Dispensed: An Alzheimer's drug flameout, a new depression drug, and a Stanford professor who saw through Elizabeth Holmes early on
OK show of hands, how many of you have finally hit your limit on Theranos/Elizabeth Holmes content? I think across the newsroom, we pulled together more than a dozen posts in the last week and a half (phew!). I'd definitely recommend checking them all out if you can't get enough of the story. Up next in the saga: awaiting the trial. There's a court date scheduled for late April, I'll be sure to keep you posted as the trial starts to get underway.
But my coworkers tell me there's more that happened this week in healthcare than the phenomenon of seeing Elizabeth Holmes raise the roof to MC Hammer.
To start, last weekend Erin Brodwin took a close look at the data coming out of the Apple Watch heart study.
Stanford scientists just gave us an unprecedented look at how well the Apple Watch detects heart problems
- Two months ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook said his company's "greatest contribution to mankind" would be in health.
- A new study led by Stanford researchers provides a glimpse at how that vision is beginning to take shape.
The preliminary analysis suggests that the Apple Watch can accurately detect some heart problems.
- But there are caveats. For one, the study didn't include the most recent Apple Watch, which has an extra feature that helps detect heart problems.
- The study looked at whether the watch can detect atrial fibrillation, or afib, a common but potentially serious disorder. Other tech companies like Fitbit are also trying to detect it.
OK, I know I said we were almost done chatting about Theranos until the trial gets underway, but I couldn't help slipping one more interview I posted this week - this one with Dr. Phyllis Gardner, a professor at Stanford who shot down one of Elizabeth Holmes' early ideas and watched as the entire rise and fall of the company unfolded. Favorite quotes include: "I was just barfing all over the place."
The Stanford professor who rejected one of Elizabeth Holmes' early ideas explains what it was like to watch the rise and fall of Theranos
- Dr. Phyllis Gardner, a Stanford Medical School professor, was skeptical of the Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes early on, having rejected Holmes' idea for a patch that could deploy antibiotics.
- Gardner has followed along with Holmes and Theranos since then and raised her concerns with reporters, including The Wall Street Journal's John Carreyrou, who quoted her in his bombshell 2015 article questioning how well the company's blood-testing technology worked.
- But for Gardner, the story isn't over. "I just want her convicted," she said of Holmes. "All I want is to see her in an orange jumpsuit with a black turtleneck accent."
Then on Tuesday, another depression drug got approved. Zulresso's an injection used to treat post-partum depression. Erin has the story on why the drug is a big deal.
- On Tuesday, federal regulators approved the second new antidepressant this month after 35 years of little progress combatting the disease.
- An injection called Zulresso, the new drug treats post-partum depression (PPD). The list price for a course of treatment is $34,000.
- PPD occurs after childbirth and is thought to affect roughly one in every 6 women.
- This month's two new approved drugs could work faster and last longer than previous medications.
Emma Court chatted with outgoing FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb about the one thing he would do to fix healthcare.
- We asked the Food and Drug Administration's commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, whether there was one thing someone could do to fix healthcare.
- Gottlieb quickly indicated vaccines, a crucial scientific advance that protect us from dangerous diseases. They have come under attack from an anti-vaccine movement spreading false claims.
- Trends suggest the US is approaching a tipping point on vaccines, Gottlieb told Business Insider. If attitudes toward vaccines change completely, "the implications could be quite profound," he said.
Emma also has the breakdown on Biogen's big Alzheimer's late-stage drug failure. Thursday was a rough day for the biotech, which lost ~ $18 billion in market value.
Big Pharma has tried and failed to cure Alzheimer's more than 200 times. The latest $18 billion flop leaves scientists hunting for a new path forward.
- A promising, experimental Alzheimer's disease had a major failure on Thursday, when the drugmakers behind it announced they were cutting off most research efforts.
- Biogen lost roughly $18 billion of market value on the news.
- Alzheimer's disease has no cure. Many drugs being developed for it have failed.
- Scientists don't fully understand Alzheimer's disease, which could be part of the problem. Biotech companies may need to understand the disease better to develop an effective drug.
In totally unrelated news, I'm curious to hear what you all think of 23andMe's new Type 2 diabetes report. I know it debuted last week, but I finally had time to wrap my head around my personal results and get a better handle on what I should/shouldn't be reading into it. It certainly feels much different from some of the consumer genetics company's other tests.
I'm headed to Portland, Oregon for a long weekend (if you don't hear from me Monday, that's why!). Feel free to send trip recommendations, tips, non-Theranos news, etc. to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find the whole healthcare team at email@example.com.
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