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Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

HHS to hold 'listening sessions' on fetal tissue research

HHS is conducting a series of “listening sessions” on research involving human fetal tissue and plans to hold the first meeting this Friday, according to multiple sources. In an email obtained by STAT, the agency says "experts from diverse backgrounds" will be part of the meeting, including multiple researchers. They'll be asked to give their rationale for using fetal tissue in their research as well as possible alternatives. The meetings are part of a department-wide audit into the use of fetal tissue in federal research. The audit was first announced in September at the same time the FDA ended a contract with a company that procured fetal tissue for testing. More here.

CDC investigates more possible cases of polio-like condition

Health officials are investigating roughly 160 more reports of kids with illnesses like acute flaccid myelitis, the polio-like paralysis that has stumped scientists. There have been 90 confirmed cases this year of AFM, but it’s not clear yet what’s causing the uptick in cases — or even what causes the condition. In a call with reporters yesterday, the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier said scientists are exploring possible explanations, such as whether AFM might be caused by a rogue immune response to an infection. They’re also studying it’s been so difficult to detect the cause, including if the pathogen is hiding somewhere in the body or has already cleared out by the time limb weakness shows up.

Juul is leaving Facebook and Instagram

Under pressure to help curb rising rates of vaping among young people, Juul says it'll shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts in the U.S. The e-cigarette giant — which accounts for more than 70 percent of the U.S. e-cig market — also recently announced it'll stop selling its flavored vape pods in gas stations and convenience stores. The move comes as the FDA is expected to soon announce a ban on the sale of most flavored e-cigs in retail stores, a ban on menthol cigarettes, and new age verification requirements for online e-cig retailers. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb acknowledged Juul’s actions, but said they’re "no substitute for regulatory steps."

Inside STAT: Makers of top-selling drugs hike prices in lockstep, and patients bear the cost

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Anna Legassie, who was diagnosed with systemic arthritis as a child, at her home in Boston. (KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR STAT) 

In January 2013, AbbVie hiked the price of Humira, its blockbuster biologic drug for arthritis and related conditions, by nearly 7 percent. A day later, Amgen issued an identical increase for Enbrel, a biologic used to treat similar patients. A STAT analysis of pricing data finds that pattern repeated 10 more times between 2014 and early 2018 — each time, the prices jumping by nearly the same amount, often within days of one another. The rapid run-up reflects how much power the companies hold in a market where patients like Anna Legassie, pictured above, suffer from autoimmune diseases that can make everyday activities an ordeal. STAT found that the extraordinary tactics used to preserve the exclusivity of the drugs in the U.S. has undermined patient care. STAT’s Casey Ross has the story here.

Experts say all adults should be screened for unhealthy alcohol use

Preventive medicine experts say primary care doctors should be screening all patients age 18 and older for unhealthy alcohol use. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that recommendation also applies to pregnant women, since alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to birth defects and developmental disabilities. The task force says there isn’t enough evidence to support primary care screening for alcohol use in young people ages 12 to 17.

Some pharmacies fail to offer easy naloxone access

Health officials and lawmakers across the U.S. have expanded access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone by making it available at pharmacies without a prescription — but two new studies suggest not all pharmacies are on board. In a study of pharmacies in California, less than one-quarter of those surveyed said they let customers pick up the drug without a prescription. And even among those that said they would do so, only about half had any nasal naloxone in stock. The second study found that one-quarter of pharmacies in Texas didn't have naloxone available, though most said they would provide it without a prescription.

Task force calls for research on tick-borne diseases

A federal working group tasked with studying tick-borne diseases released its first-ever report this morning, calling the conditions a "serious, potentially deadly, and rapidly growing threat to public health.” Lyme disease alone — the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the U.S. — is estimated to affect more than 300,000 people in the U.S. The group pinpointed a handful of priorities: improve early diagnosis; develop rapid and accurate lab tests; better track cases; and find new treatments. But the group notes those steps will take dedicated funding.

What to read around the web today

  • Merck takes key step toward approval of experimental Ebola vaccine. STAT
  • Hospital leaders apologize, acknowledge mistakes cost Laura Levis her life. Boston Globe
  • The genius neuroscientist who might hold the key to true AI. Wired
  • Soaring health care costs forced this family to choose who can stay insured. Bloomberg
  • Sean Parker: Health care’s big breakthroughs aren’t going to come out of Google or Amazon. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

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