Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

Good morning, folks — Megan here with what you need to know about health and medicine this morning. A heads up: STAT's Ed Silverman and Nick Florko are hosting a webinar on the future of biosimilars on Nov. 13. Sign up here

Health officials confirm more cases of mysterious, polio-like condition



Health officials have confirmed 10 more cases of a rare, polio-like condition called acute flaccid myelitis. There have been 72 confirmed cases across 24 states, most of which have occurred in kids. The uptick in AFM cases was first spotted in 2014, and there have been cases each year since. But the number of cases has been higher on alternate years — and this year is one of them. The CDC still doesn’t know what’s causing the condition. “There is a lot we don’t know about AFM, and I’m frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven’t been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness," the CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters earlier this month.

Pilot study finds medical cannabis tied to lower opioid use in chronic nerve pain patients

Taking medical cannabis led 62 percent of patients with chronic nerve pain to cut down or stop their opioid use, according to a first-of-its-kind pilot study that tracked 76 individuals over nine months. Columbia University and Columbia Care LLC — a medical marijuana company — announced this morning that the National Institute on Drug Abuse has given the organizations a grant to expand their study into whether cannabinoid treatments can influence opioid use and overdose risk in non-cancer pain patients. Past studies have shown that states where medical marijuana is legal see fewer hospitalizations due to opioid overdoses. 

The AMA is shelling out millions to improve medical residency

The American Medical Association just announced it’s awarding $15 million to eight projects meant to improve residency programs for new physicians, hoping to reimagine the training years so that doctors are better prepared to incorporate technology and data in their work and to think broadly about such issues as the social determinants of health. The AMA five years ago set out to remake some aspects of medical school, and now it’s turning to residencies to close “the gap between how our future physicians are being trained and the skills they need to practice in our modern medical system,” says the AMA’s Dr. Susan Skochelak. The application process for the funding will take place early next year.

Inside STAT: As medical marijuana laws spread, Utah gets ready to embrace its own

Next week, Utah voters will weigh in on a proposal to legalize marijuana for certain medical conditions. At first, the conservative governor said it shouldn’t be on the ballot, and once it was, the state medical association steered the opposition. But then key opponents and the measure’s supporters came to an agreement — and now, no matter how the vote goes, state lawmakers will be called to a special session to work on a medical marijuana program. Unless the pact falls apart, Utah will join more than 30 other states that have cleared some form of medical marijuana. “I think as Utah changes its law, it could very well impact what happens in some of the other states,” says Steve Hawkins of the Medical Marijuana Project. STAT’s Andrew Joseph has more here.

There isn't enough research on universal lead screening, experts say

An expert panel says there’s a need for more research to determine whether screening all kids and pregnant women for lead exposure can prevent health problems. Lead exposure can have lifelong health consequences for kids. But the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says there isn’t enough evidence to determine whether the potential benefits of universal screening outweigh the possible risks, including false positives, stress, and financial costs. For now, they say doctors should use their best judgment when it comes to lead screening. 

Meanwhile, the FDA just announced it’s taking action to stop the use of lead acetate in hair dye, which was approved for use decades ago. The agency says it's not clear now that lead acetate is totally safe to use and is giving hair dye manufacturers who use it a year to reformulate their products.

Why asking patients what matters is critical to care

Researchers, patients, and caregivers from across the country are meeting in D.C. today for the annual meeting of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, better known as PCORI. Amy Berman — a senior program officer with the John A. Hartford Foundation and patient advocate who has been living with stage 4 breast cancer for several years — will open the meeting with a speech on why understanding what matters to patients and caregivers is so critical to health care. Her speech will be followed by a conversation on what clinicians should do when one treatment doesn’t work any better than another. Find the agenda here, and watch the panels live here.

What to read around the web today

  • Juul offered to pay schools as much as $20,000 to blame vaping on peer pressure. Buzzfeed
  • FDA says it will consider approval of first dengue vaccine, despite controversy. STAT
  • GOP governor endorses Medicaid expansion, calling it an 'Idaho-grown solution.' Idaho Statesman
  • Former Genentech employees are arrested on charges they stole trade secrets. STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Wednesday, October 31, 2018


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