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Brainstorm Health Daily: March 1, 2017

Happy March, everyone.

March, of course, is the month of madness (the NCAA tourney’s Selection Sunday is March 12). It’s the time when math-minded anarchists celebrate Pi, when rivers turn green, and when night and day are for a brief moment matched in length.

And (as if I needed to remind anyone), it’s also the month when Fortune’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” issue hits the stands. This year is our 20th anniversary edition—and I bring it up here not merely for a cheap magazine plug, but also because there’s a telling fact I’d like to share about the list.

While I won’t disclose yet which companies are on 2017’s golden roster, I will say I am struck by how many are healthcare-related. People, it seems, want to work for a company whose mission is helping others. Go figure.

For those Brainstorm Health Daily readers who want a special treat—and a head start on sending out your résumés—we are debuting the list at Time Inc. HQ on the evening of March 9. We’ll embark on what we expect to be an eye-opening conversation with CEOs and other top execs who have championed the goal of creating a great workplace for all their employees, from entry-level newbies to striving middle managers.

Consider this your invitation to the event—though you have to RSVP here, and seating is limited. Hope to see you there.

More news below.

Clifton Leaf


Cigna, Microsoft want to use VR to do health screenings. Insurance giant Cigna and Microsoft are launching an intriguing project: the “BioBall,” an orb that’s linked to a virtual reality headset powered by Microsoft’s Hololens technology and can tell users key biometrics such as pulse and body mass index (as well as assessing things like agility). After playing a short game using the BioBall, the device unveils what these metrics are and sends suggestions on how they can be improved, according to MobiHealthNews. “With virtual and augmented reality revolutionizing the way we learn, work and play in our everyday lives – Cigna sees VR as a key way for consumers to manage personal health and wellness,” Cigna’s Chief Brand Officer Stephen Cassell told the publication. “Cigna sees BioBall as an innovative way to encourage people to engage and take control of their health.” (MobiHealthNews)

The Amazon AWS failure hit health care organizations. Many of you were probably affected in one way or another by the Amazon Web Services S3 cloud failure yesterday (we certainly were here at Fortune). Many popular web services were disrupted by the down time. But so were a number of health care organization that really on AWS for their IT infrastructure purposes. For example, the Doctorsoft electronic health records vendor said that it was facing technical difficulties related to the failure, underscoring how the dominance of a few cloud-system giants could have widespread consequences across multiple industries. (Healthcare IT News)


Trump says the FDA regulatory process is burdensome. Is it really? During his prime time address to Congress last night, President Donald Trump yet again took on the U.S. drug industry and regulatory process. Trump slammed high drug prices, as he’s done on several occasions. But he also had an extended riff on the FDA’s drug approval process, calling it “burdensome.” And he even had a special guest to make his point: Megan Crowley, daughter of Amicus CEO John Crowley. Megan suffers from a rare disorder called Pompe disease, which is part of what has fueled her father’s drive to develop drugs for the disease. But while rare disease patient advocates (and the biopharma companies that make drugs for the patients) have pushed for an easier approval pathway, Trump’s attack on the regulatory scheme also make other drug makers uneasy. Some have questioned whether slashing FDA regulations would amount to putting rigorous science on the back burner and tarnish the agency’s reputation as one of the most (if not the most) prudent drug regulatory bodies in the world. Others have expressed concerns that insurance companies and benefits manager may balk at paying for treatments that haven’t faced rigorous, impartial scrutiny. I’ll have more on this brewing battle among advocates and drug makers today.

Sarepta lowers expectations on its Duchenne drug. Speaking of rare diseases and controversial approvals – Sarepta Therapeutics on Tuesday unveiled earnings guidance for its pioneering Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment Exondys 51. And it didn’t exactly inspire much confidence despite the drug taking in $5.4 million in sales in the fourth quarter of 2016, beating analysts’ expectations. But the firm announced that it expected just $80 million in 2017 sales, well below Wall Street projections of $100 million or more. That sent Sarepta shares plunging 14% after hours (though those losses were wiped out by this morning, possibly thanks to Trump’s comments on making drug approvals easier). The lowered sales guidance does highlight the trouble with controversial approvals as several insurers have decline to reimburse the $300,000 treatment, which the FDA approved despite modest evidence of efficacy.


Trump falls in line with House GOP plan on Obamacare repeal. President Trump, as expected, hit on Obamacare during his big speech to Congress last night. What was less expected was his full-throated endorsement of the main pillars making up the House GOP’s replacement plan, which has courted backlash from conservative lawmakers in recent days. Trump hit on all the major points endorsed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (Medicaid flexibility, rolling back various Obamacare mandates, etc.) The question is whether or not the president’s general approval of the plan will help rally the legislative troops going forward. (Fortune)

Why you share that viral article on social media. Ever wonder why it is you feel so compelled to share that BuzzFeed quiz? A pair of new studies sheds a little bit of light on the issue (although they are far from definitive). Brain imaging revealed that, when people share content, “activity in the brain regions associated with assessing value, self-related thinking, and, crucially, considering other people’s perspective showed a flurry of activity.” Furthermore, a separate study found that the articles which produced the most brain activity were also more likely to be shared on social media. (Fortune)


Trump Open to Passing Bill That Would Give Legal Status to Undocumented Immigrants, by Polina Marinova

An Optimist’s Guide to Tech Madnessby Adam Lashinsky

New Cyber Rules Went Into Effect: What You Need to Knowby Jeff John Roberts

Apple’s Corporate Reputation Is In Free Fallby Don Reisinger

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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