Susana Machado • December 1, 2017

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

Apple has Heart

In September, Apple announced that they were working with Stanford on a study to determine the Apple Watch’s ability to detect abnormalities in heart rhythm. Today, the FDA approved a sensor embedded in the Apple Watch that uses AI to detect irregularities, and then prompts the user to take an EKG.

They’ve also released the app associated with their heart study, which anyone over the age of 22 can participate in by downloading the app. If a participant’s watch flags an issue, they receive a free consultation with a remote doctor.

Gene Therapy Needs Viruses to Go Viral

Since the FDA expedited approval of gene therapies, genetics has gained a lot of traction but now they’re hitting an unusual obstacle. For a genetic therapy to work, a disabled virus is needed that scientists can modify to carry the desired genes into the targeted cell.

Turns out, those viruses aren’t so easy to come by. The viruses have to be custom made in a costly process which often has to be outsourced as most companies aren’t qualified to produce the viruses themselves. Many firms are at capacity and struggling to meet demand, throwing a wrench in gene therapy’s workflow.

FDA Keeps its Foot on the Gas

In a hearing, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb states that the FDA would approve drugs based off early clinical trial results if they show an impact on survival. This fits into the FDA’s tone-shift to “accelerated approval” processes, including expedition of digital health products.

This means that the FDA would wait until later to determine if the effect was coincidental or not. The drug approval process can otherwise be lengthy, and an earlier approval of promising drugs could benefit patients currently affected.

X Rays Get a Radiation Reduction

A new study has determined an algorithm that could reduce radiation exposure significantly. Reading scans has always been a challenge due to the fact that all soft tissue has the same density, and therefore shows up similarly on the scan with little differentiation.

The new technique will accomplish both – reduce radiation by 100 fold and produce clearer scans with more definition. X rays and CT scans account for 26 percent of imaging but account for 89 percent of annual radiation exposure, meaning the new algorithm could have widespread impact.

The Thrill of a Digital Pill

Adherence to prescriptions has historically been weak. Only 50 percent of people actually take their medication as directed by their physician, even in countries with more developed health infrastructure.

The digital pill is a solution to that. Using an electric sensor, the pill sends a signal to a patch on the body which pings the patient’s accompanying app that the dose has been taken. Patients can then share these results with their care provider.

Digital pills have already been FDA approved, and there’s a lot of future potential, including monitoring acidity or temperature.

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