Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Juul’s role in the teen vaping epidemic and other D.C. happenings

All eyes may be on Robert Mueller testifying in D.C. today, but there are a couple other interesting events of note. First up, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform is holding the first of a two-part hearing on the e-cigarette maker Juul and its role in the growing teen nicotine epidemic. The committee will consider the company’s marketing tactics as well as its health claims. Notably, this morning’s hearing will not include anyone from the company but will instead feature testimony from public health and advocacy groups that oppose teen vaping. 

Also happening today is a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on addressing the ongoing Ebola outbreak. Dr. Mitch Wolfe, the CDC’s chief medical officer, and officials from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development will testify.

FDA sends warning letter to CBD company Curaleaf

Amid growing confusion over how to regulate the booming CBD industry, the FDA is warning Massachusetts-based Curaleaf not to make unsubstantiated health claims about the CBD products it sells. In a letter made public yesterday, the FDA said that Curaleaf, which operates in 12 states, was illegally selling CBD products with claims that they would treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions. “There are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, effectiveness and quality of unapproved products containing CBD,” acting FDA commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless said in a statement. Curaleaf said in a statement that it plans to respond to the FDA within 15 days and is “fully committed to complying with FDA requirements for all of the products that it markets.” 

Inside STAT: Heart rate trackers in Fitbits, other wearables may not be as accurate for people of color

(Alex Hogan/STAT)

Bias in medicine isn’t new, and it’s not surprising that the trend also extends to digital medicine. Nearly 52 million people in the U.S. have some sort of device with a heart rate tracker, something like a FitBit or Apple Watch, but these devices may not work as accurately for people of color. The reason behind that is simple: The technology that the devices rely on to detect heartbeats does not work as well in those with more melanin in their skin. Many companies, including Fitbit and Samsung, use green light optical sensors, which emit shorter wavelengths. This means they're absorbed faster in those with darker skin than the powerful infrared sensors used in hospital heart monitors and make it harder to get accurate heartbeat reads. STAT’s Ruth Hailu has more here

Using compensation to cope with autism may mean missed diagnoses and support

People with autism often use compensatory strategies for troubles with communication. They might rehearse a conversation beforehand, for example. New research finds that doing so may delay the diagnosis of autism and lead to poorer mental health. Researchers surveyed 136 adults — half had been clinically diagnosed with autism, the other half either self-diagnosed with autism or expressed social difficulties. Almost all of them used compensation strategies. Among those who had been diagnosed, the researchers contend, their autism was missed during childhood and adolescence because the strategies made teachers and parents think the children were neurotypical. The participants felt they didn’t get as much support as adults because they came off as “too normal,” according to the survey. The authors hope the study will lead to better diagnoses and support for those with autism. 

NFL players experience higher rates of atrial fibrillation 

Here’s more news on the health of professional athletes, this time about football players. A new study finds that NFL players have a higher chance of having atrial fibrillation, a condition characterized by an irregular heartbeat. The irregularity could in turn lead to blood clots, strokes, and other serious problems. Scientists looked at 460 former NFL athletes and found that compared to a control group enrolled in a heart study, 5% of the athletes had atrial fibrillation compared to 0.5% of the control group. After controlling for other cardiovascular risks, former players were almost six times more likely to have atrial fibrillation. Previous research has suggested an increased chance of atrial fibrillation in those who do prolonged endurance exercise; more research is needed to tease out the link in NFL players. 

Cancer patients look for more support, better diagnostic process

A 4,000-person survey in cancer patients from 10 Western countries finds that those who are looking for emotional support dealing with their cancer are largely unable to get it. Here’s more from the report, which was conducted by the All Can initiative, which gets some of its funding from six pharma companies: 

  • Support: Nearly 40% said they didn’t get the support they needed to deal with ongoing symptoms and side effects. About a third felt they didn’t have adequate information about their cancer and treatment for it. 

  • Diagnosis: A quarter of respondents said their cancer diagnosis process was inefficient, more than any other aspect of cancer care. Nearly 60% were diagnosed outside a screening program. 

  • A caveat: Because the survey was conducted in developed countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., the results are not generalizable to many parts of the world where cancer care may be less accessible.

What to read around the web today

  • How a data detective exposed suspicious medical trials. Nature
  • Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show. Los Angeles Times
  • How Illinois became an abortion-rights haven. The New Yorker
  • Why it’s so hard to predict how much funding 9/11 first responders need. Kaiser Health News
  • Neil Armstrong’s death, and a stormy, secret $6 million settlement. The New York Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Wednesday, July 24, 2019


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