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January 13, 2017

Long weekend reads: The race to replace opioids

Daily Briefing

    The Daily Briefing editorial team highlights several interesting health care stories and studies that didn't quite make this week's Briefing. What are you reading this weekend? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

    Josh Zeitlin's reads

    A big reason health reform is so hard. Anna Wilde Mathews and Louise Radnofsky have a smart take in the Wall Street Journal on a constant challenge in devising health policy. Lawmakers looking to replace the Affordable Care Act, they write, "will soon face the thorny dilemma that confronts every effort to overhaul health insurance: Sick people are expensive to cover, and someone has to pay."

    Is bad prenatal health care to blame for Darth Vader's rise? In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker "allies himself with Palpatine in hopes that he can use the dark side of the Force to save Padme Amidala from death in childbirth ... all because he can't think of another way to save Padme from reproductive health complications," Sarah Jeong writes for Motherboard. But Padme never seems to have had an ultrasound or a prenatal check-up, which might have soothed Anakin's fears—and stopped him from becoming Darth Vader. "If there were any women's health care available, there is no reason why Padme wouldn't take advantage of it," Jeong says.

    In praise of mucus. When you get a cold, Sarah Kaplan urges you to "pause for a moment before blaming mucus for your troubles." Mucus gets a bad rap, she writes for the Washington Post. "It's a hero of your immune system, right out on the front lines of the daily fight to keep you healthy. So show a little appreciation. Mucus is on your side."

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    Sam Bernstein's reads

    Kids can get CTE. The debate over professional sports and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) makes headlines every year. Players in some sports take repeated blows to the head, and over time, they can develop severe neurological symptoms such as disorientation, mental health issues, impeded speech, and tremors. But what about high schoolers who play hard and take a beating over the course of a few years—can they get CTE? The troubling answer seems to be yes. Reid Forgrave's profile of one such student in GQ is worth a read. But be warned, the story doesn't end well.

    The race to replace opioids. As public health officials push providers to reduce opioid prescriptions to fight the nation's drug misuse epidemic, some researchers are working to replace the drugs altogether. The hope is to find a better, nonaddictive way to treat chronic and severe pain, with potential solutions ranging from spider venom to implantable devices.

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    Aly Seidel's reads

    Waiting for Google. Google Home is a voice-activated virtual assistant that helps you around the house, capable of doing things such as switching off the lights, creating a shopping list, and much, much more. It's also comedic fodder, as one enterprising person livestreamed two Google Homes talking to each other. The bots talked—and argued—with each other for hours, as tens of thousands watched online.

    Looking back on a year of hashtags.  Worldwide, people used social media to document the ups, the downs, and the jokes of 2016. From #PokemonGo to #SaveAleppo, NPR looks at the biggest hashtags of the year.

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