Top news stories from AMA Morning Rounds®: Week of July 3, 2023


Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of July 3, 2023–July 7, 2023.

The New York Times (7/6, Belluck) reports the FDA granted “full approval to the Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi (lecanemab), and Medicare said it would cover much of its high cost, laying the foundation for widespread use of a medication that can modestly slow cognitive decline in the early stages of the disease but also carries significant safety risks.” The agency’s “decision marks the first time in two decades that a drug for Alzheimer’s has received full approval, meaning that the agency concluded there is solid evidence of potential benefit.” However, the FDA “also added a so-called black-box warning...stating that in rare cases the drug can cause ‘serious and life-threatening events.’”

Reuters (7/6, Beasley, Steenhuysen) reports the drug, “which is given intravenously, has a U.S. list price of $26,500 per year.” The “new label explains the need to monitor patients for potentially dangerous brain swelling and bleeding associated with amyloid-lowering antibodies.” Additionally, “the drug’s new label includes data showing that the use of certain anti-coagulants with Leqembi has been linked to a risk of brain hemorrhage.”

The AP (7/5, Flesher) reports, “Drinking water from nearly half of U.S. faucets likely contains ‘forever chemicals’ that may cause cancer and other health problems, according to a government study released Wednesday.” The U.S. Geological Survey report “was based on samples from taps in 716 locations, including 447 that rely on public supplies and 269 using private wells.” Researchers “tested for 32 PFAS compounds” and found that the types most often identified “were PFBS, PFHxS and PFOA. Also making frequent appearances was PFOS, one of the most common nationwide.” The findings were published in Environment International.

Reuters (7/3, Lapid) reported, “The number of U.S. women who died within a year after pregnancy more than doubled between 1999 and 2019, with the highest deaths among Black women.” The number rose from 505 in 1999 to 1,210 in 2019, with the greatest increases in rates among American Indian and Alaska Native women. Specifically, deaths per 100,000 live births “rose from 12.7 to 32.2 overall, from 14.0 to 49.2 among American Indians and Alaska Natives, 26.7 to 55.4 among Blacks, 9.6 to 20.9 among Asians, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, 9.6 to 19.1 among Hispanics, and 9.4 to 26.3 among whites.” The findings were published in JAMA.

The AP (7/3, Ungar) reported that among “wealthy nations, the U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality,” with common causes including “excessive bleeding, infection, heart disease, suicide and drug overdose.”

The New York Times (7/3, Rabin) reported that the FDA “has approved a blood test that can identify pregnant women who are at imminent risk of developing a severe form of high blood pressure called preeclampsia, a leading cause of disability and death among childbearing women.” This “new test may offer an early warning, identifying which of the many pregnant women who have suggestive symptoms will go on to develop the life-threatening disease within the next two weeks.” The blood test is manufactured by Thermo Fisher Scientific and “has been available in Europe for several years.”

According to NBC News (7/2, Bendix), after recruiting “83 people who drank at least one cup of coffee a day to undergo MRI scans so they could observe the participants’ brain activity,” investigators found that “certain changes in brain activity were attributable only to coffee, while others were attributable to caffeine as well.” The scan study revealed that “drinking coffee increased activity in parts of the brain involved in short-term memory, attention and focus, whereas ingesting caffeine on its own did not.” The findings were published online in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

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