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Brainstorm Health: Inactive Ingredients, Gene Edited Babies, Abraxane in Pancreatic Cancer

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

As it turns out, the parts of your medication specifically meant not to do anything may end up causing some harm.

That’s the conclusion from new research published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. For background: Oral medications (that is, pills and tablets) contain something called an “active pharmaceutical ingredient” and other ingredients which are essentially filler (and ostensibly safe). These “inactive” ingredients serve a purpose to; for instance, they can help with the digestion and absorption of the main active ingredient.

But the new study suggests that, sometimes, these very ingredients can cause harmful side effects in some patients; and the vast majority of oral drug contain ingredients that can do that kind of harm.

“A majority of medications contain ingredients that could cause adverse reactions, underscoring the need to maximize the tolerability and safety of medications and their inactive ingredients,” wrote the study authors.

Some of these common inactive ingredients may include things like lactose or gluten which, in enough quantity depending on the patient, may actually make people feel even sicker (for instance, if they have a lactose or gluten allergy). And while it’s a rare occurrence, this can become a significant problem for patients who rely on multiple medications.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Geneticists agree: Put a moratorium on gene-edited babies. Scientists have glimpsed into the world of gene-editing and their reaction is: Slow your roll. A prominent group of medical experts and researchers published a new commentary in the journal Nature on Wednesday calling for a worldwide moratorium on any attempts to modify embryos via CRISPR gene editing following scandalous reports that a rogue doctor in China had done just that. “By ‘global moratorium’, we do not mean a permanent ban. Rather, we call for the establishment of an international framework in which nations, while retaining the right to make their own decisions, voluntarily commit to not approve any use of clinical germline editing unless certain conditions are met,” they wrote. (Nature)


An old school Celgene cancer drug fails in pancreatic cancer. Abraxane is one of biotech giant Celgene’s most successful cancer treatments. But even that veteran drug couldn’t quite conquer one of the most pernicious cancers, pancreatic cancer, in late-stage trial. The combo trial of Abraxane and another form of chemotherapy failed to disease-free survival among pancreatic cancer patients who had undergone surgery; this, perhaps, isn’t surprising in a disease where the average one-year survival rate across all stages is just 20%.


FDA moves forward with e-cigarette curbs. One day after HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced that NCI Director Ned Sharpless will become the acting director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency made another step in outgoing commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s fight against e-cigarettes and teen vaping. The agency submitted a formal plan on Wednesday to limit the sale of nearly all flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products to online vendors with strict age verification processes. (Reuters)


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All U.S. Boeing 737 Max Planes Are Being Grounded, by Renae Reints

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
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