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Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

Feds crack down on stem cell clinics for the first time

The FTC is cracking down on two California stem cell clinics and their owner for deceptively advertising stem cell therapy as a way to cure blindness, reverse autism, and treat a slew of diseases. In a complaint, federal officials alleged that Dr. Bryn Jarald Henderson and the clinics raked in at least $3.3 million promoting unproven therapies to treat conditions including Parkinson's, cerebral palsy, and heart attacks. An initial injection cost up to $15,000, and patients were encouraged to receive “boosters” that cost up to $8,000 each. Under a proposed settlement, Henderson and the companies would agree not to make unsupported claims, pay the FTC $525,000, and notify current and former patients about the agreement. 

Inside STAT: Why is Ebola affecting so many young people? 

Epidemiologists studying Ebola's spread in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are racing to solve a mystery: Why have so many children been infected during the ongoing outbreak? Typically, young kids don't make up a big proportion of cases in an Ebola outbreak. But in the first two weeks of October, nearly 60 percent of the newly reported cases in and around Beni — the outbreak's current hot spot — were kids under the age of 16, the WHO's Dr. Peter Salama tells STAT. Some of those infected were just infants. "It is unusual for this outbreak and it is unusual in previous outbreaks ... to see this proportion of kids,” Salama says. STAT's Helen Branswell has the story — read here. 

Money pours in to California ballot measure on dialysis clinic profits

Midterm elections are fast approaching — and the battle over a California ballot measure that would cap dialysis clinic profits is heating up. A California Healthline analysis finds that dialysis companies have forked over more than $104 million to a "Vote No on 8" committee to battle Proposition 8, a union-backed measure that would limit profits to 115 percent of the cost of care. The biggest spenders: DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care, which operate the majority of chronic dialysis clinics in the state. The California Medical Association and the American Nurses Association have joined clinics in opposing the measure, which supporters say could lower health costs.

PrEP use is rising — but more progress is needed

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(morbidity and mortality weekly report / cdc)

Use of a daily pill to prevent HIV is on the rise — but a new analysis shows most people who could benefit from the drug still aren’t taking it. In 2016, more than 78,000 people in the U.S. filled a prescription for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, up from just under 14,000 in 2014. But experts say that’s still just a small slice of the estimated 1.1 million people in the U.S. who could benefit from the drug. And while African-American individuals account for 44 percent of people who could benefit from PrEP, they represented just 11 percent of PrEP prescriptions in 2016. The authors of the new report say it’s critical to address gaps in PrEP awareness and use to curb new HIV infections.  

Doctors remind the public to get the flu vaccine

As flu season gets underway, medical providers are making a push to get as many people vaccinated as possible. The American Medical Association just put out a statement encouraging everyone 6 months and older to get vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible — ideally by the end of the month. Earlier this week, Florida health officials reported the first pediatric flu death of the season. Roughly 80,000 people died of flu-related causes last flu season, including 180 kids, according to the CDC.

Lab Chat: Scientists scour the genomes of healthy people

Scientists scoured the DNA of healthy babies and adults in two genome-sequencing projects called MedSeq and BabySeq — and have turned up some surprising results. Here's what Dr. Robert Green of Brigham and Women's Hospital told me about the new findings, which are being presented at a conference this week.

What did the studies look at?

They are randomized clinical trials of genome sequencing in healthy adults and newborns. We concentrated on monogenic disease, which are due to a single gene, both dominant conditions like BRCA and recessive conditions like cystic fibrosis. We looked at close to 5,000 genes and found that a remarkably high percentage of ostensibly healthy people carry risk markers for these rare conditions.

What’s the takeaway from that?

Remember that these are healthy people. They have no symptoms and no complaints. The fact that they have a mutation doesn’t mean they’re going to get a disease. ... We also went back and found that about one-quarter of those with a risk marker had features of the disease that hadn’t been previously noticed or had not been previously imagined to be connected to a genetic condition.

What to read around the web today

  • A wave of child sexual abuse allegations against a doctor, and hospital says it knew. New York Times
  • Women in the U.S. can now get safe abortions by mail. The Atlantic
  • With genome sequencing, some sick infants are getting a shot at healthy lives. STAT
  • Opioid makers ask counties for proof of harm. Wall Street Journal
  • ‘Vast majority’ of NIH chimps to be moved to retirement sanctuary, agency says. STAT

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful weekend, 

Megan

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Friday, October 19, 2018

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