Morning Rounds

Lawmakers push genealogy platforms for privacy policy details

House lawmakers are looking to work with direct-to-consumer genealogy and genetic testing platforms to pinpoint security and privacy issues — and figure out how to fix them. In a letter sent this week and shared with STAT, Reps. Dave Loebsack and Frank Pallone Jr. peppered four of the platforms — including 23andMe and AncestryDNA — with questions about their security systems and customer privacy. "I want to try to partner with genetic testing services to address any potential challenges before there are actually breaches of trust," Loebsack told me. And he and Pallone are in a good position to do so: They sit on the Energy and Commerce committee, which handles both health care and privacy issues in technology. I have more details here

Inside STAT: Here's what's in the House opioid bills

This week, the House will wrap up its work on a slew of bills to address the opioid crisis. STAT's Lev Facher broke down what's in the bills and which proposals didn't make the cut:

  • A “common-sense” idea: The legislation includes a bill that would require any drug treatment program funded by HHS to exclusively offer evidence-based care. Lawmakers and outside experts have said it’s a common-sense proposal.

  • A controversial proposal: A hotly debated bill in the package would preserve the right of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine.

  • What’s missing: The bill does not expand syringe exchange services or supervised injection sites. It also doesn't require opioids to be co-prescribed with naloxone, the overdose reversal drug. 

Read his full analysis of the bills here.

Trump backs down on separation policy that medical groups spoke out against

After a public outcry that included a number of medical and scientific groups, President Trump has signed an executive order meant to stop separating migrant children from their parents at the border. The American Medical Association urged the government to end the practice, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said scientific evidence "underscores the potential for lifelong, harmful consequences for these children."But there are serious concerns about what comes next —it's still not clear what'll happen to the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their families. Last night, HHS put out a statement saying the agency's focus is on providing care to the minors in HHS-funded facilities and reuniting them with a relative or sponsor. 

People who survive opioid overdoses are at a high risk of death

People who survive an opioid overdose are at an increased risk of death in the next year — but those deaths aren’t always caused by drug use, according to a new study in JAMA Psychiatry. Researchers analyzed Medicaid data from more than 75,000 adults treated for an opioid overdose between 2001 and 2007, more than 5,000 of whom died within a year. Of those deaths, 25 percent were related to drug use, 13 percent to circulatory system diseases, and 10 percent to cancer. And compared to the general population, people who’d survived opioid overdoses were significantly more likely to die of viral hepatitis, suicide, and chronic respiratory diseases. The authors say some of those links likely reflect other risky health behaviors, like tobacco use, that are common among people who have an opioid use disorder.

Scientists discover new clues about fat cell formation


Mature human fat cells on the left, mouse fat on the right. The newly discovered cells that can suppress mature fat cell formation are highlighted by arrows. (Bart Deplancke / EPFL)

In new research published in Nature, researchers say they’ve captured a detailed snapshot of how the body's fat cells form. In models of type 2 diabetes, the body sometimes stops making mature fat cells in s0-called "fat depots," even when there are the right precursor cells around.That leads to a build-up of fat in other places, like the liver. Researchers wanted to understand why that happens, so they used a high-resolution technique to study cell behavior inside mouse and human fat tissue. They found a type of stromal cells that actually suppresses the formation of mature fat cells. "Manipulating the activity of these [cells] may lead to better fat depot management, favoring the formation of fat cells, which will lead to better overall metabolic health," study author Bart Deplancke of EPFL tells me. 

Obesity rates vary between urban and rural areas

Two new studies out in JAMA highlight the disparities in childhood and adult obesity rates in different parts of the country. Here’s a look at the findings:

  • Nearly 18 percent of youth ages 2 to 19 experienced obesity between 2013 and 2016, and nearly 16 percent experienced severe obesity.

  • Severe obesity was more prevalent among kids in rural areas than those in urban areas, but there wasn’t a big difference when it came to obesity rates. Both obesity and severe obesity were more common in Hispanic and black kids than in their white peers.

  • Nearly 39 percent of adults had obesity between 2013 and 2016, and nearly 8 percent had severe obesity. Both were more prevalent in rural areas compared to urban areas.

A note: Yesterday's newsletter misattributed who broke the news that Purdue Pharma had laid off its remaining sales staff. The news was first reported by the Stamford Advocate.

More reads from STAT

  • Consumer group petitions FDA to yank a widely prescribed gout drug over heart risks. STAT Plus
  • Immigrant children forcibly injected with drugs, lawsuit claims. Reveal
  • Five ideas that might steer Atul Gawande as the CEO of Amazon-backed health company. STAT
  • Newly discovered remains reveal Civil War surgeons' bitter choices. New York Times
  • Muscle and fat loss may offer clues to pancreatic cancer’s deadly ways. STAT 

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Thursday, June 21, 2018


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