Monday, August 28, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, and hope you had a great weekend! STAT reporter Andrew Joseph here, bringing you today's health and medicine news:

Public health emergency declared in Texas

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Saturday declared a public health emergency in Texas as Hurricane Harvey swept into the state, bringing feet of rain to some places. HHS mobilized hundreds of health workers, brought transportable medical centers into the region, and helped evacuate patients from hospitals in Victoria. It also activated the Disaster Distress Helpline to serve people dealing with behavioral health issues from the storm (the number is 1-800-985-5990). Before the storm, 10 babies were moved from NICUs in Corpus Christi to north Texas, but hospitals generally kept their patients in place, in part because they’ve made upgrades after prior storms. But so much rain inundated the Houston area over the weekend that as of Sunday night, Ben Taub Hospital, the largest public hospital in Harris County, was readying for patient evacuations, the Houston Chronicle reported. In nearby Pasadena, Bayshore Medical Center started evacuating all of its patients after the hospital lost power. 

Despite Trump's words, no opioid crisis emergency yet

Speaking of emergencies: It’s now been more than two weeks since President Trump said his administration was drawing up the paperwork to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency, but one has yet to go into effect. So what gives? It seems that the administration wasn’t ready when Trump said that an emergency was being declared, and a White House spokesperson told STAT Friday that a legal review is ongoing, presumably meaning that officials are still deciding under which law to declare an emergency and what authorities to grant. “The president’s policy advisors are working through the details with all of the relevant components and agencies,” the spokesperson said.

New breakthrough in preventing heart attacks

While you were relaxing this weekend, a host of new cardiovascular studies were published as the European Society of Cardiology Congress was underway in Barcelona. One big discovery: new research that shows that a drug that targets inflammation can decrease the risk of heart attacks and potentially lung cancer as well. The findings were seen as a major milestone that offered a new path forward to treating cardiovascular disease. (More of that research here.) Among the other studies: One that found giving oxygen to people having heart attacks whose oxygen levels are fine doesn’t do anything to help them.

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Inside STAT: California investors pour millions into pot


all that glitters is green (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The new strain of the gold rush has a decidedly green color. In California, wealthy investors are pouring tens of millions into the cannabis industry as the state readies for the legalization of recreational marijuana next year. Folks are backing the development of new medicinal products as well as research into the DNA of each cannabis strain. It’s an attempt to get in on the ground floor before the market for pot and related products reaches an expected $6.5 billion in a few years. But marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, and the Trump administration is seen as no friend to the industry. STAT’s Charles Piller has the story from Oakland.

How should doctors handle 'complementary therapies'?

The American Academy of Pediatrics is out with a new guide on “complementary therapies” — treatments developed outside the standards of regular medicine. The report serves as a reference for research into the therapies. It notes that some complementary therapies, such as fish oil and certain probiotics, appear to have benefits for pregnant women, fetuses, or children. But it also calls for more training for doctors to better understand these therapies, for doctors to ask their patients if they’re using these therapies, and for additional safety standards for some products, particularly those marketed as “natural” treatments but that have dangerous effects.

Look what you made the zebrafish do

Researchers at University of Utah Health have built a system that allows zebrafish to give themselves small doses of hydrocodone, part of an effort to learn more about the biology of addiction. After a week, the fish started taking risks if it meant they could get another dose, and when the hydrocodone was taken away, the fish became anxious and stressed, exhibiting signs of withdrawal. Zebrafish are a helpful model for investigating human biology, and the researchers plan to study the fish to understand the pathways of addiction, and how those could potentially be blocked.

State halts admissions at addiction treatment center

Hours after STAT and the Boston Globe published an investigation into evidence of turmoil and shoddy care at some of Recovery Centers of America’s clinics, the state of Massachusetts on Friday shut down admissions at one of the centers, citing “concerns regarding patient care and safety.” The state’s move came a week after the death of a patient who was being treated at the facility, located north of Boston. RCA says it is the “fastest-growing” addiction treatment provider in the country and offers “five-star” care. It has defended its care.

What to read around the web today

  • White House anti-drug office asks Mass. for medical marijuana data. Boston Globe
  • Minnesota's measles outbreak ends after sickening 79 people. Star Tribune
  • Canadian health care leader to be next MD Anderson president. Houston Chronicle

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! My colleague Max Blau will be filling in tomorrow. 


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