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Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

Heads up: STAT's Erin Mershon, Nicholas Florko, and Lev Facher are answering your questions about what the midterms mean for health care in a free live chat tomorrow at 1 p.m. Sign up here

Democrats took the House. Here’s what that means for health and medicine

Propelled by promises to protect people with pre-existing conditions and cut drug costs, Democrats have taken the majority in the House of Representatives. Now, Democrats are in a far better position to test the health care agenda they have campaigned on for the past year. Nancy Pelosi, who could regain her role as House speaker, told STAT recently that addressing high drug prices will be one of the party's first priorities. But their ambitions will likely be curtailed by a Republican-held Senate and and the Trump White House, STAT's Lev Facher reports

Lev was at the watch party last night in New Jersey for Republican Senate candidate and former Celgene CEO Bob Hugin, who lost his bid to unseat Sen. Bob Menendez. Read his dispatch here

How voters cast their ballots on health care issues

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(alex hogan / stat)

Voters across the country also weighed in on ballot measures to expand Medicaid, cap nursing staff ratios, and legalize medical marijuana. Here's what you need to know:

  • Medicaid expansion: Voters in three states — Utah, Idaho, and Nebraska — appeared to approve Medicaid expansion. It's not clear yet whether Montana voters agreed to renew Medicaid expansion funding by raising the cigarette tax. 
  • Medical marijuana: Voters in Utah and Missouri legalized medical marijuana, but North Dakota voters decided against legalization.  
  • Abortion access: In Alabama and West Virginia, voters approved changing their constitutions to make clear they don't protect the right to an abortion or require abortion funding. Those measures could be challenged in court. Voters in Oregon shot down a proposal to ban publicly funded health programs from covering abortions. 
  • Nurse staffing: In Massachusetts, voters defeated an initiative spearheaded by a nurses union that would have capped the number of patients assigned to a nurse’s care.
  • Dialysis charges: California voters defeated a measure that would have limited profits for dialysis clinics. The dialysis industry had spent millions to oppose the proposal. 

Three cases of mysterious illness found in Arkansas

Three children in Arkansas have been diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, the rare, polio-like condition that can cause limb paralysis. The CDC is investigating a uptick in reported cases of AFM, but still doesn’t know what causes the illness. There have been 80 confirmed cases of AFM across 25 states, according to CDC data through Nov. 2, and most of those cases were kids. Health officials first spotted a spike in AFM cases in 2014, and there have been cases each year since. But the number of cases has been higher on alternate years — and this year is one in which the numbers are higher.

Blood pressure problems as a young adult tied to higher heart disease risk

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(JAMA)

Having high blood pressure and hypertension before age 40 is tied to a higher risk of cardiovascular problems in middle age, researchers report in JAMA. The study followed a cohort of 4,800 adults — some with blood pressure problems, some without — for roughly two decades. Those with elevated blood pressure, stage 1 hypertension, or stage 2 hypertension were significantly more likely to go on to have a stroke, experience heart failure, or develop cardiovascular disease. And while the finding doesn't show cause and effect, the authors say blood pressure guidelines could be used to pinpoint young adults at high risk of heart problems.

Drug distributor urged to overhaul executive pay amid opioid lawsuits

Drug distribution giant Cardinal Health has been hit with a slew of lawsuits alleging it fueled the opioid epidemic by failing to flag or stop suspicious painkiller shipments. Now, ahead of Cardinal's annual shareholder meeting today, some investors are calling on the company to rethink how its execs are paid in light of the possible costs of those lawsuits. Their argument: Settlements and fines could be costly, and executives should shoulder some of that bill. Cardinal has already reached a $20 million settlement with West Virginia and a $44 million agreement with the Justice Department. 

Duncan Hines cake mixes are being recalled

Four kinds of Duncan Hines cake mixes are being recalled as federal officials investigate whether the products are connected to a handful of cases of salmonella. The CDC is looking into five cases of people infected with the same kind of salmonella that turned up in a cake mix sample. It isn't clear yet if those illnesses are tied directly to the cake mix. But several of the people who fell ill reported consuming cake mix before getting sick, and some may also have eaten the cake batter before cooking it. The CDC is reminding people to never eat raw batter and to clean surfaces that came into contact with raw batter.

What to read around the web today

  • Suicides among Japanese children reach highest level in three decades. New York Times
  • How hospitals can tackle the maternal mortality crisis. NPR
  • These six biotech startups got venture funding a year ago. Where are they now? STAT Plus
  • CVS to test stores with added health services early next year after Aetna deal close. CNBC

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

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