Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

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Hi folks. It's Melissa Bailey, the STAT Longwood reporter, filling in for Megan. Let's get started with today's health and medicine news.

Medical crowd previews "Concussion" 

The Boston premiere of the film "Concussion,” a dramatized story of how a real-life doctor exposed rampant brain damage among former NFL players, drew gasps, praise — and a bit of snoring — at a packed theater last night. Dr. Scott Weisberg, who suffers from traumatic brain injury from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, saw the film with nine fellow survivors. He said the movie did a good job showing "how difficult it is to navigate [the medical system] with a hidden and invisible injury."

"They did a really good job of dramatizing the science," Deborah Lotterman, who works for a medical advertising firm in Boston, told me. But (spoiler alert) one part kept bothering her: The scene where one of the characters has a miscarriage, and her husband implies it's his fault for bringing her stress. "Scientifically, there's no evidence that stress would cause miscarriage," she noted. As he walked out with his mom and dad, 12-year-old Evan Roth, who plays for Swampscott Youth Football in Massachusetts, uttered just the words the NFL does not want to hear: "It makes me question if I really should play football, even though I love the game."

Catch up on "High Impact," the STAT series about concussions, here.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill ...

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will launch a “broad review” of concussions next year, as a "matter of public health," Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.) announced yesterday.

New today: Teen births hit all-time low

National Center for Health Statistics
Whether it’s MTV teen pregnancy shows, long-lasting contraception, or sex-ed lessons, something is working: Teen birth rates dropped a whopping 9 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to a new report published today by the National Center for Health Statistics. That builds on a dramatic decline since 1991.

"It’s a true national success story on an issue that many once considered intractable and unsolvable,” Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy told me. My story is here

Other highlights from the report: 
  • After declining for six years, the fertility rate rose slightly in 2014.
  • C-section rates fell slightly to 32.2 percent of all US births in 2014. That's still way higher than recommended
  • Twin births inched up slightly, hitting an all-time high, while the rate of triplets-and-more dropped. 

How high will the FDA go?

The US Food and Drug Administration yesterday approved its 45th drug of the year. That's the most approvals since 1996. The drug, Zurampic, treats high levels of uric acid in the blood associated with gout. The approval came amid efforts in Congress to speed up the FDA approval process even more.

Inside STAT: Revenge of the turtles

Markus Schreiber/AP
Palm-sized turtles may be cute, but they’re also a menace: They carry salmonella bacteria, which can make little kids who handle them sick. That’s why the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of tiny turtles in 1975. Now a new study suggests the ban isn’t working as well as it used to, STAT infectious disease reporter Helen Branswell writes. Turtle-related salmonella outbreaks cases have been on the rise since 2006, she discovered. More here.

Meet the medalists 

The White House on Tuesday announced the latest batch of winners for the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Here's a peek at three of the medalists: 
  • Mary-Claire King, a geneticist at the University of Washington, discovered the breast cancer gene BRCA1.
  • Rakesh Jain, a biologist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, showed how cancer drugs like Avastin work to curb tumor growth.
  • Stanley Falkow, a microbiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine, discovered how bacteria spread antibiotic resistance by sharing their genes.

What are you watching next year?

We're compiling predictions from you, dear Morning Rounds readers, on what’ll be big and exciting in the fields of science and medicine next year. What are you watching? Please email Megan at
Meanwhile, STAT national correspondent Carl Zimmer has his eye on the CRISPR gene-editing method and epigenetics — the study of the swarm of molecules enveloping our DNA. STAT beat reporters are also looking ahead at the people, trends, and stories they most want to track in 2016. Read the first few predictions in our series and keep checking back for more next week.

What to read around the web

  • Another old drug could get a major price hike. NPR
  • The hidden medical epidemic few women have been willing to talk about. Washington Post
  • Nursing home owners profited as complaints rose. Boston Globe

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! I'll be back tomorrow with a special holiday edition of Morning Rounds.


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