July 21, 2023
Reporter, Morning Rounds Writer
Good morning. Today's the last day to nominate a 2023 STAT Wunderkind, our celebration of early-career researchers who are not yet independent scientists or program leaders. Find out more here.


Tornado damage to Pfizer plant could aggravate drug shortages

The timing could not be worse. The tornado that struck North Carolina Wednesday damaged a Pfizer plant that makes almost 30% of sterile injectable medicines sold to U.S. hospitals, just as the shortage of prescription medicines escalates. While the Rocky Mountain plant is one of Pfizer’s biggest manufacturing facilities, the impact is still being determined. In addition to sterile injectables, it produces glass vials, plastic vials, syringes, flexible containers, and semi-rigid bottles. Local media reports suggested warehouse inventory may have been wiped out.

Current shortages range from ADHD pills to injectable treatments for syphilis and different forms of cancer, traced to quality control failures at manufacturing plants and surging demand, famously for weight loss drugs. “It’s hard to know exactly what the impact will be, but this stands to just make things worse,” said Erin Fox of University of Utah Health Care. STAT’s Ed Silverman has more.


Stanford's president has resigned, but the debate is just beginning 

AP23200653300839Ben Margot/AP

True to form, academics are debating the resignation of Stanford University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, expressing support or disappointment after an investigation found he failed to “decisively and forthrightly” correct past papers containing data manipulation. It’s a win for scientific accountability, some said, or misplaced blame, others believe. Two takes: 

Cori Bargmann of Rockefeller University: “Marc is one of the most accomplished scientists of his generation. … I’m sad that he made the decision to step down from the presidency of Stanford, because he was excellent in that role as well.”

David Blake of Augusta University “I don’t think that this is ever going to change. … There’s no punishment to the lab if people in the lab are getting impactful publications by making things up. And if there’s problems with it, [the lab head] will trash the trainee’s career and apologize.”

STAT’s Jonathan Wosen and Annalisa Merelli have more voices here.

health inequity

Black cancer survivors are at higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease

People who survive cancer are more likely than others to die from cardiovascular disease because their treatments can be so harsh or because they have common risk factors for both diseases. A new study of more than 900,000 U.S. adults finds that Black cancer survivors are more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease than white cancer survivors, with up to three times the risk of death from cardiovascular disease than white patients, depending on the cancer type.

Writing in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the study authors link this higher mortality risk to differences in socioeconomic status and health insurance. Socioeconomic factors for the neighborhoods where cancer survivors lived include education level, employment, household income, and house value or rent. Disparities in health insurance status could explain 12% to 31% of the excess cardiovascular deaths among Black versus white survivors, the authors say, and both factors “underscore the importance of neighborhood-level interventions and equitable access to care.” 

Closer Look

Misdiagnoses take a serious toll in the U.S. 


Medical misdiagnoses have to be right up there with your worst nightmares. A new BMJ study quantifies this problem, pegging 800,000 deaths or permanent disabilities per year in the U.S. to what study author David Newman-Toker calls a likely undercount. “We focused here on the serious harms, but the number of diagnostic errors that happen out there in the U.S. each year is probably somewhere on the order of magnitude of 50 to 100 million,” he said. 

An example: Someone who feels dizzy because of the onset of a stroke is diagnosed with vertigo instead. For people who walk into a doctor’s office with a problem, the study found, the risk of death associated with misdiagnosis is 4%, and the risk of severe disability 11%. What errors like these have in common is a cognitive error on part of the doctor. STAT’s Annalisa Merelli has more.


Long Covid affects fewer than 1 in 5 kids, study finds

Caveats first: In the rush to share information early in the Covid-19 pandemic, long Covid studies in children may not have met the highest research standards, authors of a new review in Pediatrics stipulate, citing only a vague definition and a dearth of control arms for comparison. Still, their analysis of 31 studies published through December 2022 offers a picture of long Covid in children: Persistent symptoms three months after confirmed infections affected 16% of children and adolescents. (Studies of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children with Covid-19 are also limited by that rush to share data, the authors note.)

If you remember, at first children accounted for fewer and milder cases of Covid. Later variants infected more children, who eventually had lingering symptoms. Overall, girls were more likely than boys to feel long-term problems, including sleep disturbances and headaches. Other symptoms included fatigue, depression, cough, sore throat, and GI illnesses. 


Not to be a killjoy, but those happiness studies you hear about may be flawed

Mainstream media’s doing it wrong. That’s what a new systematic review in Nature Human Behaviour says about how the media portrays research pitching mindfulness and exercise as paths to greater happiness. The authors point out squishiness in scientific evidence behind findings that may prompt news coverage. (For the record, a “happiness” search of the STAT archives turned up only one story saying happy people might not live longer and another reporting Harvard opened a happiness center.)

Here’s what the researchers found after scrutinizing 532 studies looking at happiness after expressing gratitude, enhancing sociability, exercising, practicing mindfulness or meditation, and increasing exposure to nature.

  • Almost 95% of experiments that upped exposure to nature, exercise, or engaging in mindfulness or meditation lacked sufficient statistical power to detect notable benefits. 
  • Only 57 studies were pre-registered or had well-powered experiments that tested these strategies on subjective well-being in healthy individuals.

Happy now?

More around STAT
Check out more exclusive coverage with a STAT+ subscription
Read premium in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis with all of our STAT+ articles.

What we're reading

  • The vanishing family: Life in the shadow of a cruel genetic mutation, New York Times
  • Undue influence? Anonymous donations to World Health Organization's new foundation raise concerns, Associated Press
  • Bernie Sanders wants to replace drug patents with prizes for breakthrough medicines, STAT
  • Florida kept disabled kids in institutions. A judge is sending them home, Washington Post
  • Opinion: Gain-of-function research is about much more than dangerous pathogens, STAT

Thanks for reading! More Monday,

Enjoying Morning Rounds? Tell us about your experience
Continue reading the latest health & science news with the STAT app
Download on the App Store or get it on Google Play
STAT, 1 Exchange Place, Boston, MA
©2023, All Rights Reserved.