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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Just a reminder that this newsletter will be on hiatus until January 4. Here's one final 2020 edition to get you caught up on today's news. 

Walmart sued by Justice Department over sale of illegal opioids

The Justice Department is suing Walmart over charges that the company's pharmacists filled prescriptions for controlled substances despite knowing these orders were invalid. Prosecutors say that Walmart was supposed to report any suspicious prescriptions to the DEA, but failed to do so — a lapse that officials say could have played a role in fueling the opioid crisis in the U.S. The lawsuit comes two months after Walmart preemptively sued the Justice Department, the DEA, and Attorney General William Barr, arguing a lack of regulatory oversight contributed to the opioid crisis.  

For people with terminal illnesses, time lost to Covid-19 can't be made up

(ALEX HOGAN/STAT)

As people look ahead to 2021, it's become common for some to cast 2020 as a lost year, full of missed milestones and postponed plans. But for some people with terminal illnesses, that time "lost" due to the pandemic can feel more pressing. They haven't been able to pack in the bucket-list items and experiences as planned. “There’s no back to normal for me,” 42-year old Aaron Hoover, who got a glioblastoma diagnosis last year, tells STAT's Andrew Joseph, adding, “That notion of back to normal is just not even on the table for me.” Read more here

Bill Gates looks to the next year with Covid-19

We're not out of the woods with Covid-19 just yet, philanthropist Bill Gates warns in his new year in review post. He notes that a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has emerged on the scene and vaccination campaigns are only just getting underway. Still, the success of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines bodes well for other vaccines in the pipeline, Gates suggests, since other candidates attack the same part of the virus. The post also touches on how 16 countries have committed to work with the Gates Foundation to distribute vaccine doses equitably. Other topics on the list: better testing, as well as how developing countries seem to have evaded the kind of numbers seen in the U.S. and parts of Europe.

Inside STAT: The pandemic is worsening psychiatric bed shortages nationwide

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a number of health care shortages — including inpatient psychiatric beds. Hospitals around the country say it has been difficult to find enough beds for patients while also maintaining distancing requirements and keeping outbreaks of the virus at bay. The shortage of beds is a problem that has been years in the making due to budget cuts and rising demand for mental health care. The result: "Every day is an emergency," the CEO of one health system tells STAT contributor Roger Rapoport. Read more here.

Some cancer survivors are more likely to develop another type of cancer

Survivors of some cancer types are more likely to get and die from a separate type of cancer compared to the general population, according to new research. Scientists looked at data from more than 1.5 million cancer survivors, nearly 157,000 secondary cancer diagnoses, and almost 89,000 deaths. The risk of developing a secondary cancer was higher for male survivors of 18 of 30 cancer types examined in the study and for 21 of the 31 cancer types included for female survivors. Overall, laryngeal and gallbladder cancers were associated with the highest such risk of a secondary cancer as were initial cancers associated with obesity or smoking. 

Digitized smallpox records from over 300 years show evolving patterns

It's been 40 years since smallpox was eradicated worldwide, but studying the disease is still yielding insights. In a new study, researchers digitized more than 13,000 weekly morbidity records from over 300 years, with reports dating back to 1664. The records showed how advances in public health measures such as variolation — taking part of a smallpox scab or fluid from pustules and exposing an uninfected individual to them to induce a mild infection — and vaccination corresponded with fewer outbreaks. The data also show seasonal patterns in the disease: mortality was lowest in the spring until the mid-1800s. After 1840, when outbreak frequency decreased, patterns shifted from fall and winter peaks in cases to peaks in winter and spring. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 195,033
Deaths yesterday: 3,401

What to read around the web today

  • Massive 2021 U.S. spending bill leaves research advocates hoping for more. Science
  • Sloan Kettering paid $1.5 million severance to a cancer doctor forced out over conflicts. The New York Times
  • How Covid-19 hollowed out a generation of young Black men. ProPublica
  • Dozens of women allege unwanted surgeries and medical abuse In ICE custody. NPR
  • Hospitals confront tensions over who gets first Covid-19 vaccines. The Wall Street Journal
  • The science events to watch for in 2021. Nature

Thanks for reading! Wishing everyone a happy — and safe — holiday season. I'll see you in the New Year! 

Shraddha

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

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