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Brainstorm Health: Royal Baby, All of Us, Pfizer Heart Drug Approval

May 7, 2019, 12:06 AM UTC
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Happy Monday, readers. I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend.

The birth of Prince Harry’s and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle’s baby boy on Monday has, as the kids say, broken the Internet. It’s a story of the first biracial child in modern monarchy history. It’s also a story of the absurd costs borne by American mothers—costs that far exceed what literal royalty has to pay for births.

Here are some of the numbers: On average, Americans had to pay more than $10,000 for delivering a child in 2015. To be fair, much of this is covered by insurance (well, for people who have the right kind of insurance). Out of pocket costs can still number in the thousands, including for those who don’t have the luxury of being literal royalty.

At the famous Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital, home to numerous royal births, the price was less than $9,000 in that same year. And this is for a luxury suite that’s heavily subsidized irrespective of prince or princess status.

What do American mothers get in exchange for the financial disparity? A higher rate of complications (especially among women of color) and mediocre neonatal outcomes compared to just about every other advanced nation.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


All of Us. The National Institutes of Health's (NIH) ambitious All of Us research project—which entails gathering biometrics, survey data, electronic health record information, and more—has unveiled a preliminary release of a "Data Browser" containing a bunch of this opt-in data. The point of the program, launched back in 2018, is to share information with researchers across the globe and break down data silos in the hopes of unearthing never-before-seen relationships between genetics, environmental, and societal factors.


Pfizer enjoys a surprise drug approval. Drug giant Pfizer got a pleasant surprise to start the week, enjoying a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its rare disease drug Vyndaqel. This is a pioneering therapy for a form of heart disease called transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, and it comes with the kind of list price tag these sorts of treatments typically carry: A cool $225,000 per year list price.


Is sunscreen bad? I regret to inform you that we may have to add sunscreen to the list of "Things That Are Bad But We Thought They Were Good"—at least according to a small, initial study by the FDA. (Note: The researchers specifically said this does not mean you should stop using sunscreen.) However, the concentration of certain chemicals after use of certain sun screens were high enough to warrant a plea for further research(Reuters)