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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Bellwether trial in opioid lawsuits begin in Ohio 

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin today in the first federal trial over the opioid epidemic in the U.S. Two Ohio counties — Cuyahoga and Summit — are suing generics drug manufacturer Teva, four drug distributors as well as Walgreens over their alleged role in fueling the opioid crisis. Johnson & Johnson previously settled with the counties, and OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma is trying to reach a deal for all its lawsuits through bankruptcy court. Today’s trial is considered a bellwether to provide a test case for other such trials against pharmaceutical companies. Negotiations to settle a larger case involving more than 2,600 lawsuits filed by local governments and other entities suing drug companies failed late last week, after those suing the companies didn't accept a deal that entailed $48 billion in cash, drugs for treatment, as well as other services for those battling opioid addiction. 

Zantac pulled from U.S. and Canada amid fears of contamination

Drug maker Sanofi announced late last week that it was pulling its over-the-counter heartburn medication Zantac in the U.S. and Canada over fears of contamination. Last month, the FDA announced it was investigating why low levels of a chemical known as N-nitrosodimethylamine — or NDMA — which the EPA has classified as possibly causing cancer, were found in some heartburn medicines. Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens recently also announced that they were pulling the drug from their shelves, and other pharmaceutical companies have also said that they would stop distributing generic versions of the medicine. In a statement, Sanofi said it was working with authorities to determine the extent of the recall and encouraged patients taking Zantac to speak with their health care providers or pharmacists for further information. 

Wide variations in how mothers report adhering to safe sleep practices

Parents are encouraged to use safe sleep practices with their infants — including placing sleeping babies on their backs — to avoid risks such as SIDS, but a new study finds there isn’t universal adherence to these recommendations. Researchers used CDC survey data of new mothers in 29 states and found that 78% said they usually placed their infants on their back. However, only 57% reported sharing a room without sharing a bed, while about 42% avoided using a soft-bedding surface, both of which are practices endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. There was also wide variation in the advice the mothers say they received from their physicians: Most reported hearing about placing infants on their backs while less than half said they were told about room sharing without bed sharing.  

Inside STAT: After decades-long campaign, type 3 polioviruses are set to be eradicated 

A health worker immunizes a child against polio during a vaccination campaign in Kano, Nigeria. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Thursday is World Polio Day, and there may be some good news to mark the occasion. A global commission is expected to announce that of the three poliovirus species — type 1, 2, and 3 — type 3 has been eradicated, leaving only type 1 left to fight. The news is especially welcome because the quest to eradicate all polio, which has formally been in the works since 1988, is 20 years past its original target date. Having news to celebrate will “show the world that we are making progress, even though it is a challenging situation and we have huge hurdles,” Michel Zaffran, director of polio eradication for WHO, one of several partners in the polio eradication campaign, tells STAT’s Helen Branswell. Read more here

Native Americans may have a higher risk for irregular heartbeat

A new study finds that Native Americans are at a higher risk of irregular heartbeat — or atrial fibrillation — than people of other ethnicities. Looking at data from 300,000 new cases of the condition, which can increase the risk for stroke and other heart diseases, researchers found that the rate of new cases per year in Native Americans was roughly 7.5 times per year for every 1,000 patients, but was 6.9 per 1,000 patients of other ethnic groups. The disparity existed even when the scientists accounted for age, sex, income, and the presence of other heart conditions. One caveat: The study was conducted using data only from those in California, so the findings may not be generalizable to the rest of the U.S.  

Majority say technology has improved their physician interactions 

A survey from a health IT software company ResMed finds that over half of people surveyed say that technology has improved the relationship they have with their physicians. Here’s more: 

  • Communication: 1 in 5 report using online messaging to chat with their doctor, but 47% report wanting to be able to do it more. Nearly 40% say they want to video chat with their physician, while 12% report currently doing so. 

  • Treatment: About two-thirds want technology to play a bigger role in sharing real-time information with their physician to aid in making diagnoses and treatment decisions. 

  • Use of technology: 56% of respondents monitor their health with at least one digital tool, and these users were also more likely to regularly see a physician, exercise regularly, and get screened for high-risk conditions.

What to read around the web today

  • Opinion: Put communities at the center of universal health coverage. STAT
  • Russian ‘CRISPR-baby’ scientist has started editing genes in human eggs with goal of altering deaf gene. Nature
  • A biotech real estate firm wants a new slogan. WeWork says not so fast. STAT Plus
  • Scientists 'may have crossed ethical line' in growing human brains. The Guardian
  • A ‘menopause champion’ at work? Yes. You also get paid leave. The New York Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Monday, October 21, 2019


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