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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Good morning! Reporter Eric Boodman here, filling in for Shraddha. 

Trump to roll out drug pricing executive order

President Trump announced late last week there would soon be an executive order ensuring that the U.S. wouldn’t pay more than the lowest price offered to either a company or a developed country — what’s sometimes referred to as a “favored nations” policy. He didn’t specify how this proposal differed from a possible White House pilot program in which certain physician-administered drugs would be priced according to average amounts taken from an international index. Health secretary Alex Azar has warned that tying U.S. drug prices to those overseas might cause companies to avoid foreign markets. While Trump has talked a lot about high drug costs, his administration has yet to enact its most aggressive reforms on that front, though a rule requiring pharma companies to disclose list prices in TV ads will take effect later this month.

The side effects of synthetic marijuana on the teenage brain

To parents, it might not come as a surprise that reports of adverse effects haven’t stopped more and more teenagers from trying synthetic pot. The stuff is not as innocent as it might seem: Some researchers report that many more patients of all ages seek emergency medical help after ingesting the lab-made stuff than those who’ve taken garden-variety marijuana. To zoom in on the toll that the two substances are taking on the adolescent brain, scientists looked at the data of 348 13- to 19-year-olds from 2010 to 2018. In a new study, they found that the kids who’d only taken synthetic cannabinoids were more likely to slip into comas, show generalized slow-downs in their nervous systems, or have seizures than those who’d only taken natural cannabis, but were less likely to be agitated.

Study confirms racial disparities in triple-negative breast cancer

In studying and treating breast cancers, doctors look for three common molecular signatures, which are used as targets for therapy. Cancers in which they aren’t present — known as triple-negative tumors — can often be aggressive and tricky to treat. A new study of over a million cases of breast cancer in the United States from 2010 to 2014 confirmed what other, smaller studies have suggested: Such diagnoses are significantly more common among black and Hispanic women than they are in white women. In addition, those between 50 and 64 were about half as likely to be found to have triple-negative breast cancer than those under 40. Knowing who is at higher risk for such tumors — and which factors might influence that risk — could be helpful, the study authors say, in monitoring and treating the disease.

Inside STAT: A misshapen heart, and a mysterious inheritance of disease-causing genes

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(Dom Smith/STAT)

To her family, Tatiana Legkiy seemed healthy at birth. But when a pediatrician listened to her heart, the rhythm wasn’t right. The muscle, it turned out, hadn’t formed correctly and was having trouble pumping blood. Medications corrected the cadence — but her doctors were intrigued to see that her 4-year-old sister had a similarly misshapen heart and that their dad had a very mild version. If the issue was genetic, why was it so severe in the kids and so minor in their father? Over 10 years later, scientists have found the answer — one that sheds light on the strange paths inherited mutations can take. STAT’s Andrew Joseph has the story here.

Search continues for American molecular biologist who went missing in Crete

Greek authorities are searching for Suzanne Eaton, an American molecular biologist who went missing last week from a conference outside Chania, on the island of Crete. Eaton runs a lab at the Max Planck Institute, in Dresden, Germany, which focuses on the molecular signals that help tissues to form during development. The Associated Press reported that the 59-year-old is thought to have gone for a run last Tuesday afternoon and never returned. According to a Facebook page set up to coordinate the search, police officers and firefighters have said they’ll be combing the rocky terrain with dogs and a helicopter, while her family has posted surveillance footage online, in case someone is able to spot the bright pink shirt she was likely wearing.

Do health care professionals associate certain medical fields with men or women?

Since 1999, the number of female medical students in the United States has nearly equaled that of males, and two years ago, for the first time, there were more women than men. But faculty appointments haven’t mirrored that trend, especially in surgery. To measure implicit bias among health care professionals, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis asked people to sort words as fast as possible into categories. If you were quicker to pair “male” with “career” than you were “female,” that was understood as a hint of an unspoken association. No matter their gender, race, professional title, or region of origin, 131 surgeons showed strong implicit associations of men with surgery and women with family medicine. But when asked explicitly, men were more likely than women to express such an association.

What to read around the web today

  • Digital jail: How electronic monitoring drives defendants into debt. ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine
  • The rise of Big Sperm: does the tech world have the answer to our semen crisis? The Guardian
  • The promises and pitfalls of gene sequencing for newborns. NPR
  • My psychedelic trip out of depression. Undark
  • Five couples lined up for CRISPR babies to avoid deafness. New Scientist

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Monday, July 8, 2019

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