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Brainstorm Health: Tech and the Measles Outbreak, Cell Therapy Coverage, Hospital Readmission

February 15, 2019, 9:24 PM UTC

Happy Friday, readers.

An ongoing measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest and beyond is now putting pressure on some of Silicon Valley’s biggest players, including Facebook and Google, to take action to debunk false information and conspiracy theories regarding vaccines.

California Rep. Adam Schiff on Thursday sent letters to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai demanding information on what the companies are doing to tamp down on the proliferation of misinformation. Anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and misleading articles about vaccination have been regularly spread via the respective companies’ platforms.

“As a Member of Congress who is deeply concerned about declining vaccination rates, I am requesting additional information on the steps that you currently take to provide medically accurate information on vaccinations to your users, and to encourage you to consider additional steps you can take to address this growing problem,” wrote Schiff in his letter.

Schiff also praised the action taken by another tech giant to fight the current misinformation trend. “I was pleased to see YouTube’s recent announcement that it will no longer recommend videos that violate its community guidelines, such as conspiracy theories or medically inaccurate videos, and encourage further action to be taken related to vaccine misinformation,” he wrote.

Facebook is reportedly working on steps to try and curb this public health fiasco; Congress is slated to hold hearings on the issue in early March.

We’ll be off on Monday for the three-day weekend. Read on for the day’s news, and see you back in your inbox on Tuesday the 19th.

Sy Mukherjee


The government is about to cover cell therapies. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on Friday that new cell therapies from drug giants Novartis and Gilead—the first of their kind, treatments that re-engineer patients' cells to fight cancer but are also incredibly pricey—will be covered under an experimental payment plan by the public agency. The so-called CAR-T therapies would be covered under the proposed rule, which would also involve assessing whether these next-generation therapies provide the right amount of therapeutic bang for the buck (the list prices run between $373,000 and $475,000, though the government would pay a far lower price).


Can a longer hospital stay be healthy? A new study from the University of Wisconsin researchers finds that leaving the hospital early (and against medical advice) can double the risk of readmission within 30 days. The study also highlights the specific conditions that are most likely to lead to an unadvised discharge—they include alcohol and substance abuse disorders, skin infections, and complications from diabetes, according to Reuters. (Reuters)


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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