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Could millions with sickle cell trait be at risk for severe Covid-19?

Microscope image shows a sickle cell (left) with normal red blood cells. (JANICE HANEY CARR/CDC/SICKLE CELL FOUNDATION OF GEORGIA VIA AP)

The CDC has identified sickle cell disease as one of the many conditions that seems to confer a higher risk of severe illness from the coronavirus. The disease, which disproportionately affects Black people, could also explain some of why this group has been particularly devastated by the pandemic. Now, a group of scientists is looking to study whether even carrying one copy of the sickle cell mutation — but not having the disease — could be an influencing factor for Covid-19 infection, especially since having this trait has recently also been linked to higher rates of other conditions such as chronic kidney disease. Read more here. 

Inexpensive steroids reduce deaths of hospitalized Covid-19 patients, WHO analysis confirms

Inexpensive, easily available steroids could reduce deaths among hospitalized Covid-19 patients by almost a third, according to new data from seven clinical trials conducted by the WHO. A cohort of nearly 680 patients — all with confirmed Covid-19 and all hospitalized for it — were given corticosteroids. Compared to a group of 1,025 patients who were given usual care or a placebo, the treated group saw a 34% reduction in death. Fewer patients in the treatment group experienced side effects compared to the control group. Based on these results, the WHO has now issued guidelines recommending corticosteroids as the standard of care for "severe and critical" Covid-19 patients, specifying that they ought to be on treatment for 7-10 days. 

Experimental drug for ALS offers patients glimmer of hope

An experimental ALS drug from Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech Amylyx slowed neurological decline in a closely watched trial. The drug — a combination of sodium phenylbutrate and taurursodiol — helped patients retain a higher level of motor function than those given a placebo. While the results of this Phase 2/3 trial of 137 patients with particularly fast-progressing illness were described by some experts as "tantalizing," they also emphasized the need for a Phase 3 trial to confirm findings. Still, the results are encouraging for a disease whose exact cause is still a mystery and for which there is no cure and few available treatments.

Inside STAT: Trump could use a last-minute maneuver to lower drug prices before the election

With two months to go until the presidential election — when not much policymaking usually takes place — drug industry lobbyists are worried that President Trump could use a rare regulatory maneuver to lower drug prices. Known as an interim final rule, it can be used to bypass the usual arduous steps in place before enacting what would be a dramatic overhaul of America’s drug pricing system. This rule would affect the "most favored nations" policy, which could drastically impact how much the U.S. pays for injectable drugs by tying reimbursement to the lower prices that some other countries pay. STAT's Nicholas Florko took a closer look at lobbyists' concerns — and how health care could be impacted if this rule is invoked. STAT Plus subscribers can read more here

Law banning youth indoor tanning seems to have led to a large dip in the practice

A 2013 New Jersey law banning indoor tanning for those 17 and under seems to have led to a nearly 50% reduction in adolescent tanning, according to a new study. Nearly 12,700 high school students were surveyed every two years between 2012-2018, and by 2018, 48% fewer kids younger than 17 reported indoor tanning compared to 2012 figures. Nearly 75% fewer girls who were 17 and older reported tanning in 2018 compared to six years prior. Although the study relied on self-reported data, the scientists behind the work suggest that the New Jersey law could provide a framework for other places looking to reduce indoor tanning and its negative health impacts. 

New CDC report reveals how people in the U.S. stay hydrated 

Water is the drink of choice for people in the U.S., according to new CDC data. An analysis of non-alcoholic beverage consumption between 2015-2018 reveals that 51.2% of consumption is water, followed, in order, by coffee, sweetened beverages, tea, fruit drinks, milk, and diet beverages. Men were less likely to consume water or tea compared with women, but were likelier to drink coffee, sweetened or fruit drinks. Water consumption decreased with increasing age, while drinking coffee, tea, and milk increased with age. Asian, Hispanic and Black individuals were more likely to consume water than white people. 

What to read around the web today

  • Dozens of U.S. hospitals poised to defy FDA’s directive on Covid plasma Kaiser Health News
  • 'I support Joe Biden's pro-science agenda': 81 Nobel laureates endorse Biden for president. CNN
  • Community health workers are a ‘lifeline’ to pregnant people with Covid-19. Prism
  • We can solve the coronavirus-test mess now—if we want to. The New Yorker
  • Sent home to die. ProPublica
  • Trump administration will redirect $62 million owed to the WHO. The New York Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Thursday, September 3, 2020


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