Issue 48: Old men having kids, American microbiome, largest medical debt forgiveness and more

Bad news for old baby daddies 


New Research shows that older fathers are more likely to have children with disability. While everyone knows that if you're a woman you want to have children earlier than later, the same has not always been well known for men. Researchers at Stanford University looked at 40 million cute little babies born between 2007 and 2016. Their analysis showed that men older than 45 who had kids had a 14% increased risk of prematurity, lower Apgar scores, low birth weight, and being admitted to the NICU. There are studies that have been published that support these findings so maybe the knowledge that dads shouldn't wait FOREVER to have kids will becomes more mainstream.

The American microbiome 

Image Credit: The Economist

A new study published in Cell looked at how immigrants from Southeast Asia had altered microbiomes after moving to the US. Apparently moving to a new place can change your gut biome significantly. The American microbiome tends to be less diverse with fewer strains of different bacteria. Researchers think that the American microbiome may be related to the reason why we have so much obesity in the US, but then again it could also be all those big macs.

Oh no Merck say it ain't so! 
This ain't it chief. Merck is backing out of a long term agreement with West Africa to provide a lifesaving rotavirus vaccine to prevent a deadly form of diarrhea in children. Merck responded to NPR that they were having "supply constraints" which would prevent them from supplying any of the vaccine by 2020. Meanwhile Merck recently inked an agreement to sell China the vaccine for 10x the price that low income countries were getting it at. In 2020 more than 2 million children in West Africa will go without the vaccine. Clearly Merck is going after a bigger more profitable market in China at the expense of providing it to poorer countries.

The FDA approves potent new opioid 
The folks at the FDA recently approved a new potent opioid medication called Dsuvia. The FDA voted 10-3 to recommend approval for the drug. This comes at a time when the whole country is concerned about mounting fear of an opioid crisis. The chair of the FDA approval committee, an anesthesiologist at the University of KY, apparently wasn't event present at the meeting due to a work conflict. He is also a huge critic of the drug saying that it's going to add to the opioid epidemic problem while not offering any unique benefits compared to other opioid drugs. Dsuvia is meant to be taken sublingually (underneath the tongue), however, meaningful pain relief took between 54 minutes to 78 minutes in human patients. The new drug is projected to do $1.1 billion in annual sales.

Largest medical debt forgiveness in US history

fun fact: John Oliver once forgave $15 million of medical debt on TV

A large anonymous donation made to the non profit RIP Medical Debt will be used to forgive a whopping $250 million of US medical debt. Meaning that thousands of Americans suffering from the weight of burdensome medical bills will now be forgiven. $50 million has been earmarked for veterans, the rest will be given to families on holidays and throughout the year. This will be the largest debt forgiveness un US history but hopefully not the last.