Sponsored by   


Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

It's April Fools’ Day! Rest assured that I’m not playing any pranks with the news here, but keep an eye out for other jokesters today!

Parker Institute presents its first results — and touts early success against pancreatic cancer

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy — the $250 million venture from Napster founder and Facebook investor Sean Parker — just presented its first clinical trial results. The results were from a Phase 1 trial testing a combination of two chemotherapy drugs along with two immunotherapies in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. Some received the chemotherapy drugs and one of the immunotherapy drugs, an experimental antibody called APX005M. Others got that regimen plus Opdivo, the checkpoint inhibitor from Bristol-Myers Squibb. More than half of the 24 patients who could be evaluated showed partial tumor shrinkage, with some responses lasting 10 months or more. The best responses were seen in the patients treated with all four drugs. “I don’t want to look too far down the road, but these results are impressive,” Dr. Robert Vonderheide, the Parker Institute investigator in charge of the trial, told STAT.

Telemedicine, urgent care use on the rise

A new white paper released today from the nonprofit FAIR Health looked at medical pricing and other health care trends from 2012 to 2017 and found that people in the U.S. used more telehealth services and urgent care centers in 2017 than during the previous year. Here’s a closer look at the report’s findings:

  • Telehealth: Use of telemedicine services grew nationally by 53 percent between 2016 and 2017, with 55 percent growth in urban areas and 29 percent growth in rural areas. Oklahoma had the most telehealth usage, New Jersey the least.

  • Urgent care centers: The use of urgent care centers in urban areas increased by 15 percent in 2017 compared to 2016, while staying the same in rural areas. The average price per 30-minute visit was most expensive for urgent care centers, at $213, compared to $207 in a doctor’s office and $129 in a retail clinic.

  • Emergency care: Emergency department use decreased 2 percent between 2016 and 2017 — by 1 percent in urban areas and 10 percent in rural areas. Women were more likely than men to use the ED, and among adult patients not in college, the diagnosis with the most ED visits was acute respiratory infections.

Partial Medicaid expansion in Utah goes into effect today

A pared-down version of a Medicaid expansion measure in Utah goes into effect today, paving the way for up to 90,000 people to enroll in the program. Utah residents last year voted to expand Medicaid coverage to those who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — roughly $17,000 for individuals and $35,535 for families of four. But the state’s legislature got approval from the Trump administration on Friday for a different version of an expansion, this one to cover those earning up to 100 percent of the poverty level. The plan also imposes work requirements on Medicaid enrollees, but those changes, if approved, won’t be effective until 2020. Other states with Medicaid work requirements, most notably Arkansas and Kentucky, have had these rules blocked by the courts, so it remains to be seen whether Utah will face similar challenges.

Inside STAT: How patients in Alzheimer’s trials are coping with the treatment’s failure

Jeff Borghoff, one of the Aducanumab trial participants (Courtesy of Jeff Borghoff)

When Biogen and Eisai announced last month they were stopping two Phase 3 trials of the Alzheimer’s treatment aducanumab because the drug wasn’t likely to prove effective, it shattered the faith that a therapy against the neurodegenerative disease was finally in reach. But to the roughly 3,200 people in the trials and their families, the disappointment was particularly acute. These people must now reconcile with the fact that aducanumab hadn’t been staving off their disease, and that there isn’t another option available to them. STAT’s Andrew Joseph has the story here.

Georgia prepares to pass six-week abortion ban 

Georgia lawmakers on Friday approved a bill that would ban abortions six weeks after conception, down from the state's current standard of 20 weeks. The bill is the latest in a string of such ‘heartbeat’ bills across the country, named as such because six weeks is the earliest that a heartbeat can be detected in an embryo. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the bill into law. Other states with such laws on the books, including Iowa and Kentucky, have faced fierce opposition as opponents say that a woman often doesn’t know she is pregnant at six weeks. Kentucky’s ban was blocked by a federal judge last month after the ACLU challenged it. The organization has also said that it would challenge Georgia’s ban if it is signed into law.

Changing perceptions of e-cigarettes versus cigarettes

The percentage of adults who think that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes has fallen since 2012, according to a new study that looked at responses from more than 35,000 adults included in two different surveys between 2012 and 2017:

  • The Tobacco Products and Risk Perceptions Survey: 39 percent of people who responded to this survey in 2012 thought that e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes, but that number dropped to 34 percent five years later. Nearly three times as many adults in 2017 thought that e-cigarettes were as harmful as traditional cigarettes as those surveyed in 2012.  

  • Health Information National Trends Survey: Nearly 51 percent of adults surveyed in 2012 thought e-cigarettes were less harmful than their combustible counterparts, compared to roughly 35 percent in 2017. At the same time, three times as many people thought e-cigarettes were more harmful than traditional cigarettes in 2017 compared to five years prior, and nearly seven times as many current smokers in 2017 thought e-cigarettes were more harmful than cigarettes as did in 2012.

  • Overall takeaway: Given these mixed results, “Our findings underscore the urgency to convey accurate risk information about e-cigarettes to the public,” the authors write.

What to read around the web today

  • Purdue Pharma’s newly created subsidiaries raise questions over attempts to shield assets from bankruptcy. STAT
  • Suicide risk grew after Missouri Medicaid kids shifted to managed care, hospitals say. Kaiser Health News
  • Training a computer to read mammograms as well as a doctor. NPR
  • FDA to update its definition of ‘healthy’ this summer. Bloomberg
  • Listening to ketamine. Knowable Magazine

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


Have a news tip or comment?

Email Me

Monday, April 1, 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>>