Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

MIT Media Lab director resigns amid financial ties with Jeffrey Epstein

Joichi Ito, director of MIT’s interdisciplinary Media Lab, resigned over the weekend after he faced backlash over his financial relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein, who killed himself in federal prison last month while facing sex trafficking charges, gave Ito nearly $3 million in funding. Nearly half of that, according to The New York Times, was for Ito’s own investment funds outside MIT. A New Yorker story late last week also described how Ito and others worked to conceal their ties to Epstein. Since resigning from MIT, Ito has also left several other prominent positions, including a visiting professorship at Harvard. Ito is the latest scientist to have to grapple with his history with Epstein, who patronized scientific institutions and individual researchers. Just last month, Harvard biologist George Church apologized for having “nerd tunnel vision,” when it came to his dealings with Epstein.

Administering specialty drugs outside hospitals could save $4 billion annually

A new report from UnitedHealth finds that the need to administer specialty drugs — which are often injected or infused — in hospitals drives up health care costs, and that giving patients these drugs in their homes or in physician’s offices could cut U.S. health spending by up to $4 billion annually. Moving multiple sclerosis treatment outside hospitals alone could cost $37,000 less per patient every year, analysts found. Providing chemotherapy for cancer patients out of hospitals could save up to $16,000 a year per patient, while treating those with immune deficiencies in their home or in doctor’s offices could save up to $32,000 annually. Treating patients at home could also provide the added benefit of mental wellbeing and fewer schedule disruptions, the report’s authors write. 

Inside STAT: Purdue touts data to fight lawsuits that downplay role in opioid crisis

Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Conn. (DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES)

As Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, tries to shake off allegations that it fueled the ongoing opioid epidemic in the U.S., one sticking point is exactly how much of the opioid pill market the company is responsible for. One figure that Purdue keeps using is 3.3% — pulled from a DEA database, this is the percentage of prescription opioid pain pills that the company sold between 2006 and 2012. But experts and a new data analysis from ProPublica tell a different story: The number of pills sold is an inadequate measure of market share because it doesn’t take into account the potency and dosage of the pills. When these are taken into account, Purdue’s share climbs to 16%, making it the third-largest opioid seller in the U.S. between 2006 and 2012. Read more from STAT’s collaboration with ProPublica.

Food insecurity in early life could affect overall health and development

Some 17% of households face food insecurity, where access to nutritional and safe food is not readily available, and a new study finds that children in such situations may be more likely to have other health problems later in life. Researchers looked at data from more than 28,000 children under the age of 4 — half of whom were African-American — and found that although food insecurity in early life didn’t lead to increased risk of obesity, underweight, or stunting, it did adversely affect other aspects of health and development. The older the children were, the more likely they were to be in fair or poor health. At the same time, kids under the age of 1 who were from food-insecure households had the highest developmental risk, meaning parents expressed concern about cognition or other skills. 

Number of pregnant women with high blood pressure has increased sharply in recent decades

The number of pregnant women with high blood pressure has been increasing over the past 40 years. Researchers looked at data from over 151 million women between 1970 and 2010, and while the overall prevalence of high blood pressure among pregnant women was less than 1%, the rate increased by roughly 6% every year. In 1970 some 0.1% of pregnant women had high blood pressure, but that figure in 2010 reached just over 1.5%. Although the yearly rate increase was higher in white women than in black women, black women were still twice as likely to have high blood pressure while pregnant. And these rates increased with the age of the mother. In a related editorial, experts write that there is a need to identify the best treatment for high blood pressure among women of reproductive age. 

Malaria can and should be eradicated by 2050, experts say

In a new report, public health experts and biologists say that malaria can and should be eradicated within a generation. Already, more than half of the world’s countries are malaria-free, and malaria deaths have steadily declined by 60% since 2000. Still, the authors of the new report write that eradication is “a goal of epic proportions,” and outline strategies to get to reach it by 2050. They emphasize better management of the eradication strategies already at countries’ disposal. At the same time, the report’s authors also call for better vaccines and diagnostics to control spread of the disease. Lastly, the experts suggest an annual increase of $2 billion in global spending will help malaria go in the way of other diseases, including the now-eradicated smallpox virus. 

Correction: Friday’s item on gender disparity among science faculty incorrectly described how many women held various roles at institutions included in the survey. It found that 40% of assistant professors are women, a third of associate professors are women, and about a quarter of full professors are women.

What to read around the web today

  • Pneumonia cases linked to vaping are still rising. And federal officials don’t know what’s causing them. STAT
  • This company is advertising MeToo-branded at-home rape kits. Experts say it’s a terrible idea. Vox
  • The challenge of identifying Sjogren’s syndrome. The New York Times
  • Google Maps is still directing women seeking abortions to pro-life clinics — and a memorial for the ‘unborn’. Vice News
  • "Medicare for All" is not Medicare, and not really for all. So what does it actually mean? ProPublica

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Monday, September 9, 2019


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