AngelMD Friday Roundup – December 8, 2017

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

Promising Zika Vaccine Produced by NIH

The vaccine was developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and was shown to produce an immune response in adults. Because of Zika’s link to birth defects, the vaccine was developed extremely quickly.

The vaccine itself is a plasmid encoded with two proteins found n the Zika virus, this stimulates an immune response, including generating antibodies to protect the body from any real Zika infection.

Contraceptives Linked to Breast Cancer

Women who use hormonal birth control have an increased risk of breast cancer according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study followed 1.8 Danish women and found the rate of breast cancer per 100,000 women higher in the group that used hormonal contraception (68 versus 55 in nonusers).

The research also indicates that progestrin, a common hormone used in birth control, raises breast cancer risk. Current birth control methods were thought to be significantly safer due to the decreased dose of hormones, but though risk has gone down, this study shows it is not absent.

CRISPR Can Now Activate Genes Without Editing Them

“What can’t CRSIPR do?” is the question we should probably all be asking ourselves at this point. At the Salk Institute in San Diego, researchers “turned on” beneficial genes in live mice, which improved the animals’ health in 50 percent of cases.

CRISPR had successfully been used to edit gene expression previously, but never in vivo because the material needed was too large to fit in the viral transport. Instead, researchers split the materials into two separate viruses and perfected the technique through trial and error.

Retail Drug Spending Decelerates

Though still growing, retail prescription drug spending has slowed to 1.3 percent growth in comparison to 12.4 percent growth just three years ago, a CMS report states. The agency credits this to a decrease in hepatitis C costs.

Overall, healthcare spending increased to $3.3 trillion, but pharmaceuticals consistently makes up about 10 percent of that, a stat pharma execs can point to to show pricing isn’t out of control.

Brain Atlas (No, Not the Sequel to Cloud Atlas)

A team of neuroscientists at UC San Francisco have been compiling information on gene expression in the brain for the last five years. They hope to create a comprehensive atlas of the human brain.

The researchers analyzed individual brain cells, which will enable new classifications for cells based on gene regulation instead of relying on shape and location. Though this new atlas covers less regions than the Allen Institute’s 2014 version, it does so with higher specificity than ever before.

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AngelMD Friday Roundup – December 1st, 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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Friday Roundup

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.

Bill Gates’ Newest Gift: Alzheimer’s Research

The world’s richest man has committed $50 million to finding a treatment for the neurodegenerative disease. On his blog, Gates identifies the financial burden of Alzheimer’s as how he became interested in the disease, noting patients spend five times more on healthcare due to the disease.

But is the U.S. ready for such a drug? Over 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to triple by 2050. The current healthcare system simply isn’t equipped to handle that volume — there aren’t enough doctors or equipment to diagnose early stage patients who could benefit from a drug.

Why Tech Gets Abandoned in Healthcare

On the Healthcare Leadership blog, professor Trisha Greenhalgh argues for more studies of non-adoption, or abandonment of tech. Though more challenging because of the future sight required to study it, valuable information could be gathered.

“If researchers studied real-world implementation at all, they focused on small-scale demonstration projects – but didn’t look at why such projects failed to extend locally (scale-up), more distantly (spread) or continue long-term (sustainability),” Greenhalgh wrote.

Greenhalgh outlines the NASS framework in the post, a new way to study “the non-adoption and abandonment of technologies by individuals (staff and patients) and problems with scale-up, spread and sustainability.”

First In-Body Gene Editing Attempted

Brian Madeux suffers from Hunter’s syndrome, a metabolic disorder that can affect organ function, mental development, and physical abilities. On Monday, billions of corrected genes entered Madeux’s system via an IV.

Madeux is the first to receive such a treatment, and the scientists who administered it will know whether or not it worked in three months. The therapy will permanently alter Madeux’s DNA, and if successful, would boost the already growing field of gene therapy.

AMA Pushes for More Organ Donors with New Policy

The American Medical Association adopted a policy that encourages employers to provide paid leave for organ donors. Studies show costs to living organ donors can exceed 76 percent of one month’s pay. In addition, living donors often cannot take enough time off to recover.

At any given time, there are 116,000 people waiting for an organ transplant nationwide and in 2016, 6,000 transplants were made possible by living donors.

Amish Gene could Lead to Diabetes Treatment

The SERPINE1 gene, which seems to be exclusive to the Old Order Amish community in Indiana, has been linked with significant health benefits, including significantly less diabetes and lower fasting insulin levels. Individuals with the gene also live 13 percent longer on average.

The gene also leads to low levels of plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1), a protein involved in blood clotting, which a research team from Northwestern is hoping to test as a treatment for insulin sensitivity in individuals with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

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AngelMD Friday Roundup – 5 Big Stories from this Week

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.

Pro Tip: Get Injured During the Day

New research suggests that when an injury occurs can impact how fast it heals due to the circadian rhythm of cells. The researched looked specifically at fibroblasts — skin cells that help with wound repair — which operate on a rhythm, and used them to estimate the times of day that would impact biological healing.

The difference between night and day was twofold, which is fairly significant. Researchers aren’t confident enough to declare it the only factor in time spent recovering, but it certainly has some effect.

I Dream of Genes

According to a statement from commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the FDA is streamlining the approval process for consumer genetic testing.

In it, the FDA asserts the fact that people are “more aware of and engaged in their health care than ever before” as a main drive for fast tracking the tests which can reveal if someone carries genes that predispose them to certain diseases.

Now, manufacturers of these tests will just need to pass a one-time review, after that any tests they produce can go straight to market without further review.

Are Cookie-Cutter Hospitals the Future?

Hospital chains have been growing for years and they’re reaching behemoth sizes. In some towns, nearly all the hospitals are owned by companies located hundreds of miles away.

Recently, this growth has slowed, due to a variety of factors and as the nation’s healthcare policy debate rages on, the future of hospital ownership has been called into question.

Some consolidation was inevitable, but also jeopardizes a hospital’s community ties. Read more about the shift in POLITICO.

Second Skin

A child suffering from epidermolysis bullosa has been successfully treated with genetically engineered skin cells. Epidermolysis bullosa is a painful disease that results in fragile skin which easily blisters.

In this particular case, a 7-year-old boy had lost 60 percent of his outer skin layer and doctors were struggling to treat him. After failed transplants, they turned to genetic engineering by using a virus to insert health genes into the boy’s skin cells and then let them multiply, resulting in a sheet of epidermis.

The method gives hope to parents of children with the disease and doctors at Stanford are now also using the treatment.

Face the Facts

EHR program Drchrono becomes the first to integrate with Apple’s new FaceID feature. Doctors can now simply look at their phone and login into their Drchrono account.

Leveraging this new technology means reducing the valuable time that can be wasted trying to gain record access. Drchrono hold roughly three percent of the US population’s medical records and were also the first to implement TouchID when the feature was made available.

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AngelMD Friday Roundup – November 3rd, 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.

Biotech Stock is Waning

October was a slow month for biotech – the index dropped 5.8 percent after it had been trending upward since earlier 2017.

“Perhaps the one thing that has affected s-mid cap sentiment is a more measured outlook for fundraising,” said Eric Schmidt of Cowen. “September/October were heavy months for banking activity, and some capital markets fatigue appears to be setting in.”

AMA Calls for Fight Against Physician Burnout

At the Connected Health Conference in Boston, AMA president Dr. David Barb used his keynote speech as an opportunity to call attention to the issue of physician burnout and how some digital innovation in medicine can add to it.

Burnout is having a significant impact according to a recent survey of 6,880 practicing physicians. The results show that 1 in 5 physicians want to reduce hours and 1 in 50 plan to leave medicine in the next two years.

Stents Stunted by New Trial

The study suggests that percutaneous coronary intervention or PCI, a non-invasive method of opening up arteries which typically involves catheters, balloons, and stents, might have no more effect than non-action, suggesting a possible placebo effect.`

PCI has been used for nearly 40 years and has become the main choice of treatment. Though the study was small, it does raise questions about the procedures performed on already stable patients.

What is in Your Gut?

Turns out the gut microbiome plays a role in the effectiveness of immunotherapy as a cancer treatment. Two different studies in Science found indications that the bacteria in the gut impacts treatment.

One study found “good” bacteria aided treatment and the other found that those taking antibiotics had less success with immunotherapy because of the lack of gut bacteria. The studies are prompting physicians to consider profiling a patient’s gut microbiome before beginning treatment.

Opioid Commission Gives Final Recommendations

Following the declaration of a health emergency by the White House at the end of October, the commission on drug addiction and the opioid crisis released its final report this week.

The report included recommendations for handling the crisis including expanding the drug court system and educational media about resources. Not among the report or declaration? Recommendations for funding, which has become a major point for those critiquing the administration’s handling of the crisis.

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