Today's News and Commentary

About the public’s health

Religious Objections to the Measles Vaccine? Get the Shots, Faith Leaders Say: Other than baseless pseudoscientific claims, a leading reason parents do not vaccinate their children is religious objection. This article does a great job explaining this religious belief and debunks it using Jewish, Muslim and Catholic authorities as sources. After reading this article it would be hard for anyone to still claim religious reasons for not vaccinating their children.

Read the article (NY Times but appears to be open access)

Kansas Supreme Court rules state constitution protects abortion rights, a decision that could lead to challenges in other states: On Friday, the Kansas Supreme court ruled 6 to 1 that the state’s constitution protects the right “to control one’s own body, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination. This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation and family life — decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.” This ruling may be template for other states that want to insulate themselves from federal efforts to ban such procedures.

Read the story (Washington Post but appears to be open access)

No Time to Wait: Securing the Future from Drug-Resistant Infections: The WHO just published this document detailing the global harms from drug-resistant infections and measures that must be put in place to prevent the situation from worsening. See Figure 1 for a helpful graphic of the situation. Very strong language in the report- but it is needed.

Read the report

High-Sensitivity Troponin I and Incident Coronary Events, Stroke, Heart Failure Hospitalization, and Mortality in the ARIC Study: Troponin assays have been used for many years to assess acute heart attacks. In more recent years, the test has been improved by using high sensitivity versions. This large study found that a high sensitivity version (hs-TnI) can also be used to predict cardiovascular events (like heart attack and stroke) years before they occur.

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5-year versus risk-category-specific screening intervals for cardiovascular disease prevention: a cohort study: Speaking of cardiovascular screening, this study assessed the frequency of recommended followups in patients with cardiovascular disease. It found that the usual 5 year interval (based on expert opinion, not research) was too frequent for some and inadequate for others. A customized approach is detailed.

Read the research

When It's Time For A Mammogram, Should You Ask For 3D?: This report from NPR was published yesterday and aired this morning. It discussed the superiority of 3D mammography over the older 2D version and recommends this technique if available.

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For Obese People, Commuting by Car Can Be a Killer: Study: Another reason to use public transportation. This news release about research conducted in the UK found: “Compared to people of normal weight who walked or cycled to work (active commuters), those who were obese and commuted by car had a 32% higher risk of early death from any cause; twice the risk of dying from heart disease; and a 59% higher risk for non-fatal heart disease.”

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In Washington, Juul Vows to Curb Youth Vaping. Its Lobbying in States Runs Counter to That Pledge; Juul has said it doesn’t market to teens and is against vaping in that age group. This NY Times investigative article says otherwise: “The company’s 80-plus lobbyists in 50 states are fighting proposals to ban flavored e-cigarette pods, which are big draws for teenagers; pushing legislation that includes provisions denying local governments the right to adopt strict vaping controls; and working to make sure that bills to discourage youth vaping do not have stringent enforcement measures.”

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Genetic and Early-Life Environmental Influences on Dental Caries Risk: A Twin Study: Genetics or environment? In the case of dental caries (cavities) it’s environmental influences that can begin as early as the prenatal period. This finding is good news because factors leading to caries can be modified.

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About pharma

FDA approves expanded label for Regeneron/Sanofi's cholesterol drug: Praluent is in a class of drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors, which can powerfully lower LDL cholesterol. It came out in 2015 as an adjunct to statin therapy for high risk patients with high cholesterol that was not controllable by other means. Now the FDA has expanded its indication to “ to reduce the overall risk of major adverse cardiovascular events, “ which include heart attacks, ischemic strokes and unstable chest pains requiring hospitalization. Of note is that the price will now be $5,850 a year, down from more than $14,000 a year, when it was first approved in 2015; the reduction is due to price competition from Amgen’s Repatha.

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Synthetic and living micropropellers for convection-enhanced nanoparticle transport: Nanoparticles have great potential to deliver medication to targeted sites, especially tumors. One technique to get the particles where they are needed is use of magnets. This research documents using both synthetic magnets in nanomachines as well as natural magnetic properties of bacteria.

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About healthcare IT

Notification of Enforcement Discretion Regarding HIPAA Civil Money Penalties: HHS has just issued revised monetary penalties for HIPAA violations. The previous penalties were assessed by the type of occurrence without regard to the severity of breach, mitigating circumstances or what the provider did to prevent it. Now the penalties for the lowest categories (like “no knowledge”) have been lowered to as low as $100 per infraction. (See page 7 for a chart of penalties.)

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About health insurance

Department of Labor appeals ruling against 'Trumpcare' plans: The Department of Labor will take the federal government’s lead in appealing the court decision that association health plans are invalid.

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