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Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

PhRMA spent a record-breaking $27.5 million on lobbying in 2018

The drug industry’s most prominent lobbying group spent a record $27.5 million on lobbying activities in 2018. That’s far more than PhRMA’s previous record-setting spend in 2009, when it spent just over $25 million amid a heated debate over the Affordable Care Act in Congress. The group's 2018 spending is a sign of the threats that drug makers face in Washington, where lawmakers are ramping up their criticism of industry practices and the Trump administration escalates its efforts to bring drug prices down. More here.

Cases of polio-like condition top 200 in 2018

There have been 201 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis in the U.S. in 2018, a record number since cases of the mysterious, polio-like condition first spiked in 2014. State and local health departments are still investigating potential cases of AFM, which mainly affects children. Experts still don't know what causes AFM. They also don't know why the number of cases has been higher on alternate years — there were 35 cases in 2017, 149 in 2016, 22 in 2015, and 120 from August to December 2014. Last year, the CDC established a task force to team up with the scientific community to figure out the cause of AFM and explore ways to prevent or treat the condition.

How much of the public supports 'Medicare for all'? It depends on how you describe it

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As Democrats continue to debate the idea of "Medicare for all," a Kaiser Family Foundation poll out this morning finds a majority of the public supports options to expand health insurance coverage, including a Medicare for all plan. Here’s a look at the findings:

  • The poll found that 77 percent of the public — including 69 percent of Republicans — support the idea of letting people ages 50 to 64 buy health insurance through Medicare. There’s similar support for a plan to allow people who don’t have health insurance through their employers to buy insurance through their state Medicaid programs.

  • But 56 percent of the public — and just 23 percent of Republicans — support the idea of all Americans getting their insurance through a single government plan.

  • People were more likely to support a national Medicare for all plan if they heard that it would guarantee health insurance as a right, eliminate premiums, and reduce out-of-pocket costs. They were less likely to support it if they heard it would cause delays in care and require tax increases. 

Liver disease due to alcohol is the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S.

Alcohol-associated liver disease is now the top cause of liver transplants in the U.S., according to a new analysis. In 2002, transplants for ALD accounted for 24 percent of live transplants. By 2016, they made up 37 percent of live transplants. Several factors could be at play: declining hepatitis C rates due to new treatments; rising rates of harmful drinking; and a shift away from the “six-month rule,” which requires transplant candidates to abstain from alcohol and drug use for at least six months before a transplant. The practice has become less common after a 2011 study showed liver transplants could be successful in patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis without the six-month sobriety period.

Inside STAT: Cancer researchers hunt for clues in an unlikely source

Marsha Moses is searching for signs of cancer in an unlikely place: urine. Her lab created one of the world’s first urine banks, which is home to thousands of frozen samples stored in cups and tubes. “It is a very rich and accessible body fluid that can teach us a lot,” said Moses, a vascular biologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. Moses and her colleagues are using those samples to search for cancer biomarkers, which could point to the presence of disease before it becomes apparent. STAT’s Hyacinth Empinado has a fascinating new video about the research — watch here.

Why Elizabeth Holmes is back in the spotlight 

The Theranos founder is at the center of “The Dropout,” a new ABC documentary about the company's rise to fame and fall from grace. The Department of Justice indicted both Holmes and the company’s former president, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, on fraud charges in June. ABC is launching a six-part podcast today and airing a preview of the documentary — which includes deposition tapes from Holmes, Balwani, and Theranos board members — tonight. Another documentary about Holmes and Theranos, "The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley," is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this week.

What to read around the web today

  • Trump's health secretary refuses Democrats' request to testify on separated kids. Politico
  • Insulin costs for U.S. patients nearly doubled from 2012 through 2016, but usage was flat. STAT Plus
  • Diagnosed with ALS at 37, former Obama staffer hopes to use campaign skills to raise funds for a cure. Chicago Tribune
  • Once a last resort, this pain therapy is getting a new life amid the opioid crisis. STAT
  • Scientists are teaching the body to accept new organs. New York Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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