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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

First night of Democratic debates brings talk of pharma and the opioid crisis

Ten Democratic presidential candidates took to the stage last night in the first of two such debates, and health care was a top issue. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren didn't waste time diving into the topic of high drug prices and others quickly chimed in about pharma influence in D.C. “Pharma thinks they own Washington. Well, they don’t own me,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said. Other health care issues that came up: private versus public insurance options like “Medicare for All,” as well as abortion access. The candidates also discussed the ongoing opioid crisis, and many were in favor of holding drug companies accountable. “They should absolutely be held criminally liable because they are liable and responsible,” said New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who has been looking to shake off his pharma ties since announcing his candidacy. 

CDC advisory panel stops short of broad recommendations for two key vaccines

A CDC advisory panel on immunization practices yesterday said that older adults — if they and their doctors should decide so — no longer need to get routinely vaccinated using Prevnar 13, which protects against meningitis and other bacterial illnesses. The panel also recommended that people ages 27 to 45 consult with their doctors about getting Gardasil, the HPV vaccine that protects against the virus that causes some forms of cancer. Currently, the vaccine is recommended for preteens, with catch-up vaccinations up until the age of 26.  

At the same time, a large analysis of studies that looked at the effectiveness of HPV vaccination campaigns finds that such efforts are successful in reducing infections from the virus as well as cutting down on the presence of lesions that could have led to cervical cancer.

Medical preprints go live on the server medRxiv

Here’s an update on something I alerted you to earlier this month: The preprint server for medical papers — called medRxiv — has just posted its first batch. These studies cover a range of topics: One discusses a machine learning algorithm that can predict which patients will die after hospital admission, while another provides data that reinforces some of the cardiovascular risks associated with the diabetes drug rosiglitazone. MedRxiv, which is run jointly by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Yale University, and the BMJ, has already had to turn away some authors for violating guidelines. They asked authors of other work to get their papers peer-reviewed because the findings were deemed too significant to post to a public forum and potentially leave them open to misinterpretation. 

Inside STAT: CBD is forcing doctors to grapple with whether and how to prescribe it


Contrary to the growing popularity of CBD products everywhere, there is scant science to support what many of the products are claiming to do. Beyond that, there is also little guidance for physicians to prescribe CBD products to patients who may be looking for some kind of therapeutic relief. This leaves the vast majority of doctors in uncharted territory. “The last thing that you can do is tell them, ‘Don’t do it,’ because that doesn’t work,” says Dr. Jacqueline French, a neurologist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “You can say, ‘Here’s what I know, and if you decide in any case to do it, please let me know.’” STAT’s Nicholas Florko has more here

California campaign against mental health stigma sees positive results

In an effort to reduce stigma and encourage its residents to seek mental health care, California launched an awareness campaign on social media in 2013 — and a new study finds that the effort did help change attitudes about mental health. A third of the people surveyed for the new study reported being exposed to the campaign and its slogans, and more Latinos and black people said they had seen the campaign than white individuals. Being aware of the campaign also correlated with more positive beliefs about mental health and treatment for it. Based on the data, the authors also predicted that if all Californians with likely mental illness had been exposed to the campaign, nearly half would have sought treatment, whereas the absence of a campaign would have meant only a third would seek treatment. 

More evidence that Parkinson’s may emerge from the gut

A study published yesterday adds to the growing evidence that Parkinson’s disease may have roots in our gut. A protein known as alpha-synuclein, when misfolded, is considered a hallmark of Parkinson’s in the brain. Scientists found that the protein may actually make its way from the gut to the brain through a major nerve that connects the two hemispheres of the body. Mouse guts were injected with the protein, and by three months, researchers found traces of the protein in the brainstem and parts of the brain. Although the work was just in mice, the symptoms that the mice developed — including losing motor function — were similar to what those with Parksinon’s experience, and the mouse model may offer a way to better study the disease as well as test possible therapies. 

Clarification: The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, mentioned in yesterday's newsletter, are given jointly by the New York Academy of Sciences and the Blavatnik Family Foundation. 

What to read around the web today

  • 1st AIDS ward '5B' fought to give patients compassionate care, dignified deaths. NPR
  • 'I was dying of shame': Mexican science faces its #MeToo moment. Nature
  • Journals’ plagiarism detectors may flag papers in error. The Scientist
  • The chilling mystery of high-altitude suicides. Vice
  • Overdose deaths likely to fall for first time since 1990. The Wall Street Journal

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Thursday, June 27, 2019


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