Week in Review: April 29


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

Rates of Severe Obesity among U.S. Kids Still Rising

Obesity continues to plague American kids, with a new study finding rates of severe obesity climbing over a 15-year period. Examining national data from 1999 through 2014, researchers found that one-third of American children aged 2 to 19 were overweight, nearly one-quarter were obese, and more than 2 percent were severely obese. "Despite other recent reports, all categories of obesity have increased from 1999 to 2014, and there is no evidence of a decline in the last few years," said lead researcher Asheley Skinner, who's with the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, N.C. Via CBS News.

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That Surgery Might Cost You a Lot Less in Another Town

The report, called the National Chartbook on Health Care Prices, uses claims and payment data from three of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. to analyze how prices for procedures vary from state to state, and city to city. The reports compare average state prices for 242 medical services—from primary doctor visits to coronary angioplasty to a foot x-ray—to the national average price for those services. It shows that states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin have higher than average prices while others, such as Florida and Maryland, were cheaper overall. Via NPR. 

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Do You Need Complex Surgery? Some Doctors May Not Have Much Practice

The largely unfettered ability of surgeons with minimal expertise to perform high-risk procedures—particularly at hospitals that lack experience caring for significant numbers of patients—has been the subject of a contentious, long-running battle known as the volume-outcome debate. Last month, a large study found that the risk of complications was far higher among surgeons who performed only one thyroid removal annually than among those who did 25 or more of the tricky procedures per year. Recently the volume battle was reignited when a trio of prominent health systems—Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and the University of Michigan—pledged that they will require their surgeons and 20 affiliated hospitals to meet minimum annual thresholds for 10 high-risk procedures. The three systems have asked other hospital networks around the country to join them. Via Washington Post.

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WHO Issues Yellow Fever Warning as Deadly Outbreak Grows

Amid rising concern over a deadly outbreak of yellow fever spreading from Angola, the World Health Organization urged travelers to the African country to heed its warnings and get vaccinated. At least 258 people have been killed and there have been around 1,975 suspected cases of the mosquito-borne disease since an epidemic erupted in December 2015. It has already grown to become the worst outbreak in decades. Via Reuters.

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Health-Care Alliance Calls for Action to Lower Prescription-Drug Costs

A broad coalition including health-care providers, insurers and seniors will propose major changes designed to rein in prescription-drug costs, including a shorter exclusivity period for biotech medications and a requirement that manufacturers disclose more information about pricing. The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, whose members include AARP, Walmart, and several health plans, is trying to stoke interest in the fall elections with an eye toward winning policy changes in 2017. Via Washington Post.

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Mayo Clinic News

Mayo Clinic Ventures Firm Explores Commercialization of Gut Microbe Treatment

Despite the presence of 100 trillion bacteria and other microorganisms that make up the human microbiome, how or even whether they may have a role to play in combatting a litany of maladies has never really been seriously considered. But that is quickly changing as the Mayo Clinic and the pharmaceutical industry continue a pattern of ever-bigger venture capital investments into a growing coterie of biotech companies at the cutting edge of microbiome research, which some are actually calling the next big thing in biotech. One such company is San Francisco-based Second Genome, which first became a Mayo Clinic Ventures portfolio company in 2014 as part of a clinical research collaboration. Last week, it was announced Mayo extended its venture stake in Second Genome as part of a $42.6 million Series B financing round led by Big Pharma giants Pfizer and Roche. Via Twin Cities Business.

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This Company Wants to Cure Pancreatic Cancer Using AI

Berg is now moving the drug into Phase II trials, in which efficacy is the focus. The company expects to recruit 25 patients across partner sites—including Beth Israel, Mayo Clinic, and Medical College of Wisconsin—for a trial that will run about 18 months. There will be two indicators of success, says Ramesh Ramanathan, director of gastrointestinal medical oncology at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix and designer of Berg’s Phase II study: the shrinking of the tumor by standard criteria and the increase of patients’ life spans. “Phase II is a critical point,” he says. “Pancreatic cancer doesn’t have a standard approved second-line therapy for when patients fail initial chemotherapy. Via Fortune.

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Health Care in the U.S.

Dr. John Noseworthy talks about trends in health care and how the Affordable Care Act is affecting U.S. hospitals. Via C-SPAN.

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Zika Virus Could Be Tied to Another Brain Disease

Doctors are not sure which patients are more likely to see this auto immune response and currently there is no way to treat Zika. But there is some promising news, vaccine trials are underway and the Mayo Clinic is involved in developing a vaccine for the virus. Dr. Vandana Bhide with the Mayo Clinic says they're hoping to have it ready for use within a year. Via First Coast News.

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Mayo Clinic Minute: Prescription Opioid Misuse

The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has lawmakers working on legislation to tackle the growing problem—one the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says has quadrupled, in part, due to the misuse of prescription painkillers. Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist W. Michael Hooten, M.D., says prescription opioid overdoses take more lives than heroin. Reporter Vivien Williams explains in this Mayo Clinic Minute. 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.