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Brainstorm Health: MD Anderson Purge, Medicare Funds, Keytruda Approval

Happy Monday, readers! I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

On this Earth Day, it’s worth keeping a few facts in mind about the interplay between our personal health and our planet’s health.

Consider the words from the federal government’s own Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: “Humans interact with the environment constantly. These interactions affect quality of life, years of healthy life lived, and health disparities. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines environment, as it relates to health, as ‘all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related behaviors.’ Environmental health consists of preventing or controlling disease, injury, and disability related to the interactions between people and their environment.”

That’s an excerpt from the Health People 2020 project (launched all the way back in 2010). The objectives of “promoting health for all through a healthy environment” are still in place, as the active Twitter account goes to show.

Just how strongly do these environmental issues affect our day-to-day lives and health? “Globally, 23% of all deaths and 26% of deaths among children under age 5 are due to preventable environmental factors,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Air and water quality, the specter of toxic substances in the very places we live, and inequities in infrastructure can all mix up into a deadly cocktail. That’s a reality driving certain health care companies to put an increased focus on the “social determinants of health,” including these exact environmental factors.

That’s all well and good. But, if we’re to believe that the environment is this critical to health, it’s going to take more than the medical industry itself to address the problem.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


MD Anderson ousts three scientists over data theft concerns. One of the nation’s most prominent cancer centers, Texas’ MD Anderson, has booted three scientists over concerns they may have been involved in an alleged conspiracy to steal American research for China. The National Institutes of Health had reportedly informed the center of certain conflicts of interest and unreported foreign income. (NBC News)


Merck snags another key approval for cancer drug Keytruda. Merck’s flagship cancer immunotherapy treatment Keytruda has snagged yet another pioneering Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indication—a first-line (a.k.a, it’s the first series of treatments that can be prescribed to patients in this particular condition) that combined Keytruda with a Pfizer cancer drug for kidney cancer. The approval ups the ante for rival Bristol-Myers Squibb and its own cancer immunotherapy treatment Opdivo in the kidney cancer space. (FiercePharma)


CMS chief uses latest Medicare report to slam universal health care. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) chief Seema Verma pounced on the latest Medicare report finding that its funds will lapse by 2026. “At a time when some are calling for a complete government takeover of the American health-care system, the Medicare trustees have delivered a dose of reality,” Verma said in a statement. The administrator has been a harsh critic of universal health care proposals, including of many of the programs that she oversees. (Fortune)


Congress Weighs New Banking Laws That Could Light Up the Pot Businessby Rey Mashayekhi

The World’s Best Recyclers Are Confounded by the Scourge of Plasticby Katherine Dunn

On Earth Day, a Call for Recycling Innovationby Aaron Pressman

PepsiCo Is Leaving Behind Bottles and Soda in Its Latest Product Launchby Beth Kowitt

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
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