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Brainstorm Health Daily: May 16, 2017

Good morning, readers. This is Sy.

The WannaCry ransomware attacks launched over the weekend wreaked havoc on the U.K.’s national health system. And while the global scope of the attack galvanized intense media coverage, the reality is that health care has grown increasingly susceptible to this specific kind of malware, which demands digital payment in exchange for sensitive personal and financial patient data.

As I reported yesterday, law enforcement agencies like the FBI have warned hospitals and medical providers about the industry’s widespread IT vulnerabilities. Between 2014 and this year, ransomware leaped from the 22nd most common form of digital malware attack to the fifth most common method, according to a 2017 Verizon Data Breach analysis. “For the attacker, holding files for ransom is fast, low risk and easily monetizable—especially with Bitcoin to collect anonymous payment,” wrote the report authors.

To wit: 72% of all health care malware attacks in 2016 were ransomware, and it was the second most cybercriminal-targeted industry behind the financial services sector. Considering the sprawling, federated nature of U.S. medicine, experts warn that a combination of government policies and health IT upgrades—as well as prophylactic human measures like changing passwords—will be necessary to keep patients’ data safe and health systems functioning.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


The next Apple Watch may come with a glucose sensor. BGR reports that the next iteration of the Apple Watch will contain several major new health features, citing an unnamed source. One big potential change? The inclusion of a glucose sensor for diabetes patients. Apple would have to go through the FDA medical device regulatory process for that, which is why the company will be creating interchangeable “smart bands” that serve various functions, according to BGR. (BGR)

Editas shares tumble as firm announces FDA filing delay. Shares of pioneering CRISPR gene-editing firm Editas fell 7% in early Tuesday trading after the company announced that it would delay an initial FDA filing for clinical trials of one of its lead drugs, LCA10, to the middle of next year (Editas had originally planned to file by the end of 2017). The postponement is necessary because of a third party manufacturing error on one of the main materials needed for the treatment. And the setback will also affect Allergan, which partnered with Editas this year on using CRISPR to address serious eye diseases.


Merck’s Ebola vaccine may soon get a real world test. World Health Organization (WHO) officials are preparing to send Merck’s experimental Ebola vaccine to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the wake of a small Ebola outbreak that’s infected 20 people (and killed three) in a remote area of the country. It’s unclear if the vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, will actually be used in this particular instance—but public health officials are preparing for the need should the DRC request it. (Gizmodo)

Scott Gottlieb leaves his first marks on the FDA. Newly sworn-in FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has issued some of his first marching orders to the agency: a reorganization of the FDA’s inspection staff, which is tasked with making sure manufacturing facilities hew to regulatory standards and investigating customer complaints. Staff currently reports to various regional heads. But the reorganization would require them to report to six product-specific offices instead (such as pharmaceutical quality, medical devices, biologic drugs, and others). To be clear, Gottlieb didn’t dream up the idea himself—the original initiative was proposed four years ago. Gottlieb’s predecessor, Dr. Robert Califf, praised the move on Twitter on Monday. (Endpoints)


WHO report finds 1.2 million adolescent deaths are mostly preventable. A new World Health Organization report finds that a huge swath of what kills more than 1.2 million adolescents aged 10-to-19 every year can be prevented. The top three causes of adolescent death across the world are road injuries, lower respiratory infections, and self-harm. The road injury statistics are particularly concerning because in most cases, the killed teen isn’t even the driver. And the causes of death vary widely by geographic region, age, and gender, with interpersonal violence afflicting boys at much higher rates and maternal complications far more common among girls aged 15 to 19.

Health care industry hopes to reshape Trumpcare in the Senate. The medical industry—including hospitals, doctors, patient advocates, and even insurers–aren’t exactly enamored with the House-passed American Health Care Act. But they hope to change the contours of the legislation in the Senate, which has indicated that it will take a different approach from the controversial House bill. Bloomberg reports that these various interests are getting ready to lobby senators after essentially being relegated to sidelines during the AHCA debate. The groups have expressed concerns about the bill’s effect on patient coverage, and especially cuts to Medicaid. (Bloomberg)


The Music Ends for MP3 File Formatby Feliz Solomon

EU Court Debating ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ After Google Refused Requestsby Reuters

Apple Plans Major iCloud Data and App Security Changeby Don Reisinger

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Sold Stock Before Fox Fired Bill O’Reillyby Jen Wieczner

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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