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Morning Rounds

Azar heads to the Hill to face questions on drug prices

Health secretary Alex Azar is testifying today before the Senate Finance Committee about the Trump administration’s plan to bring down prescription drug prices. At a hearing earlier this month, Azar said he thinks there's "significant bipartisan consensus" on many proposals on the table, like putting list prices in direct-to-consumer drug ads. But some Democrats have criticized the plan: In a report released this morning outlining the factors driving up drug prices, Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee say it will “do little to lower costs for American consumers.”

And while he’s technically there to talk about drug prices, Azar will also likely be hit with questions about the agency’s role in caring for migrant children separated from their families at the border and in reuniting those families.

FDA approves first marijuana-derived drug

The FDA has approved the country’s first drug derived from marijuana. Here's what you need to know:

  • The details: GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex is made of cannabidiol, a component of marijuana that doesn’t give users a high. In clinical trials, it reduced the number of seizures by about 40 percent in patients with two rare types of epilepsy.
  • The next step: Before GW can market Epidolex, the DEA has to to reclassify CBD. Since it comes from marijuana, it's considered a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no medical value and a high risk of abuse. The DEA is expected to reschedule it in the next 90 days.
  • ​The big picture: In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the “approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies.”
Have questions about Epidiolex? STAT's Andrew Joseph is hosting a chat at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday. Sign up here

Academic leaders look for ways to stem sexual harassment

College and university leaders are gathering today to talk about how to prevent sexual harassment in academia — including in science, where the issue runs rampant. The workshop — hosted in Irvine, Calif., by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — comes hot on the heels of a landmark report released this month that found that nearly half of female medical students said they had been harassed by faculty or staff. Anita Hill, who heads up the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, is speaking at today’s event, along with several university administrators. You can tune in to the livestream here starting at noon ET.

Inside STAT: Scientists can track the spread of opioids in sewers

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(mike reddy for stat)

Sewers don't just transport millions of gallons of wastewater — they also contain a record of the public's health and the substances people consume. One company, Biobot Analytics, is hoping that water-sampling robots placed at strategic spots in a sewer could reveal detailed patterns about drug use and give cities a powerful tool to detect emerging public health threats. But there are still two big questions: Do cities actually want to know what's hidden in their sewer systems, and will they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to find out? STAT's Justin Chen has the story — read here

University of Pittsburgh chancellor says public health school building should be renamed

University of Pittsburgh's chancellor says school trustees should rename a hall named after Dr. Thomas Parran Jr., who founded the university’s public health school and served as surgeon general under President Franklin Roosevelt. Parran played a role in the Tuskegee syphilis experiments on black men and women and, as surgeon general, knew that U.S. researchers were intentionally infecting Guatemalan people who were mentally ill or in prison with syphilis. In a memo to trustees, the school’s chancellor, Patrick Gallagher, said it’s likely that the university wouldn’t have permanently honored Parran if it had known about his involvement in the studies, the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette reports. It's not clear yet whether the trustees will take the recommendation. 

Scientists capture a film forming over wounds 

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in theaters this summer: a fiber film. (university of leeds)

Scientists peeking at skin under a electron microscope say they’ve captured how a fiber film forms over a wound during clotting. Platelets and red blood cells team up at the site of an injury to form a clot and prevent more blood loss. When the clot came into contact with air, scientists watched as fibrin fibers formed a flat film over the clot and the wound. There were teeny, tiny gaps in that protective sheet that the researchers think are too small to let bacteria through, but can let air enter the area. In studies on human and animal tissue, the researchers found the film seems to serve as a first line of defense against microbial infections. ​

What to read around the web today

  • Unlocked and loaded: Families confront dementia and guns. Kaiser Health News
  • As the drug industry eyes the burgeoning biosimilar market, its united front is starting to crack. STAT Plus
  • Brain imaging is illuminating the neural patterns behind pain’s infinite variety. The New Yorker
  • Pediatrician who exposed Flint water crisis shares her "story of resistance." NPR
  • Finding new treatments for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's shouldn't be up to pharma alone. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

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