Susana Machado • June 29, 2018

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

Using Sewers to Track the Opioid Epidemic

As the crisis continues to claim lives across the country, some companies are getting innovative with their approach to the problem. Biobot Analytics has done just that by using the water sensors in city sewers to map drug use patterns.

There is some concern around privacy, this essentially means anyone using a toilet is voluntarily providing their sample. Biobot can distinguish between drugs that were merely flushed versus consumed. Considering the stigma surrounding drug use, some citizens and city officials aren’t exactly supportive of the practice.

Getting to the Source of the Pain

The quest to map the brain has led down some interesting paths, including the study of pain. The last two years have seen a growth in the research and collection of data surrounding pain.

Some researchers use fMRIs to capture brain activity while subjecting people to pokes and burns, while others utilize linguistics and how patients describe their pain to try to make sense of it. An article in The New Yorker goes into exhaustive detail about those currently studying pain and how the field got to where it is today.

Amazon Buys Online Pharmacy PillPack

For a little under $1B, Jeff Bezos has expanded his empire yet again with the acquisition of PillPack, a company that allows users to order medications in pre-made doses online.

Previously, PillPack had been talking with Amazon rival Walmart, but Amazon was able to offer more to the company. PillPack currently operates in all 50 states, but has yet to venture into international markets, something Amazon can likely help scale.

Measuring Care for Complex Needs

There’s has been a trend of increased accountability in healthcare when it comes to quality of care, but when a patient has a complex combination of needs, that measurement can be more challenging.

Those with high needs often have multiple chronic conditions, the care of which is assessed separately, but that does not take into account the way the conditions intersect and how that can impact that care. The solution? A new wholistic performance measurement system specifically for high needs patients.

FDA Encourages Inclusion of Patients with Suicidal Thoughts

Historically, patients experiencing suicidal thoughts have been left out of trials for drugs treating depression because of safety concerns, but new guidance from the FDA states that exclusion is not necessary.Previous exclusion of these patients can be tricky for researchers as they cannot confirm that the drug will function when a patient is in the most dire of circumstances.

Some companies are adjusting their exclusions to include those who have suicidal thoughts, but no intention of acting on them, but still exclude those at higher risks who may have been hospitalized in recent months due to their depression.

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