CDC researchers found that the rate of US pregnant women with opioid use disorder rose from 1.5 per 1,000 deliveries in 1999 to 6.5 in 2014. The findings in the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report also showed that OUD among pregnant women was most prevalent in Vermont and least prevalent in the District of Columbia.
Researchers in Greece analyzed genomes of more than 1,400 samples of the hepatitis B virus to learn about its development and geographic spread over time, according to a report in the journal eLife. Data indicated that the HBV-D strain originated in North Africa or the Middle East, while HBV-A may have originated in the Middle East or Central Asia, then followed two separate paths to different regions of Africa.
Merck said it plans to drop the price of its hepatitis C medication Zepatier by 60%, and Express Scripts said the drug will be a preferred product in the pharmacy benefit manager's list of covered medications in 2019. The development is expected to boost sales, and it may also provide marketing opportunities for, and access to, a new patient population.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Jazz Pharmaceuticals have partnered in a five-year deal that will focus on appraising therapies for the treatment of hematologic malignancies such as acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes using Jazz's drug candidate Vyxeos, or daunorubicin and cytarabine, liposome for injection, in novel patient populations, as well as combined with other therapies. The partners will also engage in research opportunities in disease sectors with high unmet need.
Researchers have developed a technique to expand adult hematopoietic stem cells from human umbilical cord blood without the need to differentiate the cells. Using the protein YTHDF2, they were able to block expression of genes involved in regulating the ability of stem cells to replicate without differentiating. The technique resulted in an eightfold increase in ex vivo production of functional HSCs, which could ultimately increase the availability of transplants, according to the study in Cell Research.
Administration could begin Wednesday for Merck's investigative Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo, health officials said. The effort will seek to reach health care workers and people who have been in contact with those with confirmed cases.
Labs should use reflex testing algorithms to assess thyroid function in high-risk pregnant patients and should make sure the algorithms use appropriate tests, methods and reference intervals. "In the absence of universal screening recommendations, laboratories should outline carefully defined screening parameters to guide clinicians in determining when it is appropriate to screen for thyroid dysfunction in pregnancy," write Alison Woodworth, medical director of the core clinical laboratory and point-of-care testing at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, and Erin Schuler, clinical chemistry fellow at the University of Kentucky Medical Center.
Chronic hepatitis B patients died, on average, 14 years younger than the general US population and had higher rates of death from all causes, according to a study in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Researchers said the findings "strongly support hepatitis B elimination as a national public health goal."
A study in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis found that five of 15 patients with both hepatitis B and hepatitis C and compensated liver cirrhosis experienced HBV virological reactivation after treatment with direct-acting antivirals.
An experimental form of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell gene therapy developed by China's Nanjing Legend Biotech is expected to begin trials in the US this month. Legend is being backed by Johnson & Johnson, which provided $350 million in funding in exchange for co-development and marketing rights.