Kaiser Health News (KHN) Wins Prestigious Barlett & Steele Investigative Journalism Award

SAN FRANCISCO – KFF is pleased to announce that Kaiser Health News (KHN), its editorially independent health news service, has won a top prize Wednesday in the 13th annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Journalism.

KHN Senior Correspondent Christina Jewett discovered that for nearly 20 years, the FDA was striking deals with medical device makers to keep millions of malfunction and injury reports out of the public database known as MAUDE – and instead letting device makers submit reports to a secret database, hidden from public view.

KHN’s “Hidden Harm” investigative series also revealed that the FDA granted special reporting exemptions that were so obscure that safety experts, doctors and even a recent FDA commissioner were not aware they existed.

The hidden database included 500,000 reports of injuries or malfunctions tied to breast implants; 66,000 surgical stapler malfunctions and more than 50,000 incidents tied to the Sprint Fidelis, a device implanted in the chest to shock a patient’s heart back to normal.

Citing KHN’s work, device-safety experts called on the FDA to open up the hidden reports of harm. That triggered FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb to tweet that the reports would be open to the public:  “We’re now prioritizing making ALL of this data available,” Gottlieb wrote. On June 21, the FDA published its entire hidden database online, revealing 5.7 million device-related injuries or malfunctions for the first time.

“We established KHN to do truly important and impactful journalism just like this – getting out the facts, holding government accountable, and most of all helping people,”  said Drew Altman, KFF’s President and CEO and Founding Publisher of KHN.

“It’s so gratifying to publish an investigation that has such rapid impact and will make medical care safer for millions of patients,” said KHN editor-in-chief Elisabeth Rosenthal. “‘Transparency’ is all the rage in health care. But as Christina showed, it often take relentless reporting to expose the truth.”

The KHN series was one of two “Gold” award winners in the Barlett & Steele Awards, administered by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University.  Other winners announced Wednesday include The Wall Street Journal, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, NBC News, The Associated Press and The Oregonian.

The awards are named for the investigative team of Don Barlett and Jim Steele, whose honors included two Pulitzer prizes.

About The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Kaiser Health News:

Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, KFF (the Kaiser Family Foundation) is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.  KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF and is the nation’s leading and largest health and health policy newsroom, producing stories that run on khn.org and are published by hundreds of news organizations across the country.