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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Containing new coronavirus may not be feasible, experts say

The new coronavirus emerging from China has sickened more than 2,700 and killed 80, and some infectious disease experts are warning that it may no longer be possible to contain. The virus has already spread to at least 14 countries and territories outside of mainland China, which have reported nearly 60 cases in total. The U.S. reported three new cases over the weekend, bringing its total to five — two people in southern California and one in Arizona, all three of whom had recently traveled to Wuhan. If the virus' circulation can’t be stopped in China, experts say there could potentially be sustained spread around the world. “The more we learn about it, the greater the possibility is that transmission will not be able to be controlled with public health measures,” says Dr. Allison McGeer, a Toronto-based infectious disease specialist, who also cautions that the true severity of the outbreak isn’t known at this point.

Caregivers feel listened to by health workers, but are rarely asked about needing help

While most family and unpaid caregivers looking after older adults feel listened to when talking with the adults’ health care provider, a small new survey finds that few are asked about needing assistance. Here’s more: 

  • Interaction with health providers: The vast majority of those surveyed said they always or usually feel heard by the older adults’ health providers. At the same time, fewer than half of caregivers interact with clinicians. 

  • Assistance: Almost half of caregivers said they were never asked about needing help tending to the person under their care, while about 20% said they were always asked. Those who interacted with health workers were more likely to be asked about needing assistance with caregiving. 

  • Dementia care: Those assisting adults with dementia were more likely to report being listened to, and asked about needing help and whether they understood the medications they were handling.

Equal access to care could help reduce prostate cancer disparities

The results of a new study find that having ready access to the same quality of care could reduce prostate cancer disparities between African American and white men. Looking at data from more than 60,000 African American and white men who sought prostate cancer care at the VA — an equal-access health system — scientists found that, compared to the general population, African American men were not first diagnosed with more advanced stages of the disease, nor did they have significant delays in receiving a diagnosis or care. The 10-year mortality rate among African American men was slightly lower — at 4.4% — than the 5.1% rate among white men. Nationally, Black men have a higher chance of dying from prostate cancer than white men, and the authors suggest the difference in the study could be because veterans have equal access to care of the same quality.

Inside STAT: 'Gurus of sperm’: Ohana Biosciences takes a different approach to fertility


(MOLLY FERGUSON FOR STAT)

IVF “add-ons” — supplementary procedures that claim a more successful shot at a pregnancy, but are not necessary — are taking off, and Cambridge, Mass.-based Ohana Biosciences is getting in the game. The company’s focus is on sperm: improving its quality and motility to improve IVF or perhaps helping even people without fertility issues have healthier pregnancies or children. Ohana’s work is in early stages — its first clinical trial testing the company’s technology began last September. Still, experts say that it’s unclear whether improving the health of sperm has any long-term effects on the health of a pregnancy or a child, skepticism that the self-proclaimed “gurus of sperm” at Ohana will have to work to overcome. STAT Plus subscribers can read more from STAT’s Kate Sheridan here

Trump is first sitting president to attend March for Life

President Trump on Friday became the first sitting American president to speak at the annual anti-abortion March for Life rally, which he called a “profound honor.” In the past, Trump has described himself as “pro-choice,” but since launching his presidential campaign and taking office, he has appointed anti-abortion judges to courts across the country, and reinstated — and expanded — the Mexico City policy that withholds international aid for abortion services. He referred to both these steps in his speech, but also made false claims about Democrats’ support for the procedure “up until the moment of birth.”

At the same time, the administration on Friday warned California that its law requiring all health insurers to cover abortion was violating federal law. The administration threatened to withhold Medicaid funding to the state — more than $50 billion — if it did not comply. 

Q&A: Behind the movie deal on one reporter’s investigation into Purdue and the Sacklers

Los Angeles-based 101 Studios recently announced its plan to finance and distribute a feature film about investigative reporter David Armstrong — formerly of STAT, and now at ProPublica — and how he has worked for years to uncover how the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma contributed to the opioid crisis through aggressive marketing of its drug OxyContin. I spoke with Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet, the screenwriters behind this new project, to learn more. 

What inspired you to pursue this story?
Pullapilly: We had stumbled across the news articles a few years ago, and we were so impressed by the storytelling and the writing. These stories are just pretty incredible — the investigative reporting is fascinating, but also so detailed and specific. We both come from journalism, and it’s hard to impress journalists, but we were so taken by it. 

What are you hoping to impart? 
Gaudet: I don’t know if we’ll ever tackle a more important story because of how many lives [the opioid crisis] has affected. It’s so hard to keep people’s attention — they may read an article here and there, but if we can get them into a movie theater for two hours and really lay out the story in a very linear, cohesive way for them to understand [because] it’s really important for everyone to know the truth. 

Pullapilly: It’s inspiring to us to see what it takes to figure out the truth — and it can take years to do that. 

What to read around the web today

  • The coronavirus in China could threaten pharma's ingredient source. STAT
  • Call for FDA to withdraw preterm birth drug divides doctors and insurers. Kaiser Health News
  • An ethical future for brain organoids takes shape. Quanta
  • These 10 startups acquired by Alphabet reveal a health care play centered on surveillance. STAT Plus
  • The selling of CTE: How the ‘Concussion’ doctor built a career on distorted science. The Washington Post

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Monday, January 27, 2020

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