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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

‘Heartbeat’ abortion bill becomes law in Georgia

Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp yesterday signed a bill banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which usually happens at around six weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Known as “heartbeat” bills, other states have signed such restrictive legislation into law: Judges have struck down the laws in North Dakota and Iowa, and Kentucky’s law is temporarily blocked from going into effect. But the laws in Mississippi and Ohio are expected to go into effect in July. Opponents of the Georgia law, including Planned Parenthood, have already vowed to challenge it in court. Supporters of the law, set to take effect Jan. 1, are hoping for a legal challenge all the way to the conservative-majority Supreme Court in an effort to overturn the 1973 Roe. v. Wade decision.

Majority of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable



The majority of the roughly 700 pregnancy-related deaths each year in the U.S. are preventable, according to a new CDC analysis. Using data collected by maternal mortality committees in 13 states, researchers found that 60% of the deaths were preventable — meaning some change could have been implemented on the patient, provider, or health facility level. The deaths varied by race and when during the pregnancy they occurred. For example, Native American women and black women were more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. Across all women, the most deaths happened in the week following the birth of a child. While maternal mortality is still relatively rare, “every death is tragic and it often represents a web of missed opportunities,” Dr. Nicole Davis, co-author of the new report, told STAT

Denver votes against decriminalizing hallucinogenic mushrooms

Denver residents appear to have rejected a measure to decriminalize hallucinogenic mushrooms, according to unofficial results late Tuesday. Recent research suggests that the main ingredient in the mushrooms — known as psilocybin — could have beneficial medical uses, including for cancer patients suffering from depression and anxiety. A successful vote wouldn’t have completely legalized the use of these fungi: Using or possessing them would have been a low-priority offense for local law enforcement officials, and the city wouldn’t have been allowed to spend money to prosecute people for using the drugs. Despite the measure's apparent defeat, the proposition signals a slow shift in attitudes towards psilocybin: California voters last year voted on, and ultimately rejected, a similar ballot measure, but other states — including Iowa and Oregon — are looking to legalize the use of mushrooms for medical use. 

Inside STAT: Pulling back the curtain on Coca-Cola's contracts with researchers it funds

A provision in Coca-Cola’s agreements with universities stating that research funds could be revoked at any time potentially kept researchers from straying from the beverage giant’s mission, a new paper suggests. The new report — compiled from 87,000 documents, including research contracts — comes amid increased scrutiny that industry faces for funding scientific research. Although the new study’s authors found no instances of it happening, the findings suggest that such policies could have pressured researchers from freely pursuing research on the harmful effects of sugary beverages. And even though researchers receiving funding from the company had a say in whether the company reviewed findings ahead of publishing, Coca-Cola’s policies are problematic because they undermine efforts toward more transparency and integrity in scientific publishing, the authors say. Read more from STAT's Andrew Joseph. 

Former NFL players go to court over concussion fund rules for diagnoses 

A group of former football players went to court yesterday challenging the NFL Concussion Fund over a rule about how neurological diagnoses can be made. Under the current rule, players who receive diagnoses of dementia, ALS, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s can be paid out from the $1 billion fund, which has already doled out nearly $500 million in settlements. The fund’s administrator said that roughly $46 million was paid out on diagnoses made by just four physicians, which is suggestive of “doctor shopping,” and a federal judge in April suggested a new rule that these diagnoses be made by a doctor within 150 miles of a player’s home. Players have pushed back, saying there aren’t enough doctors to fit this criteria, and lawyers for players are saying that players should have the right to choose whichever physician they want. 

Global alcohol intake is rising — and the trend will likely continue

Global targets for reducing harmful alcohol intake are unlikely to be met, according to a new long-term analysis of data from 149 countries. The WHO outlined goals to reduce alcohol intake by 10% by 2025, but the new study suggests that alcohol intake has increased by 70% between 1990 and 2017. If the current trends continue, the authors project that half of all people by 2030 will drink alcohol, and roughly a quarter will binge drink once a month. The increase will also largely be due to people drinking more alcohol per volume — nearly 20% more by 2030 — than more people drinking. Alcohol is now the seventh-leading risk factor for disease worldwide, and so the authors call for more effective alcohol policies to help keep the growing trend in check. 

Correction: In yesterday's edition, an item on prize-winning medical hacks incorrectly described one of the entries. The AltComm app could help those with speech impediments. 

What to read around the web today

  • Opinion: ‘The most peaceful sleep’: Cancer is nudging me to picture dying in a new way. STAT
  • Feds want to show health care costs on your phone, but that could take years. Kaiser Health News
  • A plan to cover immigrants would divert public health dollars. California Healthline
  • For patients with memory loss, working towards better diagnosis. Undark
  • How well-meaning donations end up fueling an unproven, virtually unregulated $2 billion stem cell industry. ProPublica

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

STAT

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