Lawmakers Grill NIH Director Over Institute’s Cozy Relationship With Alcohol Industry
NIH Director Francis Collins assured the lawmakers he was "aggressively" investigating the ethical concerns over scientists' reported attempts to woo the industry into funding a study that touts the benefits of moderate drinking.
NIH Looking At Alcohol Industry Influence 'In A Very Aggressive Way'
The controversy over research conducted by the National Institutes of Health on the health impacts of moderate drinking has reached Capitol Hill, where a lawmaker on Wednesday stridently questioned the agency’s director, Francis Collins, over the NIH’s reportedly cozy relationship with the alcohol industry. In response to a question about reports that the NIH had allowed industry partnerships to influence research into alcohol use and the impact of alcohol marketing, Collins told Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) that the NIH is “looking into this in a very aggressive way.” (Facher, 4/11)
In other national health care news —
Where The ACA Health Insurance Exchanges Stand In 2018
Though enrollment in the exchanges slipped and insurers hiked premiums by an average of 30%, the size of the premium tax credits available to most exchange enrollees ballooned enough that the average subsidized shopper paid a lower premium for coverage than the year before. Even so, the individual on-exchange ACA plans remain unaffordable for millions of people who aren’t eligible for financial help. Congress has yet to pass legislation to bolster the market and bring down premiums, and is unlikely to do so before insurers must file 2019 rates later this spring. (Livingston, 4/11)
FDA-Designated 'Breakthrough' Therapies May Not Be Real Breakthroughs
In a review of three years of drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration under a “breakthrough therapy” pathway, researchers argue that some of the compounds are not actually scientific breakthroughs, which they say could be potentially misleading to the public. “You have newly approved breakthrough therapy drugs that may not be any better than existing treatments, and in some cases, it’s possible they could be even worse,” said Jonathan Darrow, lead author of the paper and faculty member of Harvard Medical School. (Swetlitz, 4/11)
Senator Lashes Out At Drug Makers For Buying Back Stock, Not Cutting Prices
Amid ongoing debate over the effect of the recent tax law, one lawmaker complains that shareholders in the nation’s 10 largest drug makers will reap a “windfall,” but the average American will not share in the bounty because none of these companies is using tax cuts to lower prescription medicine prices. In a new report, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) noted that several of the companies have announced more than $45 billion in stock buybacks, but overall, there has been only “limited mention” of investments in ways that could benefit patients and workers, such as increases in R&D and capital investment for building new facilities and creating jobs. (Silverman, 4/11)
Could CRISPR Create Monster Animals? STAT Reviews 'Rampage'
We here at STAT cover CRISPR a lot. But it’s not every day we get to cover Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The Rock and the genome-editing technology meet in a new movie, “Rampage,” coming out Friday. Through a freak accident, a gorilla, a wolf, and a crocodile ingest some CRISPR complexes. The animals — whose genomes become edited to make them stronger, bigger, faster, and more aggressive — soon wreak havoc on the city of Chicago. (Thielking and Joseph, 4/12)
Kaiser Health News:
Make Room For Baby: After Giving Birth, Duckworth Presses Senate To Bend Rules
It is so common that it likely will have happened at least once somewhere in the United States by the time you finish reading this sentence. But it took more than 230 years for it to happen to a senator. On Monday, Tammy Duckworth became the first sitting senator to give birth, forcing Senate leaders to face how ill prepared they may be to accommodate the needs of a new mother. (Huetteman, 4/11)
Kaiser Health News:
What We Know And Don’t Know About Memory Loss After Surgery
Two years ago, Dr. Daniel Cole’s 85-year-old father had heart bypass surgery. He hasn’t been quite the same since. “He forgets things and will ask you the same thing several times,” said Cole, a professor of clinical anesthesiology at UCLA and a past president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. “He never got back to his cognitive baseline,” Cole continued, noting that his father was sharp as a tack before the operation. “He’s more like 80 percent.” (Graham, 4/12)