What We're Reading: Orphan Drug Investigation; Infant Deaths; Reduced Smoking Rates

GAO Will Investigate Orphan Drug Program

Spurred by a request from 3 US senators, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will investigate potential abuses of the Orphan Drug Act. According to Kaiser Health News, the senators are concerned that incentives to develop products to treat rare diseases may not be working as intended. They have pointed to the high price tags attached to approved orphan drugs. The GAO still has to determine the full scope of the investigation, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) expects the investigation to begin in 9 months.

US Infant Death Rates Decline

Over the last 10 years, the infant mortality rate in the United States has declined 15%. The promising trend is good news for the country, which has had a rate of infant deaths that was much higher than other comparable nations, reported STAT. Colorado, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Vermont were particularly successful with infant death rates declining more than 20%. Initiatives implemented by these states, such as advances in care for babies born with a low birthweight or sending nurses to new mothers’ homes to help them care for newborns, are likely the reason that more babies are surviving.

Smoking Rates Down by 2.5%

While there is more work to be done, a 2005 global tobacco treaty has helped reduce the smoking rate worldwide by 2.5%. However, the decline is still behind the pace called for in the treaty, which asked participating countries to implement practices such as high tobacco taxes and smoke-free public spaces, according to Reuters. Smoking trends varied across the countries studied: there was a decline in the rate in 90 countries, an increase in 24 countries, and no change in 12 countries. However, countries that implemented more measures of the treaty saw greater reductions.