If you ever look around and think you’ve peaked, hang in there. After 25 years of gracing holiday parties and department store counters, and even becoming the de facto theme song of one of the best Christmas movies of all time (we’re obviously referring to Love Actually), “All I Want for Christmas Is You” has finally made it to No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart for the week of December 21.

Is the song a late bloomer? Or are people just looking for a little escapism and nostalgia this holiday season? As you take a look at this week’s news, you decide – most likely while trying to eradicate your new earworm.



For the first time in more than 20 years Congress has decided to fund federal gun violence research. The research will be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. The groups will each receive $12.5 million to look into evidence-based prevention and solutions when it comes to this sensitive topic. Public health researchers will be put to work to find ways to reduce injuries and deaths due to firearms. 


A new study of 5,700 year old birch pitch, an ancient chewing gum, uncovered a girl’s entire genome and oral microbiome, making it the first time in history genetic material was extracted from a specimen other than human bones. The researchers detected traces of DNA that revealed pathogens, viral diseases and intolerances that show human evolution. This time capsule into the past aides in future medical research and predictions of how harmful pathogens might be contained or eradicated. Chew on that.


This may be the year to consider getting the kids that puppy they’ve been begging for every holiday season. Findings from a Johns Hopkins study suggest that early exposure to man’s best friend may lessen the risk of developing schizophrenia as an adult. The current hypothesis is that serious psychiatric disorders may be associated with alternations in the immune system linked to environmental exposures. No link, positive or negative, was found between dogs and bipolar disorder or between cats and either disorder. More studies are needed to confirm these findings and the correlation, but just to be safe (and experience the host of health benefits associated with ownership of any pet!) we recommend a visit to your local animal shelter, pronto.


We hit another milestone in the Affordable Care Act saga: the Fifth Circuit U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the individual mandate requiring Americans to obtain health insurance is no longer constitutional without the “tax” status, which was stripped away by Congress in 2012. The issue of whether the remainder of the ACA is constitutional without the mandate was not addressed, as it was ordered back to the U.S. District Court for a second look. As such, the ACA (minus the mandate) and its protections for pre-existing conditions and higher premiums is still in effect, but there is uncertainty about whether it will be struck down at a later date. 


To be a mother or to be a surgeon? The question emerges as a recent Harvard Law survey revealed nearly 40% of pregnant surgery residents consider dropping out of residency. In the age of aiming to close the gender equality gap, a wide margin still remains for American female surgeons. By 2032, the country will lack as many as 23,000 surgeons, according to a report prepared for the Association of American Medical College. Some say recruiting more women would fix this shortfall, but childcare options remain to be a problem. Some residency programs and hospitals are looking at creative solutions to accommodate mothers so that women won’t need to choose between both jobs.

Holiday Spending, Washington Style 

By Michelle Leeds and Paul Tyahla

In a mad dash to wrap up several big legislative actions (impeachment, anyone?) and head home for the holidays, Congress this week passed a massive $1.4 trillion spending bill that, among many provisions, would make it easier for biosimilars developers to get the sample materials they need from brand biologics makers. Included in the bill were provisions from the CREATES act, such as a component designed to make it easier for generic manufacturers to obtain samples of branded products.

Notably missing from the package was language designed to curb surprise medical bills incurred at hospitals by out-of-network providers, even when the hospital is covered in-network by a patient's insurance. The bill also does not include any of the more aggressive measures we've seen this year that are designed to curb drug prices (such as international reference pricing or inflation caps on price increases).

Earlier in the week, the Administration issued advanced notice that it would be proposing a rule allowing for drug importation from Canada. But given it would require manufacturer cooperation, the proposed rule is not expected to have as significant a real-world impact as first thought.

Although it was a very successful year for the Pharma lobby, these issues are going nowhere in the public dialogue. While some policymakers will try to make the case publicly that they've "done something" on drug prices, their opponents will continue trying to appeal to populist sentiment that drug prices are too high. 

Who wrote this? The managing editor of TWTW is Randi Kahn, who is excited to share The Year That Was with readers next week! Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.

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Image credits: no gun violence by Made x Made from the Noun Project, bubble gum by Luis Prado from the Noun Project, Dog by Alberto Miranda from the Noun Project, health insurance by Arafat Uddin from the Noun Project, Female by Kavya from the Noun Project, Congress by MRFA from the Noun Project 

And now please enjoy this disclaimer that prevents our team from getting in a heap of trouble: This report may contain links to external or third party websites. These links are provided solely for your convenience. Links taken to other sites are done so at your own risk and Syneos Health accepts no liability for any linked sites or their content. Syneos Health makes no warranties or representations, express or implied about such linked websites, the third parties they are owned and operated by, the information contained on them or the suitability or quality of any of their products or services. Syneos Health does not authorize the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material offered through these linked sites. Please refer to the use agreement and/or copyright statements of any external site you visit, or the terms and conditions of any externally provided web site for instructions, restrictions, and guidelines. If you have a question, please contact the webmaster of the external site.

About the Author:

Randi Kahn is a Senior Media & Content Director in our Reputation & Risk Management Practice, where she helps clients build and protect their brand reputations through executive thought leadership, public affairs, and issues preparation and response. She has worked for clients throughout the healthcare ecosystem including payers, providers, patient groups and pharma.