To make it through the dog days of summer, we’ve been enjoying ice cream (mmm, cookie dough), A/C, and days at the pool. Turns out, we need to be dreaming bigger.

Compass Pools is working on the first infinity pool in the world to take up the entire roof of a 55-floor skyscraper and offer 360° views of London’s skyline. The “transparent” pool will be seen by guests above and below and accessed through a rotating spiral staircase that comes up through the water when someone wants to enter or exit. Sounds complicated. We give it 2 weeks before the pool stairwell goes out of service.

And while pool roof engineering sounds tricky – the U.S healthcare industry had a pretty complicated week too. Read on for the news you can use in The Week That Was.



 We’re one step closer to seeing the impact of CRISPR, the gene-editing technology some predict will revolutionize medicine. For the first time, doctors in the US have used CRISPR to treat a patient – one with sickle cell disease. It could take years before we know if the treatment was successful…but, maybe the patent dispute between the Broad Institute, Harvard and the University of California over CRISPR rights will be settled by then?


 We know that wearing contacts to sleep isn’t healthy, but did you know wearing them in the shower isn’t either? A report in NEJM describes how one woman contracted a rare parasitic infection of the cornea from wearing her soft contact lenses in the shower and swimming. While treatment for the condition exists, the infection caused permanent vision loss for this woman. Trip to Warby Parker anyone? 


 Healthcare continues to be a key issue for 2020 with reform taking center stage at all of the Democratic debates. This week’s two-night extravaganza continued the conversation around Medicare for All vs. a public option. There was less talk about drug pricing this round, though, insulin and naloxone prices were mentioned. We expect healthcare and drug pricing will be forefront as the race progresses and candidates whittle down.


 The legal battle regarding the role of pharma in the opioid epidemic reached new heights – the Supreme Court. Arizona filed a lawsuit with SCOTUS against the Sackler family, alleging they transferred billions of dollars from their company to avoid paying potential judgements and awards over their alleged role in the crisis. This is an unusual example of a case being submitted to SCOTUS before going through lower courts. We’ll be watching to see if the Justice’s agree to hear the case.


 The American Academy of Pediatrics is warning that racism has a marked effect on children’s health and well-being. In the new policy statement, the group says exposure to racism can lead to preterm births and low birthweights in newborns and subsequent development of heart disease, diabetes and depression as children become adults. AAP is advising its members to be more sensitive to cultural differences in their practices and make children and their families feel welcomed and respected. 


Importing from our neighbor to the north?

The Trump Administration has been looking for a win on healthcare. This week they got more serious about the idea of importing drugs from Canada – putting together a roadmap for progressing a policy. HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters that the Administration has a plan to consider proposals for demonstration projects from state governments, pharmacies and drug manufacturers for safe importation.

Importing drugs from Canada is popular with voters, with a recent poll finding 80% favor the idea. It’s also bipartisan. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) took a trip to Canada with patients to purchase insulin this week and said it would be among the first things he does if elected President. However, it’s not without its critics – pharma and Canadians – who cite concerns about safety and shortages, respectively.

The Congressional Budget Office found that importation (if viable) could save the government roughly $7 billion over 10 years. But, is the policy all it’s cracked up to be?  Some say “no.” Critics argue that the President’s plans would not address many biologics and specialty drugs which are those that often account for higher-priced copays and costs. Others argue that many generic therapies are actually already cheaper in the US than they are in Canada.

So, will Canadian drugs show up in your medicine closet soon?

Probably not. It will be some time before a policy like this could be implemented. Here’s what needs to happen:

  • First, the Administration needs to issue a proposed regulation, give the public at least a month or more to comment formally on it, and then finalize the regulation.
  • Then, states, pharmacies and drug companies would have to develop a plan. Three states already have laws to allow importation - Colorado, Florida and Vermont. But implementation has not been easy. Vermont has been working on its plan for over a year.
  • Then, the Administration will start reviewing proposals; it is unclear how long that process would take.


An algorithm to predict the risk of STDs?

By Olivia Rothseid

Turns out, people want to talk to their doctors about sex just as much as they want to discuss it with their parents. And typically, those conversations only occur around fertility, or surrounding the risk of sexually transmitted conditions. But this could change, with a new study and predictive software algorithm from Harvard and Kaiser Permanente Northern California that reviews medical data for signs of men who may be at “high risk” for contracting HIV. The public health benefit could be substantial as physicians could proactively prescribe PrEP, a preventative treatment method, to patients who do not have HIV, but who may be at risk for it.

But such technologies – and forward-looking tools that predict social determinants of health -- are not without challenges.

For example, the inherent nature of social determinant of health predictors may more heavily focus on a single race, class or community. In the case of HIV, there is high prevalence rates within ethnic minority populations, particularly among African Americans, who account for the highest proportion of HIV infections. This can make engaging in conversations about risk, predictive data, and human behavior deeply sensitive.

Worsening matters is the fact that most physicians are not trained to discuss safe sex practices, and many patients are not comfortable asking. If you ask us, this lays the foundation for some sensitive, and potentially ineffective conversations.
So how should physicians and the public health community best identify and educate patients on their risk without profiling and discriminating against certain patient groups?

Our take: Providers need to engage community members in a way that makes them feel comfortable and places them in control. Today’s technological innovation will only reach its full potential through informed consent of new tools, culturally cognizant language, strong relationships, sensitive physician counsel, and appropriate educational resources.

Who wrote this? The managing editors of TWTW are Randi Kahn, who can't believe it's already August and Dana Davis, who is attending (another) 95th birthday party this weekend. Dana hangs out at the senior center on weekends (J/K).

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: Committee Majority by Krisada from the Noun Project, Ebola by Michael Thompson from the Noun Project, pesticides by Yu luck from the Noun Project, location pin by Kero from the Noun Project

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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.