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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

FDA advisory panel to weigh emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

The big thing today is an FDA advisory panel meeting to discuss whether to recommend the agency grant an emergency use authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Last week, the U.K. was the first country in the world to approve that vaccine, followed just yesterday by Canada's regulatory body. If the FDA follows the advice of the panel (it's widely assumed it will), the rollout of the vaccine will begin within a few days in the U.S. The daylong meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will first feature FDA scientists discussing the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, which they previously endorsed in a report to the panel, as well as plans for distribution. In the afternoon, executives from Pfizer will present to the committee and answer questions before voting by the committee. STAT's reporters will be tuning in all day and posting live updates here.

Gates Foundation donates an additional $250 million to combat the pandemic

Science is making major progress developing tools with which to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, but the process of raising the funds to ensure the entire world benefits from vaccines, diagnostics, and therapies appears to be lagging. In a bid to accelerate the pace, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just announced that it will contribute an additional $250 million to these efforts. That will raise its total giving to the pandemic to $1.75 billion. CEO Mark Suzman made clear in a briefing for reporters that the foundation hopes the incoming Biden administration will also step into the breach, including making a commitment the COVAX Facility, which is the global effort to secure affordable vaccines for countries without the means to purchase them.

Female surgeon-scientists face steep disparities in NIH funding 

Female surgeon-scientists are much less likely to get NIH funding — and less of it — than their male counterparts, according to a new study that underscores the gender disparities in the NIH grants process. Data from nearly 775 practice surgeons who were awarded NIH funding in 2019 were analyzed. Only 1 in 5 of these awardees was a woman, which is also a lower ratio than the 1 in 4 female medical faculty who received NIH funding last year. Considering all grant types, women surgeon-scientists also received, on average, nearly $70,000 less in grant money than male scientists. No female Black or Hispanic surgeon-scientists were awarded an R01 grant, which is the oldest funding mechanism for investigators, and neither were those women who specialized in orthopedics. 

Inside STAT: Doctors worry about missed cancers if Covid-19 keeps children away

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Bradley Cornish explores his home in Atkinson, N.H. Now 18 months old, he had a kidney tumor that was discovered during his 12-month checkup. (CHERYL SENTER FOR STAT)

Stay-at-home orders and recommendations to avoid hospitals for non-emergency care at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic kept many people at home, including children. Now, as people are resuming — albeit slowly — well-child visits and care for problems that have emerged in recent months, pediatric oncologists are seeing patients with more advanced and often less treatable cancers as a result of their illness not being caught sooner. As the U.S. prepares for yet another wave of Covid-19 infections, physicians are worried about the many more cases of childhood cancer that may go undetected as clinics see a drop in regular visits. STAT's Elizabeth Cooney has the story here

Video contest to emphasize the importance of federal science funding names winners

The winners of the second annual “Fund It Forward” video challenge from the Science Coalition — a nonprofit that advocates for research funding — were just named. Undergraduate and graduate students created short videos sharing why their projects matter, and why continued federal support for such research is important. The top prize among graduate students went to a team from the THINK Lab at Wayne State University, who described how they're studying the effects of childhood trauma on the development of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. The undergraduate winner, Shreya Desai, also from Wayne State's THINK Lab, described how enhancing the body's endocannabinoid system through exercise can lead to better mood and lower levels of mental distress. Check out these and the other winning videos here

List prices for prescription meds have more than doubled

Prescription drug list prices have more than doubled in recent years, according to new research. Looking at pricing data for 14 top-selling drugs from 14.4 million pharmacy claims, scientists found that the list price of drugs — the cost before discounts or insurance payments, and often not what patients pay — increased by 129% between 2010-2016, while median insurance payments only increased by 64%. The wholesale price accounted for by rebates and discounts only went up by less than 5% during the time period. At the same time, after accounting for inflation, out-of-pocket spending by patients increased by 85% for specialty medicines, and by 42% for non-specialty drugs. Insurance payments for these drugs went up by 116% for specialty medicines and only 28% for non-specialty ones. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Deaths yesterday: 221,267
Cases yesterday: 3,124

What to read around the web today

  • Transgender Americans see new health care champion in Biden’s HHS pick. The 19th
  • Biden’s HHS pick, Becerra, has taken in more campaign cash from health groups than any other industry. STAT+
  • In 2020, AP photographers captured a world in distress. Associated Press
  • ‘God be with us:’ Covid-19 becomes personal in a South Dakota town as neighbors die and the town debates a mask mandate. The Washington Post
  • Johnson & Johnson cuts size of Covid-19 vaccine study due to prevalence of disease in U.S. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

Thursday, December 10, 2020

STAT

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