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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

On Friday, STAT’s Eric Boodman will lead a live chat with two SIDS experts on misconceptions surrounding these cases and ways to best support families. Sign up and submit your questions here.

Cigna, Express Scripts unveil new program to cap insulin costs

Insurance giant Cigna and its subsidiary Express Scripts are announcing a new program today to cut the cost of a 30-day supply of insulin from $40, on average, to $25 for many patients. The companies plan to bring about the roughly 40% cost reduction by negotiating with insulin manufacturers, and some may see even greater savings depending on their health plan. The move comes amid increasing public pressure over high insulin costs, and some studies have found that patients struggling to afford the medicine don’t take it as prescribed. Not all patients enrolled in a Cigna or Express Scripts plan will be eligible for the new price, however. Employers who generally purchase health plans will have to approve the change in plan design, and not all of them will.

Mozambique begins cholera vaccination campaign

A sweeping cholera vaccination campaign is getting underway in Mozambique today, with local and international health officials looking to administer some 900,000 doses. More than 1,400 cases of the disease have been reported in the country, with most of them in the port city of Beira, since Cyclone Idai tore through the country last month. Another 128,000 people are at high risk of being infected. Two people have died from the disease so far, and of the remaining cases, 97 people are still in treatment centers. “The next few weeks are crucial and speed is of the essence if we are to save lives and limit suffering,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement. 

Cancer deaths falling, but study finds room for improvement

Cancer deaths in the U.S. have dropped by more than 25% between 1991 and 2016, but there is still room for improvement, according to a new review of cancer-reducing strategies from researchers at the American Cancer Society. Here’s a closer look at the study’s findings:

  • Tobacco use: Nearly a third of all cancer deaths are in cigarette smokers, and despite an overall decline in tobacco use, certain populations still have high rates of smoking. Only 5% of female college graduates smoke, for instance, compared to 30% of men who have less than a high school education.

  • Physical activity: 2% of all cancer deaths can be attributed to a lack of physical activity, yet about a quarter of adults in 2017 reported no leisurely physical activity.

  • HPV: The infection is linked to a range of cancers, including almost all cervical and anal cancers. But in 2017, only 53% of girls ages 13-17 and 44% of boys in the same age group were vaccinated against HPV, despite evidence that the vaccine can prevent up to 90% of HPV-related cancers.

Inside STAT: High cost isn’t America’s only drug problem — so is overprescribing


JULIO CORTEZ/AP

When people talk about the drug industry in the U.S., high prices often dominate the conversation. But a new report from the Lown Institute says overprescribing is an overlooked issue. Between 2000 and 2012, the proportion of adults taking five or more medications nearly doubled, from 8% to 15%. And Americans over the age of 65 — more than 40% of whom take five or more medications — are particularly vulnerable to harm from overprescribing, including adverse drug events. Taking too many medicines “not only adds to the cost of drugs but also harms millions of Americans each year,” the report’s authors write in a new First Opinion for STAT.

Two major medical groups join forces to reduce social barriers to health

UnitedHealthcare and the American Medical Association are teaming up to reduce the negative impact that social determinants — factors such as housing, food, and transportation — can have on health. The groups plan to standardize how data about social determinants is collected, processed, and integrated into the health care system. The initiative will also make available nearly two dozen new billing codes specific to social factors that physicians can enter when seeing patients. Entering these codes would then trigger referrals to local services that could help patients with additional resources. 

Commercial labs not following prenatal screening guidelines

More than two years after a medical genetics organization issued recommendations on noninvasive prenatal screening, a new study finds commercial laboratories providing the tests have not been fully compliant. These tests, which analyze DNA fragments in a pregnant woman’s blood, can help detect genetic disorders including Down syndrome and trisomy 18. Of the 10 companies analyzed, only one provided patients with information on a specific Down syndrome resource that the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics advises. However, most labs followed guidelines on checking specific chromosomes for non-inherited abnormalities. 

What to read around the web today

  • Can CRISPR improve on nature’s own bacteria-killing phages? STAT Plus
  • Sacklers dispute claims they directed alleged illegal marketing of OxyContin. The Wall Street Journal
  • 5 burning questions for the DNA testing industry after the launch of the latest new disease risk test. STAT Plus
  • Do animals hold the key to the global organ shortage? The Guardian
  • USDA terminates deadly cat experiments, plans to adopt out remaining animals. NPR

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

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