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Top news stories from AMA Morning Rounds®: Week of Feb. 26, 2024


Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of  Feb. 26, 2024–March 1, 2024.

The Washington Post (2/29, Pannett) reports, “A review of research involving almost 10 million people has found a direct association between eating too many ultra-processed foods...and more than 30 health conditions, including heart disease, anxiety and early death.” For the research published in the BMJ, investigators examined “45 ‘pooled meta-analyses’ from 14 review articles involving nearly 10 million people” and “found ‘convincing evidence’ that higher ultra-processed food intake was associated with about a 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death, a 48 to 53% higher risk of anxiety and common mental disorders, and a 12% greater risk of Type 2 diabetes.” Also, “highly suggestive evidence...indicated that diets high in ultra-processed foods were associated with a 21% greater risk of death from any cause.”

The New York Times (2/28, Belluck) reports patients with long COVID may experience “measurable cognitive decline, especially in the ability to remember, reason and plan, a large new study suggests.” Cognitive tests of nearly 113,000 U.K. patients “found that those with persistent post-COVID symptoms scored the equivalent of 6 I.Q. points lower than people who had never been infected with the coronavirus, according to the study, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.” In addition, people “who had been infected and no longer had symptoms also scored slightly lower than people who had never been infected, by the equivalent of 3 I.Q. points, even if they were ill for only a short time.”

NPR (2/27, Archie) reports, “The monthly rate of antidepressants being dispensed to young people increased about 64% more quickly during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.” The IQVIA Longitudinal Prescription Database was used by researchers “to examine a sample of about 221 million prescriptions written for millions of Americans between the ages 12 to 25, and from 2016 to 2022.” Researchers “separated the data into before and after March 2020, when the pandemic started.”

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Healio (2/26, Schaffer) reports, “Data show one in three patients in Denmark with obesity, no diabetes and a first-time MI met eligibility criteria for the SELECT CV outcomes trial, and that one major CV event can be prevented for every 49 people who receive semaglutide.” Investigators came to this conclusion after analyzing “data from 34,405 patients with a first-time MI and CAD from 2010 to 2021, using Danish health registries.” Healio adds that “the SELECT trial, presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in November, found semaglutide was superior to placebo in reducing the incidence of major adverse CV event, defined as CV death, nonfatal MI or nonfatal stroke, with an HR of 0.8.” The findings were published in a research letter in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The New York Times (2/25, Rabin) reports Xolair (omalizumab), “a drug that has been used for decades to treat allergic asthma and hives, significantly reduced the risk of life-threatening reactions in children with severe food allergies who were exposed to trace amounts of peanuts, cashews, milk and eggs, researchers reported on Sunday.” Although “some hailed Xolair’s approval as a breakthrough, experts cautioned that it was far from a perfect solution.” The drug reduces “the risk of a reaction to trace amounts of an allergen, but life-threatening episodes are still possible.” Patients must still “scrupulously avoid foods likely to trigger a reaction.” The findings were published in The New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the annual conference of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Reuters (2/25, Lapid) reports, “Following treatment, 67% of participants who received omalizumab could consume the equivalent of about four peanuts without experiencing moderate to severe allergic reactions, compared to only 7% of patients who received a placebo.” About “44% of those treated with the medicine could consume the equivalent of about 25 peanuts, researchers reported.” These “patterns were similar when patients were challenged with the other foods.”

NBC News (2/25, Sullivan, Martin, Sridhar) reports, “By the end of the initial four-month period, about 80% of people who got the drug were able to eat small amounts of one of the foods they were allergic to without triggering their normal reaction.”

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