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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Welcome to Morning Rounds. 

A call to action to curb malaria cases

This morning, global health leaders are calling on governments to commit to cut cases of malaria in the next five years. The push is part of a malaria summit in London being convened by the Gates Foundation, Malaria No More UK, and other health organizations. They’re looking to make strides in three areas:

  • More funding: There are several funding announcements coming at the summit. The Gates Foundation is giving another $1 billion through 2023 on research and development efforts, the UK is launching a new, nearly $72 million malaria program in Nigeria, and Uganda is planning to establish a malaria fund that would dedicate another $785 million in resources by 2020.

  • New tools: GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis announced they're committing to invest $250 million and $100 million, respectively, to continue their work on a malaria vaccine and treatments.

  • Better targeting: Technology companies are lending a hand to the Visualize No Malaria Initiative, which works to create visual tools to help health officials create efficient elimination plans and respond to malaria.

States continue their push for drug price transparency

The Colorado House has passed a bill that requires pharma companies to report drug price hikes to the state before they happen — and detail the reasons behind those rising prices. The bill would also require drug companies to release their spending on advertising, drug promotion, research, and manufacturing. House lawmakers narrowly passed the bill 33-30, and it now moves to the state Senate. Lawmakers in Illinois are gearing up for a potential vote this week on a similar measure. 

In other drug pricing news: Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, an initiative funded by billionaires John and Laura Arnold, has made its first endorsement. The group endorsed David McKinley, an incumbent GOP representative from West Virginia. 

FDA moves to quickly catch problems with medical devices

The FDA has proposed taking steps to catch problems with medical devices and implants more quickly. The agency has come under fire for not issuing warnings on some medical devices until after they’ve been on the market for years. A prime example: power morcellators, a surgical tool that was found to unintentionally spread cancer. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency needs better tools to detect problems quickly and flag them to patients and providers. But don’t expect to see significant action any time soon — many of the ideas might require funding from Congress or new guidelines. 

Sponsor content by Bristol-Myers Squibb

The latest combination therapy takes on tough-to-treat kidney cancer

Any cancer diagnosis is frightening. But it’s that much worse for patients who face a difficult-to-treat disease such as advanced renal cell carcinoma. This type of kidney cancer has a poor prognosis and historically has been associated with five-year survival rates of less than 15%. Now, a new option — combining two therapies — is available for certain patients with kidney cancer that has spread. Learn more here.

Inside STAT: Could a former Bezos investment signal Amazon's future?

(mike reddy for stat)

In 2010, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos became one of the biggest investors in a project started by a group of Seattle doctors who wanted to free themselves from the restrictions of the insurance industry. They wanted to charge patients a monthly membership fee for on-demand medical care, no insurance involved. The company, called Qliance, closed its doors last summer after a series of financial setbacks, but the concept of "direct primary care" has spread to communities across the country. And now, many of the company's backers are urging Bezos to use Amazon's market power to bring the idea to a national stage. STAT's Casey Ross has more here

Experts say vitamin D shouldn't be used to prevent falls

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is no longer recommending that older adults take vitamin D to help prevent falls. The task force says that exercise and physical therapy are good prevention tactics for adults age 65 and older who live at home and are at risk of falling. But the task force axed its 2012 recommendation to also take vitamin D. Research in the years since has suggested that vitamin D doesn't do much to prevent falls and that high monthly doses of vitamin D are actually associated with a higher risk of falls in older adults who've fallen before. 

New bill proposes prison time for execs implicated in opioid crisis

Sen. Bernie Sanders has introduced a new bill that would impose a 10-year prison sentence on pharma execs — and a fine that’s equal to their compensation packages — whose companies engage in manipulative practices to market opioids. STAT’s Lev Facher reports the proposal would also hit companies found to have contributed to the opioid crisis through illegal actions with a $7.8 billion fine. It's the latest in a string of legislative proposals that aim to address the opioid crisis. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) — who heads up the House Energy and Commerce Committee — has said he hopes to bring a package of those proposals up for a vote by Memorial Day.

What to read around the web today

  • New CDC chief resigned from four entities to comply with ethics rules. Wall Street Journal
  • Readers tell their stories about antidepressants and withdrawal. New York Times
  • Health and Human Services secretary diagnosed with intestinal infection. Politico

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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