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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Thursday, everyone! Welcome to Morning Rounds. 

FDA tackles potentially dangerous teething products

The FDA is cracking down on teething products that contain a numbing ingredient that poses a serious risk to young kids. The agency has been issuing warnings for years about teething gels that contain benzocaine, which can cause rare but potentially fatal breathing problems. Now, the agency says it has asked manufacturers to pull benzocaine products intended for young kids from the market and will take legal action against companies that don’t do so. The FDA also wants more warnings added to adult products that stay on the market.

Lawmakers weigh DEA's opioid quotas

The Senate Judiciary Committee is working on a handful of opioid-related bills this morning. One piece of legislation to keep an eye on: a bipartisan bill that aims to make it easier for the DEA to adjust the quotas it sets on the amounts of controlled substances that can be manufactured each year. The bill is designed to help the DEA better address the oversupply of opioids that has contributed to the addiction crisis. But it could also help the DEA respond more quickly to opioid shortages that many hospitals are facing. More on that here

Lung cancer is more common in young women than young men

For decades, lung cancer rates were higher among men — but lung cancer is now more common among women ages 30 to 49 than among men, according to a new analysis. What’s driving the disparity? Study author Ahmedin Jemal of the American Cancer Society tells me it’s not clear, but there are a few theories: the health benefit of quitting smoking is delayed for certain lung cancers that are more common among women, lung cancer among never-smokers might be higher among women, or women might be more susceptible to health harms from smoking. Jemal says more research is needed to determine whether any of those factors are to blame.

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Precision medicine holds great promise for treating genetic diseases — such as certain types of cancers — but bottlenecks in the system are slowing its progress. To break down these barriers, Harvard Business School Executive Education has created Accelerating Innovation in Precision Medicine, a new program focused on developing business solutions for this emerging area. As a participant, you will join top leaders from business, science, medicine, and technology to explore strategies for bringing new therapies to patients faster. Learn more. 

Inside STAT: A biotech exec becomes a career birdwatcher

neil hayward leads a birdwatching tour in cambridge, mass. (Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe)

In some ways, Neil Hayward is an extreme embodiment of the urge to switch careers that other scientists say they've felt. He spent years as a biotech exec and has his own biotech consulting practice, but now mostly considers himself a career birdwatcher. More than once, he's traveled for days on a boat through the Bering Sea to get to Attu, a spot where bird species like the white-throated needletail are often found far outside their normal range. “My salary is a tiny percent of what it was before,” he said. “But my experiences are like a bazillion times more intense.” STAT’s Eric Boodman has a great profile of Hayward — read it here.

Do free e-cigs and nicotine patches help smokers quit? 

A new study shows that offering free smoking cessation aids like nicotine patches in a work wellness program doesn’t push employees to quit — but money might help. Researchers gave 6,000 smokers at 54 companies different tools to quit smoking, such as motivational texts, free e-cigs or cessation aids, or free cessation aids along with a $600 reward. Only 1.3 percent of participants stayed smoke-free for six months — but the quitting rate was higher among people given the financial incentive, while free e-cigs, cessation aids, and texts didn't seem to make a difference. Two things to note: the study was sponsored by a work wellness company and the e-cigs provided by a e-cig maker, though it didn’t have a role in the research. 

Vitamin D might curb wheezing in premature babies

Black infants born prematurely are at a higher risk for problems with wheezing, but new research suggests vitamin D supplements might help. Researchers ran a randomized trial involving 300 premature black babies who were all given multivitamins mixed into formula or breast milk. About half received extra vitamin D each day, and the rest were given a placebo. At 6 months old, 31 percent of infants in the vitamin D group had repeated wheezing bouts, compared to 42 percent in the other group. The authors say that suggests vitamin D might be a cheap, simple way to lower wheezing rates, but more research is needed to see the long-term effects.

What to read around the web today

  • He went to an in-network emergency room. He still ended up with a $7,924 bill. Vox
  • Drug makers blamed for blocking generics have jacked up prices and cost U.S. billions. Kaiser Health News
  • The head of the National Cancer Institute on the future of precision medicine. STAT Plus
  • An American falls ill after 'abnormal' sounds in China. New York Times
  • Why was Theranos so believable? Medicine needs to look in the mirror. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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