Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Here's what you need to know about health and medicine this morning. 

Scientists give lawmakers a rundown of genetics research

A handful of expert scientists are meeting with lawmakers today to talk about the latest advances in genetics as they relate to ethnicity and race. The briefings in the House and Senate mark the sixth round of sessions with Congress led by Harvard’s Personal Genetics Education Project. Mount Sinai geneticist Eimear Kenny will talk to lawmakers about the history of genetic variation across the globe. She’ll be joined by Harvard geneticist George Church, Harvard psychiatry researcher Kerry Ressler, and NIH scientist Charles Rotimi, who will touch on everything from DNA ancestry tests to the role of genetics and the environment in health and behavior. 

The WHO makes a new push to eliminate trans fats

The WHO is launching a sweeping new initiative to cut industrially produced trans fats out of the food supply — and, in turn, improve health across the globe. Trans fats can clog arteries and are linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The organization is calling on governments to eliminate trans fats by 2023 by passing legislation to replace them with healthier oils — and by actually enforcing those policies. In 2015, the FDA rolled out a rule that would require food manufacturers to stop selling products with trans fats by June 2018, but it’s not clear what the agency will do if companies don’t stick to the policy.

New study digs into opioid makers' payments to doctors

A new study finds that doctors who received payments from opioid manufacturers in 2014 prescribed more painkillers in 2015. Here's a quick look at the research:

  • How the study worked: Researchers culled data on all payments from pharma companies to physicians involving opioids using the Open Payments database and the Medicare Part D opioid prescriber database.

  • What it found: In 2014, 25,767 physicians included in the study received opioid-related payments — anything from meals to consulting fees — from pharma companies. Doctors who received such payments in 2014 had higher opioid prescribing rates in 2015, while opioid prescribing rates fell in 2015 among doctors who didn’t receive payments.

  • The biggest spenders: The average payment was $13, but 436 of the physicians received more than $1,000. The three companies with the highest payment totals: Insys, Teva, and Janssen. Insys alone accounted for half of payments.

Sponsor content by UroGen Pharma

What could non-surgical therapy options mean for uro-oncology patients?

Join UroGen Pharma and the STAT Brand Studio for “Reshaping the Treatment Paradigm in Urology” — an intimate conversation during the 2018 AUA Annual Meeting (May 21, 2018) about the critical need for innovative non-surgical uro-oncology treatments.

Over breakfast, we’ll chat with key industry experts who will discuss the urgent need to drastically reshape the treatment paradigm across a number of uro-oncological conditions, including low-grade upper tract urothelial cancer (UTUC) and bladder cancers. We’ll also take a look at the latest advancements in new innovative, non-surgical treatments that have the potential to make drug therapy a first-line treatment option in these cancers. Register here.

Inside STAT: A small town grapples with pharma's big presence


Clayton, N.C., might seem like an unlikely place for the world’s biggest insulin maker to build a stockpile of drugs. But Novo Nordisk is building a $1.8 billion plant in the town of 20,000, right across the street from a building where the company has packaged its products for years. But in the region known as the “diabetes belt” — a stretch of the country where people are more likely to have type 2 diabetes — residents have cautiously embraced the growing footprint of the pharmaceutical industry. STAT contributor Max Blau has the story from Clayton — read here.

A new tool can show you how healthy your city is

Curious about how healthy your town really is? Check out the new City Health Dashboard, courtesy of NYU and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It’s an interactive tool that lets you look at a slew of health-related statistics — from housing costs and high blood pressure to premature birth rates — in 500 cities across the country. It also breaks that data down into regions within in a town and lets you compare statistics from each city to data from other cities or the national average.

Undergrads score a prize for inventing a breathing stent

A team of undergrad engineers are gearing up to test a flexible stent that’s placed inside the nose to boost air flow for people who have trouble breathing through their nose. The Johns Hopkins students won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for the nasal dilator, dubbed the N-Stent. They’re hopeful it could be a more discreet, effective option than nasal strips or other products and a more affordable, less risky intervention than nasal surgery. The next step: a clinical trial that’ll compare N-Stent to other products, team member Melissa Austin tells me.

What to read around the web today

  • Texas uses hypnosis to investigate crimes. Dallas death row inmates say it's time to stop. Dallas Morning News
  • Swiss prosecutor eyes Novartis deal with Cohen, but no criminal probe is underway — for now. STAT
  • This fertility doctor is pushing the boundaries of human reproduction, with little regulation. Washington Post
  • A conversation with a biotech VC at Andreessen Horowitz. STAT Plus
  • As DIY gene editing gains popularity, 'someone is going to get hurt.' New York Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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