Week in Review: Aug. 25

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

Optum Enters $1.3B Deal to Buy The Advisory Board’s Health Care Business

Optum, the fast-growing technology services division of UnitedHealth Group, is acquiring Advisory Board, the health care branch of research and consulting firm The Advisory Board Company, for $1.3 billion. Eden Prairie-based Optum is expected to pay $52.65 for each outstanding share of Advisory Board when the deal closes. Board members of The Advisory Board Company unanimously approved the deal and, if shareholders do as well, the transaction is expected to close by the end of the year or early in 2018. In a joint statement, Optum and Washington D.C.-based Advisory Board said their pairing would benefit both parties. Via Twin Cities Business.

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Large Diet Study Suggests It's Carbs, Not Fats, That Are Bad for Your Health

A large, 18-country study may turn current nutritional thinking on its head. The new research suggests that it's not the fat in your diet that's raising your risk of premature death, it's too many carbohydrates—especially the refined, processed kinds of carbs—that may be the real killer. The research also found that eating fruits, vegetables, and legumes can lower your risk of dying prematurely. But three or four servings a day seemed to be plenty. Any additional servings didn't appear to provide more benefit. What does all this mean to you? Well, a cheeseburger may be OK to eat, and adding lettuce and tomato to the burger is still good for you, but an excess of white flour burger buns may boost your risk of dying early. Via CBS News.

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FDA Cracks Down on Stem Cell Clinics to Weed out "Bad Actors"

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced new steps to increase oversight of clinics and companies offering stem cell therapies in an effort to weed out "bad actors." In the last few days, the FDA has taken steps in Florida and California to address several "especially troubling" stem cell products being marketed, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a statement. On August 24, the FDA sent a warning letter to U.S. Stem Cell Clinic of Sunrise, Florida, for marketing stem cell products without FDA approval and for failing to adhere to good manufacturing practice requirements. Some of these could affect the sterility of their products, putting patients at risk. Via Medscape.

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Major Drug Study Opens up Vast New Opportunities in Combating Heart Disease

A landmark drug study has opened up a potent way to lower the risk of heart attacks—beyond the now standard advice of reducing cholesterol—promising new avenues of treatment of Americans’ No. 1 killer. The findings, more than two decades after the discovery of powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins, taken by tens of millions, were announced at a medical conference in Barcelona and published in two leading medical journals. Physicians not involved in the study described the results as a scientific triumph, calling the implications for drug treatment of heart disease “huge.” Via Star Tribune.

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Researchers Track an Unlikely Culprit in Weight Gain

For middle-aged women struggling with their weight, a recent spate of scientific findings sounds too good to be true. And they may be, researchers caution. Studies in mice indicate that a single hormone whose levels rise at menopause could be responsible for a characteristic redistribution of weight in middle age to the abdomen, turning many women from “pears” to “apples.” At the same time, the hormone may spur the loss of bone. In mouse studies, blocking the hormone solves those problems, increasing the calories burned, reducing abdominal fat, slowing bone loss and even encouraging physical activity. The notion that such a simple intervention could solve two big problems of menopause has received the attention of researchers and has prompted commentaries in prestigious journals like The New England Journal of Medicine and Cell Metabolism. Via NY Times.

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Mayo Clinic News

Holistic Therapy Programs May Help Pain Sufferers Ditch Opioids

Each year, more than 300 patients with chronic pain take part in a three-week program at the Pain Rehabilitation Center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Their complaints range widely, from specific problems such as intractable lower-back pain to systemic issues such as fibromyalgia. By the time patients enroll, many have tried just about everything to get their chronic pain under control. Half are taking opioids. But in this 40-year-old program, they can't stay on them. Participants must agree to taper off pain medications during their time at Mayo. Still, more than 80% of the patients who enroll remain through the entire program, says Wesley Gilliam, the center's clinical director. Via NPR.

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Gut Bacteria May Play Role in Fighting MS, Mayo Researcher Says

Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester haven’t reached their goal of proving that a bacteria in the human gut causes celiac disease. In a report earlier this month, Joseph Murray, M.D., and colleagues from Mayo and the University of Iowa detailed their unexpected finding—that one of a series of poorly understood gut microbes known as Prevotella bacteria might inhibit the immune system’s role in causing multiple sclerosis. “There are bugs that work within the gut but affect parts of the body way beyond the gut,” said Dr. Murray, a gastroenterologist. “One in particular seems to suppress the inflammatory response in the immune system.” Via Star Tribune.

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Study Finds Epilepsy Cases Rising across U.S.

The CDC has released new estimates of epilepsy cases nationwide. One million more people have now been diagnosed with the disease. The study, released last week, said 77,000 people in Arizona have epilepsy. This is the first time state-level data was gathered, according to Amy Crepeau, M.D., of Mayo Clinic, who also said the numbers are rising nationwide. “Epilepsy is actually incredibly common within the population. So, even though some people may feel they don’t want to admit to having it or are concerned about stigma, it’s quite common,” Dr. Crepeau said. Via KJZZ.

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Why Mayo Employs a Holistic Approach to Pain Management

Wesley Gilliam, Ph.D., Director of Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic's Pain Rehabilitation Center, spoke with Kaiser Health News about the center's holistic approach to pain management. The center hosts a three-week program for more than 300 patients annually to address a host of problems, such as lower back pain. While a great portion of patients entering the program are on opioids, Mayo requires all participants to cease opioid use during the program. While this may dissuade some patients from participating, Dr. Gilliam said 80% of the patients opt to stay till completion. Via Becker's Hospital Review.

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Mothers with History of Pre-Eclampsia May Encounter Cardiovascular Challenges Later in Life

A new study has found that a condition that threatens the lives of some pregnant women and the fetus may continue to put the mother at risk later in life. Mayo Clinic researchers found that women with a history of pre-eclampsia are more likely to face atherosclerosis—hardening and narrowing of the arteries—decades after their pregnancy. The findings are published in the September issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 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.