Welcome to the latest edition of Investigative Roundup, highlighting some of the best investigative reporting on healthcare each week.
Mega-Rich Chase Longevity Science
Deep-pocketed investors met with scientists and biotech founders in a swanky resort town of Gstaad, Switzerland, to advance “longevity science,” according to MIT Technology Review.
Of the 150 people who attended the exclusive meeting — which cost $4,500 per ticket and was dubbed the Longevity Investors Conference — 120 of them were investors with millions or even billions of dollars to spend on such a project.
While the field is attempting to establish its scientific credibility, there are still plenty of “anti-aging” treatments that are based on scant or no evidence, according to the article. Whether an influx of cash from wealthy investors can change that remains to be seen.
Some traditional science has started to emerge, according to MIT Technology Review. There’s some evidence that rapamycin can extend the life mice, and that injecting old mice with blood from human teenagers can delay death, too.
But the group is prone to self-testing and experimentation, according to the article. Other claims made during the conference included the age-reversing effects of special supplements, the benefits of inhaling low-oxygen air, and the classic advantages of eating healthy foods and exercising.
Saving a Safety Net Hospital
The pandemic’s exposure of healthcare disparities has sparked a “reappraisal” of the value of at least one safety-net hospital in New York City, according to The New York Times.
Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn is considered a bottom 7% hospital nationally, and has a one-star rating from CMS — but it’s the only place for many people in this predominantly Hispanic community to go for medical care.
While some of New York City’s safety net institutions “have been plagued by past mismanagement, labeled ‘failing hospitals,’ and long been considered for takeover or closure,” the pandemic had led to a re-evaluation of that attitude, according to the Times.
Government leaders are now reconsidering safety net hospitals’ role in reducing health disparities, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration has doubled this year’s budget for Wyckoff and asked the federal government to boost the Medicaid rates paid to hospitals that serve mostly low-income patients.
The fate of Wyckoff remains to be seen, however, and one executive there noted that despite longstanding efforts to improve the facility, “no matter what we do, we remain a one-star institution.”
How to Spend $26B Opioid Settlement?
States are just getting started on figuring out how to spend the $26 billion recovered from litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors, according to Kaiser Health News.
Concerns are already rising that officials will use the money in ways that won’t help the people most effected by the opioid epidemic, according to KHN.
A group of advocates in Ohio already has sued the OneOhio Recovery Foundation — the group tasked distributing more than $800 million in settlement funds — over what they allege is a lack of transparency.
Public health experts told KHN this will be an unprecedented opportunity address the issues caused by the opioid epidemic, but they also warned that the distribution of the funds could become overly political because so many individuals and groups are advocating for their share.
“It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s going to a lot of places and going to be spread out over time,” Sara Whaley, MPH, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told KHN. “It’s not going to magically end this crisis. But if it’s used well and used thoughtfully, there is an opportunity to make a real difference.”