Week in Review: March 18


The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.

Industry News

Scientists Infected People With Dengue — And See It As a Model to Beat Back Zika

An experimental dengue vaccine protected 100 percent of people when it was put to the test in a clinical trial, researchers reported, a significant finding in the quest to battle a disease that infects an estimated 400 million people a year. Vaccinated and unvaccinated volunteers were injected with mild dengue viruses in an attempt to see if the component of the vaccine meant to protect against a particular strain actually works. In the trial, all unvaccinated trial participants became infected; none of the vaccinated volunteers did. Via STAT.

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CDC Painkiller Guidelines Aim to Reduce Addiction Risk

In an effort to curb what many consider the worst public health drug crisis in decades, the federal government published the first national standards for prescription painkillers, recommending that doctors try pain relievers like ibuprofen before prescribing the highly addictive pills, and that they give most patients only a few days’ supply. The release of the new guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ends months of arguments with pain doctors and drug industry groups, which had bitterly opposed the recommendations on the grounds that they would create unfair hurdles for patients who legitimately have long-term pain. Via NY Times. 

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Medicare To Experiment With Tying Drug Costs to Effectiveness

Aetna and Cigna inked deals last month with drug maker Novartis that offer the insurers rebates tied to how well a pricey new heart failure drug works to cut hospitalizations and deaths. If the $4,500-a-year drug meets targets, the rebate goes down. Doesn't work so well? The insurers get a bigger payment. In another approach, pharmacy benefit firm Express Scripts this year began paying drug makers a special negotiated rate for some cancer drugs. The goal is to reward the use of medicines that are most effective for certain cancers. Via NPR.

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Drug-Company Payments Mirror Doctors' Brand-Name Prescribing

A new ProPublica analysis has found that doctors who receive payments from the medical industry do indeed prescribe drugs differently on average than their colleagues who don't. And the more money they receive, the more brand-name medications they tend to prescribe. We matched records on payments from pharmaceutical and medical device makers in 2014 with corresponding data on doctors' medication choices in Medicare's prescription drug program. Via NPR.

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Abbott Pioneers Acupuncture in the ER

Abbott Northwestern Hospital is reporting success using acupuncture in its emergency room to treat conditions ranging from car accident injuries to migraines to kidney stones, and hoping to prove that the traditional Chinese treatment can reduce doctors’ reliance on addictive opioids to manage patients’ pain. The Minneapolis hospital was the first in the nation to staff its ER with an acupuncturist two years ago, as part of a broader campaign to promote Eastern remedies as complements to Western mainstream medicine. Via Star Tribune.

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Mayo Clinic News

Asians and Obesity: Looks Can Be Deceiving

While only 11 percent of Asian-Americans are obese, they develop obesity-related complications – namely, hypertension and diabetes – at lower BMIs than do people of other backgrounds, research shows. "The educated [Asian] population knows that they're getting diabetes and hypertension and all these things at a much lower BMI, but if you're in a culture where everybody's really fat and you're thin, you tend to go around and think, 'Well, I'm protected,'" says Dr. Michael Jensen, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who studies how body fat, and its distribution, influences health. "But [you] may not be." Via U.S. News & World Report.

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What Eating Chocolate Can Teach You About Customer Service and Building a Great Customer Experience

Researchers at Yale, using chocolate as their study material, recently concluded that chocolate tastes best when two or more people are eating it together. Taking up this “better together” principle can help you build a better customer experience and a stronger brand. In health care, Mayo Clinic has changed the design its buildings and even its furniture to encourage relationships, building larger rooms for doctor-patient consultations so their families and loved ones can attend, and installing custom-built furniture that comfortably allows everyone to have a seat. Via Forbes.

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What Doctors Got Wrong About 'Good' Cholesterol

A new genetic study published in the journal Science suggests that contrary to the conventional wisdom, high levels of good cholesterol aren't necessarily heart-protective for everyone. "Twenty years ago, if you had high bad cholesterol and high good cholesterol, doctors said don’t worry about it, one offsets the other," Dr. Scott Wright, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, who wasn't involved in the study, told The Huffington Post."I never really bought that, and time has proven my skepticism to be correct. You can have a heart attack despite having a high level of good cholesterol." Via Huffington Post.

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Mayo Ready to Test Compact MRI Machines

A pair of Mayo Clinic researchers hoping to revolutionize how magnetic resonance imaging is used to scan the brain for a host of neurological and psychiatric disorders this month are celebrating the arrival of a long-anticipated prototype of a compact MRI machine in Rochester, five years after receiving a federal grant. Drs. John Huston III and Matt Bernstein said they were “popping the corks” last week after the installation of the first-of-its-kind small MRI scanner, developed in conjunction with GE Global Research after the effort was awarded a $5.7 million government research grant in 2011. Via Twin Cities Business.

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Mayo Clinic Schools Advance in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Grad School Rankings

U.S. News & World Report today released its 2017 rankings for Best Graduate Schools across the nation. Mayo Medical School and Mayo School of Health Sciences, two schools within Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, advanced significantly in the findings. Via Mayo Clinic News Network. 

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Gina Chiri-Osmond

Gina Chiri-Osmond is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She manages public relations and media outreach. Gina has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2011. Outside of work, Gina is going for gold in volleyball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo . . . or at small-town summer festivals.