Monday, June 11, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to Monday, everyone! FYI: STAT is getting ready to release "Runnin'," a documentary that follows a circle of friends in Somerville, Mass., caught up in the opioid epidemic. Sign up here to get an alert when it becomes available. 

Trial begins in landmark case against NCAA over CTE

A landmark trial to decide whether a major sports organization can be held responsible for a football player’s brain injuries and death decades later is set to get underway today. Debra Ploetz filed a wrongful death lawsuit blaming the NCAA for the death of her husband, Greg Ploetz, who played for the University of Texas from 1968 to 1971 and later suffered from severe neurological issues. After his death in 2015, doctors at Boston University determined Plotz had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a neurodegenerative disease found in people with a history of repeated head trauma. The lawsuit alleges the NCAA knew or should’ve known that repetitive hits to the head were dangerous and failed to protect players. 

Anheuser-Busch pulls funding from NIH study

Anheuser-Busch InBev is pulling its $15 million funding from a $100 million, 10-year clinical trial on the health benefits of moderate drinking. The company — one of five alcohol companies funding the research — said the controversy could threaten the study’s credibility, according to the New York Times. Last month, the NIH halted study enrollment after intense scrutiny of the agency-industry relationship. The New York Times reported that NIH officials met with industry groups to score funding and suggested the research would cast moderate drinking in a good light. And STAT reported that while the NIH's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism was quietly wooing the industry, it also rejected a study on the association between alcohol advertising and underage drinking.

CDC reports another pediatric flu death

The CDC has reported another pediatric flu death in the U.S., bringing the pediatric death toll to 172 this flu season. That’s the highest pediatric death toll for a flu season that wasn’t declared a pandemic since CDC started tracking pediatric flu deaths after the 2003-2004 season. And because flu death reports are often delayed, more reports could come over the next few months. The newly reported death was in late May. The news comes just a week after the CDC reported two more pediatric flu deaths, one in mid-May and the other in early February.

Sponsor content by Amgen

Exploring a novel bispecific technology engineered to fight a number of cancers 

Prognosis remains poor for patients with B-cell cancers who fail to respond or relapse after chemotherapy.1 But Bispecific T Cell Engager immuno-oncology, or BiTE®, is designed to help engage the body's endogenous T cells to target malignant cancer cells.2 Learn more about BiTE® here.

1Nagorsen, D, et al. Pharmacol Ther. 2012;136:334-342.
2Baeuerle PA, Reinhardt C. Cancer Res. 2009;69:4941­-­4944.


Inside STAT: Former employees lay out IBM's struggles with Watson Health


IBM made an expensive gamble when it spent billions to acquire three companies with vast stores of patient health data. The company hoped that its Watson supercomputer could mine the data for insights to sell to hospitals — but it hasn’t worked out that way. Last month, IBM laid off Watson Health employees who were tasked with turning the idea into a revenue stream for the tech giant. Layoffs are typical after acquisitions like IBM’s, but STAT's interviews with former employees suggest Watson Health is grappling with a bigger problem: The company has struggled to turn its trove of patient data into workable products. STAT’s Casey Ross and Ike Swetlitz have the story here. ​

WHO helps countries prep for potential Ebola cases

It’s been just over a month since health officials launched a response to an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As of June 7, there have been 59 confirmed, probable, or suspected cases of Ebola, including 27 deaths. In recent days, the focus has shifted from urban areas to some of the most remote parts of the country, the WHO says. Epidemiologists are traveling through villages and rainforests to scour for cases and track contacts of people who might have been infected. Meanwhile, the WHO is helping nine countries around DRC bolster their emergency response systems in case the outbreak spreads further. ​

Salmonella outbreaks linked to pre-cut fruit and backyard chickens

Health officials are investigating several new salmonella outbreaks. One outbreak, linked to pre-cut melons sold in the Midwest, has sickened 60 people in five states, 31 of whom have been hospitalized. The FDA says it’s moving quickly to pinpoint the source of that outbreak. And the CDC is also investigating salmonella infections linked to live poultry in backyard flocks. There have been 124 people sickened in 36 states, and about one-third of those who’ve fallen ill are children under age 5. The CDC is reminding the public that it’s critical to wash hands thoroughly right after touching live poultry or anything around it. ​

What to read around the web today

  • China is genetically engineering monkeys with brain disorders. The Atlantic
  • Five first responders to the Pulse massacre. One diagnosis: PTSD. WMFE
  • AbbVie is reprimanded by the FDA for failing to properly probe death complaints. STAT Plus
  • The American Medical Association has long opposed assisted suicide. Is that about to change? Washington Post
  • With short outbreaks and complex permissions, testing critical Ebola treatments is a challenge. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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