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Monday, April 23, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to the work week, everyone, and welcome to Morning Rounds! Here's what you need to know about health and medicine today. 

Trump's big drug prices speech has been postponed

President Trump’s first big speech on drug prices, which was scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed. Trump was slated to discuss the administration’s new plan to bring down drug prices, though it’s not expected to result in any major legislation any time soon. Coinciding with the president's remarks, HHS is also expected to put out a call for information on different ideas to tackle high drug prices. The White House says the speech will be rescheduled for sometime in the near future.

Another part of the administration’s drug pricing approach to keep an eye on: the president's five nominees to run the Federal Trade Commission, which has the power to block mergers and acquisitions and investigate companies over their business practices. Trump's picks have signaled they might take aim at pharma companies. More here for STAT Plus subscribers.

Liquid nicotine exposures among kids are falling

Calls to U.S. poison control centers about kids exposed to liquid nicotine are declining, researchers report in Pediatrics. Between January 2012 and April 2017, there were more than 8,200 liquid nicotine exposures reported in kids under 6. With exposure rates climbing, former President Obama signed a law requiring child-resistant liquid nicotine packages. In the nine months after the law became effective in July 2016, monthly liquid nicotine exposures among young children fell nearly 19 percent. The study doesn’t show cause and effect, and there were likely other factors involved, including increased awareness. The study’s authors say more changes — such as banning candy-like flavors and branding for e-cigs — could help lower exposures even more.

FDA authorizes test to detect deadly superbug

A strain of Candida auris cultured in a Petri dish. (CDC)

The FDA has authorized the first test to detect Candida auris, a deadly superbug that is resistant to many anti-fungal drugs. The fungus has infected dozens of people in the U.S. in recent years, and health officials are worried it could spread. Last year, then-acting CDC director Anne Schuchat told STAT that C. auris poses a “catastrophic threat” to the public. Now, the FDA is hoping to make it easier to rapidly detect C. auris and stave off outbreaks with new tools. The agency is allowing the makers of an existing microbial identification system — which has already been cleared by the FDA to identify other bacteria and yeast — to also market it as a way to identify C. auris.

Sponsor content by Merck

Chronic kidney disease patients at high risk for hepatitis C

Those with the most serious forms of chronic kidney disease (CKD) who are on hemodialysis are nine times more likely to contract hepatitis C than the general population. Chronic hepatitis C can not only increase the risk of serious liver damage, but also accelerate the progression of CKD. Historically, CKD made treating chronic hepatitis C more difficult, but now there are effective options for these patients. Learn about the implications of the link between CKD and hepatitis C — and how the medical community is responding to this challenge.

Inside STAT: Experts grapple with a vaccine dilemma

Vaccines protect wide swaths of people, particularly children, from often-deadly diseases. But in rare cases, certain vaccines can cause harm. How do scientists figure out which to value more? Sometimes the decision is clear, and sometimes the calculus is more complicated. Public health experts and ethicists have to consider a number of factors, from how severe the disease is to how difficult it is to treat a vaccine’s side effects. After last week's decision to sharply scale back use of a dengue vaccine, STAT’s Helen Branswell took a look at how the vaccine dilemma has played out over time — read here.

The CDC's new push to help smokers quit

The CDC is launching a new round of advertisements today aimed at helping smokers quit. The “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign highlights stories from people who’ve quit smoking, including several who’ve been diagnosed with cancers linked to tobacco use, and points smokers to a tobacco cessation hotline for help. The agency will put out the print, online, and TV ads for six months, and will hit markets with higher rates of cigarette smoking with additional advertisements to drive the point home.

A new clue about how the brain copes with changing expectations

Scientists have pinpointed a spot in the brain that might play a part in how we deal with changing expectations. In research published this morning in Nature Communications, researchers say the midbrain responds when you see something unexpected, like roadwork. That information gets tucked away for future use in the orbitofrontal cortex. To test the idea, they exposed participants to food smells while showing them corresponding dishes. Then, using fMRI to monitor brain activity, they exposed participants to a smell like caramel while showing them a food like pot roast and watched as the midbrain kicked into gear. The finding gives researchers new insight into how the brain goes about everyday decision-making.

What to read around the web today

  • A scientist finds her child's rare illness stems from the gene she studies. New York Times
  • NIH is sued for plans to award exclusive license for CAR-T therapy to Gilead. STAT Plus
  • Opioid deaths prompt Ohio to reimagine kindergarten lessons. Washington Post
  • SEC extends probe into Northwest Biotherapeutics. STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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