In the movie “Rat Race,” there’s a scene where a mother (Whoopi Goldberg) and daughter (Lanei Chapman) are desperately trying to find the interstate and they stop to ask directions from a lady selling squirrels on the side of the road, ingeniously played by Kathy Bates. When the lost travelers refuse to buy a pet, the squirrel lady offers them a shortcut to the interstate…off a rocky cliff…and into a junk heap of other cars.
As mother and daughter speed to their fall, they see six hand-painted signs in a row: You. Should. Have. Bought. A. Squirrel.
I. Should. Have. Gotten. A. Flu. Shot.
Yup. Am out sick today. So I will leave this one here—except to say: Dear nation, we are near peak flu season. “Widespread influenza activity” has now been reported in 40 states, the CDC says. And while infections tend to crest anywhere between December and March, we could easily see “activity”—that’s one of those CDC words—as late as May.
So even if you haven’t yet bought a squirrel—er, been vaccinated—it’s not too late. It takes about two weeks after inoculation to get enough antibody protection to stave off an infection.
And take it from a guy who’s shivering as he types this: It’s worth it.
Sy has the news below.
Ohio police use man’s pacemaker data to charge him with arson and insurance fraud. In a sobering example of the realities of our data-driven world, Ohio authorities arrested a man on arson and insurance fraud charges after obtaining a warrant to get his pacemaker data. The accused man, Ross Compton, said that he’d thrown suitcases filled with his belongings out the window when he noticed his house was on fire and then lugged them over to his car. But an analysis of his cardiac rhythms stemming from his pacemaker led a cardiologist to conclude the story was “highly improbable.” (Police also found evidence of gasoline on the man’s clothing.) As innovative as that might be as a detection technique, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Stephanie Lacambra warns that it could be a harbinger of medical privacy violations down the line. “Americans shouldn’t have to make a choice between health and privacy,” she told SC Magazine. “We as a society value our rights to maintain privacy over personal and medical information, and compelling citizens to turn over protected health data to law enforcement erodes those rights.” (Engadget)
Jawbone is veering away from its consumer ambitions, suing Fitbit. Wearables maker Jawbone has decided to stop selling fitness trackers to consumers, choosing to focus on clinical services with a new high-end suite of products that can be used by clinicians and doctors and their patients. It’s a major shift which underscores the difficulties facing the wearables and fitness tracker sector, with falling demand dragging down the industry. And the firm is also suing one of its main competitors, Fitbit, alongside five former Jawbone employees for corporate espionage. “Each of the defendants has been, for more than five months, the subject of a criminal grand jury investigation regarding theft of Jawbone’s trade secrets that is being conducted by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security,” Jawbone said in a legal filing. (Fortune)
Medtronic is out with a non-invasive cardiac mapping vest. The FDA has approved medical device giant Medtronic’s CardioInsight Noninvasive 3D Mapping System – a product which could nix the need for invasive heart procedures in order to map the origin of an irregular cardiac rhythm. The product consists of three vest panels and 252 electrodes which collect heart data through the surface of the skin; then, using a combination of the electrode-derived data and a CT scan, the system can create a 3D map of the heart and help doctors sniff out where an arrhythmia is coming from. Since the product can be worn for an extended period of time, it may actually produce more accurate results than a standard, one-time ECG. (MobiHealthNews)
Gene therapy helped restore deaf mice’s hearing. Harvard Medical School researchers were able to successfully return hearing to deaf mice through a groundbreaking gene therapy technique. In fact, the method was so successful that the genetically deaf mice were eventually able to hear sounds at just 25 decibels, or a mere whisper. Harvard’s tech involves a new vector called Anc80, which is able to deliver the treatment gene to the hard-to-reach cells in the outer ear. Then, the therapeutic gene was able to help regenerate the ear hair cells which allow hearing in the first place. The approach could one day be used to help Usher Syndrome patients who have lost their hearing. “Cochlear implants are great, but your own hearing is better in terms of range of frequencies, nuance for hearing voices, music and background noise, and figuring out which direction a sound is coming from,” said Boston Children’s hearing loss specialist Dr. Margaret Kenna in a statement. (FierceBiotech)
Teva CEO abruptly steps down amid firm’s troubles. Teva chief Erez Vigodman, at the company’s helm just three years, is parting ways with the generic drug giant in what Teva describes as a “mutual” agreement. The interim chief will be board chairman Yitzhak Peterburg. Vigodman’s tenure comes to an end after a series of setbacks which have dogged the company. Teva was forced to slash more than a billion dollars off of its 2017 earnings guidance after new product sales fell sharply compared to previous years. While Vigodman justified the mistake by saying he was simply assuming sales would maintain their historical clip, the faux pas had some analysts saying that the firm needs new leadership. Vigodman’s eventual permanent replacement will also have to grapple with whether or not Teva’s generics business and branded new product pipeline should be separated, as some investors have argued. (Fortune)
Cellectis preps its unique CAR-T for trials. Here at Brainstorm Health Daily, we love to talk about chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) technology – the groundbreaking experimental cancer treatment platform that takes patients’ immune T-cells, trains them to become cancer-hunting killers through some biological engineering, and then re-inserts these cells into patients. A number of firms are jockeying to become first to the regulatory finish line with an approved CAR-T treatment (potentially Kite Pharma or Novartis). But there’s actually two distinct approaches to CAR-T. Because the treatment process is about as personalized as you can get, it’s extremely pricey and cumbersome, since each individual patient’s cells must be extracted, re-engineered, and then multiplied. But French biotech Cellectis has been toying with an “allogeneic” CAR-T method that it hopes will significantly simplify the process. Cellectis’ UCART123 is a “universal” CAR-T product that doesn’t depend on using every unique patient’s cells. It’s still an unproven method – but the FDA has now signed off on early-stage trials for the treatment. (Endpoints)
GW Pharma’s cannabis-based treatment shows promise in brain cancer. GW Pharmaceuticals, which may very well become the first company in U.S. history to have a marijuana-derived drug approved by the FDA, is setting its sights on cancer following promising early results in a glioblastoma trial. The deadly brain cancer is extremely aggressive and kills 70% of patients within two years of diagnosis. But in a small, 21-patient trial, a combination of GW’s cannabis-based drug and chemotherapy boosted median survival by more than six months compared to placebo. “The signals of efficacy demonstrated in this study further reinforce the potential role of cannabinoids in the field of oncology and provide GW with the prospect of a new and distinct cannabinoid product candidate in the treatment of glioma,” said GW CEO Justin Gover.
Branded drug list prices spiked 11% in 2016. A new report from Express Scripts, the country’s largest pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) and a noted biopharma antagonist, finds that list prices for branded medications rose 11% last year. But that’s not the whole story; in fact, despite the sharp rise, prices for employers offering health benefits spiked just 2.5%. Scripts argues that its aggressive negotiation tactics with drug makers helped blunt the effect of biopharma price gouging. “In a year where the issue of high drug prices was No. 1 on the list of payer and policymaker concerns, the data show that our solutions protected our clients and patients,” said Dr. Glen Stettin, the firm’s chief innovation officer, in a statement. But drug makers have a very different point of view. They argue that issuing discounts and rebates to PBMs like Express Scripts is what drives up list prices in the first place, and that those topline prices are extremely misleading since patients don’t pay anywhere near that much for their treatments. But, on the other hand, Express Scripts noted in its new report that the average branded drug list price has more than tripled since 2008, compared to common household product inflation of 14%. (CNBC)
THE BIG PICTURE
LinkedIn unveils list of most promising health care jobs. Professional social media platform LinkedIn is out with a list of the 10 most promising health care jobs of 2017. The firm analyzed career options that had high median rates of pay, don’t necessarily require decades of experience (or a medical degree), have plenty of openings, are experiencing year-over-year growth, and offer promotion opportunity. The ten listed jobs had median salaries ranging from $61,600 (financial analyst – a position that also pulled off a perfect 10 score when it comes to career advancement) to $220,000 (hospitalist). And the career with the most available openings? Pharmacist, which carries a $120,000 median salary but doesn’t present too many opportunities to advance, according to LinkedIn.
The Trump administration may be preparing to give insurers what they want on Obamacare. Politico reports that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may be gearing up to propose a number of administrative changes to the Affordable Care Act sought by insurance companies. The potential regulations include loosening the ACA’s “age band,” which sets a maximum limit that older Americans could be charged relative to younger people. (Under Obamacare, the oldest plan customers can only be charged three times as much as the youngest ones; the reported new rule would set up a broader ratio of 3.49:1.) Furthermore, the rules would also put more restrictions on when people can sign up for insurance by cutting the open enrollment period in half, and also pare back the amount of out-of-pocket costs covered by mid-level “Silver” plans, among other changes. Although the regulations are significant rollbacks to Obamacare, they also indicate that the Trump administration may be preparing to make more minor tweaks than the president’s well-known antipathy towards the health law would suggest. (Politico)
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Warren Buffett’s 10 Best Pieces of Advice Ever, by GoBankingRates
Denmark to Appoint a “Silicon Valley Ambassador” As If Tech Was Its Own Country, by Jonathan Vanian
|Produced by Sy Mukherjee|
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