Monday, April 2, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to the working week, everyone, and welcome to Morning Rounds. 

Exclusive: NIH rejected a study of alcohol advertising while pursuing industry funding

It’s rare for NIH officials to summon university scientists from hundreds of miles away. So when Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University and a colleague got the call to meet with Dr. George Koob, director of the NIH’s Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, he knew something was wrong. The 2015 meeting ended with Koob screaming at the scientists after their presentation on research the agency had eagerly funded on the link between alcohol funding and underage drinking. Koob also indicated the agency would be pulling back from funding any more such research.

It took them three years to figure out why: In 2014 and 2015, Koob’s agency was quietly persuading the alcoholic beverage industry to contribute tens of millions of dollars for a study on whether moderate drinking was good for the heart.

Koob, in a previously undisclosed email sent six months before the contentious meeting and shared with STAT, had assured the industry’s leading trade group that research like Siegel’s on alcohol advertising would never again be funded. In a written response to STAT, Koob said the email “was to convey that I had no intention of supporting research that was not of the highest scientific quality."

STAT’s Sharon Begley has the scoop — read here.  

OB-GYNs take on immigration policy for pregnant women

Some of the nation’s most prominent medical groups are urging the Trump administration to reconsider its treatment of pregnant women detained after entering the U.S. illegally. Last week, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement announced it’d scrapped a policy that allowed most pregnant women to be released while their cases make their way through immigration court. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians have fired off a letter to ICE urging the agency to reverse its decision.

“Pregnant immigrant women and adolescents should have access to high levels of care, care that is not available in these [immigration] facilities,” they write. “The decision puts the health of women and adolescents and their pregnancies at great risk.”

Hawaii passes medical aid in dying measure

Hawaii is set to become the sixth state to formally legalize medical aid in dying. Gov. David Ige has said he’ll sign the bill, which was passed by state lawmakers late last week. It gives mentally competent adults who have been given six months or less to live the right to request prescriptions for lethal doses of drugs. California, Colorado, Oregon, and Vermont have already legalized medical aid in dying, as has D.C. The law comes amid a nationwide conversation about medical aid in death —  and like many state legislatures, the medical community remains divided on the ethics of the practice.

Meet the winners of STAT Madness

The transverse section of a mouse heart is the model Jitka Virag uses for her research. (ECU UNIVERSITY)

This morning, STAT announced the winners of our STAT Madness bracket, which searched for the most innovative research in medicine. Here’s a look at the two winners:

  • Editors’ pick: Research led by Dr. Jennifer Wargo at MD Anderson, which found that the bacteria in a patient’s body might determine how well that patient responded to a relatively new kind of cancer drug, called checkpoint inhibitors. More here.

  • Crowd favorite: Research led by physiologist Jitka Vang at East Carolina University, which challenged the idea that a heart cell can’t recover once it’s deprived of oxygen. More here

Surgeon general kicks off National Public Health Week

Surgeon General Jerome Adams is kicking off National Public Health Week today by talking about some of the most pressing public health issues facing the nation in a speech this morning. It's part of an American Public Health Association event which will also feature Jen Luettel Schweer, who runs the sexual assault prevention and response program at Georgetown, and Sinsi Hernandez-Cancio, who works to reduce health disparities through Families USA. You can tune in to the talks here throughout the day today. 

Potential link between high blood pressure and pregnancy loss 

A new analysis to be published in Hypertension finds that high blood pressure before conception is linked to a higher risk of pregnancy loss. Researchers looked back on health data from more than 1,200 women who were part of a trial on whether low-dose aspirin could prevent miscarriage in women who'd lost a previous pregnancy. For every 10 mmHG increase in diastolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure measure — they saw an 18 percent higher risk for pregnancy loss. The big caveat: This doesn't show cause and effect. There's a need for more research to determine whether treating high blood pressure before pregnancy might improve outcomes. 

What to read around the web today

  • Battling heroin with a hearse and a prayer. NPR
  • Hospitals are germy, noisy places. Some acutely ill patients are getting treated at home instead. Washington Post
  • Bologna blamed in worst listeria outbreak in history. New York Times

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


Have a news tip or comment you want to send me?

Send me an email