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Morning Rounds

Senate readies for vote on opioids bill

The Senate is slated to vote as soon as Wednesday on a sweeping bill to address the opioid crisis, the product of lengthy negotiations among lawmakers. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the health committee, says the bill will expand access to medication-assisted treatment, encourage the development of new pain treatments, and mandate that HHS come up with guidelines for recovery housing. The House already passed its own legislation in June. And while there’s some overlap between the bills, there are also some notable differences that the House and Senate would have to reconcile. 

Fast-acting flu drug shows strong potential

An experimental, fast-acting flu drug showed strong promise in two newly published trials — but it also led to some surprising and even concerning results. The drug cut the time people were sick with flu symptoms by just over a day, but didn’t make people feel better faster than Tamiflu. And virus samples collected from nearly 10 percent of people in one of the trials showed mutations that scientists think allow the viruses to evade the drug’s effects. The FDA is currently reviewing the drug and should make a decision before Christmas.

Meanwhile, the CDC is out with a friendly reminder that everyone 6 months and older who can get a flu vaccine should get one by the end of October, if possible. The agency’s advice: If you get sick with flu symptoms, stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.

WHO launches new toolkit for suicide prevention

The WHO just released a new suicide prevention toolkit to mark World Suicide Prevention Day today. Suicide is a critical public health problem: Nearly 800,000 people kill themselves each year and many more attempt suicide. The new toolkit is stocked with resources for community suicide prevention efforts, including resources specifically for refugees and migrants, older individuals, and young people. It also outlines how a community can create a tailored action plan that taps into its unique resources and addresses specific prevention priorities. 

Inside STAT: An avant-garde musician sets out to redesign a heart monitor’s beeps


Yoko K. Sen demonstrates how she relaxes and focuses on sound while lying down, mimicking a patient in a hospital bed. (ERIC KRUSZEWSKI FOR STAT)

Yoko K. Sen is an ambient electronic musician who’s made a niche for herself by revamping the soundscape in hospitals. She's made sound maps of hospitals and had health care executives wear blindfolds to better listen to the noises in their facilities. Lately she's worked with medical device giant Medtronic to design the beeps patients would hear from their home cardiac monitors. Designing beeps for medical devices requires a delicate balance: attention-getting but not startling, easy to differentiate but simple enough to learn. STAT’s Eric Boodman has more on Sen and her medical sound design here.

Research institute requires scientists to share data

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute has passed a new policy that requires researchers funded by the institute to share their data sets and documentation with other scientists. PCORI — which is supported by a fund established by Congress through the ACA — says the policy will allow other researchers to reproduce and build on scientific findings to generate more robust evidence. It’s the latest in a series of announcements about new efforts in the “open science” movement. Last week, Google announced it was launching a new search tool that helps researchers tap into the trove of open data online.

Heart attack risk higher after sepsis, study suggests

A new study suggests that patients with sepsis are at a higher risk of stroke or heart attack in the first month after they're discharged from the hospital. Researchers analyzed data on more than 1 million people in Taiwan, including more than 42,000 patients who had sepsis. Within six months of being discharged, more than 1,000 sepsis patients had some kind of cardiovascular problem. That risk was highest in the first week after discharge, when more than one-quarter of the total heart attacks or strokes happened. The authors say that while there's a need for more research, the findings from this paper and a similar study suggest the results might translate to other populations.

What to read around the web today

  • It's hard for doctors to unlearn things. That's costly for all of us. New York Times
  • Billionaire Sackler family owns second opioid drugmaker. Financial Times
  • That alarm about the cancer risks of CRISPR? It’s still ringing. STAT Plus
  • The remedy for surprise medical bills may lie in stitching up federal law. Kaiser Health News
  • Hope for new macular degeneration treatments buoys patients. Boston Globe

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Monday, September 10, 2018


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