Greetings, readers. This is Sy.
A major bit of public health-related news this morning: Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes related to his actions during the Flint water crisis. Lyon is now the highest-ranking Michigan official to be charged as part of an ongoing Michigan Attorney General investigation into the lead-contaminated water crisis, which some health experts have also linked to 100 cases of Legionnaires' disease and 12 deaths in Flint in 2014 and 2015.
Michigan chief medical officer Dr. Eden Wells was also charged on Wednesday with obstruction of justice and lying to an investigator, according to the Associated Press.
Lyon is being accused of failing to warn the public about the Legionnaires' outbreak (the disease is a form of bacterial pneumonia that can be spread through pathogens which grow in warm water) in Flint, leading to the death of an 85-year-old man, according to investigators. He's also facing a misconduct charge over allegations that he tried to obstruct academics who were looking into possible links between Flint's water and the Legionnaires' spike.
Flint began using river water in order to save money but failed to treat it for corrosives, causing lead to seep into the water supply. Residents either had to consume the dirty water or rely on bottled water while the cleanup effort was underway.
The effort to restore and replace the pipes has been slow. Officials overseeing the initiative have predicted that it could still take several more years before Flint residents can safely drink unfiltered tap water.
Read on for the day's other news.
A sun tan—without the sun? What if you could get that coveted summertime glow without all the skin cancer-causing UV rays? That possibility could be on the horizon, according to new research published in the journal Cell Reports. Scientists have successfully boosted melanin production in human skin (in a lab culture) with the use of a small molecule. Of course, there's a lot more research to be done. After all, this darker skin was only produced in limited cells in a Petri dish, and there could be safety concerns associated with tweaking the skin's pigmentation mechanisms. (Popular Science)
The new ambulances for heart attack patients could be drones. A new study by Swedish researchers highlights the promise that drones could hold for treating heart attack patients experience cardiac arrest far away from a hospital or other facility that carries an automated external defibrillator that can shock the heart back into its natural rhythm. Time is the most critical resource for a heart attack patient; the longer that person goes without an AED charge or other treatment, the higher the risk of death. And drones equipped with high definition cameras, GPS, and an autopilot system were able to deliver AEDs by a median of 16 minutes faster than an ambulance in the study, suggesting that the tools could prove extremely useful in an emergency medical situation. (Fortune)
Alexion nabs Biogen's CFO. Veteran Biogen executive Paul Clancy, the company's Chief Financial Officer, has been poached by Alexion Pharmaceuticals as the latter firm continues to shake up its executive roster in the wake of high-profile internal investigation into sales practices. That investigation led to the departures of former Alexion's CEO and CFO (the role that Clancy will now take over). Investors cheered the new appointment, sending Alexion shares up more than 8% in Wednesday trading. Biogen shares slipped nearly 3.5%.
Johnson & Johnson flu drug posts impressive results. An experimental Johnson & Johnson treatment for patients who don't respond to conventional flu-fighting drugs or have to be hospitalized after contracting the virus succeeded in a mid-stage clinical trial, significantly cutting down the virus' presence in participants. The drug, pimodivir, works differently from other flu treatments like Tamiflu and could be promising for people with influenza type A who are no longer responding to other treatments. (Reuters)
THE BIG PICTURE
Trump says he wants Obamacare replacement to be "generous." President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the House-passed American Health Care Act is "mean" and that the Senate should be "generous" and "kind" when considering its own legislation to dismantle Obamacare. "That may be adding additional money into it," Trump said during a lunch meeting with lawmakers. The Senate is reportedly considering a more moderate alternative to the AHCA that wouldn't phase out Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid quite as quickly, although no draft bill text or other details have been made available to the public. (Fortune)
FDA delays revamped nutrition facts panel. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is delaying long-planned changes to nutritional labels to make it easier to see how many calories and added sugars food products contain. The FDA originally intended the regulations, which would create more realistic portion estimates and make calorie counts more prominent, to go into effect by summer 2018. Now, companies will have more time to come into compliance, although it's not clear exactly how much more time. (Fortune)
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