Friday, October 27, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, folks! Megan here with your daily dose of health and medicine. 

A push to toss unused drugs — including opioids

Round up your unused prescriptions — communities across the country have set up safe, convenient drop-offs to make it easy and safe to toss your unused prescription drugs as part of National Prescription Take-Back Day tomorrow. The push to get people to dispose of unwanted or unused drugs comes just after President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency. Getting rid of any expired, unwanted, or extra medications — opioids or otherwise — minimizes the chance that those drugs are accidentally or intentionally taken by someone else. You can search for a Take-Back Day site near you here. If you’re wondering what to do with your unwanted prescriptions the rest of the year, check out these FDA guidelines.

Ohio's drug price measure has run up a steep bill

New campaign spending figures are adding fuel to a fierce fight brewing in Ohio over a ballot measure that aims to lower drug costs. The proposal would stop state agencies from paying higher prices for drugs than the prices paid by the VA, which gets a 24 percent discount off average prices. The pharma industry has shelled out millions to fight the measure. They're joined by several physician and hospital groups that are concerned drug prices will go up for most people if the state takes a mandatory discount. The measure is backed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which backed a similar measure in California. The industry spent more than $100 million fighting that proposal and it was ultimately rejected by voters last fall. 

Three cheers for two talented reporters

A big congrats to my talented STAT colleagues Sharon Begley and Eric Boodman, who were honored last night at the World Conference of Science Journalists. Sharon was awarded the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting, with the judges praising “the exhaustive investigative work evident in each piece of reporting.” (Accurate.) And Eric took home the Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for young science journalists. The judges said he has a “knack for slipping complicated science and medical ideas into compelling narratives that painlessly educate readers while captivating and entertaining them.” (He does.)

Two stories that've stuck with me: Sharon's story on how the health care system is killing sickle cell patients, and this piece by Eric on insect detectives dealing with bugs that aren’t really there.

Sponsor content by Braeburn pharmaceuticals

FDA to review Braeburn’s New Drug Application for CAM2038

CAM2038, an investigational buprenorphine weekly and monthly depot injection for the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder from Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, will be reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee and the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee on November 1st. A New Drug Application (NDA) for this indication is under FDA priority review with a Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) target date of January 19, 2018.

Inside STAT: The fantastic voyage of cells to be trained in the art of killing cancer

After six months of cancer treatment and eight grueling rounds of chemotherapy, Dave Matthews was told his lymphoma had stopped responding to medicine’s best efforts. His immune cells had become tolerant to his lymphoma. But his doctors pointed him to another option: a cutting-edge, not-yet-approved therapy that involved sending his white blood cells on a cross-country expedition, teaching them to kill cancer, and then infusing them back into his veins. The work on Matthews and other patients went on to validate the paradigm-shifting gene therapy known as CAR-T. STAT's Damian Garde traced the fantastic voyage Matthews's cells took to be trained in the art of killing cancer — read here

Lab Chat: Scientists discover bacteria's sense of touch


pili getting into the halloween spirit. (courtney ellison / indiana university?

Scientists have figured out how bacteria sense their surroundings and stick to them, a process that’s critical in the formation of biofilms. That bacterial slime can stick to surfaces like medical devices and cause dangerous infections. Here’s what Courtney Ellison of Indiana University told me about the research, published in Science.

How did you study bacterial senses?

The bacteria have these appendages called pili that are made of thousands of proteins. The cell has to build them using different materials. I replaced one building block, in this case an amino acid, with another. It’s like I used concrete instead of brick, which allowed me to use a special dye that only “paints” bricks to see what the pili are doing. What we think is happening is that the pili are binding to the surface. So when they try to retract there’s a tension, and the bacteria know they’re on a surface and start producing a biofilm.

What did that allow you to do? 

We figured out we could use that same replacement trick to replace a building block with a large molecule that blocks the ability of pili to move. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to prevent biofilms by preventing bacteria from actually seeing the surface.

Measles deaths have dropped dramatically

Measles deaths have tumbled dramatically in recent years, falling below 100,000 globally, according to a new report. Here’s a look at the findings:

  • Measles deaths are dropping rapidly. An estimated 90,000 people died from measles in 2016, down from 550,000 deaths from the infectious disease in 2000. Public health experts credit the measles vaccine and public health campaigns that have expanded access to immunizations for that decline. 

  • But there’s still work to be done. Coverage of the first measles immunization has stalled at 85 percent since 2009 — falling short of the 95 percent coverage needed to prevent measles infections — and coverage of the second measles vaccine dose was just 64 percent in 2016.

  • More than half of unvaccinated kids live in just six countries. More than 10 million children in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo haven’t been vaccinated against the viral disease.

What to read around the web today

  • CVS Health is in talks to buy Aetna. Wall Street Journal
  • College athletes are only starting to get the mental health care they need. The Ringer
  • The problem of doctors' salaries. Politico

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend! Back first thing Monday morning, 


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