Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to Wednesday, folks! Here's what you need to know about health and medicine this morning. For more STAT stories, head to our homepage. And for in-depth coverage of biotech, policy, and pharma, check out our subscription service STAT Plus

The long-awaited AHCA score is expected out today

Today’s the day the long-awaited Congressional Budget Office score for the House GOP’s health care bill is being released. Here's a rundown of what to look for:

  • The number of uninsured. It’s possible that changes to the AHCA might leave more people uninsured than previously thought. CBO’s previous reports estimated that 24 million more people would be uninsured by 2026 if the bill became law. 
  • What's changed with the AHCA's amendments. Since the initial reports, the bill has been amended to allow states to waive two major requirements under Obamacare: essential health benefits and community rating, a provision that requires insurers to charge everyone in an area the same rate for premiums. 
  • The impact on the deficit. The estimate for how much the bill could affect the deficit will determine where it goes next. The AHCA has to save at least $2 billion over 10 years for Republicans in the Senate to use a special process to pass it with just 51 votes, as opposed to the standard 60 needed to pass other measures.

Anesthesiologists shed light on critical staffing shortage

There’s a shortage of anesthesiologists worldwide, and the profession has come together to call attention to that crisis. An estimated 5 billion people don’t have access to safe, affordable anesthesia and surgical care when they need it. A global group of anesthesiologists collected information to compile a database of providers worldwide, and turned that information into a map to show the shortage. The disparities from one nation to the next are striking. The United States has more than 100,000 anesthesia providers for 324 million people, while Indonesia has just 1,950 providers for 258 million people.

Experts say the new tool highlights a critical need to invest in education for a new generation of anesthesiologists as quickly as possible. The WHO has previously made it a priority to address the anesthesiology shortage. The team behind the tool says they’d like to see other medical groups, governments, and NGOs join in the effort.

WHO names its next leader — the first from Africa

The World Health Organization has picked its new leader: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who previously served as Ethiopia’s health minister. He’s the first WHO leader from Africa. Tedros, who goes by his first name, will take the reins from Dr. Margaret Chan on July 1. He’s taking over at a time when the agency is suffering from stagnant funding.

And funding is at the center of the conversation as the world’s health leaders continue meeting at the World Health Assembly. On today’s agenda: the WHO’s budget. The organization came under fire earlier this week for its high spending on travel. An AP report found that the health agency spent about $200 million in 2015 and 2016 on travel, including first-class airfare for the current director-general. Internal documents showed the WHO, which is seeking more money to respond to global health crises, is struggling to bring those travel costs down.

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Inside STAT: The science of a sunburn

(hyacinth empinado / stat)

It’s summertime — and, for some of us, sunburn time. Too much ultraviolet exposure can cause DNA damage in the skin. The human body has a repair system to jump into action when that happens. Blood vessels dilate and inflammatory cells rush in, making the skin red and painful. Your body can deal with some of that damage, but if there’s too much, your body starts to shed damaged DNA. That’s what causes your skin to peel. I dive into the science of sunburns in the new episode of Boddities — watch here.

Considering stronger steps to address the opioid crisis

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is calling on his staff to take “more forceful steps” to address the opioid crisis. The agency chief is establishing a steering committee to look into what, exactly, the FDA might be able to do to address the epidemic. On their to-do list: Determine whether the FDA can or should use its authority to limit opioid prescribing, so that a patient who only needs a three-day supply of opioids isn’t prescribed 30 days worth of pills. Gottlieb also wants the task force to evaluate whether the agency is doing enough to consider the risk of abuse when approving new opioid drugs.  

And in a new study, researchers report that a newly developed set of guidelines for ER doctors could help curb excessive opioid prescribing. They looked at opioid prescribing trends in Ohio ERs both before and after the new guidelines in 2012. After the guidelines were put in place, the total number of monthly opioid prescriptions for more than a 3-day supply fell by 11 percent, with that number continuing to drop each month.

A new idea for teaching genetics and evolution

Scientists have a new suggestion for teachers wanting to make evolution lessons more understandable: Teach kids genetics first. Evolution researchers in the UK suspected that because DNA and mutations are closely tied to the core concepts of evolution, a background in genetics might help kids absorb evolution lessons better. Right now, the two are taught separately, often with long time spans in between in the curriculum. So researchers ran a trial to see if that helped — they enrolled nearly 2,000 students in 23 schools. Teachers either gave genetics lessons before evolution coursework, or the reverse. Students who learned genetics first improved their test scores by an average of 7 percent more than those who learned evolution first. The researchers say intentionally teaching genetics before evolution could be a free, easy way to enhance science education.

What to read around the web today

  • The FBI and Defense Department are investigating America's biggest psychiatric hospital chain. Buzzfeed
  • Checking in? This California medical center wants your 'eyeprint' to avoid a medical mixup. Fresno Bee
  • Growing masterpieces with microbes. Discover

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

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