1. Now that’s a mouthful

It’s synonymous with illnesses and we all try to avoid it at Chipotle. Yep, it’s bacteria. But don’t break out the Purell just yet. It seems a startup has found another good use for E. coli, albeit genetically modified. This engineered strain of bacteria has an insatiable appetite for ammonia. When our bodies are unable to naturally process ammonia, it leads to urea cycle disorders which are estimated to cause up to 20% of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome cases and a myriad of other dangerous, fatal disorders. Luckily, treatment couldn’t be easier. Just one pill packed with 100 billion (with a B!) of the modified bacteria and your body will be eating ammonia like it’s turkey on Thanksgiving. Speaking of… for our US readers, this is how you carve a turkey. Gobble, gobble.

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2. Is that a Cuban cigar in your pocket?

We all have a guy or know a guy who has a guy who has connections at the airport. While his services are typically reserved for smuggling cigars, you might want his help to get your hands on Cuban-developed and produced Cimavax, an immunotherapy-based therapeutic vaccine developed to halt cancer growth and keep it from recurring in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. It is not FDA-approved, but it will soon be part of a clinical trial in the US based out of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo NY. FYI, it turns out Cuba may have a bona fide healthcare and pharmaceutical development system and the Buffalo-based trial could take years, so grab your backpack and head to Havana.

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3. A pseudo-celebration of Celebrex’s vindication

Back in 2004, Merck had to pull their blockbuster COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx off the shelves. The drug was linked to an increase in heart disease and stroke, and the same doubt has surrounded Pfizer’s COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex (celecoxib) ever since. So, Pfizer conducted a Phase IV study comparing incidence rates of those adverse events compared to ibuprofen and naproxen. Twelve years, a patent expiration, and 24,000 patients later, Pfizer found that celecoxib was at least as safe as ibuprofen and naproxen, if not more so. That’s great news for arthritis sufferers at risk for heart disease and stroke, but Pfizer’s probably a little irritated they ran a massive study to disprove a rumor which likely bit into their Celebrex profits when they had market exclusivity.

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4. It’s going to be YUGE

Election season has passed and Donald Trump is set to take office in 2017, accompanied by a newly Republican-filled Congress. This means we could be poised to witness even more of the mega-mergers that have taken place across the pharma landscape. These mergers have been popular for US companies partly because it has allowed them to achieve huge (…yuge) tax savings due to US tax rates. President-elect Trump has stated multiple times that corporate tax rates are too high and that he will be working to drop them drastically to promote competition within the US. If this comes to fruition, be prepared to see more companies bring in off-shore dollars to take advantage of these changes.

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5. Stop priming the proton pump

Which would be worse, your doctor demands you change your eating habits or prescribes a medication that increases your risk of stroke? For those still resisting lifestyle changes in favor of drugs, tune in to this: a popular category of heartburn medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) has been linked to a 21% greater risk of stroke. A study of 245,000 patients who had an endoscopy showed that within 6 years of follow-up, 9,500 patients had their first ischemic stroke. Researchers controlled for other risk factors, investigated their medications and found patients on the highest dose of PPIs had a stroke risk from 30% for lansoprazole to 94% for pantoprazole. Add that to PPIs’ links to dementia and heart attacks and then reconsider fatty foods and large portion sizes.

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