Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Welcome to Morning Rounds. 

The House is slated to vote on a "right-to-try" bill today

The House is expected to vote today on a bill that would expand access to experimental therapies for the terminally ill. The measure would add new limits on who, exactly, can use the pathway. And it would give the FDA, which already has a process in place to help patients get access to unapproved therapies, more oversight than a similar bill that passed the Senate last fall. But critics of the bill say it could still undermine the agency's role in protecting patients, in part because it gives the FDA less of a chance to weigh in on the use of largely untested treatments in particularly vulnerable groups. More on that here

Petition demands details about neuroscientist's dismissal

Dozens of current and former students and postdocs at Columbia are urging administrators to give more details about why the university is shutting down the lab of prominent neuroscientist Thomas Jessell, STAT’s Sharon Begley and Andrew Joseph report. The rundown:

  • Columbia put out a short statement last week that said an investigation had “revealed serious violations of University policies and values,” but didn’t offer more details. Current and former students have started an online petition to get answers.

  • Four current or former members of Columbia’s neuroscience department and four prominent neuroscientists who’ve known the researcher for years tell STAT that Jessell was said to have engaged in personal relationships some viewed as inappropriate.

  • Columbia said in its statement that Jessell has been "out of the lab since the investigation began.” But an email obtained by STAT says that Jessell is expected in the lab two days a week through May. 

Generic drug works just as well as Plavix, study finds

A new study out this morning suggests generic blood thinners do just as good of a job as its brand-name counterpart, Plavix, which prevents platelets from clumping in the blood. After Plavix’s patent expired in 2012, the health ministry in Ontario started automatically giving the generic drug clopidogrel — which is far cheaper — to patients hospitalized for a heart attack or heart-related chest pain. Researchers looked at data from roughly 24,000 patients and found that those on ta generic were no more likely to die, have a stroke, or be hospitalized again for heart attack within a year than patients on Plavix. The authors say that’s real-world evidence that the generic is just as safe and effective.

Sponsor content by The Jackson Laboratory

Forget me not: Living with early on-set Alzheimer’s

Jackie Frisk can no longer recall how many children she has, but she can still play the piano beautifully. This strange juxtaposition is one of many changes that have come with the progression of her Alzheimer’s disease. Click here to learn more about how researchers at JAX are helping the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Inside STAT: Digital health is redefining pharma's pipeline


(mike reddy for stat)

Many pharma companies are ramping up their investments in software, infusing digital therapies into pipelines long dominated by traditional medicines. These products — dubbed digital therapeutics — deliver treatment through video games, smartphone apps, and sensors buried in pills or stuck on medication dispensers. They're designed to change a patient's behavior to control a wide range of conditions, from depression to heart disease. STAT's Casey Ross has more on the trend — read here

A California tax is improving mental health services

A bid to boost funding for mental health services in California is paying off, according to a new analysis just published by RAND and UCLA. California voters approved a 1 percent tax on personal income over $1 million in 2004 to generate more money for mental health services. With the added more people, Los Angeles County's mental health department was able to serve more people, researchers found.

Between 2012 and 2016, the county provided prevention and early interventions to 130,000 young people and critical help with housing and other social services to 25,000 people. The rate of homelessness and inpatient hospitalization for mental health issues fell among participants in the program, while the employment rate increased.

More scientists are crowdfunding for research

A growing number of scientists are crowdfunding their research. In a meta study about studies, researchers analyzed data from more than 700 fundraising campaigns on Experiment, an online fundraising platform for research projects. The findings: Junior scientists hit their fundraising goals more often than senior scientists, riskier projects weren’t any less likely to be funded, and a scientist’s prior publications don’t seem to impact the chance of reaching a funding goal. But don’t expect crowdfunding to replace traditional grant funding any time soon — the amount of money raised on the platform is still pretty small, relatively speaking.

What to read around the web today

  • Trump wants to liberalize health data. Easier said than done. Vox
  • Medicaid is rural America's financial midwife. Kaiser Health News
  • Big health care players are turning their partners into prey. Bloomberg

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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