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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Drug pricing gets its moment in the debate spotlight

"Medicare for All" has overshadowed most health care discussions in the seven Democratic presidential debates thus far, but the issue of lowering prescription drug costs finally had its time in the spotlight at last night's event. South Bend, Indiana’s former Mayor Pete Buttigieg pushed his plan to cap consumers’ drug costs at $250 a month, while former Vice President Joe Biden called for preventing drug makers from hiking their prices beyond inflation. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) faced the most pointed drug-related question of the night when she was asked to defend her plan for the government to manufacture its own — and cheaper — generic drugs. “[Pharma] has figured out how to manipulate this industry [to] keep jerking the prices up and up and up,” Warren said. “My view is, let’s give them a little competition.”

MIT biologist named in Epstein report adopts new policies for prospective funders

Kevin Esvelt, an MIT Media Lab biologist who met with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein as part of the university's efforts to cultivate him as a donor, has adopted new policies on prospective funders, he tells STAT. According to last week's report on MIT's interactions with Epstein, Esvelt was one of two prominent biologists who met with Epstein (the other was Ed Boyden). Esvelt’s lab website says it’s "doing [its] best to focus on supporting those who were harmed and pressing for sorely needed institutional reforms," such as a policy that the lab "not rely entirely on [its] PI, on the Media Lab Director and grants team, on the MIT development office, or on MIT central administration to vet [their] donors or associations," and other reforms listed on the lab's website. “The system failed and needs reform," the website states. 

New WNBA union deal offers sweeping family and parental benefits

The WNBA and its union came to a far-reaching deal yesterday that adds new wellness and family benefits. In addition to higher salaries and travel improvements, the new benefits, once approved, will provide players on maternity leave with their full salary, and will create a dedicated space in arenas for nursing mothers. Players will also be eligible for a $5,000 annual child care stipend, and those with children will be guaranteed two-bedroom apartments. Other family benefits include up to $60,000 in reimbursable expenses for fees associated with adoption, surrogacy, egg freezing, and fertility treatments. The deal also offers added resources for mental health, domestic and intimate partner violence, nutrition, and women’s health experts. 

Inside STAT: 'How long do I have?’ A website on cancer survival rates seeks to help


The complex world of cancer prognosis and survival rates may get easier with a new website being launched by one of the people behind the drug pricing website GoodRx. Called, the website hopes to make more accessible to patients and their families information that was previously siloed to specialized corners of the internet or physicians’ offices. Still, a website providing generalized information about a patient’s survival prospects — albeit based on personal information including age, gender, and diagnosis details — has oncologists skeptical. But the website’s creators say that the resource is just a starting point for more in-depth conversations. Read more from STAT’s Elizabeth Cooney here

More than 40% of physicians experience burnout

A new report examining physician mental health finds that 42% of the more than 15,000 doctors surveyed report burnout, down from 46% five years ago. Here’s more:

  • By specialty: Nearly 55% of urologists report experiencing burnout, something that was also shared by half of neurologists and nephrologists. 

  • By age: Almost half of Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) report burnout, compared to around 40% of millennials (born 1981-1996) and boomers (born between 1946-1964). Between 15%-18% of physicians of each age group report feeling depressed. 

  • Mitigating factors: 49% of physicians would accept a salary cut in exchange for better work-life balance. Millennials are most likely to deal with their symptoms with sleep, while more than 40% of those in each generation use exercise to cope.

FDA is approving more drugs with faster review times

As the FDA has steadily greenlighted more drugs in recent years, a new study that examined approvals going back to 1970 reveals that the agency has also relied on less — and sometimes weaker — evidence. The use of mechanisms for expedited review — including accelerated approval — has also increased over time. The proportion of drugs that were approved with data from at least two major trials decreased from almost 81% between 1995-1997 to around 53% between 2015-2018. In 1983, the FDA spent around three years reviewing drug applications, but that dropped to less than a year in 2017. Still, the time for a drug to go from clinical testing to FDA approval has stayed consistent at around eight years. 

What to read around the web today

  • What neurobiology can tell us about suicide. The Scientist
  • After a single patient drives a big stock surge, Patrick Soon-Shiong makes his case to investors. STAT Plus
  • University of Florida also a target in foreign research scandal. Tampa Bay Times
  • Researchers facing ‘shocking’ levels of stress, survey reveals. The Guardian
  • China: Possible that new virus could spread between humans. The Associated Press

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Wednesday, January 15, 2020


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