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Morning Rounds

Trump has a new Supreme Court nominee. Here's how he's ruled on health issues

President Trump is nominating Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh will face a contentious confirmation process in Congress. Here’s a rundown of his background on key health care issues: 

  • Abortion: As an appeals court judge in the D.C. circuit, Kavanaugh issued a dissent in last fall's Garza v. Hargan, the fierce fight over an immigrant teen’s right to access an abortion. But some conservatives have said his argument didn’t go far enough.
  • ​Experimental drug access: Kavanaugh sided with the majority in a 2007 appeals court ruling that determined patients with terminal illnesses do not have a constitutional right to access unapproved drugs that have only been through Phase 1 trials.
  • FDA authority: In a 2013 decision, Kavanaugh and his colleagues ruled the agency was right to deny a request to fast-track the approval of two medical devices. Kavanaugh wrote that "a court is ill-equipped to second-guess that kind of agency scientific judgment." 
  • Contraception: In a 2015 dissent, Kavanaugh argued that Obamacare’s contraception coverage mandate impedes the rights of religious organizations, but noted the government has a "compelling interest" in ensuring contraception access for employees of those organizations. 

Insurance gaps are common — and dangerous — for adults with type 1 diabetes

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A new study in Health Affairs finds gaps in health insurance are common among adults with type 1 diabetes. The study — which looked at data from adults ages 19 to 64 with type 1 diabetes between 2001 and 2015 — found that one-quarter of adults had at least a 30-day gap in their health insurance coverage. The uninsured periods were tied to serious problems: After a gap of 30 days or more, adults with type 1 diabetes were significantly more likely to end up in an ER, hospital, or urgent care clinic than when they were insured. And rolling-average blood sugar levels were also higher when patients were uninsured, suggesting their diabetes wasn’t as well-controlled.

Federal researchers create system to identify fentanyl analogs faster

Government researchers in the U.S. and Germany have come up with a new system to more quickly identify the many forms of fentanyl. Fentanyl analogs present a big problem: If an unknown analog turns up, a specialized lab might need to determine its structure, and it can take months for the findings to get to law enforcement databases. So researchers developed a website designed to shorten that time window. It lets forensic chemists share data on drug analogs and collaborate with other experts to confirm the structure. The Data Hub's creators say it could help health and law enforcement officials keep tabs on fentanyl analogs in a more real-time way. ​

Inside STAT: A new fund aims to spur high-risk research


The Wellcome Trust — one of the world's largest biomedical research charities — is setting up a new $330 million initiative to fund high-risk projects. The Leap Fund will seek outside-the-box science and provide funding to support that research. The initial $330 million — for its first five years of operation — is equivalent to about 5 percent of what Wellcome would normally spend to promote research over five years. Wellcome's director, Dr. Jeremy Farrar, says established funding sources like the NIH are “quite rightly a little bit conservative, because funding is tight." He says the new fund “is trying to break that mold.” STAT's Helen Branswell has more here

Multivitamins aren't linked to lower heart disease risk

Multivitamins and minerals don’t seem to do much to curb the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new analysis of the research to date. The study’s authors combed through 18 studies on the link between vitamin and mineral supplements and cardiovascular disease outcomes in the general population. The conclusion: Taking multivitamins and minerals wasn’t associated with a significantly lower risk of stroke, death due to cardiovascular disease, or death due to coronary heart disease.

How can states rein in rising drug prices? 

Policymakers and drug pricing experts are convening today to talk about what states are doing to grapple with rising drug costs — and what future efforts to rein in drug costs might look like. State lawmakers will share their strategies during the first panel at the event, hosted by the Pew Charitable Trusts. And the second panel will explore the most promising approaches on the horizon and what obstacles stand in the way for states interested in rolling out new ideas. Tune in to the livestream here starting at 12:30 ET. (You might catch STAT’s Erin Mershon, who’s moderating the second panel.) ​

What to read around the web today

  • Hope for creaky old humans: Removing aged cells from mice can restore their youth, study finds. STAT
  • Sometimes patients simply need other patients. New York Times
  • Neighborhood may matter more than race in breast cancer survival rates. Chicago Tribune
  • Biotech IPOs are soaring. This one will test investors’ appetite for risk. STAT Plus
  • Government quit test of pricey cancer treatment amid concerns over industry role. Politico

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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