Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Tuesday, folks! Welcome back from the long weekend, and welcome to Morning Rounds. 

CDC warns of synthetic marijuana tainted with poison

The CDC is warning the public after hundreds of patients have experienced internal bleeding, pain, and other problems after taking synthetic marijuana later found to contain rat poison. Since health officials started tracking the outbreak in early March, nine state health departments have reported a total of 202 cases, including five deaths. Testing turned up brodifacoum, which causes blood clotting problems and is used as rat poison. The CDC says people should avoid synthetic cannabinoids. The agency has also put out new guidance to help doctors identify and report cases and to caution high-risk patients, such as people going home from surgery.

Ebola vaccinations begin in two more areas of DRC

Ebola vaccinations have begun in Bikoro and Iboko, remote areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over the weekend, the WHO sent more staff to Iboko, where cases are on the rise. There’s already a vaccination campaign underway in Mbandaka, a large city on the Congo River. The country’s health minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga, told STAT's Helen Branswell that people are eager to receive Merck's experimental Ebola vaccine. Health officials are watching the campaigns closely to see if they’ll be able to stem the spread of Ebola. Efforts to contain the outbreak will be expensive: The latest estimate from the WHO suggests it may cost $57 million, more than double the earlier estimate of $26 million.

Is it ethical to use consumer DNA sites to solve crimes?

NIH bioethicists have come up with a blueprint for ethical discussions about using consumer genealogy data to solve crimes. The plan comes hot on the heels of the news that investigators in the case of the Golden State Killer tracked down their suspect by submitting old crime scene data to a genealogy website. “Criminal genealogy searching is a valuable tool but raises important ethical issues that should be examined before the practice is widely adopted,” the authors say. Two of their suggestions: Genealogy sites should actively highlight the possibility that data might be used for forensic purposes, and law enforcement should create formal standards and accountability mechanisms for such searches.

Inside STAT: Multiple myeloma may be in a 'golden age' of treatment

Deb Graff was diagnosed with an aggressive form of multiple myeloma nine years ago. (KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR STAT)

Deb Graff has survived nine years with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that used to bring a life expectancy of just three years. She was diagnosed after the 2003 release of Velcade, one of the first drugs to directly target multiple myeloma. More than 20 other treatments have followed, but those treatments still aren’t effective for one-quarter of patients. But there are dozens of experimental drugs to treat multiple myeloma being tested right now in patients. Not all of them will be approved, but there might be better therapies or new treatments for patients who haven’t responded to existing drugs among them. STAT contributor Karen Weintraub has the story here.

Physicians urge policymakers to improve women's health care

Doctors are calling on policymakers to improve women’s access to health care. In a new paper, the American College of Physicians lays out a handful of recommendations to advance women’s health:

  • Establish universal access to at least six weeks’ paid family and medical leave with federal, state, and local policies.

  • Make it easier for doctors to effectively screen for intimate partner and sexual violence and provide better resources for patients who’ve experienced violence.

  • Improve representation of women in clinical trials to “close knowledge gaps related to specific women’s health issues.”

Concussion follow-up often falls short

New research suggests many patients with mild traumatic brain injuries aren’t getting the follow-up care they might need. Researchers tracked 831 patients treated for mild traumatic brain injury in 11 trauma center ERs between 2014 and 2016. Just 42 percent said they received information about TBI at discharge, and just 44 percent said they saw a health care provider for a follow-up appointment within three months. Even among patients with multiple symptoms of a severe concussion, only 52 percent saw a health care provider within three months. Researchers say there’s a need for better education about follow-up care. 

Correction: Friday's newsletter misstated the state in which Gov. Paul LePage vetoed legislation to require insurers to cover naturopathic services. It was Maine. 

What to read around the web today

  • It saves lives and money. So why aren't we spending more on public health? New York Times
  • Meet the six Trump administration officials who will oversee the next moves on drug pricing. STAT Plus
  • Cameras on preemies let in families, keep germs out. Nashville Public Radio
  • Schizophrenia ‘risk genes’ are not so risky if the mother’s pregnancy was healthy. STAT
  • For Boston’s brainy biotech crowd, there’s nothing like an early-morning run. Boston Globe

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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