The Handoff: Your Week in Neurology News – 2/23/17

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.

— This week, Neurology Advisor is covering the 2017 International Stroke Conference, taking place in Houston, Texas. Click here to catch up on the latest scientific presentations. 

— The adoption of “good samaritan” laws related to naloxone access is associated with a 9 to 11% reduction in opioid-related deaths, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

— A large study published in Nature Genetics has linked 38 new genes to autism or developmental delay and intellectual disability. 

— As Marathon wrestles with major criticism for the price of its new (but not really new) Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug, Sarepta, whose drug Exondys 51 was approved a few months ago, just off-loaded its prized priority review voucher for $125 million.

— Merck has pulled the plug on yet another Alzheimer’s disease trial after an interim analysis showed there was very little chance its BACE inhibitor verubecestat would have a positive clinical effect. The pharma giant is continuing testing of the drug in pre-clinical patients. 

— The latest NIH research on testosterone therapy for older men showed no benefits for cognition. 

— A public health lab in Washington, D.C. apparently botched hundreds of Zika tests, including many for women who were/are pregnant. The tests from pregnant women were sent to the CDC for re-analysis. 

— Just prior to the kickoff of ISC 2017, the NIH launched a new consortium focused on identifying biomarkers for small vessel disease that contributes to cognitive impairment and dementia. 

— Celgene reported positive results from its phase 3 SUNBEAM trial in which the drug, selective S1P 1 and 5 receptor modulator ozanimod, reduced annualized relapse rate in patients with relapsing MS. 

— A growing number of retailers are hosting “sensory-friendly” events to cater to patrons with autism and other developmental disorders who may be irritated by over-stimulation from bright lights, loud music, and other common features of retail experience.