Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, everyone! Here's what you need to know to jump ahead of the day's news in science and medicine. For more STAT stories, visit our homepage

Leave it to Beaver to talk biosimilars

A biosimilars conference in D.C. this morning has a strange guest: actor Jerry Mathers, better known as the Beav from “Leave it to Beaver.” He’ll be there talking about his psoriasis and its treatment options. The summit will center around how to expand patient access to biosimilar therapies, which are drugs that are made to work in a similar way to so-called biologic drugs, those that are manufactured in a living cell. The panel, which also includes Dr. Steven Kozlowski of the FDA, will also discuss regulatory approval and drug naming.

New leader for White House's ambitious precision medicine study

The White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative has a new head of its cohort program. Eric Dishman will spearhead the effort to recruit at least a million volunteers in the US for a longitudinal research study on precision medicine. Before his new role, Dishman spent time in a working group that designed the upcoming study. But he also brings a patient’s perspective — Dishman had a rare form of kidney cancer for more than two decades, and his final treatment was pinpointed with the help precision medicine. "I think I’m alive on this earth to do this," he said in an interview yesterday with STAT's Sheila Kaplan.

There's no evidence to back up putting primary care in the ER

Patients who turn up in the ER could often simply be treated by primary care doctors, and addressing ER misuse could curb health care costs and keep wait times in ERs down. One solution that’s been tried: relocating primary care docs and nurses to the emergency ward. But there’s actually no evidence to prove that makes a difference, according to a new paper in the Emergency Medicine Journal. That’s concerning given how costly the move is. Before ERs implement the co-location practice, the authors say, there needs to be a large-scale study of how the practice plays out.

sponsor content by cambridge science festival

Big ideas for busy people: World-class panel at the Cambridge Science Festival

Prepare for a whirlwind of big ideas around science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. On the evening of April 15th, come hear six short talks by some of the sharpest minds in the area, including Governor Charlie Baker and S. James Gates, Jr., a member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. To reserve one of our exclusive tickets just for STAT readers, click here.

Antibiotics don't always help bacteria spread resistance genes

Antibiotics at work on several strains of bacteria. (Duke University)
Bacterial cells can swap DNA with one another in a process called conjugation, and for a long time, scientists worried that taking antibiotics promoted conjugation that ultimately led to antibiotic resistance. But new research in Nature Microbiology suggests that assumption is incorrect. “That wasn’t the case when we tested — antibiotics did not always change the rate of gene transfer,” lead researcher Lingchong You of Duke explained to me.

In the lab, You and colleagues put nine different pathogens in a limbo state where they couldn’t grow or die, two events that could distort how much gene-swapping is actually happening. They then exposed each pathogen to one of ten commonly used antibiotic classes. What they saw: the antibiotics often didn’t lead to increased swapping of resistant genes. Understanding that process could be helpful in designing updated antibacterial protocols, You said.

Inside STAT: How science sparks the ideas of filmmaker Steven Soderbergh

Science is tightly woven into Steven Soderbergh’s work, from 2011’s pandemic disaster film “Contagion” to a new TV series titled “The Knick,” which trails a pioneering surgeon in the early 20th century. “Medicine I think, almost more than any other sort of endeavor or field, really generates a lot of magical thinking,” Soderbergh told STAT’s Dylan Scott. “I’m interested in that collision between hope, science, experimentation, evidence, and magical thinking.” Soderbergh talks about medicine as his muse, how he sees science as simultaneously rational and irrational, and what happened when he popped some brain-enhancing pills — read here.

Making food safety and nutrition labels more accessible 

The FDA wants to get a better picture of how well Spanish speakers in the US understand nutrition and food safety information on everyday packaging. Those labels are often written exclusively in English, so now the agency is seeking out data on how different populations understand them. It’s of particular interest to the FDA to study perceptions of Hispanic individuals, who are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the country. 

A new approach to help pregnant women get the nutrition they need

There’s an interesting model in the U.K. that’s helping pregnant low-income women get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Vouchers for food and vitamins are available across the country, but up to a quarter of women and kids who qualify for the vouchers don’t end up using them. To change that, public health officials started offering free welfare rights advice, which led to a small but noticeable increase (13 percent) in the number of women taking advantage of the vouchers. Read the research in BMJ Quality Improvement Reports.

What to read around the web today

  • This controversial rule could change how doctors profit from prescribing the most expensive drugs. Washington Post
  • The Obama administration wants to change primary care in the US. Politico
  • Amid clinic closures, young doctors seek abortion training. Reuters

More reads from STAT

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