Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Trump administration limiting opioid prescriptions for federal employees

The Federal Employee Health Benefits plan covers some 9 million people, and starting sometime this fall, those under the plan who get opioid prescriptions for managing pain will only be able to get up to a week’s worth of medication at a time, down from 30 days. In a drug policy briefing yesterday, a senior Trump administration official said that people can refill the prescriptions up to three times. Opioids prescribed after surgeries are seen as a gateway for some people who develop substance use disorder, and the new rule looks to change that. The announcement comes amid the first dip in overdose deaths in three decades as well as ongoing efforts to curb the opioid epidemic: For instance, Boston’s mayor just announced that all city buildings will now carry naloxone kits.

Mayo Clinic earns top marks in hospital rankings 

The Mayo Clinic is the No. 1 hospital in the country, according to the latest rankings from U.S. News & World Report that evaluated more than 4,500 hospitals. Here’s how some of the other hospitals stacked up: 

  • Overall rankings: The Mayo Clinic placed first in this year’s honor roll, followed by Massachusetts General Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Hospital. 

  • By specialty: The Mayo Clinic earned a top-five spot in 13 of the 16 specialties that were evaluated. The Cleveland Clinic was No. 1 for cardiology and heart surgery, while MD Anderson was ranked highest for cancer care.  

  • Methodology: The report evaluated measures including patient outcomes and nurse staffing. This year also included some changes — such as how well hospitals did in discharging patients to their homes — and so the report’s authors discourage comparing the latest rankings to previous years’.

People have a favorable view of public option health insurance

A new poll of roughly 2,000 Americans finds that a slim majority of people are in favor of a “Medicare For All” plan that would cover all Americans under a national health care system. Here’s more from the poll: 

  • Public option: 51% of people said they support a Medicare for All plan. At the same time, nearly two-thirds support some kind of public option that would coexist alongside private plans and would be available to all Americans. 

  • Debate priorities: The second round of Democratic debates begins tonight, and as the candidates roll out their health policies and plans, 83% of Democratic respondents said health care is a top issue. A majority of them also said that issues affecting women and gun policy are a priority. 

  • ACA: 48% say they have a favorable opinion of the ACA. Nearly three-quarters say it’s very important that protections for pre-existing conditions, which are offered by the ACA, stay in place.

Inside STAT: At Sana Biotechnology, impossibly ambitious plans come into focus


For a short period of time before Sana Biotechnology officially came into existence, it had a much more unusual — and bold — name: FD Therapeutics, the FD standing for “F--- Disease.” And although the name is a thing of the past, its daring mission is still around. The Seattle-based company, which shares some executives and founding investors with immunotherapy company Juno Therapeutics, wants to develop universal cell and gene therapies that can reprogram any cell in the body. The company is still shrouded in a lot of mystery, and biotech insiders are waiting to see whether the company’s ambitious plans will pan out. “Does the emperor have new clothes? We’re waiting,” one partner at a venture capital firm told STAT’s Kate Sheridan. STAT Plus subscribers can read more about the company here

Microplastics filtration, noninvasive glucose monitor among Google Science Fair winners

The winners of this year’s Google Science Fair were just announced, and from a pool of 20 finalists from around the world, five took home prizes for their solutions to health and environmental challenges. The overall winner in the contest for those 13-18 was 18-year-old Fionn Ferreira from Ireland for a nontoxic way to eliminate microplastics in water. When ingested, the grain-sized particles can cause organ damage and the chemicals they contain have been linked to impaired immune function. Other winners of note: a high schooler from Russia who created a prototype of a device that interprets hand gestures from those who are hearing impaired into spoken words, as well as a sophomore from Indonesia who developed a cheap and noninvasive glucose monitoring device that doesn’t rely on drawing blood.

Childhood cancer leads to more than 11 million years of healthy life lost

More than 11 million years of healthy life were lost around the world in 2017 due to childhood cancer, according to new research. Researchers looked at cancer data from 195 countries and found that although the overall childhood cancer burden was relatively low — there were about 417,000 cases — the actual burden varied depending on the country. Low- and middle-income countries had more than 80% of all cases, and most of these cases ended in deaths and the five-year survival rate was around 35%. In contrast, the five-year survival rate in high-income countries was around 80%. Leukemias accounted for about a third of all cancer cases, followed by brain and nervous system cancers. The findings underscore the need for strategies to address the disproportionate burden of childhood cancer experienced by countries with fewer resources, the authors write. 

What to read around the web today

  • A Crohn’s disease sufferer asked to use a Starbucks bathroom. He was denied, but that’s illegal. The Boston Globe
  • In a first, doctors in U.S. use CRISPR tool to treat patient with genetic disorder. NPR
  • Is Kratom safe during pregnancy? Researchers start to investigate. The Scientist
  • Japan approves first human-animal embryo experiments. Nature
  • Weird new kinds of cocaine could start a “hidden epidemic” of health threats. BuzzFeed News

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Tuesday, July 30, 2019


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