The Handoff: Your Week in Neurology News – 1/5/17

The Handoff is a weekly roundup of neurology news covering various developments in subspecialties, the pharmaceutical industry, and the overall state of health care as it affects neurologists.

— John Jenkins, MD, of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, highlighted several new drugs for neurological disorders in his year-end blog post, including drugs for spinal muscular atrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s psychosis. 

— Speaking of spinal muscular atrophy, Biogen’s newly-approved Spinraza™ caused some sticker shock after it announced the drug would cost about $750,000 for the first year of treatment — a price that may cause insurers to limit access to the drug for patients with less severe forms of the disease.

— Sleep technology is a huge focus at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, featuring sleep monitoring gadgets, beds, and wearables, among others. But Stat wonders, do consumers even know what to make of all this sleep data?

— Joshua Gordon, MD, PhD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, calls for advances in knowledge and technology in order to improve treatment of mental illness.

— In a decision that’s being called “negligent,” Bial pharmaceutical company failed to include pharmacodynamic data in its decision to increase dosing of its experimental treatment BIA 10-24-74. One trial participant died and several are still presenting with severe neurological adverse effects after the trial was stopped last January.

— A changing of the guard has occurred at JAMA Neurology as incoming editor S. Andrew Josephson, MD, of the University of California, takes the place of longtime editor Roger Rosenberg, MD. Dr Josephson wrote that the journal will focus on advances in neuroepidemiology, personalized medicine, and improvements in patient care.

— Major US companies are tapping into neuroscience in order to inspire trust among their employees. 

— A new study suggests that spending ample time in a sauna might help stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia. The authors speculate that physiological mechanisms, such as reduced inflammation, improved vascular function, and lower blood pressure might be tied to the association. 

— Researchers are currently recruiting for what will be the largest study on adolescent brain development. The ABCD study hopes to collect data that will reflect biomarkers of brain development and help set new benchmarks for growing brains. 

— Japan is leading the charge on dementia by using technology to tackle common problems, such as using small, stick-on QR codes that store personal and contact information in case an elderly person goes missing. 

— Researcher Kenneth Baker, PhD, from Cleveland Clinic discusses details of an ongoing clinical trial that is evaluating the use of deep brain stimulation for stroke rehabilitation. Watch the video below.