)

Stat: Biogen agrees to pay $900 million to settle whistleblower case alleging kickbacks and false speech

After a decade of legal wrangling, Biogen has agreed in principle to pay $900 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a former employee who alleged the company bribed hundreds of doctors to boost sales of his multiple sclerosis medications. (Silverman, 07/20)

Modern healthcare: Providence cuts management team and operations to save money

Providence, a Washington-based nonprofit health system, is cutting its management team and streamlining some functions as it faces operational challenges. (Hudson, 7/20)

Also: How the healthcare system got in the way of a couple’s quest for autism care –

KHN: ‘So Rudderless’: Couple’s quest for autism treatment for their son faces repeated hurdles

When Sebastian Rios was very young, he barely spoke. “Don’t worry,” his pediatrician told Amparo and Victor Rios, Sebastian’s parents. Children who grow up in homes where both Spanish and English are spoken are sometimes slower to develop their language skills, she said. In addition, Sebastian was developing well in other ways: when he was just 18 months old, for example, he could identify the magnetized letters of the alphabet on the refrigerator of their home in Bronxville, a few minutes in train north of New York. (Andrews, 7/21)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news outlets. Sign up for an email subscription.

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