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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

New Trump budget proposal includes HHS cuts but increased NIH funding

Planning ahead to a potential second term, President Trump yesterday released his budget for the 2021 fiscal year. Within the $4.8 trillion proposal is an overall cut to HHS funds, but a boost for NIH funding. Here’s more: 

  • HHS cuts: Overall, the proposed budget represents a 10% decrease in HHS funding compared to 2020 levels. 

  • NIH boost: The new proposal includes $38 billion in funding for the NIH, an additional $4 billion more than what was requested in the current budget. The agency’s priorities would continue to be addressing the opioid epidemic and working toward a universal flu vaccine.  

  • Child care: The new HHS budget also includes a $1 billion one-time investment for states to work with employers to set up child care programs and increase the supply of providers.  

And in a striking move, the budget also calls for the creation of a new agency dedicated to regulating tobacco, including e-cigarettes, stripping the FDA of all authority. Read more about that here.

WHO convenes experts to discuss coronavirus response

Today and tomorrow, the WHO is holding a conference for public health experts and researchers to discuss the response to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak. More than 400 people have registered for the conference, according to WHO officials, many of whom are joining in virtually. Although response efforts have been underway for a while, “[B]ringing everybody together I think will give us a leapfrog moment in terms of coherence, priority setting, and then setting that road map so we all travel that road together in the coming months,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, told reporters. One priority, Ryan shared, will be developing serology tests so that officials can assess not only those who have more serious illness, but also possibly missed milder cases. The outbreak has thus far infected more than 43,000 people and 1,019 have died.

Inside STAT: Priscilla Chan's unglamorous quest to fight disease. (Mark is involved, too.)


Priscilla Chan speaks in San Francisco. (JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES)

When newly minted pediatrician Priscilla Chan took the stage with her Facebook co-founder husband Mark Zuckerberg in 2016 and pledged to cure all diseases within their children’s lifetimes, it could have been dismissed as just another lofty Silicon Valley goal. But more than three years later, the now almost 35-year-old Chan is insisting that the goal that she and her husband set is realistic. “We are serious about it,” Chan tells STAT’s Rebecca Robbins. “We think that if that’s our north star, we think it’s not impossible.” What has especially set Chan and Zuckerberg apart is the fact that they are taking a much broader view of disease, when others have focused in on specific conditions. “It’s not about one disease that’s important to me, or one specific question I want answered,” Chan says. Read more here

Long-term data confirm rise in STDs

Consistent with previously published short-term data, new data from 12 years of insurance claims finds that sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. are on the rise. Here’s more from the report

  • Overall trends: Nationally, claim lines for STD diagnoses went up 76% between 2007-2018, and the spike was especially pronounced in rural areas. They experienced a 98% rise in claim lines, while urban areas saw a 77% increase. 

  • By disease: Claim lines associated with diagnoses of Mycoplasma genitalium, an STD caused by a bacterium of the same name, saw an increase of nearly 200%. Claims associated with chlamydia and gonorrhea also increased by more than 100%.

  • Demographics: In those over 60, hepatitis B was the disease with the highest increase. Overall, males experienced a 326% increase in gonorrhea diagnoses — females experienced a 47% increase.

Palliative care could help improve the quality of life for Parkinson’s disease patients

A small study of individuals with Parkinson’s disease finds that adding palliative care to standard care may help raise their quality of life. Half the patients in a 210-person trial were assigned to visit physicians as usual, while the others also received palliative care — a team of a social worker, nurse, palliative medicine specialist, and chaplain visited the patient at home or via telemedicine to discuss symptoms and difficult emotions and offer support to caregivers. Patients in the combination care group had more improvement in their quality of life score (as measured by a survey that assesses physical and mental health). These patients also scored higher on quality of life measures when their caregivers were surveyed in their stead. In a related commentary, experts suggest that future studies should evaluate how different models of palliative care perform against each other. 

HHS launches facility to develop new biotechnologies

HHS yesterday announced the launch of what it’s calling the Foundry for American Biotechnology, the first such facility tasked with coming up with solutions to help the U.S. fend off health security threats and improve daily medical care. In a statement, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, "As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus reminds us, protecting the health and security of the American people requires constantly investing in biotechnology innovation and partnering with the private sector.” The facility will be based in Manchester, N.H., and will be co-managed by local technology company DEKA Research & Development Corp. The first project will focus on automated, portable devices that can be deployed to disaster locations to make necessary medicines on-site. 

What to read around the web today

  • Georgia city sues alleging ‘unconscionable’ drug cost. Associated Press
  • Vaping-related deaths fall, but families still look for answers. The Wall Street Journal
  • U.S. biotechs fear the coronavirus outbreak will delay their China-based research, STAT Plus
  • U.K. time limit on storing frozen eggs and sperm could be extended. The Guardian
  • In reelection bid, a GOP lawmaker campaigns on Pelosi’s drug pricing bill. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

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