Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Oral arguments on ACA constitutionality to be heard today

A closely watched hearing today could decide whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. A federal judge in Texas ruled in December that the law is unconstitutional, and today’s hearing — which is being held at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans — may decide whether the lower court’s ruling still stands. The ACA covers some 20 million people, and 20 Democrat-led states as well as the Democrat-majority House of Representatives are hoping that today’s hearing will overturn the earlier ruling. Republican opponents of Obamacare in turn are looking for the lower court’s verdict to stay in place. At the end of last week, the Republican-led states requested a delay in today’s hearing in order to have more time to prepare arguments, although it was not granted. 

Federal judge blocks Trump rule to require drug prices in TV ads

A federal judge blocked a Trump administration rule requiring pharma companies to disclose the list prices of drugs in TV ads, just hours before it was to take effect. The ruling is sure to be a blow to the Trump administration: As its first major drug pricing policy, it would have required companies to disclose the price of any drug that cost more than $35 a month. But Merck, Amgen, and Eli Lilly, joined by the Association of National Advertisers, sued to keep the rule from going into effect, claiming it violated their First Amendment rights. And although the judge yesterday didn’t rule on that issue, he did agree with the companies’ concerns about HHS overstepping its authority in requiring such disclosures. The administration could now choose to appeal the ruling or get more explicit authorization from Congress for such pricing disclosures.

Inside STAT: Sean Parker is nerding out on cancer research. And he’s doing it in style

Sean Parker in the garden of his Los Angeles home. (SEPTEMBER DAWN BOTTOMS FOR STAT)

When Sean Parker, of Napster and Facebook fame, announced in 2016 that he was putting up $250 million toward the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, many thought he was just the next big billionaire to take a shot at a cancer cure. But Parker has proven to be more than that. He’s widely admired, and his fans say he’s promoted real scientific progress in the field. But what may be setting Parker apart is the style he’s bringing to the otherwise technical field of cancer research — from a commissioned ice sculpture with a built-in luge for serving whiskey to celebrate Jim Allison’s Nobel Prize last year to a black-tie launch party for PICI that included the likes of Lady Gaga. Read an exclusive new story from STAT’s Rebecca Robbins, who sat down with Parker at his Los Angeles home for his most extensive interview since PICI’s launch. 

Past nonmedical opioid use could predict future heroin use among teens

Two studies published yesterday point to predictors of teens using drugs. Researchers in one study found that teens who used opioids when they were not prescribed for medical reasons were more likely to later use heroin. Of the nearly 3,300 high schoolers who were included in the study, those who previously used opioids were about 11% more likely to use heroin, while those who currently used opioids were about 13% more likely to use heroin. 

Another study found that there was no increase in teenagers using marijuana if they lived in a state that had laws legalizing the drug. In fact, in states with recreational marijuana laws, the odds of teen marijuana use were about 10% less following legalization.

Empathy in a physician may go a long way in patients

Does having an empathetic provider make you healthier? A new study suggests that there may be some truth to that. Scientists asked a small group of patients with type 2 diabetes to rate how empathetic they felt their providers were. Although about 20% of the participants either experienced some kind of cardiac event in the year of follow-up or died, those who gave their doctors medium to high empathy scores were less likely to experience an adverse event — although this finding was not statistically significant. Patients who gave their doctors good empathy scores were also less likely to have died in the follow-up period. Although these findings only represent associations, more research is needed to understand what about the doctors’ empathy translates to better outcomes in the patients, the researchers suggest.

Whole grains are everywhere — and Americans are eating them up

Every food nowadays seems to come in a "whole grain" version. Even the HHS and Department of Agriculture guidelines recommend that such grains make up at least a third of overall grain consumption, and new statistics from the CDC suggest that Americans are eating more of them. Here’s more from the report: 

  • Overall trends: Nearly 15 years ago, roughly 13% of adults reported consuming whole grains, whereas that number in 2016 was about 16%. 

  • Consumption by age and sex: Roughly 20% of adults older than 60 consumed whole grains, compared to around 13% of adults ages 20-39. Men were less likely to consume whole grains than women. 

  • A barrier: Family income seemed to indicate whole grain consumption — about 12% of adults who could be considered Medicaid-eligible consumed whole grains, compared to about 18% of those who had a higher family income.

What to read around the web today

  • Trump aims to shake up kidney care market. Politico
  • She gave birth to twins through IVF. But the babies weren’t hers, a lawsuit alleges. The Washington Post
  • HHS inspector general finds serious flaws in 20% of U.S. hospice programs. NPR
  • What good does a pacemaker do in a corpse? Vice
  • What the measles epidemic really says about America. The Atlantic

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Tuesday, July 9, 2019


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