Friday, September 8, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to Morning Rounds, everyone. Here's what you need to know about health and medicine this morning. And when you're done, test your knowledge of the week's news with our quiz

Hospitals grapple with Hurricane Irma, Mexico earthquake

As the Caribbean islands hit by Hurricane Irma begin to grapple with the storm’s impact, hospitals in south Florida are bracing for its arrival. HHS has declared a state of emergency in the state, and some hospitals have started evacuating patients. The Palm Beach Post reports some pregnant women are pre-registering to ride out the storm in hospitals in case they go into labor, sleeping bag and snacks in tow. 

And in Mexico, hospitals are caring for patients injured in a massive magnitude 8.1 earthquake that struck near the border with Guatemala and was felt far and wide. The New York Times reports at least five people have died, including a child on a ventilator who was being treated in a hospital that lost power. 

Patients protest insulin prices outside Lilly headquarters

Patients with diabetes are planning to protest rising insulin prices outside Eli Lilly’s Indianapolis headquarters tomorrow afternoon. The price of insulin has more than tripled since 2003. In May, the drug giant increased the prices of its insulin medications Humalog and Humilin nearly 8 percent. The company has touted its work to keep insulin prices down for patients through discount programs, but patients planning to protest the company say that isn’t enough.

“Insulin is like oxygen for people with diabetes. We need it every day, multiple times a day, to survive,” Elizabeth Rowley, the organizer of the demonstration and the founder of T1International, tells me. “[People] should not be in dangerous health situations because the medicine they need to live costs hundreds of dollars.” Their requests to Eli Lilly: Be transparent about the manufacturing costs, divulge profits, and lower the price of insulin.

Food labels can now make this claim about peanut allergies

The FDA has given food manufacturers a green light to say on food labels that giving certain infants food with ground peanuts could reduce their risk of developing a peanut allergy. The agency reviewed the scientific evidence on the issue. There’s just one study that really supports that claim: a trial involving more than 600 infants that showed starting consumption of foods with peanuts in infancy reduced the risk of developing a peanut allergy by age 5 by more than 80 percent. The FDA determined companies could use what’s known as a “qualified health claim,” which means there’s credible scientific evidence but not widespread scientific agreement supporting the claim.

Sponsor content by Pfizer Oncology

Pfizer explores more pathways to discover new possibilities in Immuno-oncology

There have been a series of recent developments with investigational immunotherapies in oncology that may help address some of the most difficult-to-treat cancers. Pfizer is leading the way in this area by investigating unique combinations of two or even three compounds that affect the immune system in different ways to help target difficult-to-treat cancers that may not respond to currently approved immunotherapies. Learn more about Pfizer’s unique approach to IO.

Inside STAT: The concern about offshore clinical trials


(molly ferguson for stat)

There was widespread alarm last week when Kaiser Health News reported that the clinical trial for a herpes vaccine was conducted in the Caribbean without permission from the FDA or local authorities. Some aspects of the trial aren't all that unusual — STAT's Rebecca Robbins analyzed FDA records on the first 29 new drug approvals this year, and found that 90 percent of them were supported at least in part by data from trials conducted outside the U.S. and Canada. And while the globalization of clinical trials has brought new treatments to historically neglected populations and generated data more representative of the world’s diversity, it hasn't come without side effects. More here

Lab Chat: You're only as old as your mitochondria

Mitochondria grow bigger as fruit flies grow older, a change that might play a part in aging-related diseases. Now, scientists have figured out a way to break up those mitochondria into smaller bits to help fruit flies clear away damaged mitochondria. Here’s what integrative biologist David Walker of UCLA told me about the research, published in Nature Communications.

What happens to mitochondria as fruit flies age?

In middle age, the mitochondria became more elongated. This may be due to a process called mitochondrial fusion, when individual mitochondria join together, and this change was correlated with an accumulation of mitochondria that weren’t working particularly well. To get at whether they were causally linked, we took a genetic approach to divide the mitochondria. When we upregulated a gene that produces a protein important in division of mitochondria, we were able to rapidly fragment the mitochondrial network.

What changed when you broke apart the aging mitochondria?

Not only did the mitochondria look like mitochondria in young tissue, but they were also much healthier and more active. Many diseases have been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction and if we thought [[is this as he said it?]] we could develop interventions that promote mitochondrial health, that might improve health on the organism level. We were able to improve endurance exercise capacity, delay the onset of disease, and prolong their lives by about 20 percent in females and 12 percent in males.

Dozens of Virginia counties are without an ACA option 

The worry over bare counties is back. Virginia insurer Optima announced this week it plans to withdraw from the state’s Affordable Care Act marketplace next year, following on the heels of Aetna, Anthem, and UnitedHealthcare. That would leave 63 of the state’s 95 counties without any coverage options in the ACA marketplace unless another insurer steps in, according to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Correction: A chart in yesterday's newsletter included an incorrect axis label. The y-axis shows age, and the x-axis shows stroke deaths. Here's the full report again. 

What to read around the web today

  • This shield of patients protects the world's best-selling drug. Bloomberg
  • Obamacare’s ‘guardrails’ are crucial issue as Congress debates shoring up the law. Kaiser Health News
  • Governors share their plans to fix insurance markets. NPR

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! Back first thing Monday morning,


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