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Why Optimism Matters

Recently, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and other academic centers set out to re-analyze 30 clinical studies involving more than 14,000 patients with heart disease to see whether having a positive psychological outlook affected their health outcomes.

One study after another in the medical literature had already drawn links between depression, anxiety, and stress and poor outcomes in such patients. Indeed, the data on depression were so demonstrably clear that, in 2014, the American Heart Association labeled it a “risk factor for poor prognosis” following acute coronary syndrome (a heart attack or unstable angina, for example).

But the question here was whether the flipside was true: Did “positive psychological constructs”—an optimistic outlook on life or a general sense of well-being—correlate with reduced mortality and even hospitalizations in those with established cardiovascular disease?

The short answer? Yes. In about two-thirds of the studies, the team found, the optimists fared better overall. Their report, published last year in the International Journal of Cardiology and available here in digital commons, is worth reading for both its careful analysis and clarity.

Optimism may even help prevent progressive heart disease to begin with, according to some research. One mechanism for this may be that it favorably changes a person’s lipid profile—it was associated with higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lower triglycerides, according to a 2013 study. Likewise, optimism and emotional well-being have been tied to improved immune function and better pulmonary function.

Which brings me to today. Believing the future will be better than either the present or the past is healthy. Believing that we can meet the challenges that life throws at us with ingenuity and resolve, with creativity and fortitude, with collaboration and good will, is healthy.

Taking the time to cast a vote in our already-great republic is a statement of optimism—a manifestation of the belief that our voices matter. And that, without question, is healthy.

Go out and vote. It will be the kindest thing you do for yourself today.

Clifton Leaf
@CliftonLeaf
clifton.leaf@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Stanford scientists just made a CRISPR breakthrough in sickle cell. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have come one step closer to making a cure for sickle cell disease a reality by using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing to fix the faulty gene that causes the condition in patients' stem cells. The landmark achievement has senior study author Dr. Matthew Porteus confident that human trials can proceed. "We think we have a complete data set to present to the FDA to say we've done all pre-clinical experiments to show this is ready for a clinical trial," he told Reuters. While CRISPR has been vaunted for its potential in illnesses ranging from cancer to HIV, experts like National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Dr. Francis Collins say it may have particular promise in sickle cell disease. (Reuters)

Tech is having a hard time making smart devices safer. Internet of Things device makers continue to struggle against the burgeoning threat of cyber attacks, according to a host of cyber security experts. And that's a concerning reality given that about 30 billion devices are expected to be Internet-connected by 2020—including multiple healthcare-related products. The trouble is that many firms simply don't have the infrastructure in place to defend their technology. But the solution may itself emerge from next-gen tech like artificial intelligence and blockchain, which could assist healthcare providers and device makers in securing their transactions and data while continuously adjusting to the changing nature of cyber attacks. (Fortune)

Roche is taking its next-gen cancer therapy into melanoma combo trials. Biotech giant Roche elbowed its way into the crowded immuno-oncology field with an approval for its PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq earlier this year. The therapy has been cleared to treat bladder cancer and lung cancer, and Roche execs have previously told me that Tecentriq is meant to form the "backbone" of the firm's cancer immunotherapy ambitions. Now, the company is building out the rest of the skeleton by pushing into late-stage clinical trials testing out Tecentriq in combination with the treatments Cotellic (cobimetinib) and Zelboraf (vemurafenib) to treat melanoma. The hope is that the barrage of medicines will boost Tecentriq's efficacy (while avoiding side effects that may add up when nesting treatments)—and it would also provide Roche a pricier product to sell. (Pharma Times)

This robot-assisted surgery company's sales are spiking. Mazor Robotics, a medical device firm that creates robotic tools to assist in surgery, saw sales of its "surgical guidance systems" surge in the third quarter of 2016, the company announced. In fact, Mazor sold almost as many units in Q3 as it did in all of 2015. One reason for the upswing? A partnership with device giant Medtronic, which will eventually become Mazor's sole development and commercialization platform on robotic spine surgery products. (Mass Device)

INDICATIONS

Pharma may pull off a major comeback on California's drug price cap initiative. Polling from earlier this year had indicated that California's Proposition 61, a Bernie Sanders-backed drug price cap initiative that would limit the amount that the state's public health programs pay for medicines to the level paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs, would cruise to victory. But new surveys are showing a much closer race in the wake of record lobbying against the measure by drug makers, who have poured some $110 million into the campaign. If Prop 61 goes down, it would be a major victory for the biopharma industry, which doesn't expect the outrage over high drug prices to subside anytime soon.

Valeant just pulled an epic Election Day news dump. You may be aware that today marks the culmination of one of the most contentious, unusual, and dramatic presidential elections of modern times. Well, Valeant Pharmaceuticals is hoping you'll be too busy concentrating on that to focus on its disastrous earnings report, which the embattled pharma giant unveiled early Tuesday morning. The company announced that it's slashing its full-year earnings guidance amid lower-than-expected profits. And the results help explain Valeant's recent decision to reportedly pursue a sale of its Salix gut drug unit. Valeant shares were down about 20% in Tuesday morning trading. (Fortune)

Eisai is moving a sleep drug for Alzheimer's patients into mid-stage trials. Eisai's experimental treatment lemborexant is forging ahead into phase 2 trials. The novel therapy is a sleep drug that's being tested in Alzheimer's patients who have an irregular sleeping condition called Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorder (ISWRD), which can lead to restless nights and fatigue during the day. (Pharma Times)

THE BIG PICTURE

Colorado single payer appears destined for defeat. Colorado's Amendment 69 is, to put it lightly, a controversial proposition. If passed, the ballot measure would establish a single payer system in the state to displace the private insurance market and employer-sponsored health plans. It would aim to provide universal coverage and free preventive care for all residents and work in tandem with existing public healthcare programs like Medicare. But polling has shown little enthusiasm for Amendment 69 among Colorado voters, who have concerns over the 10% payroll tax that ColoradoCare would impose and questions about exactly how its various mechanisms would function. Insurance giants in the state have raised $4 million to defeat the measure.

Senators ask Mylan to reimburse U.S. military. Mylan, which has now been accused of everything from taking advantage of contracts with school boards to allegedly over-charging health programs by classifying its branded EpiPen product as a generic, is being asked to pay back the U.S. military over the cost of the device. A bipartisan group of senators including Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley and committee members Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota sent a letter to Mylan chief Heather Bresch demanding that the company provide recompense for the higher prices the Defense Department reportedly paid for the life-saving product at retail pharmacies. The Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing into EpiPen pricing on November 30. (Fortune)

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