Friday, June 16, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

It's finally Friday! I've got your rundown of what's driving the day's news in health and medicine. If you're a fan of this newsletter, tell a friend who might like it too to sign up

The strict new drug price transparency law in Nevada

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed a bill into law setting the strictest rules on drug price transparency in the U.S. The law, which targets rising insulin prices, will require drug makers to disclose their prices, profits, and discounts given to the middlemen that negotiate good insurance coverage each year. It's set to go into effect October 1. 

Trump's opioid commission is meeting for the first time

President Trump’s opioid commission meets for the first time this morning, and they have a full agenda. The committee, run by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is tasked with parsing out the best practices to prevent addiction, including how to educate prescribers and how to help states effectively use their prescription drug monitoring programs.  They'll also assess how accessible addiction treatment services are and pinpoint areas that are lacking in resources. They’ll release their findings in a detailed report on the opioid crisis by October 1, though an interim report is expected out relatively soon.

Christie said earlier this week that one of the group’s first actions will be a proposal to ease HIPAA restrictions in cases of opioid overdose. The meeting gets underway at 12:30 ET — watch a livestream here.

Lab Chat: Capturing the untangling of faulty proteins

hsp104 goes to work on a single protein strand. (Janet Isawa)

Misfolded proteins that can’t function like they’re supposed to are blamed in neurodegenerative brain disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and scientists have been working for years to unravel those tangles. One technique involves a protein that scientists are trying to use to break apart clumps of misfolded proteins in the brain. Now, they’ve captured new images of that machinery at work. Here’s what James Shorter of the University of Pennsylvania told me about the work, published in Science

Tell me about the protein you’ve been studying.

Hsp104, heat shock protein 104, is a natural yeast protein nanomachine with six subunits, which has a truly remarkable activity. It is able to dissolve protein clumps that are connected to various neurodegenerative diseases. We have been trying to engineer Hsp104 to work even better against these disease-linked protein clumps [so we can] develop it as a therapeutic for neurodegenerative disease. However, we've lacked a high resolution image of how Hsp104 works.

Now that you have a high-resolution image, what can you see?

We can now see the moving parts of the Hsp104 complex and how we might tune it to optimally attack neurodegenerative disease proteins. We can see how Hsp104 would pull a misfolded protein out of the clumps. 

Tobacco use among teens is tumbling

The number of middle and high school students currently using tobacco dropped dramatically in 2016 — a change primarily driven by a decline in e-cig use. A new report out from the CDC finds that 3.9 million students said they were current tobacco users in 2016, compared to 4.7 million the year before. The most dramatic decline was seen in e-cigarette use. Just under 2.2 million students said they were currently using e-cigs in 2016, down from 3 million in 2015.  "The [report] reminds us that it is too early to rest on our laurels," Dr. Alexander Prokhorov of MD Anderson Cancer Center tells me. "The tobacco industry is constantly looking for ways to recruit new customers and it is clear that youth remain its primary target." 

Inside STAT: The AHCA may sway this House race

The most expensive congressional race in U.S. history might hinge on how the two candidates facing off handle the issue of preexisting condition coverage in the AHCA. Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are vying for a suburban Atlanta House seat previously held by Dr. Tom Price, who was tapped to run the health department under President Trump. Ossoff has spent weeks attacking the AHCA, using the story of a young boy with a preexisting heart condition to drive home his point. Handel has countered with her own personal anecdote and has told voters that a GOP bill would offer better protections for people with preexisting conditions. STAT's Max Blau has the story from Atlanta.  

Judge shuts down distribution of unapproved drugs

A U.S. district court judge in Florida has ordered Stratus Pharmaceuticals and its manufacturer, Sonar Products, to stop distributing unapproved, improperly labeled, and contaminated drugs. Officials say that Sonar manufactured and Stratus distributed poorly made, unsafe skin products, such as an antibiotic cleanser that claimed to treat acne and a topical cream marketed as a treatment for psoriasis and eczema. FDA inspections found that Stratus failed to properly address more than 1,300 consumer complaints. 

What to read around the web today

  • A Mexican town is giving Americans something Donald Trump can't: affordable dental care. Buzzfeed
  • Lead detected in 20 percent of baby food samples, surprising even researchers. Kaiser Health News
  • This 5 percent of the population is key to solving the health care crisis. The Atlantic

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks so much for reading! Before you head out for the weekend, consider signing up for our BIO in 30 Seconds newsletter with dispatches from the BIO convention in San Diego next week. Back Monday, 


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