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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Insurance and pharma companies escape candidates' wrath at third Democratic debate

Last night’s Democratic debate opened with a raucous sparring session on health care. But unlike the previous two debates, insurance and pharma companies escaped largely unscathed. Candidates spent more time bickering about their individual health care plans. During the previous debates, former Vice President Joe Biden promised to throw health insurance executives in jail —  the only true jab at that industry this time came from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who said, “I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company.”

No candidate broke new ground on drug pricing. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I- Vt.) reiterated his promise to cap copays at $200 a year, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) emphasized working with Sanders to introduce legislation to cut costs for 43 million seniors. “I figure that's a lot of seniors and they should be allowed to get a better price,” she said. 

New Walmart health clinic will see first patients today 

The first Walmart-owned primary care clinic is opening its doors today. The company is among the biggest pharmacy retailers in the U.S., and the new clinic signals Walmart’s continued interest in the health care field. The company already provides some primary care services at Care Clinics in Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, and has leased space to other mental health providers. But the new primary clinic — called Walmart Health and located in Dallas, Ga. — will have a range of both physical and mental health services as well as dental checkups. And unlike the other sites, the clinic will be located just outside the Walmart store to give patients more privacy. The center also accepts a wide range of insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid. 

FDA experts to debate peanut allergy therapy

An FDA advisory panel is holding a meeting today to discuss the safety and efficacy of Aimmune’s peanut allergen powder, which is designed to prevent anaphylaxis in children with peanut allergies. In clinical trials, the powder has shown great efficacy, although questions still remain about the associated risks. Most people in the trials reported mild to moderate allergic reactions, but the trial was only conducted over a one-year period, and the long-term effects of relying on the powder are unclear. At the same time, new research published yesterday suggests that people may need to take the powder for an extended amount of time to continue to see its protective effects. If the committee of FDA experts votes today to recommend the powder’s approval, it would be the first product to treat a peanut allergy on the market.

Inside STAT: 'The switch’ was supposed to help eradicate polio. Now it’s a quandary

A child is vaccinated against polio in Kajiado, Kenya. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Three years ago, public health experts made the switch from a type of vaccine that immunized  against three types of poliovirus — types 1, 2, and 3 — to a version that no longer included protection against type 2 polioviruses. Why? Because in 2015, those viruses were declared eradicated and vaccinating children against type 2 viruses occasionally caused paralysis. In most parts of the world the switch went well, but in parts of Africa, outbreaks caused by type 2 vaccine viruses are forcing the polio eradication campaign to ask itself a very tough question: Should it switch back? A new vaccine that should solve the problem will be available in mid-2020. Can the program wait? STAT’s Helen Branswell has more

Pizza for health and other offbeat research win parody Nobels

The Ig Nobels, the parody version of the prestigious Swedish awards, were announced at a ceremony last night, and this year’s winners did not disappoint when it came to delivering funny — yet thought-provoking — research. The medicine winner was an Italian team of scientists who investigated whether eating pizza could protect against illness and death, and their work — published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal — found that pizza made in Italy might have some protective effects. Other notable research: dead, magnetized cockroaches apparently behave differently than living, magnetized ones; saliva estimates in a typical 5-year old; and how holding a pen in one’s mouth can elicit a smile. Curious about why and how the winners did their research? Tune in to a webcast tomorrow afternoon for what’s sure to be a funny and informative session!

Some 20% of cyclists say they were wearing helmets when they were injured

Only about 1 in 5 cyclists who were injured riding their bicycle report wearing helmets, according to new research. Here’s more from the study, which looked at data from more than 76,000 people who reported a bicycle-related head or neck injury between 2002 and 2012: 

  • By gender: Some 28% of women reported wearing a helmet, compared to about 20% of men. 

  • By race: Some 27% of cyclists who were white or Asian/Pacific Islander reported wearing helmets, while only around 8% of Hispanic cyclists reported doing so. Some 6% of black cyclists said they wore a helmet at the time of their injury. 

  • By age: Adults aged 40 and younger were most likely to have been wearing a helmet, while children and teens under the age of 17 were the least likely. 

What to read around the web today

  • New York City looks to repeal ‘gay conversion therapy’ ban. The Associated Press
  • Historians push to create public archive of documents from massive opioid litigation. STAT
  • In the world’s highest city, a lack of oxygen ravages the body. Science
  • The game that made rats jump for joy. The Atlantic
  • Nursing homes are a breeding ground for a fatal fungus. The New York Times

Have a nice weekend! I’ll see you Monday!


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Friday, September 13, 2019


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