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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, everyone. Here's what you need to know to get ahead of the day's news in science and medicine. 

Clinical trial reporting has gotten way better

The public reporting of clinical trial results has improved sharply in the last two years, according to a new STAT analysis of government data. Trial sponsors are legally required to report many of their results to the federal ClinicalTrials.gov database, but a 2015 STAT investigation found many leading research institutions fell far short. Here’s a look at the findings of the new analysis, which you can read in full here.

  • More results are getting reported across the board. Trial sponsors disclosed 72 percent of required results as of September 2017, up from 58 percent in 2015.

  • Many of the biggest gains were at research institutions singled out for bad reporting two years ago, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the University of Pittsburgh, and Stanford University. Once-routine violators improved, on average, from reporting the results of just 35 percent of studies to 76 percent.

  • Reporting by major research universities jumped significantly, from 58 percent to 77 percent of trials. Reporting by drug and device companies improved more modestly.

  • The results weren’t all positive. Results for 4 out of every 10 trials were reported after the legal deadline, which is one year following a trial’s completion.

Half of women in STEM face gender discrimination

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Half of women working in science, technology, engineering, and math say they’ve experienced gender discrimination at work, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Roughly 30 percent of women in STEM jobs say they’ve been treated like they’re not competent and 30 percent say they earn less than their male peers in the same roles. And as you might expect, women were more likely than men to say sexual harassment is a problem in their workplace. (One note: The survey was conducted in August, before the steady stream of reports about sexual harassment began.) The report also found discrimination disproportionately affects black people working in STEM, 62 percent of whom say they’ve experienced race-related discrimination at work.

Three more Indian tribes are suing opioid makers

Three American Indian tribes — the Rosebud Sioux, Flandrea Santee Sioux, and Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate — have filed a lawsuit against 24 players in the opioid industry, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and drug distributor McKesson. The tribes accuse opioid makers and distributors of marketing prescription painkillers in a way that minimized the risk of addiction and allege the companies didn’t all comply with federal laws to prevent prescription drug diversion and abuse.

It’s the latest in a string of lawsuits filed over the opioid crisis. Yesterday, a federal judge overseeing the consolidation of more than 200 of those cases urged the lawyers involved to find a speedy resolution. The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster pushed both sides to come to an agreement without going to trial, if possible. “We don’t need briefs and we don’t need trials,” he said. “None of those are going to solve what we’ve got.”

How did Alex Azar do at his confirmation hearing?

Alex Azar, President Trump’s pick to run HHS, had his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. He doubled down on his promise to bring down rising prescription drug prices. And Azar suggested a potential new strategy to do so: addressing the list prices that drug makers charge. The former Eli Lilly exec has also said he’d like to encourage generic drug development to lower prices. Azar got tripped up during a line of questioning from Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the panel’s top Democrat. When Wyden pressed Azar on whether he’d ever lowered a drug price as chairman of Lilly’s U.S. pricing committee, Azar deflected.

“I don’t know that there is any drug price of a branded product that has ever gone down from any company on any drug in the United States, because every incentive in this system is toward higher prices,” he said. “No one company is going to fix that system. That’s why I want to be here working with you.”

There are thousands of sleep-related infant deaths each year

Health officials are warning that there are still 3,500 sleep-related deaths among infants in the U.S. every year. Sleep-related deaths declined in the 1990s after a nationwide safe sleep campaign, but a new analysis shows those declines have since slowed. More than 20 percent of moms reported placing their baby to sleep on their side or back, while 40 percent of mothers reported putting soft bedding in the area where babies sleep. Pediatricians say both those practices can put an infant at a higher risk of sleep-related death. The American Academy of Pediatrics says babies should sleep on their backs in their own cribs, without any toys or soft bedding.

A quick update from this week's big biotech meeting

The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference — the biotech industry’s big annual meeting to make deals — is still going strong. STAT reporters at the conference say biopharma companies are heaping praise upon the new tax law at the conference, which lowers tax rates for some and makes it easier for others to access their cash. And yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden drew a big crowd to an offshoot event of JPM. He called for the scientific community to reach for the low-hanging fruit for patients, by for instance making it easier to look up clinical trials. "A lot of this is not rocket science," he said. 

Another story to check out: STAT's Rebecca Robbins and Meghana Keshavan talked to 10 women who are longtime or repeat JPM attendees who said that while the conference can be a valuable experience, it can also be unwelcoming and demeaning for women at times.

What to read around the web today

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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