Week in Review: March 29

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.


Industry News

Duke Whistleblower Gets More Than $33 Million In Research Fraud Settlement

Duke University is paying the U.S. government $112.5 million to settle accusations that it submitted bogus data to win federal research grants. The settlement will also bring a $33.75 million payment to Joseph Thomas, the whistleblower who drew attention to the fraud when he worked for Duke. Thomas, a former Duke lab analyst, sued the university on behalf of the federal government, saying that a Duke researcher fudged data to help the university win and keep lucrative grants from two agencies, the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency. The dozens of grants in question covered the study of the lung function of mice. The Justice Department says Thomas' lawsuit alleged that "between 2006 and 2018, Duke knowingly submitted and caused to be submitted" claims to federal agencies that were unknowingly paying grant money for falsified research data. It adds that while the agreement settles the court case, it does not mean Duke has been determined liable. Via NPR.

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New York county, declaring emergency over measles, seeks to ban unvaccinated from public places

Caught in the grips of a persistent and long-running measles outbreak, a New York county on Tuesday took the extraordinary step of announcing it would ban children who have not been vaccinated against the disease from enclosed public places as part of a 30-day state of emergency. Schools, houses of worship, shopping malls in Rockland County — anywhere that people who are not related to one another congregate indoors — will be off limits for unvaccinated children, officials said. The county, located north of New York City, has been fighting measles since last October, when over a span of less than three weeks seven unvaccinated travelers who were infected with measles abroad returned home. So far there have been 153 cases in this outbreak, the largest of a number of outbreaks currently underway in the United States. Via STAT.

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Centene To Purchase WellCare For $17B, Creating Massive ACA Insurer

Centene Corp. on Wednesday said it will buy Affordable Care Act exchange rival WellCare Health Plans in an estimated $17.3 billion deal, even as the Trump administration looks to abolish the landmark healthcare law. All in all, the two insurers would cover 22 million people in Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA exchanges. Centene CEO Michael Neidorff will serve as chairman and CEO of the merged company. Via Modern Healthcare.

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Maker Of OxyContin Reaches $270M Settlement In Oklahoma

The maker of OxyContin and the company’s controlling family agreed Tuesday to pay a groundbreaking $270 million to Oklahoma to settle allegations they helped create the nation’s deadly opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing of the powerful painkiller. It is the first settlement to come out of the recent coast-to-coast wave of nearly 2,000 lawsuits against Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma that threaten to push the company into bankruptcy and have stained the name of the Sackler family, whose members are among the world’s foremost philanthropists. Via AP.

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Mayo Clinic News

Yoga may increase spine fracture risk with osteoporosis

Feeling your age? Maybe skip the ashtanga class. A new Mayo Clinic study suggests that people with osteoporosis should avoid certain poses in yoga. According to the study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, yoga postures that flex the spine beyond its limits can increase the risk of compression fractures in people who already have thinning bones. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones lose density, making them more prone to breaks. Mayo Clinic researchers reviewed the health records of 89 patients — mostly women, who are more susceptible to osteoporosis and related conditions — who were referred to the clinic for pain related to yoga practice. Via Star Tribune.

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Destination Medical Center doubled private investment in 2018

Private investment in Rochester’s Destination Medical Center project totaled $262 million last year, doubling the figure from 2017. The 2018 investment has triggered the release of $13.5 million in public funds for use on related infrastructure, according to the Destination Medical Center Corporation. Since 2013, DMC has generated more than $690 million in private investment in Rochester. R.T. Rybak, the former Minneapolis mayor who chairs the corporation’s board, said the investments will benefit the entire state. It’s also burnishing the city, said Lisa Clarke, executive director of the DMC Economic Development Agency. Via Star Tribune.

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Removal of 'zombie cells' alleviates causes of diabetes in obese mice

Mayo Clinic researchers and their collaborators have shown that when senescent cells—also known as "zombie cells"—are removed from fat tissue in obese mice, severity of diabetes and a range of its causes or consequences decline or disappear. The findings appear in Aging Cell…"Our findings show that senescent cells are a cause of obesity-related inflammation and metabolic dysfunction, and that senolytic drugs hold promise as a treatment of these conditions and their complications, which include diabetes," says James Kirkland, MD, PhD, senior author of the article. Dr. Kirkland is the director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at Mayo Clinic. Via MD Linx.

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Suzanne R. Ferguson

Suzanne Ferguson is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories and has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2014. Outside of work, Suzanne can be found traveling, reading and spending time with her family.

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