Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to May, folks! Here's what you need to know about health and medicine this morning. 

The CDC director's record-setting salary is getting cut

The new CDC director is taking a pay cut. Robert Redfield asked HHS to slash his salary after it was reported he was being paid $375,000 a year. By comparison, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb makes about $155,000, while HHS Secretary Alex Azar and NIH Director Francis Collins both make around $200,000. It’s not clear yet what Redfield’s new salary will be.

What will it take to synthesize genomes from scratch? 

The organizers behind GP-write — the project to assemble genomes from scratch — are convening today for a scientific working meeting at Harvard Medical School, a year after its big public meeting and two years after catching heat for holding a "secret" meeting at Harvard. The research project is made up of scientists around the world who are working to make it easier to engineer whole genomes of human cell lines. Today, nine working groups will present their findings on the biggest issues the project faces, from making it less expensive to build genomes to communicating the science to the public.

Psychiatric disorders common among kids on Medicaid

Psychiatric disorders are strikingly prevalent among young children covered by Medicaid — as are psychiatric medications, researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics. They analyzed data from more than 35,000 kids born in 2007 and enrolled in one state’s Medicaid program. Here’s what they found:

  • By age 8, nearly 20 percent of kids had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. Roughly 44 percent of diagnoses were ADHD and 32 percent were learning disorders. Diagnoses were far more common among kids in foster care, 59 percent of whom had a psychiatric disorder.

  • Roughly 10 percent of kids were taking a psychiatric drug by age 8. Of those, 75 percent had been prescribed a stimulant, 32 percent an alpha agonist, and 20 percent an anxiolytic or hypnotic. Many of those drugs haven’t been approved specifically for use in children.

  • This is claims data from one state, so the findings don't apply broadly to other states or to kids who aren’t insured by Medicaid.

Isle of Man votes to improve access to abortion

Lawmakers might vote on a measure today that would decriminalize abortion on the Isle of Man, a self-governing island between Great Britain and Ireland. Right now, abortion is heavily restricted. The new bill would allow elective abortions up to 14 weeks, up to 24 weeks in cases of fetal anomaly or other serious concerns, and after 24 weeks if a woman’s life is at risk. It would also let doctors opt out of providing abortions if they oppose the procedure on personal grounds. The vote comes ahead of a landmark referendum in Ireland later this month to repeal an amendment of the country’s constitution that effectively bans abortion.

Inside STAT: Experts say immuno-oncology market is too crowded

There's an overabundance of copycat drugs — which are structurally similar to other known drugs — in cancer immunotherapy. A panel of biotech experts speaking at a conference in Los Angeles yesterday came to the consensus that companies are shelling out millions for drugs that only add an incremental value. “The immuno-oncology field is too crowded,” says Royalty Pharma CEO Pablo Legorreta. “We don’t need 30 similar drugs.” More here for STAT Plus subscribers from Meghana Keshavan. 

Tom Price gives his take on what's next for the ACA

There’s a familiar face speaking at the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C., this morning: Tom Price, who's slated to offer a “candid perspective” on the future of Obamcare. The former HHS secretary resigned in September after it was reported that he’d spent more than more than $400,000 in taxpayer money on private jet travel. At today’s event, Price is talking about anothother big story of his tenure at HHS — the failed efforts to repeal and replace the ACA. His successor, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, is speaking at the conference tomorrow.

Kidney failure patients often don't receive hospice care

Only 20 percent of Medicare patients with end-stage kidney disease receive hospice, according to a new analysis. That's likely due, in part, to a Medicare policy that prevents the program from paying for dialysis and hospice at the same time. The study also found renal disease patients often get hospice care for a shorter time than patients with other diseases. By comparison, nearly half of Medicare recipients who die receive hospice. Dr. Melissa Wachterman, the lead author and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, tells me the policy "forces people to make a decision to stop dialysis in order to get hospice."

What to read around the web today

  • From children to grandparents, families are caught up in the opioid crisis. Pittsburgh Post Gazette
  • UC Berkeley struggles to find sympathetic court in CRISPR patent appeal. STAT
  • Health care activists file lawsuit over Maine Medicaid expansion. CNN
  • Another drug acquired from Peter Thiel-backed biotech appears to have flopped. STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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