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Top news stories from AMA Morning Rounds®: Week of Feb. 12, 2024


Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of  Feb. 12, 2024–Feb. 16, 2024.

CNN (2/15, Christensen) reports, “The percentage of overdose deaths linked to smoking drugs rose sharply in recent years, overtaking injection as the leading route of drug use involved in such deaths, according to a new report from the” CDC. Investigators “compared data on drug deaths from January to June 2020 with data from July to December 2022.” The data indicated that “the percentage of overdose deaths that involved smoking increased almost 74%—from 13.3% to 23.1%—between 2020 and 2022.” Over that “same time period, the percentage of overdose deaths involving injections fell from 22.7% to 16.1%.”

The AP (2/15, Stobbe) reports, “The number and percentage of deaths with evidence of snorting also increased, though not as dramatically as smoking-related deaths, the study found.”

The New York Times (2/14, Jewett) reports, “The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services said on Wednesday that they would examine the causes of generic drug shortages and the practices of ‘powerful middlemen’ that are involved in the supply chain.” The investigation “is aimed at the group purchasing organizations and drug distributors that have been in the spotlight in recent months as drug shortages reached a 10-year peak.” FTC and HHS “want to examine the companies’ influence on how the drugs are sold to hospitals and other health facilities, assessing whether the middlemen put pressure on pricing and manufacturing that led to breakdowns.”

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Reuters (2/14, Leo) reports, “The FTC will seek information about drug distributors and hospital purchasing groups and their contracting practices, market concentration and compensation.” The agency “will examine if these companies have misused their market power to push down prices of generic drugs so much that some manufacturers cannot profit and have stopped production, in turn causing the shortages.”

NBC News (2/12, Carroll) reports “people who lower the amount of salt in their diets by using a salt substitute may significantly decrease the risk of developing high blood pressure, a study” suggests. The study “found that cutting salt back by more than a third by swapping in another mineral supplement—salty-tasting potassium chloride—along with other flavorings, such as mushroom, seaweed and lemon, was protective against high blood pressure over a two-year period.” The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The AP (2/9, Stobbe) reported, “The flu virus is hanging on in the U.S., intensifying in some areas of the country after weeks of an apparent national decline.” Dara released by the CDC on Friday “showed a continued national drop in flu hospitalizations, but other indicators were up—including the number of states with high or very high levels for respiratory illnesses.” Notably, “patient traffic has eased a bit in the Southeast and parts of the West Coast, but flu-like illnesses seem to be proliferating in the Midwest and have even rebounded a bit in some places.”

Healio (2/9, Rhoades) reported that investigators found that “physical activity was only minimally associated with a reduced risk for cognitive decline or impairment.” Nonetheless, “the finding was still significant from a population health perspective, according to” the researchers. The findings were published in JAMA Network Open.

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