Friday, November 10, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Friday, folks! Quick note: I'll be away for a few days, so keep an eye out for some guest-edited newsletters from my great colleagues. 

Hospitals warn that IV shortages are a health threat

Intravenous fluids are in short supply, and hospitals are not happy about it. This week, the American Hospital Association fired off letters to the House Energy and Commerce committee and the FDA warning that the growing shortage of saline bags and other IV fluids "are quickly becoming a crisis and looming threat to public health." An AHA spokesperson tells STAT the group is "hearing from more and more of our members that this issue is getting worse." The shortage, which began in 2014, has been compounded by damage to manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria.

The FDA recently allowed a manufacturer, Baxter International, to import products from four different countries — Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Mexico — and is expediting the review of new products that might fill the gaps. The FDA tells STAT it expects the situation to "improve over time," but the AHA says it anticipates the issue will likely get worse before being resolved. 

Here's how open enrollment is going so far

The ACA is still very much alive: More than 600,000 people signed up for Obamacare in the first four days of open enrollment, according to new government numbers. Roughly 23 percent of those were new Obamacare shoppers, and the rest were people renewing their coverage. That's about the same pace as the first few days of last year's enrollment, despite the Trump administration’s decision to cut funding for enrollment advertising and for “navigators” that assist consumers in signing up for plans.

Every county in the U.S. has at least one insurer on the ACA exchanges this year — but it didn’t always look like that would be the case. A new analysis from researchers at Georgetown looks at six states that faced the prospect of bare counties in 2018 and managed to get every county covered. The consensus among state regulators and insurers: All those fixes were just Band-aids, and federal action is needed to address the threat of bare counties going forward.

The Pope is doing his part to curb smoking

The Vatican says it'll no longer sell cigarettes in its duty-free shop and supermarket, which rake in an estimated $11 million each year in profits. Pope Francis said he couldn't support "an activity that clearly damages the health of people." Employees and other people who have access to a Vatican "commercial card" are able to shop tax-free instead of shelling out 22 percent in sales tax, but cigarette sales have been criticized as a misuse of that tax benefit. 

Inside STAT: Hunting for a killer virus to save a woman besieged by superbugs


there's a team hunting to find a virus that can help mallory smith. (Courtesy Diane Shader Smith)

The word from the doctors came early this week: They’d run out of options. Mallory Smith, just 25, was dying. Smith, who was born with cystic fibrosis, had a lung transplant in September. At first, everything seemed to be going well. But bacteria had made their way into her lungs, and the doctors were out of options. But her father had an idea — he wanted to give his daughter a virus. It wasn't a foolproof plan, and it would need a special OK from the federal government, but if it worked, the virus might be able to kill the bacteria in Smith's lungs. Her doctor was on board with the plan. The question now is whether the team helping Smith can find the right virus — and do the testing required for emergency FDA approval —fast enough to save her life. STAT's Eric Boodman has the story here

The literal brain trust is meeting this weekend

The brightest brains in brain science are convening in D.C. this weekend for the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. One thing on the agenda: a talk on the difference between experimental models of neurological diseases and what those conditions actually look like in humans. It’s a common problem in all types of research, including neuroscience — a potential Alzheimer’s drug looks promising in a mouse model of the disease, only to flop when tested in humans. There’s also a conversation on communicating neuroscience to the public and a look at what we know about the role of neural circuits in relapse from addiction, among lots of other sessions.

And the award goes to... negative findings

If at first you don't succeed, still submit your study results to a scientific journal. The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology is launching a new prize for scientists who publish negative study results. Negative or null findings — for instance, a new, pricier drug doesn't actually improve outcomes over a cheaper alternative — are quite common, but often go unreported. But understanding what doesn't work is critical to science, and not reporting negative results means that scientific resources get wasted if other researchers go down the same track. The group is taking nominations for the prize now. 

Nearly 49 million U.S. adults use tobacco products

Nearly 49 million adults in the U.S. used some type of tobacco in 2015, according to a new analysis from the CDC and the FDA. Here’s a look at the findings:

  • The vast majority of tobacco users smoke cigarettes and other combustible products. More than 87 percent reported using cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. The rest of tobacco users reported using e-cigs or smokeless products like chewing tobacco.

  • More men are using tobacco products than women. More than 25 percent of adult men said they use some type of tobacco product, compared to 15 percent of women.

  • Tobacco use is most common in the Midwest. Rates of tobacco use were also higher among people with household incomes under $35,000 and among uninsured adults or those insured through Medicaid. The report’s authors say we need targeted interventions to reach groups with the highest rates of tobacco use.

What to read around the web today

  • EPA approval of bacteria to fight mosquitoes caps long quest. NPR
  • DEA cracking down on fake fentanyl traffickers. AP
  • Millions at risk of famine in Yemen. Los Angeles Times

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

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