Top news stories from AMA Morning Rounds®: Week of May 8, 2023


Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of May 8, 2023–May 12, 2023.

Reuters (5/11, Satija) reports the FDA “on Thursday set guidelines for blood donation organizations, recommending they screen donors based on one set of criteria, ending a restrictive policy that applied only to men who have sex with men and their female partners.”

NBC News (5/11, Lovelace Jr.) reports, “Under the latest guidelines, all potential donors would need to complete an individualized risk assessment—regardless of gender or sexual orientation.” Individuals “who have had anal sex with a new partner, or more than one partner, in the last three months would be asked to wait to donate blood.”

The AP (5/11, Perrone) reports, “Gay rights groups have long opposed blanket restrictions on who can give blood, saying they discriminate.” Meanwhile, “medical societies including the American Medical Association have also said such exclusions are unnecessary given advances in blood testing.”

Editor’s note: Find the AMA’s statement on FDA removing restrictions for MSM blood donation.

The Washington Post (5/10, A1, McGinley, Roubein) reports, “Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday unanimously endorsed making birth control pills available without a prescription, overriding concerns raised by the agency about whether the medication could be used in a safe and effective manner without physician oversight.” The agency’s “outside experts expressed confidence, in a 17-0 vote, that consumers could use an oral contraceptive...correctly.” According to the Post, “They said the benefits of over-the-counter status, such as increased access to contraception, outweighed the risks, including a potential lack of adherence to daily pill-taking that could result in unintended pregnancies.”

The AP (5/10, Perrone) reports, “If the FDA follows the nonbinding recommendation,” the medication, called Opill (norgestrel tablets), “would become the first contraceptive pill to be moved out from behind the pharmacy counter onto store shelves.”

The New York Times (5/10, Belluck) reports, “Approval is not a foregone conclusion, however,” as “FDA scientists who analyzed data submitted by the pill’s maker, HRA Pharma, raised concerns about whether women with medical conditions that should preclude them from taking the pill—primarily breast cancer and undiagnosed vaginal bleeding—would follow the warnings and avoid the product.” Meanwhile, according to the Times, “the move to make a nonprescription pill available for all ages has garnered a groundswell of support from specialists in reproductive and adolescent health and groups like the American Medical Association.”

Politico (5/10, Foley) reports that AMA President Jack Resneck, MD, “told POLITICO he was ‘very, very pleased’ with the advisory committees’ unanimous vote.” Dr. Resneck said, “These are medications that we know are safe and effective from decades of use by millions of women in countries around the world.” Dr. Resneck added, “There’s a particularly acute need for this right now in the post-Dobbs era, as the consequences of unintended pregnancies are even more substantial than they had been before.”

Editor’s note: The AMA applauds the FDA committee’s decision to recommend over-the-counter birth control. Read the full statement from Dr. Resneck.

The Washington Post (5/9, A1, Bever) reports, “Women should start getting screening mammograms at the age of 40, rather than 50, according to new draft recommendations from” U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, “which found that starting breast cancer screening 10 years earlier could save thousands of lives per year.” These “draft recommendations...state that women who are between ages 40 and 74 should have screening mammograms every two years.” This “guidance would apply to cisgender women and everyone else assigned female at birth.”

NBC News (5/9, Bendix) reports, “The last guidance, from 2016, suggested biennial screenings starting at age 50 but noted that women in their 40s could talk to their doctor about getting screened, particularly if they had a family history of breast cancer.” This “change is the result of new scientific evidence, the task force said.”

The New York Times (5/9, Rabin) reports that “there have been troubling trends in breast cancer in recent years,” including “an apparent increase in the number of cancers diagnosed in women under 50 and a failure to narrow the survival gap for younger Black women, who die of breast cancer at twice the rate of white women of the same age.”

The Washington Post (5/8, Searing) says, “In 2022, 8,300 cases of tuberculosis were identified in the United States, marking a 5% increase from the year before, according to a report from the” CDC.” This “rebound in TB cases included a 26% increase in TB diagnoses in children 4 or younger—from 160 cases in 2021 to 202 last year.” And “that increase is concerning, CDC officials said in a news release because cases in that age group are usually the result of recent transmission rather than reactivation of a long-standing latent infection.”

The New York Times (5/5, Nolen) reported that on Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced “that it was ending the emergency it declared for COVID-19 more than three years ago,” although “WHO officials warned that the decision to lift the emergency does not signal an end to the pandemic, and cautioned countries not take this as reason to dismantle COVID response systems.”

Reuters (5/5, Rigby, Satija) reported that the WHO “said countries should now manage the virus that killed more than 6.9 million people along with other infectious diseases.” According to the story, “the COVID death rate has slowed from a peak of more than 100,000 people per week in January 2021 to just over 3,500 in the week to April 24, 2023, according to WHO data, reflecting widespread vaccination, availability of better treatments and a level of population immunity from prior infections.”

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