Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

A ‘do-over’ meeting for setting embryo editing rules 

In a rare move, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has decided it needs a “do-over” on embryo editing. The last time an Academies committee tackled the controversial issue, in 2017, it laid out a guide to CRISPR-based editing in the hope of dissuading premature human experiments. The report ended up being more ambiguous than intended: A year later Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced the birth of twin girls whose embryos he edited using CRISPR. The kicker? He said he felt he checked all the committee’s boxes. As for what to expect tomorrow from the new International Commission on the Clinical Use of Human Germline Genome Editing, “I think the commission is hoping to be very, very prescriptive this time around,” STAT’s Sharon Begley told me. You can tune in to the meeting starting at 8:30 a.m. ET tomorrow here.

Unchecked hospital price increases could cost $250 billion over the next decade

A new report from UnitedHealth Group finds that hospital prices increasing at current rates could end up costing $250 billion over the next decade. The report says that prices set by hospitals for services  — and not physician salaries or how much hospital services get used — are what’s driving up patients’ spending. Between 2013 and 2017, for instance, hospital prices increased by 19% while the cost of physician services increased by half that amount. Utilization of hospital and physician services each decreased by 5%. The hospital price for appendectomies and blood pressure services saw the most cost increases, at more than 6% each. At the same time, physician services for childbirth saw a 2% price increase. Cutting back on hospital prices by two percentage points could save the projected $250 billion in spending for patients, the report states.

Despite improvements, black infants born preterm still face health care gaps

New research suggests that the overall gap in mortality rates has reduced between black and Hispanic infants when compared to white infants, although there is still room for improvement. Scientists looked at nearly 220,000 infants born at between 22 and 29 weeks of gestation, and found that the gap in mortality rates between black and Hispanic infants and white infants has decreased between 2006 and 2017. The use of certain steroids — which can help improve the survival of babies — in pregnant mothers who are expected to give birth to babies preterm increased across all groups, although the rate was highest in white mothers. The study’s findings point to the fact that gaps still remain, a trend that care providers should pay attention to, the researchers write. 

Inside STAT: Canadians are furious over Trump’s drug import plan. Some want to stop it


President Trump announced late last month a plan to import drugs from Canada to help lower Americans’ prescription costs, and Canadians are not happy about it. And some are even proposing ways to stop it. Canada’s health minister is meeting today with pharmacists and others in the drug industry to discuss a response. The backlash stems from the fact that Canada is already dealing with a drug shortage and a U.S. proposal to import drugs from its northern neighbor could put more pressure on an already strained system. “You are coming as Americans to poach our drug supply, and I don’t have any polite words for that,” Amir Attaran, a professor at the University of Ottawa, told STAT’s Nicholas Florko. Read more here

Hospital harms in Ontario add up to more than $1 billion in costs

A new study finds that medical harm done during hospitalizations in Ontario led to an added $1 billion in health care costs. Here’s more from the report:

  • The study: Researchers looked at more than 610,000 adults who were hospitalized between April 2015 and March 2016. 

  • The findings: Some 36,000 patients experienced some kind of harm during their stay, and the most common reason was a medication or treatment error. The added cost was more than $1 billion and more than 400,000 extra hospitalization days. 

  • The takeaway: Reducing preventable harms could help avoid added costs to the health care system. Future research ought to look at how these harms affected patient outcomes, the researchers write. 

Examining physician-assisted deaths in Oregon and Washington

Oregon and Washington were the first two states to approve medical aid in dying in 1994 and 2008, respectively. Six more states and D.C. now allow the practice. A new study takes a deeper look into how the practice has been accessed in Oregon and Washington. Here’s more: 

  • Overall trends: Nearly 2,600 people died from ingesting lethal medication in Oregon and Washington through 2017. The majority who died were male, white, and older than 65. 

  • Illnesses: More than three-quarters of those who received injections had cancer. Some 10% had a neurological illness. 

  • Reasons for seeking medical aid in dying: The vast majority of people cited a loss of autonomy and impaired quality of life for choosing physician assistance in dying. More than two-thirds also cited a loss of dignity.

What to read around the web today

  • Childhood burn survivors embrace their scars at summer camp. The Boston Globe
  • Surgeons labored to save the wounded in El Paso mass shooting. The New York Times
  • American with no medical training ran center for malnourished Ugandan kids. 105 died. NPR
  • When light is lethal: Moroccans struggle with skin disorder. The Associated Press
  • A doctor repeatedly insisted she had a tension headache. Something more serious was going on. The Washington Post

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


Have a news tip or comment?

Email Me

Monday, August 12, 2019


Facebook   Twitter   YouTube   Instagram

1 Exchange Pl, Suite 201, Boston, MA 02109
©2019, All Rights Reserved.
I no longer wish to receive STAT emails
Update Email Preferences | Contact Us
5cP.gif?contact_status=<<Contact Status>>