Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Trump administration vows to keep fighting for drug pricing in TV ads

HHS yesterday appealed a recent court ruling that blocked the Trump administration from requiring drug prices in TV ads for medicines that cost more than $35 for a month’s supply. Amgen, Eli Lilly, Merck, and the Association of National Advertisers sued to keep the requirement from going into effect, and a judge in July ruled in favor of them, saying that Congress hadn’t granted HHS the authority to require such disclosures. The companies argued that displaying list prices in ads isn’t a true reflection of what most consumers actually pay, while the administration claims that drug makers being forced to reveal prices will also shame them into lowering costs. The appeal was expected, my D.C. colleague Nicholas Florko says, adding, "This is a big priority for the president, and HHS can’t show they’re giving up, even it means getting slapped down in court again." 

WHO calls for more research on microplastics in drinking water

The WHO is calling for more research into the effects of microplastics — miniscule fragments from other products such as cosmetics and plastic bottles — in drinking water. Microplastics are ubiquitous, but their impact on human health is largely unknown. There could be harm from the chemicals found within them or from microbes that stick to such particles. “But we need to find out more,” Dr. Maria Neira, director of the WHO’s Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health, said in a statement, adding that more needs to be done to simultaneously curb plastic pollution. Wastewater treatment plants can eliminate up to 90% of microplastics, and so the WHO is calling on such facilities to continue prioritizing that work as well as removing microbes from the water supply. 

A small dip in vaccination rates could lead to large measles outbreaks

A simulation of measles cases if the vaccination rate in Austin dropped by 10%. (University of Pittsburgh Public Health Dynamics Laboratory)

Just a 5% decrease in measles vaccination rates in Texas could spark up to a 4,000% jump in the size of an outbreak, according to a new modeling study. Using vaccination data from Texas schools in 2018, researchers simulated scenarios that would result if vaccination rates were to drop. Depending on the metro area, a 5% dip could lead to anywhere from a 40% to a 4,000% spike in cases. Further analysis found that a 10% vaccination drop in Austin, for instance, could lead to nearly 12,500 cases in a nine-month period. In these simulations, nearly two-thirds of the cases were students whose parents refused vaccinating them, while the other third were those who couldn't get vaccinated for medical reasons. 

Inside STAT: Can a new Lyme disease vaccine overcome a history of distrust and failure?


Even though summer may be winding down, concerns about Lyme disease are not abating. Researchers are developing a vaccine and another preventive method called pre-exposure prophylaxis. There are several vaccines available for dogs, but bringing one to market for humans has been a difficult road, since the first and only Lyme vaccine was pulled from the market in 2002 due to low demand, potential side effects, and vaccine mistrust. So is the world ready for a new Lyme vaccine? Mistrust is still an issue, but demand may be higher now. Even though some 30,000 cases of Lyme are reported to the CDC every year, the agency estimates that the true number may be 10 times more. STAT’s Brittany Flaherty has more here

TB rates among U.S. children have declined by almost half, but disparities persist

Rates of tuberculosis have declined by almost half in U.S. children, according to a new analysis. The rate of TB went from 1.4 cases per 100,000 children in 2007 down to 0.8 cases per 100,000 children in 2017, a 47% drop overall during that decade. But racial and geographical disparities remain: Indigenous children, for instance, had a rate of more than 14 cases per 100,000, compared to 0.1 cases per 100,000 among white children. Despite their small population, TB cases on U.S. islands accounted for roughly 15% of the more than 6,000 cases between 2007-2017. Rates of mortality from TB were also disproportionately high among this population. More sensitive diagnostics for children could help address some of the disparities, the authors write. 

China’s two-child policy has led to 5.4 million more births

China reversed course on its one-child policy in 2015 to address its stagnant population, and new research finds that more than 5 million children have been born since. Researchers looked at two national databases in 28 out of the 31 provinces in the country and found that between January 2016 and December 2017, some 5.4 million births can be attributed to the new policy, which allows for two children instead of one. There was a 9 percentage point increase in moms who had then given birth to two children. The rates of women over 35 giving birth as well as of C-sections among women giving birth to more than one child also went up. Despite these changes, there was no evidence that negative outcomes among the babies — such as preterm births — increased. 

What to read around the web today

  • Scientists routinely cure brain disorders in mice but not us. A new study helps explain why. STAT
  • Federal scientists warned of coming opioid crisis in 2006. Politico
  • Why a promising, potent cancer therapy isn't used in the U.S. Wired
  • Suicide attempts are hard to anticipate. A study that tracks teens’ cellphone use aims to change that. Science
  • Planned Parenthood sees swift fallout from quitting program. Associated Press

Thanks for reading! I'm off for the next couple of days attending another brother-in-law's wedding, but you'll be in good hands with colleagues who are filling in for me. I'll be back on Tuesday! 


Thursday, August 22, 2019


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