Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion law from taking effect

The Supreme Court has blocked a Louisiana law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Opponents have said that the law, which was set to go into effect Monday, would have shuttered nearly all of the state's abortion clinics. Admitting privileges can be hard for abortion providers to obtain because there are often requirements that they admit a certain number of patients each year, but abortion complications that require hospitalization are rare. In a 5-4 vote, the court's liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that the state can't enforce the law while the legal battle plays out. The court could still rule on whether the law poses an undue burden to a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. It struck down a similar Texas law as unconstitutional in 2016.

Johnson & Johnson will put list prices in TV ads

Johnson & Johnson says it's going to start sharing the list price of its drugs in TV ads, which would make it the first drug company to do so. Scott White, who runs North American drug marketing for J&J, tells the AP that the company will start with the blood thinner Xarelto. Commercials for the commonly prescribed drug will include Xarelto's list price and the typical amount people pay out of pocket. It'll also point viewers to a site where they can plug in their insurance information and get detailed cost data. The decision comes after the Trump administration proposed requiring drug makers to put list prices in TV ads. For the most part, the industry has pushed back on that idea.

Researchers dig into the data on gender equity in science and medicine

The Lancet is out with a new issue on gender equity in science, medicine, and global health. Here's a look at the takeaways of three papers in the issue:

  • Research gaps: Only 1 in 3 biomedical studies include data on sex differences, which can limit how applicable the findings are in the real world. The study also found that women authors were more likely than their male counterparts to report data on sex.

  • Gender harassment: Four leaders in science, health, and medicine penned a letter calling for a movement to eliminate sexual and gender harassment in the field. “The health of our patients requires that systemic inequities be addressed. Now is the time for Time’s Up in health care,” they write.

  • Academic diversity: Researchers analyzed gender and ethnicity of faculty at 15 leading social science and public health universities in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. They found that despite policies and action plans to improve diversity, there were still wide disparities in the top academic positions.  

Lab Chat: How a tortoise inspired a new drug delivery method


A self-righting capsule orients itself in the gastric cavity and delivers biologic molecules to the tissue wall. (Felice Frankel)

Scientists have come up with an unconventional way to deliver drugs to the human body — and took a page from leopard tortoise shells to design the new system. I chatted with MIT’s Robert Langer about the research.

How does the new device work?

We have this tiny little system in a capsule that dissolves in the stomach. … We have to have it tumble the same way every time so it always lands on the exact spot. We modeled this after a certain kind of tortoise.This tortoise’s shell helps it to self-orient every time it’s flipped.

How does the device work once it lands in the right spot?

We have a little spring inside the system, and in that spring we have this little post that has highly concentrated insulin. We want that spring to eject that insulin post out, but we don’t want it to do it right away. So we have it in an osmotic core made of sugar. Depending on the thickness of that core, we can control the ejection time [using] moisture as a trigger. Then the spring can eject the insulin post out. It basically injects the insulin into the stomach wall.

Inside STAT: Scientists have ideas on how to spend Trump's $500 million for childhood cancer

The pediatric cancer community cheered President Trump's State of the Union promise to set aside another $500 million over the next decade to fund research into cures for more childhood cancers. Pediatric cancer has an overall high cure rate because of major strides against childhood leukemia, but “in other pediatric cancers, the cure rates haven’t changed in 20 years,” Dr. James Downing, president and CEO of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital tells STAT. Scientists say the extra money could help tackle a specific list of research questions, like how to bring the remarkable progress that immunotherapies have made in some adults to children with cancer. STAT’s Sharon Begley has the story here

A Mars rover is named after Rosalind Franklin

After fielding more than 36,000 ideas from the public, the European Space Agency has settled on a name for its new ExoMars rover: Rosalind Franklin. Franklin was a British chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work was critical to discovering the structure of DNA. She also made key contributions to the study of coal, graphite, and viruses. “This name reminds us that it is in the human genes to explore,” ESA Director General Jan Woerner said. The rover named for Franklin — which will be used to drill down into the soil of Mars and analyze its makeup — will launch next year.

China's drug watchdog declares plasma product free from HIV

Authorities from China’s National Medical Products Administration say a batch of blood plasma products has tested negative for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. As the South China Morning Post reports, the finding from China's drug watchdog contradicts a report earlier this week from the National Health Commission, which announced that the batch of drugs was contaminated and told hospitals to stop using the products. The health commission also ordered a recall of the IV immunoglobulin, which is produced from plasma and used to treat immune conditions.

What to read around the web today

  • First attempt at genome editing in U.S. patients produces disappointing — and sobering — results. STAT Plus
  • These men want the scientific community to acknowledge that a famous researcher sexually abused them. BuzzFeed
  • Trump administration salutes parade of generic drug approvals, but hundreds aren't for sale. Kaiser Health News
  • Hacienda HealthCare closing facility where patient was raped and gave birth. Arizona Republic
  • NIH asks inspector general to investigate 12 allegations of foreign influence in U.S. research. STAT

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful weekend,


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Friday, February 8, 2019


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