Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Just a note that there won't be a newsletter on Thursday, July 4 or Friday, July 5. But first, here's today's news to kick off this short week. 

Nation’s first drug affordability board becomes law today

A first-of-its-kind measure that created a state board in Maryland to cap payments for expensive prescription drugs becomes law today. Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a measure to create the Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which will have the power to set price limits for drugs paid for by state and local governments. In May, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan declined to either veto or approve the measure, clearing its path forward. The law — which doesn’t go into effect until 2022 — was fiercely opposed by pharma lobbyists. They did win a few concessions before the measure was approved: For instance, the new five-member state board can't enact a price cap without the permission of top lawmakers in Annapolis, which could be a potential impediment to setting limits for pricey treatments.

Many counties lack providers for opioid disorder medication

Counties in red are high risk, which means few providers and high rates of opioid overdose deaths. (Rebecca L. Haffajee, JD, PhD, MPH; Lewei Allison Lin, MD, MS; Amy S. B. Bohnert, PhD, MHS; Jason E. Goldstick, PhD)

Researchers behind a new study set out to find what characteristics defined U.S. counties with high opioid overdose death rates. They looked at more than 3,100 counties and how they compared to the national average for overdoses — 12.5 people who overdose per 100,000 people. Here’s what they found: 

  • High-risk counties: 412 counties exceeded the national average of overdoses and had few health care providers for opioid disorder medication — under the national average of about 10 per 100,000 residents. 

  • Health care providers: Nearly half the counties lacked a publicly available provider who could prescribe the medication. More than 70% of rural counties lacked such a provider. 

  • Other characteristics: Counties that had high rates of unemployment and fewer people under the age of 25 were also more likely to be considered high risk for opioid overdoses.

New quitline for teen vaping 

A new quitline hopes to help teenagers give up vaping. Starting today, youths in nine states including Colorado, Massachusetts, and Michigan can call or text the National Jewish Health’s “My Life, My Quit” line at 1-855-891-9989 to get help quitting e-cigarettes as well as other tobacco-based products. Teens can also use an online portal through which to get help. The organization, which already runs a smoking cessation program for adults, is hoping that the new teen program will help curb increasing e-cigarette use: At least one survey found that more than a third of high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes in the year before they were surveyed in 2018, an increase from around 27% the previous year.

Inside STAT: The rise of a psychedelics evangelist

(Mike Reddy for STAT)

Once considered a relic of 1960s counterculture, psychedelics are making a comeback these days, with careful, peer-reviewed research suggesting their potential as treatments for depression and other mental health conditions. That means they could also be big business. Enter Christian Angermayer, a 40-year-old German financier who wants to turn psilocybin, derived from so-called magic mushrooms, into modern medicine. While not everyone is convinced, Angermayer tells STAT's Meghana Keshavan he speaks from experience. Psilocybin "was the single most meaningful thing I’ve ever done or experienced in my life,” he says. “Nothing has ever come close to it.” Read more.

ICYMI: Elizabeth Holmes gets a trial date

Theranos’ ex-CEO Elizabeth Holmes has a trial date of for the summer of 2020. Holmes, along with her former No. 2 Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, are accused of defrauding investors, physicians, and patients into believing that their company’s blood-testing technology could diagnose a multitude of conditions. In a pretrial hearing on Friday, prosecutors said they would begin jury selection in late July next year, with opening arguments set for Aug. 4. Both Holmes and Balwani have pleaded not guilty, but could face up to 20 years in prison and as much as $2.7 million in fines, although that figure could go up if the government demands restitution for the alleged fraud. 

The ripple effects of drinking alcohol

New research into the secondhand effects of alcohol finds that nearly 20% of adults in the U.S. — some 53 million people — are affected adversely because of others’ drinking. These adverse effects include physical harm and other forms of harassment and financial problems. Some 16% of people included in the nearly 9,000-person survey said that they experienced harassment. These circumstances varied depending on gender as well as by age: Women were more likely to experience something negative as a result of someone else’s drinking as were those under the age of 25. The authors write that public health interventions that broadly assess the risk of how alcohol could harm others are needed in order to avoid these ripple effects.  

What to read around the web today

  • FBI urges universities to monitor some Chinese students and scholars in the U.S. NPR
  • Breast milk donations kept my tiny daughters alive. The Guardian
  • ‘I’m not me’: A bizarre disorder leaves people feeling distant from their bodies. The Washington Post
  • ‘Sickle cell needs more funding’: An 18-year-old patient advocate calls on Washington to improve children’s health care. STAT
  • Have cancer, must travel: Patients left in lurch after hospital closes. Kaiser Health News

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Monday, July 1, 2019


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