Friday, October 14, 2016

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy end of the week! Here's what you need to know about health and medicine today. 

Bernie Sanders rallies for drug price ballot initiative

Senator Bernie Sanders is speaking in Los Angeles this afternoon to rally support for California's Proposition 61, a ballot initiative that proponents say would put a stop to drug price gouging in the state. The proposal would require that all prescription drugs purchased by the state — which acts as a health care buyer for many Californians — be the same price or lower than the price paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA is able to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and pays a lower price for medicines than any other federal agency. Sanders, who’s been vocal about skyrocketing drug prices, is also appearing in TV ads to support Proposition 61.

Will Walmart's wellness fair make people well? 

Walmart is hosting a nationwide health fair tomorrow, bringing free health screenings and immunizations to shoppers across the country. Companies who will be handing out product samples and health information at the fair include Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and Mars — though the candy company sells rice and quinoa, not just Snickers and Twix. It’s garnered quite the hype — Drug Store News reports Walmart has the potential to reach 90 percent of America with this year's "wellness day." And while 280,000 health screenings happened at last year’s fair, there’s actually very little research on whether such fairs significantly change the health outcomes of attendees.

Planned Parenthood celebrates 100 years 

Sunday marks 100 years since the founding of the country’s first birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The clinic — which was opened by activists Margaret Sanger, Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell — was quickly raided by police and shut down. But in the century since, the work of that clinic has grown into what’s known today as Planned Parenthood, which now operates nearly 650 health centers across the US. Planned Parenthood’s centennial comes at a tumultuous time for the women’s health organization — Republicans in Congress are still trying to end Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, while 24 states have attempted to cut off funding or restrict access to the organization’s clinics.

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Inside STAT:  When delirium strikes ICU patients

Anywhere from a third to more than 80 percent of ICU patients suffer from “delirium” during their stay — a sudden, deep confusion that can result in hallucinations, paranoia, and delusion. One-quarter of ICU patients leave the hospital with post-traumatic stress disorder, a rate that’s similar to those seen in combat veterans and rape victims. Doctors and nurses who’ve come to understand the scope of the issue are spearheading an ambitious campaign to change how ICUs run in an effort to cut down on delirium cases. “This is a massive, massive public health problem,” said Dr. Wes Ely of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who was among the first to recognize the prevalence of ICU delirium. STAT’s Usha Lee McFarling has the story here

The biggest threats in health, per potential WHO leaders

The World Health Organization is on the hunt for its next director-general, with six candidates from across the globe in the running. The editors of the Lancet grilled those candidates on ten questions in a new editorial, including what the candidates see as the three biggest health threats to people across the world. Here’s what they said:

  • Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: Lack of access to basic health services, antimicrobial resistance, and the health impacts of climate change.

  • Flavia Bustreo: Epidemics and humanitarian emergencies, health harms of climate change, and slow responses to demographic changes like population aging.

  • Philippe Douste-Blazy: Emerging epidemics, non-communicable diseases, and diminishing attention to health as a global public good.

  • David Nabarro: Poverty, inequality, and weak governance; existing and emerging epidemics, and making health too low a priority.

  • Sania Nishtar: Infectious outbreaks and emergencies with health consequences, antimicrobial resistance, and non-communicable diseases.

  • Miklós Szócska: Health consequences of climate change, irresponsible behaviors ranging from monopoly drug pricing to antibiotic use in the food supply, and genomics moving outside the domain of medical and health ethics.

Read their answers in full here.

New device could keep an eye on heart patients

The orange strip can detect proteins that signal the onset of a heart attack. (university of texas at dallas)

Biomedical engineers have created a flexible, disposable sensor that can warn users when a heart attack is happening, before they might notice the symptoms themselves. Heart muscle cells that are damaged during a heart attack send out proteins called troponin. Low levels of troponin pop up in capillary blood, the kind found in fingertips, when that happens. That troponin can latch onto electrodes built into the device, which could make it easier to quickly detect the onset of a heart attack. Read about the work in Scientific Reports.

Birds sound warning about potential avian flu outbreaks

The migration patterns of wild birds could point to potential locations of bird flu outbreaks in humans, say experts writing in Science. Scientists scoped out the migration routes of birds that had been infected with the H5N8 virus, a subtype of bird flu that caused an avian outbreak in South Korea in early 2014. The virus went on to cause outbreaks among birds in Japan, North America, and Europe in the next year. The researchers traced that migration route from Asia to Europe and North America by way of a breeding ground in the Arctic. Keeping tabs on wild birds at breeding areas could give researchers an early heads up of specific bird flu strains that might pose a threat to people as those birds migrate, the study’s authors say.

What to read around the web today

  • Five in six infants in developing countries at risk of mental and physical harm, U.N. says. Reuters
  • WHO warns tuberculosis isn't under control. NPR
  • Generation Adderall. New York Times Magazine

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend,


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