Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I'm here to get you ahead of the day's news in science and medicine. 

New risk calculator could change use of statins and blood pressure drugs

New research suggests more than 11 million people might need to reconsider taking medications to prevent heart attack and stroke. Currently, doctors can consult a calculator to figure out whether patients might benefit from statins, aspirin, or blood pressure drugs. The calculator uses data compiled in 2013 that comes from research such as the Framingham Heart Study, whose participants were between 30 and 62 in 1948. Now, researchers at Stanford have added more recent data and analyzed it with newer methods. Their finding: Existing guidelines overestimate risk for some people, but underestimate it for others, particularly African-Americans. STAT’s Elizabeth Cooney has more here

CDC reports two more pediatric flu deaths

The CDC reports that there have been two more pediatric flu deaths in the U.S., bringing the total number of children known to have died from flu this season to 171. It’s the highest death toll for a flu season that wasn't declared a pandemic since the CDC started tracking pediatric flu deaths after the 2003-2004 influenza season. There were also 171 children’s deaths recorded in the 2012-2013 flu season, but this season’s total may still exceed that figure. More reports could trickle in over the coming months, since flu death reports can often be delayed. One of the newly reported deaths was in mid-May, but the other was in early February.

Nurse practitioners playing a bigger role in primary care

A growing number of nurse practitioners are working in primary care. (health affairs)

Primary care practices are increasingly relying on nurse practitioners, researchers report in Health Affairs. In 2016, nurse practitioners accounted for 25 percent of providers in rural practices and 23 percent in non-rural practices, up from 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively, in 2008. The increase comes as a growing number people gain health insurance in states that have expanded Medicaid, which could put a strain on primary care practices, the authors explain.

To tackle that, some medical groups are pushing for changes to scope-of-practice laws, which govern an NP’s ability to practice and prescribe drugs without a doctor's supervision. The authors say there’s no evidence to suggest quality of care drops when restrictions are removed, and past studies suggest practices that employ NPs are more likely to accept new Medicaid patients.

Sponsor content by Genentech

Visualizing the future of healthcare

Advances in new technologies like digital health, diagnostics and artificial intelligence are changing the future of healthcare to make it more personalized for each individual. Mark Lee, Genentech’s Global Head for Personalized Healthcare, writes about how these advances are converging to create a clearer picture of patient care. You can read more here.

Inside STAT: The ‘cruel joke’ of compassionate use

Last week, President Trump signed a controversial “right to try” bill that will give patients with life-threatening illnesses a new pathway to access experimental drugs — but it can’t compel a drug company to provide them. Dr. Vibhav Rangarajan knows that well. He says Shire has repeatedly rebuffed requests to share an experimental drug with his 2-year-old daughter, Radha, who has a lysosomal storage disorder. “Compassionate use and right-to-try are billed as ways to give hope to patients who have exhausted all other options,” he writes. “From Radha’s perspective, they are nothing more than a cruel joke, dangling a potential lifesaving therapy just out of her reach.” Read his First Opinion for STAT here. ​

San Francisco weighs repealing flavored tobacco ban

San Francisco residents are voting today on whether to uphold a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping liquids. The city’s Board of Supervisors approved the ban last year, and it was set to go into effect in April. But with the help of funding from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, opponents mounted a campaign against the measure that garnered enough support to bring the issue to the ballot box. The referendum comes as federal officials crack down on flavored tobacco products, which are increasingly popular among young people.

More patient deaths linked to two gastric balloons

The FDA is flagging to doctors that five more patients have died after receiving liquid-filled gastric balloons used to treat obesity. There have been 12 patient deaths since 2016 reported to the FDA associated with two gastric devices: the Orbera Intragastric Balloon System and the ReShape Integrated Dual Balloon System. Last week, the FDA approved label changes to include information about deaths possibly linked to the devices. The agency is working with the manufacturers to learn more about the issues. Health officials say doctors should keep close tabs on patients who have the gastric balloons and warn them about signs of possible serious problems.   

What to read around the web today

  • As CAR-T treatments advance, Washington grapples with ideas for how to pay for them. STAT Plus
  • Hundreds of children wait for mental health help, even after Maine pledged to follow the law. Bangor Daily News
  • How to speak basic biotech. WBUR
  • What we heard at CRISPRCon: talk of designer babies, IP battles, and scientific colonialism. STAT
  • Prices keep rising for drugs to treat painful sex in women. New York Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


Have a news tip or comment you want to send me?

Send me an email