Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

U.S. measles cases this year hit record numbers


There have already been more measles cases in the U.S. this year than there were in all of 2018, according to new CDC data. In 2018, there were 372 cases, but so far in 2019, 387 people have contracted the disease in 15 states, the second-highest total since endemic measles was eliminated in 2000. Most of the cases are in unvaccinated people, and the CDC says the six current outbreaks in the U.S. are tied to travelers who brought measles back from other countries that are also fighting the disease. Although the new data are preliminary, the ongoing outbreaks mean the numbers may rise. 

Lawmakers tackle insulin prices, next steps on Alzheimer’s

Amid anger over the rising cost of insulin, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hear from patients, diabetes advocacy organizations, and medical experts this morning. But absent from the hearing are the three big insulin makers — Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk — which have received the brunt of the criticism. 

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the Senate Aging Committee is meeting this morning to discuss next steps and new directions on Alzheimer’s disease research. The hearing comes just two weeks after Biogen and its partner Eisai announced they were discontinuing two late-stage trials for their drug aducanumab because it did not appear to be working, dashing patient hopes for a long-awaited treatment for the disease.

Study says benefits from HIV drug tied to birth defects can outweigh risks

The WHO does not recommend its first-line HIV treatment for childbearing women because of the risk for birth defects, but a new study suggests the drug could result in fewer HIV deaths overall. Looking at women with HIV in South Africa, the researchers found that dolutegravir prevented 13,700 deaths and 57,700 new transmissions, compared to 4,900 deaths and 20,500 new transmissions from efavirenz, the WHO’s recommendation as a safe and effective alternative. Although dolutegravir resulted in more pediatric deaths than the alternative, the authors say the results “argue against a blanket policy” of favoring one drug over the other, and instead support a discussion “about the tradeoffs between the risks for harm and the benefits of these treatment options.”

Inside STAT: The veterinarian who keeps biotech in line

Dr. Julie Medley in the office of the Chestnut Street Animal Hospital.

Dr. Julie Medley is one of a kind. Thanks to her, Cambridge, Mass., has a unique distinction — it’s the only U.S. city to have an advocate for mice, rats, and other creatures. As someone who thought her career would be devoted to treating cats and dogs in a veterinary practice, Medley — whose official title is commissioner of laboratory animals — wields considerable authority over some of the nation’s biggest pharmaceutical and biotech companies. And when she shows up unannounced to inspect the companies’ animal research facilities, they have no choice but to oblige. STAT’s Kate Sheridan has the full story here

NIH researchers call for stepped-up effort on puzzling polio-like illness

After a surge in cases of acute flaccid myelitis last year, three NIH researchers are urging more study into the cause of the polio-like illness that has puzzled health officials. In 2018, the CDC reported 228 confirmed cases of AFM, which affects gray matter in the spinal cord and leads to muscle weakness and paralysis. The condition has mostly affected children, and there has been a spike in cases every two years since 2014. “The trajectory of AFM over the past 5 years suggests that the problem is getting worse, and so it is critical that we galvanize our efforts to learn more about, and respond adequately to, this ubiquitous, often crippling, continually reemerging group of viruses,” the researchers write. 

Early childhood cancers are rare with IVF

Early pediatric cancers in children conceived through in vitro fertilization are rare, according to new research. Looking at more than 275,000 children conceived through IVF and more than 2.2 million children conceived without IVF, the researchers found that the childhood cancer rate was 17 percent higher in the IVF group. While there were no differences in most cancer types, the rate of liver cancer was nearly three times as high in the IVF group than in the non-IVF group. The study didn’t take into account factors such as prenatal care and insurance, which could affect the care that the mothers received during pregnancy and the risk of their children developing cancer. 

What to read around the web today

  • Opinion: 5 ways to address the challenges of direct-to-consumer health products. STAT
  • One day there may be a drug to turbocharge your brain. Who should get it? The New York Times
  • Kaiser Permanente paid Baltimore Mayor $114,000 for her 'Healthy Holly' books. The Baltimore Sun
  • UPS drones are now moving blood samples over North Carolina. Wired
  • The challenge of going off psychiatric drugs. The New Yorker

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Tuesday, April 2, 2019


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