Friday, May 11, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Friday, folks! I'm here to get you ahead of the day's news in science and medicine. 

Trump's long-awaited drug prices speech is today

President Trump is slated to make a major address about drug prices in the U.S. today. Here's what to expect

  • What’s on the agenda: Senior administration officials say the president will roll out a “comprehensive plan to tackle prescription drug affordability,” but haven’t been clear about the specifics of that “blueprint.” There will also be a request for information — which serves as a rough draft of regulatory proposals — to accompany the remarks. 
  • What you won’t hear: a call for Congress to let Medicare negotiate drug prices it’s a policy that many progressive lawmakers and drug price reform advocates like, but that kind of negotiation isn’t currently allowed under federal law.
  • The counterpoint: Eight prominent Democrats — joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — gathered yesterday to offer early opposition to Trump's remarks and to press for progressive ideas, like importing some drugs from other countries.

FDA fires off warning letters to liquid nicotine makers

Federal officials are continuing their crackdown on companies selling liquid nicotine that’s packaged to look like kid-friendly products. The FDA issued four new warning letters over products like “Frank ‘N Vape,” liquid nicotine with a package resembling Franken Berry cereal. The agency also took issue with “Chill Purple Grape,” which resembles grape soda, and “Unicorn Cakes,” which sports illustrations that the FDA says look a little too close to graphics from “My Little Pony.” The FDA is giving the companies 15 days to respond with a plan to address the agency’s concerns.

Tobacco cessation help isn't common in behavioral health facilities

Patients with substance use disorders and behavioral health conditions are at a higher risk of dying from a smoking-related disease —  but many patients in behavioral health facilities don’t get help to stop smoking, according to a new analysis. In 2016, just 38 percent of mental health treatment facilities and and 47 percent of substance abuse treatment facilities offered tobacco cessation counseling. And roughly 25 percent of those facilities offer nicotine replacement therapy, like patches or gum. The authors say it’s possible — and important — for those facilities to integrate more tobacco cessation treatment.

Inside STAT: Artificial intelligence in medicine raises thorny questions

As recently as a year ago, artificial intelligence was an amorphous concept in medicine — but now, many hospitals are working to integrate the technology into daily practice with the promise of harnessing patient data to improve care and make services cheaper and more efficient. Some are working with algorithms that aim to detect the onset of life-threatening conditions, and others are turning to virtual assistants to help patients stick to a diet. But AI’s use in medicine also raises thorny ethical questions, like whether biased data is creating algorithms that could lead to unfair treatment. STAT’s Casey Ross has the story — read here.

Deaths due to falls are climbing among older adults

A growing number of older adults are dying after experiencing a fall, health officials say. There were 30,00 deaths due to falling among adults age 65 and older in 2016, up from roughly 18,000 in 2007. That increase was seen among both men and women and across most racial groups. The CDC says if deaths continue to rise at that rate, 59,000 older adults will die after falls in 2030. The agency says falls are often preventable and that doctors should discuss the risks with older adults during annual physical exams.

Drug makers get new guidance on UTI treatments

The FDA has rolled out new guidance to help drug makers test potential new treatments for simple urinary tract infections. UTIs caused by bacteria are often treated with antibiotics — but as concerns about antibiotic resistance grow, there’s a need for new treatment options. The FDA’s new guidance gives drug makers some insight into what regulators are looking for in a UTI treatment trial. One piece of advice: The treatment should be tested in patients across a wide age range, including geriatric patients, who are particularly vulnerable to UTIs.

What to read around the web today

  • To make medicines of the future, hospitals build their own cell factories. STAT Plus
  • For every woman who dies in childbirth in the U.S., 70 more come close. NPR
  • Novartis CEO tries to reassure employees amid fury over payments to Trump’s lawyer. STAT
  • Stanley Falkow, who saw how bacteria cause disease, dies at 84. New York Times
  • Top White House official in charge of pandemic response exits abruptly. Washington Post

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful weekend,


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