Friday News Dump: Wonkbites

by Karan Chhabra

Big week for health news! So big, in fact, we couldn’t wait but to give it to you early:

  1. Genes, unzipped: The Supreme Court made a big decision yesterday that companies can’t patent naturally-occurring genes, in light of a patent long-held by Myriad Genetics for the BRCA genes (recently made famous by Angelina Jolie, for those not following this case). You can read about the decision anywhere, but this article on how they botched the science is pretty hilarious, especially to a smug med student like myself. It speaks to an important facet of the case, though—specifically its reliance on metaphors to explain tricky genetics concepts. Every now and then, between analogies to baseball bats and chocolate cookies, something seems to get missed.
  2. Arizona’s in: It’s not every day that a sworn enemy of Obamacare clashes with her legislature to pass one of its provisions. But that happened today in Arizona, where Gov. Jan Brewer (a Republican) pushed Medicaid expansion through her legislature on the grounds that, well, they’re already paying for it.
  3. Soothed by soundAn astounding, well-designed study published this week showed that music and noise-canceling headphones are both more effective than drugs at reducing the anxiety of ICU patients on ventilators. Both headphones and music reduced patients’ need for sedation and improved their anxiety levels more than the usual drugs. But the authors didn’t compare the new Daft Punk album to Justin Timberlake’s, leaving me with a great idea for my next research project.
  4. Wonkery with benefits: CMS’s decision to increase Medicare Advantage funding reportedly made it to far too many people internally before being publicly announced. In typical DC fashion, the decision fed the political intelligence industry with stock trading ideas worth billions. Good times for whoever got the memo. (We didn’t.)
  5. Now if only it came with a bottle openerHey bros, now that we know we probably won’t get screwed by Obamacare, let’s move onto some important issues. This new belt lets us feel babies kick. Real talk.

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Karan is a student at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Duke graduate who previously worked in strategic research for hospital executives.

Follow him on Twitter @KRChhabra or subscribe to the blog.

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