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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, folks! Megan here, back from a trip to the Midwest and ready to get you ahead of the day's news in health and medicine. 

Mike Bloomberg launches initiative to combat Big Tobacco

Philanthropist Mike Bloomberg launched a $20 million initiative this morning to fight the “fake science” being spread by tobacco companies. The former New York City mayor announced the new initiative ahead of the 17th World Congress on Tobacco, which gets underway today in Cape Town. It’s dubbed the STOP campaign — Stop Tobacco Organizations and Products — and will fund nonprofit groups and researchers to monitor tobacco companies that are “lobbying governments with false information,” such as the safety of smoke-free products like e-cigs, Bloomberg says. His goal: "STOP is going to fight these practices and tell people what the truth is."

A medical journal and a health insurer take on gun violence

The American Journal of Public Health is opening up its research and papers on public health and firearms for free to the public. The editors of the journal — which normally requires a subscription to access its full archive — say they're hopeful that access to research will translate into smarter policies to prevent gun injuries. "With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention functionally barred from conducting meaningful research on firearm violence by Congress, the public health community is stepping up to fill the knowledge gap," journal editor Dr. Alfredo Morabia said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, insurance giant Aetna just announced it’s donating $200,000 to the March For Our Lives rally being organized by the survivors of the mass shooting in Parkland, which will be held later this month in D.C.  

Opioid overdose rates are still climbing

Emergency rooms are grappling with a growing number of suspected opioid overdoses, according to new data just released by the CDC. Here’s your rundown:

  • Opioid overdoses seen in hospital ERs jumped by an astonishing 30 percent between July 2016 and September 2017.

  • Some states were hit particularly hard. In Delaware, visits jumped 105 percent, while Wisconsin saw overdoses increase by 109 percent. The Midwest saw the biggest increase — 70 percent.

  • The CDC says local health departments can help by increasing naloxone distribution, easing access to mental health services and medication-assisted treatment, and supporting programs that reduce harms related to opioid injection.

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Inside STAT: How 'right to try' muscled its way into Washington

Five years ago, the phrase “right to try” — shorthand for a push to get dying patients access to experimental treatments — wasn’t on Washington’s radar. Today, it’s plastered on bumper stickers and T-shirts. It’s also captured the attention of some of the most powerful players in politics, including President Trump and Republican lawmakers, who are working on legislation on the issue. The modern “right-to-try” campaign is closer to legislative reality than ever before, despite objections that any bill could do more harm than good. STAT’s Erin Mershon took a look at how the movement muscled its way into Washington — read here.

Cells capture and release ink to make tattoos permanent

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tattoo pigment is captured, released, and recaptured. (Baranska et al., 2018)

In new research, scientists in France have discovered how tattoos persist when skin cells are constantly regenerating: The cells that hang on to pigment pass the ink on to new cells when they die. When scientists tattooed the tails of mice, macrophages in the skin picked up the pigment. But when the scientists killed off those macrophages, the tattoos still looked the same. Deep down in the dermal layer, the dead macrophages had released the tattoo ink, and neighboring cells then captured the pigment. The researchers say that seems to be a continuous cycle, and that targeting the process could lead to better tattoo removal.

Keep an eye on this health policy meeting today

The Association of Health Insurance Plans is convening today and tomorrow for a national health policy meeting — and while that might sound wonky, there are some big names in attendance. Here’s who’s on the guest list:

  • The health leaders: FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is opening up the conference today with a talk on making health care affordable. And his boss, health secretary Alex Azar, will talk Thursday on the future of health care reform.

  • The justice official: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is talking about ways to tackle the opioid crisis this morning. His speech comes hot on the heels of the Justice Department’s announcement last week that it’ll ramp up its investigations into opioid manufacturers.

  • The opioid experts: Dr. Patrice Harris — who heads up the American Medical Association’s opioids task force — joins a panel of experts to talk about what initiatives are working to address the opioid epidemic and where more resources are needed.

What to read around the web today

  • The parent has a cancer gene. Should the child get surgery? Wall Street Journal
  • Crowded shelters and the vicious flu brew perfect storm for people who are homeless. Kaiser Health News
  • HHS official who spread conspiracy theories allowed back on job. Politico

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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