On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
51°
Partly Cloudy
H 64° L 40°
  • cloudy-day
    51°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 64° L 40°
  • cloudy-day
    62°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 64° L 40°
  • clear-night
    53°
    Evening
    Mostly Clear. H 64° L 40°

Health Headlines

    A bipartisan Senate bill to curb prescription drug costs for Medicare recipients got a makeover Friday to lower copays and make it easier for seniors to budget for their expenses. The updated legislation unveiled by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would lower the standard copay to 20% from the current 25% for seniors enrolled in Medicare's Part D prescription drug benefit. It also introduces a feature that would let Medicare enrollees spread out their copays in monthly installments. Because of the current design of the system, seniors taking very expensive drugs can face unmanageable out-of-pocket costs in the first couple of months of any year. The bipartisan Senate bill has the support of President Donald Trump, but it's unclear if any significant drug pricing legislation can pass a Congress polarized by impeachment. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to bring her own, more ambitious bill to a floor vote next week. The California Democrat's legislation would empower Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies and plow the savings back into expanded dental, vision and hearing benefits for seniors. But congressional Republicans are opposed to the government negotiating drug prices. Trump, who supported the idea as a candidate, has since dropped it. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, is reluctant to bring the bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to the floor. It could trigger Democratic amendments designed to create political headaches for Republicans on other issues, such as protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions. In terms of policy ideas, there's considerable overlap between the Senate bill and parts of Pelosi's plan. Both would cap out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries and require drugmakers to pay rebates to the government if they hike prices above inflation. But the political challenges may be impossible to overcome. The Grassley-Wyden bill would limit out-of-pocket medication costs faced by seniors to $3,100, starting in 2022. Currently there is no limit, and some Medicare recipients dealing with serious illness face copays rivaling a mortgage payment. In a statement late Friday, the White House said 'President Donald J. Trump applauds the work of Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Wyden to lower prescription drug costs and further improve their bipartisan legislation, such as adding a provision to limit monthly out-of-pocket spending for seniors with chronic high costs. The White House called on Congress 'to act now to give Americans the relief they need by sending bipartisan drug pricing reform to the President’s desk this year.' Supporters of the Senate bill are hoping a deal can still be had, and that major prescription drug legislation can be incorporated in a budget bill expected early next year. The pharmaceutical industry opposes both the Senate and House bills and has poured millions of dollars into a lobbying battle to block them.
  • Leading senators are urging Medicare to allow seniors concerned about their drug plan pick for next year to switch if they received inaccurate information due to changes the agency made this sign-up season. The request from 14 Democrats and one Independent comes as open enrollment for prescription drug coverage ends at midnight Saturday. Medicare hinted Friday in a statement that it will provide such second chances. But the agency said it will post details when sign-up season is over, because a policy announcement now might create confusion. Medicare revamped its online plan finder this year and the senators said they've gotten numerous complaints from people in their states about inaccurate information on drug pricing and coverage. The Associated Press recently reported on a change to the website that can steer unwitting seniors to coverage that costs much more than they need to pay. In their letter, senators said Medicare should grant people who have concerns a do-over. Technically, it's known as a “special enrollment period.” “We urge (Medicare) to make it clear to every ... beneficiary that they qualify for a special enrollment period if they find they were misled,' wrote Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and his colleagues. “Older adults, people with disabilities and their caregivers must be made aware that there is reprieve from errors caused by the faulty tool.' They asked Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to widely publicize the special enrollment period, make it available throughout next year, and place no paperwork hurdles in front of beneficiaries who want to switch to a plan that better suits them. In its statement Friday, Medicare said it wants to ensure that seniors “are confident in their decisions and happy in the coverage they choose.' Medicare said it's always had the ability to grant do-overs, 'but this year we’re doubling down on ensuring that choosing their Medicare coverage is a simple and painless experience for beneficiaries.' Medicare officials told AP that if seniors had problems with the plan finder and were unhappy with the outcome, they could call 1-800-MEDICARE and request to make a switch. Agency officials said beneficiaries don't need to use any technical language, only explain what their issue is to the call center representative. No documentation or screen shots will be required. Serving some 60 million Medicare recipients, the plan finder is the most commonly used tool on Medicare.gov and just got its first major update in a decade. The issue AP reported on stems from a significant change to the plan finder for 2020. The plan with the lowest premium now gets automatically placed on top, with the monthly premium displayed in large font. Medicare’s previous plan finder automatically sorted plans by total cost, not just premiums. That's important because premiums are only one piece of information. When out-of-pocket expenses such as copays are factored in, the plan with the lowest total annual cost is often not the first one shown by the plan finder.
  • Health officials investigating a nationwide outbreak of vaping illnesses have listed, for the first time, the vape brands most commonly linked to hospitalizations. Most of the nearly 2,300 people who suffered lung damage had vaped liquids that contain THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana. In a report released Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed the products most often cited by patients, noting that some of them said they vaped more than one. Dank Vapes was the brand used by 56% of the hospitalized patients nationwide. Dank is not a licensed product coming from one business, it is empty packaging that can be ordered from Chinese internet sites. Illicit vaping cartridge makers can buy the empty packages and then fill them with whatever they choose. Other product names at the top of the list from CDC were TKO (15%), Smart Cart (13%) and Rove (12%). “It's not likely that a single brand is responsible for this outbreak,” said Brian King, a senior CDC official on the investigation. Some of the brands cited by the CDC are sold in states with legalized marijuana. But counterfeits of those legitimate brands have flooded the market around the country, forcing some to redesign their packaging. Bill Loucks, co-founder of TKO Products, said his company sells only to licensed dispensaries in California, but the company gets emails asking about TKO-branded cartridges purchased elsewhere. “If you bought them outside of California ... you are the proud owner of fakes,' Loucks said in an email. The CDC also said Friday that the worst of the outbreak may be over. Preliminary data indicates hospitalizations peaked in mid-September and have been declining since, officials said. Investigators want more data until they feel certain the outbreak is waning. If it is, there may be more than one reason, including growing public caution about vaping or perhaps a change in what cartridge makers are putting into them, King said. But cases are still coming in, with 2,291 reported this year — including 176 that joined the tally in late November. Every state has reported cases, and 25 states and the District of Columbia have reported a total of 48 deaths. Symptoms include trouble breathing, chest pain, fatigue and vomiting. About half the patients are people in their teens or early 20s. The outbreak appears to have started in March. CDC officials have gradually come to focus their investigation on black-market THC cartridges. An analysis of about 1,800 of the hospitalized patients found about 80% said they used at least one THC product. Last month, CDC officials said they had narrowed in on a culprit — a chemical compound called vitamin E acetate that has been commonly found in the lungs of sick patients and in the products they vaped. Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent that's been added to illicit THC vaping liquids. But it's possible it also may have been added to vaping liquids containing CBD, another cannabis extract, King said. About 1% of the patients said they had vaped CBD products only. The agency is recommending that people do not use any electronic cigarettes or vaping products that contain THC, especially those obtained from friends, family members or black market dealers. However, 13% of patients said they vaped only nicotine. CDC officials are continuing to look at nicotine-containing vapes, and to advise caution about all types of vaping products until the investigation is concluded, King said. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • The U.S. winter flu season is off to its earliest start in more than 15 years. An early barrage of illness in the South has begun to spread more broadly, and there’s a decent chance flu season could peak much earlier than normal, health officials say. The last flu season to rev up this early was in 2003-2004 — a bad one. Some experts think the early start may mean a lot of suffering is in store, but others say it’s too early to tell. “It really depends on what viruses are circulating. There’s not a predictable trend as far as if it’s early it’s going to be more severe, or later, less severe,” said Scott Epperson, who tracks flu-like illnesses for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are different types of flu viruses, and the one causing illnesses in most parts of the country is a surprise. It’s a version that normally doesn’t abound until March or April. That virus generally isn’t as dangerous to older people — good news, since most flu hospitalizations and deaths each winter occur in the elderly. However, such viruses can be hard on children and people younger than 50. Louisiana was the first state to really get hit hard, with doctors there saying they began seeing large numbers of flu-like illnesses in October. Children’s Hospital New Orleans has already seen more flu cases this fall than it saw all of last winter, said Dr. Toni Gross, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine. Last month was the busiest ever at the hospital’s emergency department. Officials had to set up a triage system and add extra shifts, Gross said. “It is definitely causing symptoms that will put you in bed for a week,” including fever, vomiting and diarrhea. But the hospital has not had any deaths and is not seeing many serious complications, she said. Health officials tend to consider a flu season to be officially underway when — for at least three weeks in a row — a significant percentage of U.S. doctor’s office visits are due to flu-like illnesses. That’s now happened, CDC officials said this week. The agency on Friday estimated that there have already been 1.7 million flu illnesses, 16,000 hospitalizations, and 900 flu-related deaths nationally. The most intense patient traffic had been occurring in a six states stretching from Texas to Georgia. But in new numbers released Friday, CDC officials said the number of states with intense activity rose last week to 12. Flu is widespread in 16 states, though not necessarily at intense levels in each, the CDC said. Last flu season started off as a mild one but turned out to be the longest in 10 years. It ended with around 49,000 flu-related deaths and 590,000 hospitalizations, according to preliminary estimates. It was bad, but not as bad as the one before it, when flu caused an estimated 61,000 deaths and 810,000 hospitalizations. Those 2017-2018 estimates are new: The CDC last month revised them down from previous estimates as more data — including actual death certificates — came in. In both of the previous two flu seasons, the flu vaccine performed poorly against the nasty predominant virus. It’s too early to say how well the vaccine is performing right now, Epperson said. Epperson said there’s a chance the flu season will peak this month, which would be unusually early. Flu season usually doesn’t hit fever pitch until around February. The early start suggests a lot Americans may be sick at the same time, said Dave Osthus, a statistician who does flu forecasting at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “This could be a precursor to something pretty bad. But we don’t know,” he said. Gross is pessimistic. “I, personally, am preparing for the worst,” she said. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • A flesh-eating bacteria linked to the use of black tar heroin has killed at least seven people over the past two months in the San Diego area, prompting health authorities to alert law enforcement and other officials in California. Nine people who injected black tar heroin between Oct. 2 and Nov. 24 were hospitalized with severe myonecrosis, a soft-tissue infection that destroys muscles. Of the seven who died, five were men. The nine patients ranged from 19 to 57. Also, 13 people in Southern California have been diagnosed with wound botulism since Sept. 1, which also may be tied to black tar heroin, said Dr. Eric McDonald, director of epidemiology and immunization services at the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency. Law enforcement agencies are trying to determine the source of the heroin. It is unclear exactly how the bacteria was transmitted. “It can be in the dirt, it can be on the surface of your skin, it can be the surface of a needle, but when you have a cluster like this, it makes it very suspicious that it's the actual black tar heroin itself that's contaminated,' McDonald said. “We're sort of operating under that assumption.” Officials have advised the local medical community to watch for additional cases of myonecrosis and wound botulism, a rare but serious illness that attacks the body’s nerves and is also linked to black tar heroin use. Los Angeles County officials said Nov. 21 that the county had two confirmed and two suspected cases of wound botulism associated with heroin injection since Oct. 13. It is unknown if anyone died from botulism but McDonald said it can be treated with antitoxins, unlike myonecrosis. McDonald said San Diego County has a case of heroin-linked myonecrosis once every year or two and that an outbreak like this year's is rare. There was an outbreak in Ventura County, California, in 1999 and 2000 that killed four people. Symptoms of myonecrosis include pain, swelling, pale skin, blisters with foul-smelling discharge, fever, excessive sweating and increased heart rate. If left untreated, myonecrosis can spread through the body and cause people to go into shock. It can lead to amputations or death. Symptoms of wound botulism can sometimes be mistaken for a drug overdose and occur within days or weeks of injecting contaminated drugs. Symptoms can include drooping eyelids, blurred vision, dry mouth, sore throat, slurred speech and paralysis. Left untreated, symptoms may lead to paralysis of the respiratory muscles, arms, legs and torso and can cause death. Black tar heroin is sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal and is predominantly produced in Mexico and sold in U.S. areas west of the Mississippi River, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The dark color results from crude processing methods that leave behind impurities. Impure heroin is usually dissolved, diluted, and injected into veins, muscles or under the skin. A 2016 survey by the Drug Enforcement Administration found black tar heroin sold in 12 Western cities, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Denver, nearly all of it from Mexico. Purity ranged from 34% to 43%.
  • Prices for prescription drugs edged down by 1% last year, a rare result driven by declines for generics and slow, low growth in the cost of brand-name medications, the government said Thursday. Though modest, it was the first such price drop in 45 years, according to nonpartisan economic experts at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, who deliver an annual report on the nation's health care spending. The price drop was for retail pharmacy prescriptions, not medications administered in hospitals or doctor's offices. HHS experts said the last time retail prescription drug prices declined was in 1973, when they went down by 0.2%. The price drop comes amid questionable prospects for major legislation to curb prescription drug costs. Nonetheless, it was a nugget of decent news in a sobering, broader report on rising U.S. health care spending. The HHS report found that spending on prescription medicines at pharmacies accounted for 9% of the total $3.6 trillion national health care tab in 2018. Total U.S. health care spending grew by 4.6% last year, averaging $11,172 per person. In the real world, U.S. spending is concentrated on the sickest patients, with 5% of the population accounting for half of costs. Because of strong overall economic growth last year, health care spending as a share of the national economy declined slightly, from 17.9% in 2017 to 17.7%, the report found. Legislation pending in Congress to curb drug costs would mainly benefit older people on Medicare, who are the biggest consumers of medicines. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is forging ahead with a floor vote next week on her bill authorizing Medicare to negotiate prices for the costliest drugs, including insulin. Under her bill, private insurance plans would be able to get Medicare's prices as well. But President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are solidly opposed to Medicare negotiations. Instead Trump is backing a bipartisan Senate bill that would require drugmakers to pay rebates to Medicare if they hike prices above inflation. As a candidate Trump had called for allowing Medicare to negotiate directly. Both bills would cap what Medicare recipients must pay annually in out-of-pocket costs for their prescriptions. The HHS report made no forecast of future prescription drug prices. It's unclear if the 1% price decline seen last year may be the beginning of a sustained trend or was merely a temporary pullback by drug companies getting pummeled by Trump and lawmakers of both parties. Thursday's report found that nearly 9 out of 10 prescriptions dispensed are for generic drugs, which puts downward pressure on prices. Even though prices of brand-name drugs increased more moderately, they still accounted for most of the spending on prescriptions — nearly 79%. The government's findings on prices for brand-name drugs dovetailed with an analysis earlier this year by The Associated Press. In the first seven months of 2019, drugmakers raised list prices for brand-name prescription medicines by a median of 5%, the AP found. That was down from about 9% or 10% over those months the prior four years. The AP's findings suggest that an easing in drug prices may continue this year. Reducing prescription drug costs remains one of the top priorities for consumers. The White House claims that Trump has already delivered historic price cuts, but a recent Gallup poll found that 66% of adults believe the president has made little or no progress. The government study was published online by the journal Health Affairs.
  • Trappers can keep using sodium cyanide bombs to kill coyotes and other livestock predators, the Trump administration said Thursday, rejecting calls for a ban despite repeated instances of the devices also poisoning other wildlife, pets and people. The Environmental Protection Agency’s interim decision newly restricts use of the so-called M-44s within 600 feet of a home and 300 feet of a public road or path. Users also would have to post two warning signs within 15 feet of the poison bombs. The agency's assistant administrator, Alexandra Dunn, said in a statement that the EPA had worked with the Agriculture Department “to ensure there are safe and effective tools for farmers and ranchers to protect livestock.” The Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation advocacy groups had sought a ban on the devices, which typically are covered with smelly bait, and are designed to eject deadly sodium cyanide when an animal stops to inspect and gnaw on them. In 2017, one of the devices injured a 14-year-old Idaho boy walking near his home and killed his pet Labrador. Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the center, cited two earlier instances this century of the devices spraying sodium cyanide on people out hunting for rock specimens or walking their dogs. Federal wildlife trappers and hunters reported killing 6,579 animals with the devices last year, including more than 200 other nontargeted animals, including bears. “You’re out hiking with your dogs and your children, and you come across these, you have to be lucky enough to see one of these signs,” Adkins said. Any dog “that’s running around is going to get killed.” Livestock raisers and agricultural groups opposed calls for a ban. In 2015, coyotes accounted for 17,000 deaths among the country’s 112 million cattle and calves, the Agriculture Department estimated. The EPA allows trained use of the devices through the Agriculture Department’s wildlife-trapping program and state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Texas, Wyoming and New Mexico.
  • Tufts University is cutting ties with the billionaire family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, saying it will strip the Sackler name from its campus and accept no further donations amid concerns over the family's role in the opioid crisis. University officials announced the decision Thursday, ending a relationship that has spanned nearly four decades and brought $15 million to the school’s science and medical programs. Tufts leaders said they considered the issue for more than a year before concluding it is inconsistent with the school's values to display the family's name. “We had to deal with the reality that the Sackler name has become associated with a health care epidemic. Given our medical school’s mission, we needed to reconcile that,” Peter Dolan, chairman of Tufts’ board of trustees, said in an interview. Within hours of the announcement, however, the family vowed to fight back. “We will be seeking to have this improper decision reversed and are currently reviewing all options available to us,” said Daniel Connolly, an attorney for members of the Sackler family. He added that the decision is based on “unproven allegations about the Sackler family and Purdue.” The change was announced at the same time Tufts released findings from an outside review examining the school’s ties with the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma. The inquiry, commissioned by the school, found no major wrongdoing but concluded there was an “appearance of too close a relationship between Purdue, the Sacklers and Tufts.” The family's ties with Tufts date back to 1980, when the three founding brothers of Purdue Pharma provided a donation to establish the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. Tufts separately named its medical school building after one of the brothers, Arthur, after he made a donation in 1983. Arthur Sackler's wife, Jillian, served on the university's board of trustees for a decade starting in 1986. And Richard Sackler, a Purdue board member and former CEO, sat on the medical school’s board of advisers for nearly two decades until he left in 2017. Officials said the Sackler name will now be dropped from all campus facilities and programs, including the biomedical sciences school, the medical school building, a laboratory and two research funds. Arthur Sackler's name was removed from a sign outside the medical school Thursday. Jillian Sackler said her late husband, Arthur, deserves no blame. “Arthur had nothing to do with OxyContin. The man has been dead for 32 years. He did not profit from it, and none of his philanthropic gifts were in any way connected to opioids or to deceptive medical marketing — which he likewise had nothing to do with,” she said in a statement. Tufts joins a growing number of colleges seeking distance from the Sackler family amid pressure from students and activists. Several have stopped accepting gifts from the family, including Cornell and Yale universities. Others, including Brown University, said they will redirect past donations to support addiction treatment. An Associated Press review in October found that prestigious universities around the world accepted at least $60 million from the Sacklers over the past five years. Some critics say schools should return the money so it can be used to help cities and states harmed by the opioid crisis. Past donations to Tufts will continue to be used for their original purpose, officials said, but the university will establish a $3 million endowment to support research and education on addiction. The school also plans to create an educational exhibit exploring Tufts’ history with the Sacklers. Previously known for their philanthropy, the Sacklers have more recently gained attention for their role in the opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy this year amid thousands of lawsuits accusing it of aggressively pushing OxyContin despite its addiction risks. Some of the suits target individual members of the family, who deny wrongdoing. Students and faculty at Tufts have long called on the school to sever ties with the Sacklers, especially those in science and medicine programs. Dr. Harris Berman, dean of the medical school, said the building's name had become an “embarrassment.” “Our alumni, our board of advisers all have been troubled by the fact that we’ve got the Sackler name all over the place,” Berman said. “I think there’s going to be a great sigh of relief among all of them that we’ve finally done the right thing. Certainly I feel that way.” The move also drew support from a student group that opposed the Sacklers' name on campus, known as Sack Sackler. “Tufts, to our knowledge, is the first academic institution in the United States to fully cut ties with the Sackler family,” the group said in a statement. “That said, we don’t know of any other university so closely tied to the Sacklers’ campaign of deadly medical misinformation. Still, we’ll take it. This is a big deal.” Tufts has also faced criticism over its direct ties to Purdue Pharma. In 1999, the company paid to establish a master's program on pain research and education, and continued to fund it for a decade. One of the company's senior executives became a lecturer in the program and was appointed as an adjunct professor. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey alleged in a January civil complaint that Purdue used the partnership with Tufts to bolster its reputation and promote OxyContin. In response, Tufts’ president ordered the outside review examining the relationship. The inquiry, led by a former U.S. attorney, found that Purdue and the Sacklers contributed a combined $15 million to Tufts since 1980. Much of the family's funding supported research on cancer and neuroscience. Investigators found no evidence that the funding significantly skewed Tufts’ research or academic programs, but they believe the family and its company benefited from the relationship in subtler ways. In 2002, for example, the director of the Tufts pain program appeared in an advertisement for Purdue, with his Tufts affiliation prominently displayed. In 2015, the medical school chose not to assign students to read “Dreamland,” a book on the opioid crisis, largely because it was too critical of the Sacklers, the review found. “We do believe that Purdue intended to use the relationship with Tufts to advance its own interests and, in a few particular instances, there is some evidence that it was successful in exercising influence,” the report found. Tufts leaders say they plan to implement a slate of recommendations included in the report. It called for “heightened scrutiny” of donors, greater transparency surrounding research donors, and the creation of a committee to review large gifts that 'raise questions of conflicts of interest, reputational risk for the university or other controversy.” ___ Collin Binkley can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/cbinkley
  • A company that claims to have the first drug to slow mental decline from Alzheimer's disease made its case to scientists Thursday but left them sharply divided over whether there’s enough evidence of effectiveness for the medicine to warrant federal approval. Excitement and skepticism have surrounded aducanumab since its developers stopped two studies earlier this year because it didn't seem to be working, then did a stunning about-face in October and said new results suggest it was effective at a high dose. During Thursday's presentation at an Alzheimer's conference in San Diego, the developers convinced some experts that the drug deserves serious consideration. But others were dubious. Changes made during the study and unusual analyses of the data made the results hard to interpret. And the newly released results showed the drug made only a very small difference in thinking skills in one study and none in the other. Alzheimer’s patients and families are desperate for any help, no matter how small, adding pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to approve something. But with conflicting results, 'I don't see how you can conclude anything other than that another trial needs to be done,' said the Mayo Clinic's Dr. David Knopman, who was involved in one of the studies. Laurie Ryan, a dementia scientist at the National Institute on Aging, agreed: “We need more evidence.” Other doctors who consult for the drug’s developers cheered the results. Dr. Paul Aisen, a dementia specialist at the University of Southern California, said they were 'consistent and positive' in showing a benefit at a high dose — 'a truly major advance.' Aducanumab aims to help the body clear harmful plaques, or protein clumps, from the brain. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Biogen is developing it with Japan’s Eisai Co. In afternoon trading, the companies’ stocks were up roughly 4%. The stakes are high for approval or denial. More than 5 million people in the U.S. and millions more worldwide have Alzheimer's. Current drugs only temporarily ease symptoms and do not slow the loss of memory and thinking skills. But approving a drug that isn't truly effective could expose patients to financial and medical risks and give other drugmakers less incentive to develop better treatments. The makers of aducanumab undertook two studies, each enrolling about 1,650 people with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia from Alzheimer's. Those with a gene that raises their risk of the disease were started on a lower dose because they are more likely to suffer inflammation in the brain from medicines that target plaque. But as the studies went on and concern about this side effect eased, the rules were changed to let such patients get a higher dose. A Biogen vice president, Samantha Budd Haeberlein, said more people got the higher dose in one study, and that helps explain why it succeeded and the other one failed. But the new analyses were done on partial results, and with methods not agreed upon at the outset, which makes any conclusions unreliable, independent experts said. Also, the drug’s benefits may have looked more impressive than they really were because patients in the placebo group worsened more in the positive study than in the one that failed. 'It's hard to know exactly what happened here,' said Dr. Howard Fillit, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation. 'I don't see how the FDA could approve it.' Questions also arose about the size of any benefit. The drug did not reverse decline, only slowed the rate of it compared to the placebo group by 22% in one study. Yet that meant a difference of only 0.39 on an 18-point score of thinking skills. 'It's a very small amount,' Fillit said. Still, Maria Carrillo, chief science officer at the Alzheimer's Association, said it was “the largest reduction that we've seen to date,' adding: 'It may mean that they remember their loved ones a little longer.' The drug 'is worthy of significant, rigorous exploration' and review by the FDA, she said. 'This is an important moment for the Alzheimer's community.' Some doctors and patients who helped test the drug are convinced it helped. One was Charles Flagg, 78, a retired minister from Jamestown, Rhode Island, who received aducanumab until the studies were halted in March. Since he was taken off the medicine, “his cognition, his alertness, his interactions have definitely diminished,' said his wife, Cynthia Flagg. Biogen stressed the need for an effective treatment and suggested that delaying access to a drug that may work could deprive many people of help while further study is done. Dr. John Ioannidis, a Stanford University expert on research methods, said patients’ need should not drive the FDA’s decision. 'If we go down that path, we're likely to introduce a lot of ineffective treatments for diseases that are really common,' he said. 'It would be a complete mess.' ___ Marilynn Marchione can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • Add facial cuts, bruises and fractures to the risks from cellphones and carelessly using them. That's according to a study published Thursday that found a spike in U.S. emergency room treatment for these mostly minor injuries. The research was led by a facial plastic surgeon whose patients include a woman who broke her nose when she dropped her phone on her face. Dr. Boris Paskhover of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School said his experience treating patients with cellphone injuries prompted him to look into the problem. Paskhover and others analyzed 20 years of emergency room data and found an increase in cellphone injuries starting after 2006, around the time when the first smartphones were introduced. Some injuries were caused by phones themselves, including people getting hit by a thrown phone. But Paskhover said many were caused by distracted use including texting while walking, tripping and landing face-down on the sidewalk. Most patients in the study weren’t hospitalized, but the researchers said the problem should be taken seriously. The study involved cases in a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission database that collects emergency room visit information from about 100 hospitals. The researchers tallied 2,500 patients with cellphone-related head and neck injuries from 1998 through 2017. The study was published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology. Nationwide, they estimated there were about 76,000 people injured during that time. Annual cases totaled fewer than 2,000 until 2006, but increased steeply after that. About 40% of those injured were ages 13 to 29, and many were hurt while walking, texting or driving. Cellphone use also has been linked with repetitive strain injuries in the hands and neck, and injuries to other parts of the body caused by distracted use. “I love my smartphone,” Paskhover said, but he added that it’s easy to get too absorbed and avoiding injury requires common sense. “People wouldn’t walk around reading a magazine,” he said. “Be careful.” ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Local News

  • 21 faculty members across UGA’s schools and colleges met to discuss the development of UGA’s Innovation District on Dec. 3 in the Peabody Board Room of the Administration Building. The Innovation District Faculty Advisory Council will meet throughout the year to provide input on the Innovation District initiative, with particular focus on programming, resources and support for research commercialization and university-industry engagement. The council will be led by the Innovation District leadership team: Kyle Tschepikow, special assistant to the president and director for strategy and innovation; David Lee, vice president for research; and Rahul Shrivastav, vice president for instruction. The members of the council are: Jenay Beer, Insitute of Gerontology Karen Burg, College of Veterinary Medicine Justin Conrad, School of Public and International Affairs Andrew Crain, Graduate School Joseph Dahlen, Warnell School of Forestry Naola Ferguson-Noel, Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center Chris Garvin, Lamar Dodd School of Art Chris Gerlach, New Media Institute Kristina Jaskyte, Institute for Nonprofit Organizations Kirk Kealey, Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center Eileen Kennedy, College of Pharmacy William Kisaalita, College of Engineering Kevin McCully, College of Education Sergiy Minko, College of Family and Consumer Sciences Michael Myers, Small Business Development Center Jonathan Murrow, AU/UGA Medical Partnership Usha Rodrigues, School of Law Pejman Rohani, Odum School of Ecology Christine Szymanski, Complex Carbohydrates Research Center Amitabh Verma, College of Environment and Design Dee Warmath, College of Family and Consumer Sciences
  • U.S. Rep. Doug Collins was as pugnacious as ever as he delivered his opening remarks during Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment. The Gainesville Republican repeated his critique that the Democratic-led investigation was primarily fueled by contempt for President Donald Trump. He described the probe as a rushed attempt to ram through charges without evidence that the president had done anything wrong. “This is nothing new, folks; this is sad,” said Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee. There were some points of levity — including when Collins joked about the room’s chilly temperature and uncomfortable chairs — but most of his comments were pointed and biting, both toward the Democrats on the committee and the three constitutional law experts who backed impeachment. Collins also used his opening statement to criticize the decision to invite four constitutional law experts to the hearing, three of whom were recommended by Democrats and one called by Republicans. One of them, Stanford University law professor Pamela Karlan later said she took offense at his insinuation they had not reviewed the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report before testifying. “Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts,” she said. “So I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.” Throughout the meeting, Collins and other Republicans forced procedural votes on requests varying from postponing the hearing to requiring House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and an anonymous whistleblower to testify. Democrats, who are in the majority, objected each time.
  • The Athens Symphony will perform the first ever public performance of a new arrangement of “O Holy Night” at their annual Christmas concerts on December 7 and 8.    The piece, arranged by Hollywood film scorer Chad Rehmann, was initially featured in the 2018 film A Christmas Arrangement. Following rave reviews, Rehmann re-arranged the score for orchestral performance and dedicated it to his wife Kari.    “After reaching out to a few regional orchestras known for their holiday concerts,” said Rehmann, “Brad Maffett (Athens Symphony’s Associate Conductor) contacted me expressing interest in performing the work. The more we corresponded, the more excited I became about the Athens Symphony premiering this work, especially given the ensemble’s commitment to family-friendly programming and its focus on a relationship with the Athens community. “   The Symphony will host Rehmann at the December 7 concert with a red-carpet welcome planned for 7:30 p.m.    A Christmas Tradition   A longstanding tradition, the Athens Symphony’s annual Christmas Concerts bring Athenians and Northeast Georgia residents together to celebrate with classic Christmas favorites, a sing-along, and even a visit from Santa.    “The Athens Symphony Christmas Concerts are known for being premier events of the holiday season in our community, bringing people from all walks of life together to celebrate the season,” said Symphony Executive Director Dr Richard Hudson. “It’s a privilege that the Symphony is able to continue its mission of providing free concerts that are open to everyone, knowing that the power of music is a unifying force.”   Complimentary tickets will be available at The Classic Center Box Office beginning Nov. 25 and are required for entry into the concerts, which will be held Saturday, December 7 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 8 at 3:00 p.m.
  • Oconee County says the new traffic signal at the three-way intersection of Mars Hill, Virgil Langford, and Rocky Branch roads will become operational next week. Crews have been working for the past several weeks to reconfigure the busy intersection off Highway 316.  The Georgia DOT is partnering with Georgia State University to conduct a survey, looking to find out what drivers think about new express lanes on I-85.  MARTA might see rate hikes next year: that word comes from the CEO of the transit system in Atlanta, who tells a state legislative panel that fare revenue is below the 35 percent threshold required to put towards operating expenses. The last time the authority raised the price was in 2011, when the fare for a one-way ticket increased by 50 cents. Any rate hike would take effect next summer. 
  • The Georgia Bulldogs don’t have the only big game this weekend. There is high school playoff football tonight in Watkinsville: the Oconee County Warriors host the Sandy Creek High School Patriots in a game that will kick off at 7:30 tonight in the last game of the season at Warrior Stadium.  Both teams come into the game with 12-1 records. The winner advances to next week’s state championship game. 

Bulldog News

  • DawgNation has four staffers who cover Georgia football from every angle: Beat, live streams, photos, podcasts, recruiting, etc. The 'Cover 4' concept is: 1) Present a topic; 2) Offer a reasoned response; 3) Share a brisk statement on that opinion. 4) Pepper the page with photos for the big picture. For this edition, we discuss the big matchups to pay attention to for Saturday's Georgia-LSU game. DawgNation continues with the 'Cover 4' concept. The focus is always a timely look with each of our guys manning the secondary on a pertinent topic. The quick in-and-out game remains. It is designed to come out quicker than former Bulldog Nick Chubb scored his third touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens earlier this year. The latest 'Cover 4' question is of the fill-in-the-blank variety: What is the one matchup which will largely decide the SEC Championship game? Brandon Adams: The UGA secondary vs. LSU WR Ja'Marr Chase The 'why' from 'DawgNation Daily' here: ' It's not easy to identify LSU's best receiver, but Chase might win the Biletnikoff Award. The Bulldogs also faced the Biletnikoff winner in last year's SEC championship game and held Alabama's Jerry Jeudy to three catches for 24 yards (including a touchdown) .' Mike Griffith: Georgia offensive line vs. LSU defensive front The 'why' from 'On the Beat' here: ' Georgia has to run the ball effectively on first down to have success against the LSU defense . ' Connor Riley: Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs Georgia's linebackers The 'why' from 'Good Day UGA' here: ' Edwards-Helaire has been phenomenal this year. When Georgia saw him in 2018, he rolled up 145 yards on the Bulldogs. Georgia's group of linebackers have to be better and win that matchup for the Bulldogs to win the game . ' Jeff Sentell: Kirby Smart, Dan Lanning, J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte III versus Joe Burrow, Joe Brady and Steve Ensminger. The Intel here: 'Plays + players. That's the winning equation here. Can Lanning and Smart make the calls that lead to big stops on the back end from Reed and LeCounte? If so, the Bulldogs can limit the LSU quarterback and the game plans laid in place by Brady (passing game coordinator) and Ensminger (offensive coordinator) which have transformed LSU football in 2019.' The 'Cover 4' topics of late: The most pro-UGA stat to pay attention to versus LSU The way Georgia beats LSU is .. How much will the first-half suspension of George Pickens hurt? What's the desired outcome for the Alabama-LSU game? Who is coaching Georgia when Ohio State comes to town in 2030? The Florida Gators who can do the most damage against Georgia are Name the Bulldog who delivers a key supporting role against Florida What's the big area where the Bulldogs must 'do more' to beat Florida? Cover 4: What will Georgia's record look like at the end of the regular season? What is the toughest game left on the schedule? What is the biggest edge that Georgia will have on Notre Dame? Who has already opened our eyes after just two games? What is your take on the legendary Vince Dooley? Who has the biggest day against Murray State? The most improved Bulldog since last season is . A few big non-score predictions for Georgia-Vanderbilt Which returning Bulldogs impressed the most in fall camp? The players set to become the new fan favorites for 2019 are . What will convince you the Bulldogs are throwing the ball more this fall? What kind of numbers will D'Andre Swift put up in 2019? Jake Fromm 's best quality? The Cover 4 crew chops that one up The post Georgia football: What one matchup with LSU could swing the SEC championship game? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATLANTA Georgia and LSU both had their walk-through session as Mercedes Benz-Stadium on Friday. The programs offered two different examples of what the experience means to them. Unbeaten LSU had a lot of cell phones out soaking up the moment as they walked onto the turf on Saturday. Georgia did not. That's indicative of the Bulldogs now making their fourth appearance in that venue since December of 2017. Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs will compete on Saturday afternoon in their third straight SEC championship game. That's a feat that has only been matched by Alabama and Florida in conference play. Alabama matched that feat earlier this decade. The Gators (1992-1996) and the Crimson Tide (1992-1994) also both did that during the first decade of the game. LSU Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Burrow and his splendid tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire both took a seat for almost all of the 15-minute media viewing period for their Friday walkthrough. Smart did the same while his team first hit the turf on Friday afternoon. There were a couple of moments in the LSU session which entertained. The first was an impromptu volleyball match among the LSU offensive line. Choose your conclusion A) Check out this new 'play' the LSU offensive line was working on Friday or; B) This just about sums up the pageantry of the media walk-through period at the SEC championship or; C) This really means more. pic.twitter.com/OGC364WFwg Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) December 6, 2019 The champions of the SEC West also tossed up passes among their receiver group, too. LSU sophomore WR Ja'Marr Chase. 70 catches for 1,457 yards and 17 TDs so far. That's 20.8 yards per catch. pic.twitter.com/A3YoQMAXhj Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) December 6, 2019 Check out the DawgNation.com photo gallery below from the rest of the events of the day. The post PHOTOS: Walkthrough day for Georgia-LSU at the SEC championship appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATLANTA Georgia football legend David Pollack has proven to be as aggressive and direct with his analysis as he once was as an All-American pass rusher, and Friday was no different. Pollack emphasized the importance of UGA tailback D'Andre Swift and dished out criticism aimed at Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm on Friday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. RELATED: Kirby Smart Friday press conference in Atlanta, updates D'Andre Swift Asked to rate the importance of Swift in Georgia's game against LSU at 4 p.m. on Saturday on a scale of one to 10, Pollack replied, '15,' and explained why. 'One of the keys would be to get him and Brian Heroine the ball out of the backfield, because LSU is not covering backs,' said Pollack, a two-time SEC Player of the Year and three-time All-American during his UGA career (2001-2004). 'I think (Swift) has to have an enormous game if Georgia wants to win, and it needs to be inside and outside. It needs to be screens, it needs to be finding ways to get him the ball he's the best back in the country in space.' Pollack also said Fromm, the first quarterback since Florida's Danny Wuerffel to lead his team to three straight SEC title game appearances, is 'not playing his best football' this season. Here's more from Pollack's Q&A on Friday: Can Georgia hold LSU's offense? POLLACK: Define hold?Kirby and Company are going to have to check their egos at the door and understand that from 20 to 20, have all the yards you want, make it a slow death, and then make them be really efficient in the red zone and kick field goals. I don't think anybody can stop this offense. I think Joe Burrow is operating on a level that, his worst game is 71 percent, I think. It's not human. It's an offense where it has great answers for everything you do and great weapons and a running game. And not only that, there's a quarterback who buys time and scrambles and breaks tackles and makes big plays. There are gonna get theirs, and Jake is going to have to play really well. What would you say to Georgia fans who have had questions about the Bulldogs' offense? POLLACK: You should. I Tweeted about being excited about old school versus new school, because it used to be defense wins championships. I don't think it's defense wins championships anymore. I think you have to have a great offense to win a college football championship, and the game has changed so much. We'll get to see if old school defense can still reign supreme. This is a Big 12 offense. This is not an offense that reinvented and does new amazing things that nobody else does. It's just an offense that has answers that spread out so it can throw the football to a lot of different weapons. They are gonna get theirs.' What role do you think Jake Fromm plays for Georgia's offense? POLLACK: He's not playing his best football. I can look at him and watch him, his mechanics need to improve. He's fading away throwing the football way too much. That's the kind of stuff for a three-year starter, where you can't do that. He's definitely culpable. He's missed a lot of throws that are wide open. I think the system and the scheme is getting to know each other still and hasn't really clicked together great yet, and it needs to do that this week. It will change a little bit more. It has done well at times, but it hasn't put together a complete game and it needs to do that.' The SEC West has had three teams in three years, Georgia has won three straight in the East, what does that say? POLLACK: Florida is doing OK. Florida is back to back 10 win seasons for the first time since 2008, so Florida is doing their share and doing well But Georgia is three times in a row here, that's pretty dad gum good. If you had told Georgia fans that when Kirby got hired, they would have said sign me up for that. How about three straight years ending where you're in the conversation for the college football playoff? That's pretty dad gum good. It's still a pretty good young team, that's not going to lose much on defense, offensive line who leaves early? Who leaves early, Swift will leave early. When he leaves, how many leave will be the better questions. So it shows a lot about Kirby and how he has been able to recruit and restore. What is the trick about this LSU offense that has made it that unstoppable? POLLACK: 'There ain't no trick, Bro. It's not a trick, they know how to execute, they know exactly if you blitz them, they have their answers, and if you want to play Cover One they are going to hit deep overs and they are going to hit fades, and gos they do a good job if you are going to pay dime and nickel they are going to run duos all day and run the football at you. They do a really good job of knowing how to attack every level of a defense. The offense (once) trended toward Golden State, it was threes and dunks, it was gos and screens and they do a good job with their mid-range and attack. They do everything well. That's why it's hard to say I'm going to take this away, or that away. Every time you do, they have an answer for it. I think Kirby, as brilliant as he is defensively, can up with something to make a few plays. Tua (Tagovailoa) last year had a roll going coming into the Dome, and cooled off big time, got hurt too. It's what can you find that can slow them down for a possession and you win. Auburn tried the tower approach tried to go with three down and bring in a bunch of speed, it kind of worked, but what can you bring in and slow down just for a little bit, and hold the rope and hopefully your offense makes plays and hold the ball a little bit and works together. Could Coach Orgeron win Coach of the POLLACK: Year? POLLACK: In the league, or nationally? Yeah, Ryan Day, he's done a heck of a job, and you look at P.J. Fleck and Baylor's Matt Rhule, he's definitely in there. How about his record against Top 10 teams, and the hire of the offseason, nobody can debate that. I know who the Broyles Award winner is, I don't think anybody else is nominated, it's just go ahead and give it to Joe Brady. Can Joe Burrow lose the Heisman Trophy? POLLACK: Sure, I mean people have those moments when they start to have doubts and questions. He's by far and away commanding the lead, but what if he struggles mightily and limps to the finish and then all the sudden, you see a huge game from Justin Fields, or somebody like that, it can jump up, maybe. It's a small, small chance. I think Joe Burrow has done enough throughout the season. But it's a big-time stage where you have to prove things, but I think some people could have some doubts, still. I find it very hard to believe he'd lose it. LSU's Grant Delpit says he's close to 100 percent, is that what you've seen on film from him? POLLACK: I'm trying to measure my words here. He hasn't had his best year, this year. I think the secondary on a whole, you see a ton of talent, but you've also see more big plays than you're accustomed to seeing, more missed tackles than you're accustomed to seeing. Yeah, they are getting healthier, but they've got to play better. That's why Ohio State is No. 1. You can nitpick and say Cincinnati is a Top 25 team, or whatever, Ohio State has been more dominant, their defense has been more dominant. That's the difference between LSU and Ohio State. I could also swing the pendulum and say who has Ohio State played offensively that's any good? Even Cincinnati is not very good, Penn State is not very good, Wisconsin's offense, those all leave a lot to be desired. Michigan is a pretty good, and had some success. I think defensively it's very interesting we are sitting on championship weekend and we're pointing the finger at LSU and it's at their defense.' How important is it for Georgia to keep Joe Burrow in the pocket? POLLACK: 'I don't know, it doesn't matter. You better cover really well, and you better get him to the ground. I don't care about where you keep him, when you get your hands on him, you got to get him to the ground. He's strong, he's physical, but he's so dad gum tough. He doesn't give up. He's not like a Manning back in the day, you saw people get close to them, they would kind of take a dive. That's not a shot at them, but Joe Burrow is going to physically go through anybody he needs to. When he runs the football, he lowers his shoulder, he's going to make plays. So when Georgia gets here, whoever that is, get your hands on him and get him to the ground. I think another key will be batted passes. You want to take away some of those throws over the middle, when I'm a pass rusher and I know I can't get to the QB, I get my hands up and knock the ball down. Now maybe it's second-and-10 and you've got a better chance.' Is this game important to determine if Georgia has the right offensive identity? POLLACK: 'We'll see. I think that it's pretty proven now that offenses win, and you have to score. You have to win a championship game, a playoff game and another playoff game to be a champion. And to do that, you're going to play offensive juggernauts, and you better be able to score points. If you can't score points, and you can't be an explosive offense, it's very hard to win that many games in a row. It's like the NFL being in the playoffs, and you have to string three together, that's a tough thing to do.' #Georgia has named Jake Fromm, J.R. Reed and D'Andre Swift as game captains seemingly a good indication that Swift (shoulder) will play, although.. But, Brian Herrien was a game captain for South Carolina and he didn't play in that game (back spasms). Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) December 6, 2019 Georgia football DawgNation Kirby Smart compares Jake Fromm to Tim Tebow CBS analyst Gary Danielson says key for Georgia not Jake Fromm 7 Georgia players to watch vs. LSU Why D'Andre Swift is the most important player for UGA vs. LSU LSU coach Ed Orgeron brings great confidence into matchup Georgia aware of Tigers dangerous running back Kirby Smart relays how LSU represents greatest challenge James Cook could provide offensive spark vs. LSU Statistical comparison of Georgia-LSU in SEC title game VIDEO: Kirby Smart shares feelings on George Pickens WATCH: Jake Fromm zeroes in on LSU David Pollack The post David Pollack Q&A: D'Andre Swift has to have an enormous game if Georgia wants to win' appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATLANTA Kirby Smart said the expectation at Georgia was to be back back at the SEC Championship Game for a third straight season, but by no means is it taken for granted. 'I'm excited to be here because I love the venue and the opportunity to play in it,' Smart said Friday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 'It means you accomplished something and won your division, you don't ever take that for granted. 'It's earned, it's not something we take lightly or for granted, it's something we expected to do, and we're going to always set that as a bar, because this is where you go to take the next step.' The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs (11-1) are a touchdown underdog against No. 2 LSU (12-0) in the 4 p.m. game on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Tigers feature Heisman Trophy front runner Joe Burrow along with two 1,000-yard receivers. 'They've broke about every record there is in the SEC, and I know our guys are excited,' Smart said. 'It will be a challenge for us.' LSU beat Georgia 36-16 last season in Baton Rouge, but Smart said the Tigers' offense has undergone a complete makeover. 'It's extremely different, you can see remnants, small elements, but the unique thing now is they are doing whatever they want to do,' Smart said. 'Last year they were a little bit more predictable and had more of a run element.' Georgia's offense, meanwhile, is largely the same. The Bulldogs look to be efficient throwing the football and feature a power element on the ground. Smart didn't offer much of an update on tailback D'Andre Swift, who left last Saturday's game with a shoulder injury but hasn't missed any practice time. 'It's hard to measure from practice, because at this point of the season you don't go live and hit,' Smart said. 'He's practiced and done everything we asked him to do.' LSU coach Ed Orgeron said the Tigers expect to see Swift. 'We're planning for him to play,' Orgeron said on Friday. 'Just like other great players we play, I'm assuming this guy is a great competitor, and I'm assuming he's going to play.' Smart said he's confident his team can handle playing on the big stage 'In the SEC, these games are championship games every week,because if you don't win them, you're not in the championship game,' Smart said. 'It's another week you have to go out and play, and you're playing the best from the other side in LSU.' Georgia football DawgNation Kirby Smart compares Jake Fromm to Tim Tebow CBS analyst Gary Danielson says key for Georgia not Jake Fromm 7 Georgia players to watch vs. LSU Why D'Andre Swift is the most important player for UGA vs. LSU LSU coach Ed Orgeron brings great confidence into matchup Georgia aware of Tigers dangerous running back Kirby Smart relays how LSU represents greatest challenge James Cook could provide offensive spark vs. LSU Statistical comparison of Georgia-LSU in SEC title game VIDEO: Kirby Smart shares feelings on George Pickens WATCH: Jake Fromm zeroes in on LSU The post Georgia coach Kirby Smart: SEC Championship Game an expectation, but not taken for granted appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Closely matched games have a tendency to come down to four or five plays, moments when a given team takes or is handed momentum. Turnovers, special teams plays and explosive plays are all capable of triggering emotional swings and changing a team's game plan or preferred personnel in a flash. Georgia and LSU have battled their way to the SEC Championship Game by handling those moments and overcoming obstacles. The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs (11-1) are a touchdown underdog to the No. 2-ranked Tigers (12-0) and figure to need their 'A' Game to pull off the upset. Here are seven Georgia players that will be key against the Tigers. 1. Rodrigo Blankenship Every point will count, every kickoff will count, and the Bulldogs will be relying on their all-time leading scorer to come through in the clutch. Blankenship's third quarter miss against Alabama in last year's SEC title game was an opportunity for Georgia to make that a three score game. This time, UGA may need Blankenship to salvage stalled drives and connect from long distance, as well as hit the pressure-packed kicks. 2. Jake Fromm It's so obvious, but so true, Georgia relies on Fromm to do so much more than complete passes. The junior must change plays at the line of scrimmage, adjust protections and manage the huddle in the midst of chaos and emotion. Fromm has avoided interceptions in 11 of 12 games this season, but against LSU, he'll also need to tuck and run for the offense to be at its best. 3. Richard LeCounte This junior play-making safety has been a ball hawk of late, forcing fumbles in each of the past two games and picking off a pass against Missouri in a 27-0 win on Nov. 9. LeCounte's has also developed into the most fierce hitter in the secondary and an excellent open-field tackler. He'll be relied on to handle speedy receivers as well as powerful runner Clyde Edwards-Hellaire in one-on-one open-field tackling matchups. 4. D'Andre Swift It has been said and written at each turn that Swift is UGA's X-factor, and that is because he is the most explosive skill position player on the team. Swift can run heavy or fast, depending on the situation. Swift has shown home run speed once in the open field, but his sharp cutting is what separates him from other backs. Bumps and bruises have slowed the junior, but this will be a legacy game and an opportunity for Swift to take a place alongside recent greats Todd Gurley, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. 5. Monty Rice The heart and soul of the Georgia defense and designated tough guy, Rice is going to need to get to Edwards-Helaire before the LSU running back can get momentum. Rice has proven adept at stepping into gaps, but his pass coverage skills will be tested on first and second down. Young Nakobe Dean often comes on the field on third downs, but the Tigers are a threat to score on every play, and Rice will need to be on top of his game in pass coverage as well as run stoppage. 6. Tyler Simmons Simmons was limited by a shoulder brace most of the season, but he has had it off the past few games and evolved into Georgia's leading receiver over the past two games. The senior has the speed to get open and make things happen, and he's showing consistency with his hands. Perhaps most importantly, Fromm trusts Simmons to be where he's supposed to be and carry out his assignments. It has been a tough year for the UGA receivers, but they have an opportunity for redemption on Saturday. 7. Trey Hill Hill was roughed up at center and his snaps were late in Georgia's only loss to South Carolina, and that can't happen again. In truth, it's going to take Georgia's best collective effort on both sides of the line of scrimmage to win this football game. The last time these teams met, LSU won both sides of the line of scrimmage and was the stronger, tougher and more well-drilled team. The Bulldogs have it all on the line, quite literally, in Atlanta. Georgia football DawgNation Kirby Smart compares Jake Fromm to Tim Tebow CBS analyst Gary Danielson says key for Georgia not Jake Fromm Why D'Andre Swift is the most important player for UGA vs. LSU LSU coach Ed Orgeron brings great confidence into matchup Georgia aware of Tigers dangerous running back Kirby Smart relays how LSU represents greatest challenge James Cook could provide offensive spark vs. LSU Statistical comparison of Georgia-LSU in SEC title game VIDEO: Kirby Smart shares feelings on George Pickens WATCH: Jake Fromm zeroes in on LSU The post 7 key Georgia football players against LSU in SEC Championship Game appeared first on DawgNation.