Brainstorm Health: Nature Vs Nurture, Outcome Health Rebrand, Drug Pricing Investigation

January 14, 2019, 11:15 PM UTC

Happy Monday, readers!

The “nature vs nurture” debate is one that’s dominated the field of genetics and population health for decades. In the past month alone, controversy re-ignited over DNA pioneer Dr. James Watson’s heavily criticized (and, by the overwhelming share of the scientific community, rejected) comments on how race can determine intelligence.

But genetics undeniably make a difference when it comes to disease—especially among young people, according to a massive new study published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Harvard Medical School and the University of Queensland in Australia researchers conducted the study using a gigantic database of twins’ health records. Since twins have largely overlapping genetics, they served as an elegant population to assess the effect of DNA versus divergent sociopolitical, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

So, what did they find? Environment likely still edges out genetics when it comes to discrepancies between siblings who have been hit by a disease in young adulthood—about 40% of these differences derive from genes, while most of the other differences derive from one’s environment, according to the researchers.

Not all diseases are created equal when it comes to these differences, though. Cognitive disabilities and eye diseases are the most likely gene-driven maladies, whereas “lifestyle” factors largely shape the contours of both infectious diseases and conditions like obesity.

Read on for the day’s news.


Outcome Health's rebrand. Outcome Health, the digital health-focused advertiser, hasn't exactly had the most chipper few years. The tech startup was accused of obfuscating and manipulating metrics data to clients, leading to lawsuits and an executive shakeup. But the company's top brass asserted that the firm has changed during the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) conference in Las Vegas. Former Twitter executive and current Outcome COO said, "I’ve taken the view, the company and as a whole and the leadership team and everyone, that it’s a good thing, not just for Outcome Health, but for the whole industry. Transparency, there’s nothing like it, and what we are doing in terms of measurement and metrics and things." (MobiHealthNews)


Elijah Cummings launches drug pricing investigation. House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, a longstanding critic of high drug prices, has sent a dozen major drug makers letters seeking detailed information on their pricing and marketing practices. The companies include the likes of Pfizer, Amgen, Celgene, AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and others whose products are expensive under the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Cummings and other Democrats in the House and Senate recently introduced legislation aimed at curbing high drug prices through a number of tactics vehemently opposed by the industry, including direct Medicare price negotiations.


Death by opioid supplants death by car accident. A new report from the National Safety Council finds that, for the first time, Americans are more likely to die of an accidental opioid overdose than they are in a car accident. Odds of dying from an opioid overdose? 1 in 96, according to the study. Car accident? 1 in 103. (CBS News)


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