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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Rich Besser, the CDC's former acting director and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's current CEO, will join STAT's Helen Branswell for a live video chat on Covid-19 on Monday, April 27. Register and submit questions in advance here

Covid-19: Transplants plummet as overwhelmed hospitals focus on the coronavirus

As hospitals and health care workers focus on battling the Covid-19 outbreak, other health procedures — even essential, lifesaving procedures such as transplants — are being put off. Organ donations have plummeted in the wake of the crisis, and those who are in need of donor organs are having to wait even longer than usual. Some, such as pancreas transplants, are indefinitely on hold, while only the most urgent cases for other organs are being considered, until the crisis abates. STAT's Elizabeth Cooney has more

Here's what else is new: 

  • The director of the U.S. agency known as BARDA, which has been at the center of the government's response to the outbreak, is leaving, STAT learned. Rick Bright will take a narrower role at the NIH, while a former BARDA deputy will step up as acting director. STAT's Nicholas Florko has the scoop here
  • In a new commentary piece, STAT's Matthew Herper writes that history will judge us on our inability to test medicines for Covid-19 in a quick and efficient manner. This inability "is a legacy of our decision not to develop the technologies and approaches that would make doing so easier," he writes. Read more here
  • The death rate among Covid-19 patients who are placed on ventilators is more than 50%, but a new analysis suggests that using these machines sparingly can still help the most serious patients and cut back on the mortality rate. 
  • In a new STAT First Opinion, Iniya Rajendran and Stephanie Van Decker describe what it's like to be a part of the "Covid crew" at the Boston hospital where they work as residents, including experiencing the constant high-stress state they call "Covid brain." 

Biotech execs gather virtually to share best practices amid coronavirus

What began as a small virtual meeting back in March to talk about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the biotech industry has now ballooned to include more than 180 executives from the industry c. Over the past two months, heads from more than 150 companies have met on WebEx multiple times to share best practices, like work-from-home policies, how to proceed with research, and other ins-and-outs of running their businesses amid the crisis. The group has also served as a vital resource as companies try to navigate other situations brought on by Covid-19, including whether biotech startups would be eligible for the loan program set up for small businesses in the $2 trillion federal CARES Act. STAT Plus subscribers can read more from STAT's Kate Sheridan here

New research sheds light on sexual misconduct trends among accused academics

Researchers behind a newly published paper looked at trends among health and medicine faculty accused of sexual misconduct and found that the vast majority of the accused are male, target females, and nearly half were still in academia at the time of the study. Because Title IX harassment cases are often private, scientists searched the internet for phrases such as "sexual harassment" and "rape" in articles and court cases that referenced faculty members. A total of 125 faculty members who had been accused of such misconduct between 1982-2019 were included in the final analysis. Nearly 98% were male and more than 91% targeted only females. Half of the accused were full professors, while nearly 17% were deans, department heads or directors. More than half had committed sexual harassment, while 30% had committed sexual assault. Of the 125, 50 were still in academia at the time of the study, and the majority were still working at the same institution where the misconduct incident was reported. 

Inside STAT: Akili rolls out its video game for kids with ADHD under relaxed FDA rules


Akili is rolling out its game, dubbed Endeavor, during the pandemic period. (AKILI)

Following the FDA's recent decision to relax the rules around low-risk mental health devices, Akili Interactive Labs just announced that it's launching an enrollment website for its digital therapeutic for ADHD. The product, a game dubbed Endeavor, takes players through different landscapes and rewards them with points for completing tasks, all with the aim of helping treat the condition. Today's announcement from Akili means that the game will be available to eligible kids with ADHD for up to three months during the pandemic. Still, Akili doesn't yet have FDA approval for the game, which means that physicians can't prescribe it for their patients nor can insurance pay for it. STAT's Rebecca Robbins has more here

The FDA is approving drugs with less data

A new study adds to the growing body of evidence to suggest that drugs approved by the FDA in recent years are being greenlit for market based on less rigorous studies. Looking at data from 273 drugs that were approved by the FDA between 1995-2017, scientists found that the proportion of drugs approved using data from at least two pivotal trials decreased over time: More than 80% of drugs between 1995-1997 were approved this way, compared to around 53% in 2015-2017. At the same time, the number of drug indications supported by pivotal trials conducted in only one group increased, from 4% of indications in 1995-1997 to 17% two decades later. The authors write that the study's finding suggest that drugs approved in recent years require more post-approval safety and efficacy checks. 

Proportion of people with high cholesterol levels declines

New data from the CDC show that the percentage of people with high cholesterol levels has been declining for the past two decades. Fewer people also have low rates of high-density lipoprotein, or the "good" cholesterol. Here's more from the report: 

  • Overall trends: Between 2015-2018, around 11% of U.S. adults had high total cholesterol levels, down from 18% in 1999-2000. In 2017-2018, 16% of people had low HDL levels, down from 22% a decade before that. 
  • Demographics: Slightly more women had high total cholesterol levels than males in 2015-2018, while more individuals ages 40-59 had high cholesterol levels. More white and Asian individuals had high cholesterol compared to those of other racial groups. 
  • HDL trends: Those ages 40-59 were also most likely to have low HDL levels, as were Hispanic individuals. However, males were more than three times more likely to have low HDL levels than females. 

What to read around the web today

  • Do I want a ventilator? Coronavirus prompts more people to consider, or revisit, end-of-life care. The Boston Globe
  • California becomes first state to recommend coronavirus tests for some without symptoms. Los Angeles Times
  • NYC mayor and health officials misled public about plans to move Covid-19 patients into nursing home, advocates say. ProPublica
  • Christian health sharing group is target of customer lawsuits. The New York Times
  • Why psychiatric wards are uniquely vulnerable to the coronavirus. The New Yorker

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

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