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All the Swabs

Proove Biosciences has allegedly offered to pay doctors $30 for every patient they enrolled in a study of the company's genetic tests, while also pushing unnecessary testing, Stat News reports.

Proove says its genetic tests can predict how patients will respond to pain and other medication and even identify people who may be at risk of opioid addiction, though Stat News adds that many of the company's claims are supported by little science.

In addition, it reports that the company installed representatives in doctors' offices to enroll patients into research trials — using approaches that one former manager says could be coercive — that mostly boost the company's revenue. The doctors, many of whom have left the trials, often did little of the work, which Stat News says could violate kickback laws. The doctors also often discarded the test results, despite company representatives marking the tests as beneficial to the patient.

For instance, Titus Taube, a family doctor in Georgia, says that one test indicated that one of his patients would metabolize the blood pressure medication losartan poorly and shouldn't take it, though the patient had been on it for years with success.

Beth Stevens, a former Proove manager, tells Stat News that CEO Brian Meshkin is "in it for the money. He wanted to swab as many people as possible." She adds that "[h]e wanted people who had a cold to be swabbed for opioid risk."

Stat News also reports that Proove has "unbundled" its billing process. Rather than submitting a claim for completing multiple genetic tests on one sample, it would break those tests apart to boost its payments.

Meshkin, who declined to speak with Stat News, says in a statement that "Proove is acting within the confines of the law … [and intends] to follow both the letter and spirit of the law."

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people 65 and older or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.