News from Bioethics.com

The Wartorn Region Where Even Some 10-Year-Olds Are Hooked on Opioids

3 weeks 6 days

(CNN) – In the war-ravaged wasteland that is Syria, no one has gathered statistics on drug abuse. The doctor who runs the hospital, who requested that his name not be published for fear of reprisals, says substance abuse has skyrocketed since the start of the war. “We’re seeing addiction starting with children who are 10, 11 or 12 years old,” he says. “Addiction is supposed to start later, at the age of 18 or 19 or 20, but because of the breakup of families it’s starting at an early age.”

Pregnancy Reported in the First Known Trial of ‘Three-Person IVF’ for Infertility

3 weeks 6 days

(STAT News) – A 32-year-old Greek woman is reportedly pregnant from an experimental reproductive technique that uses DNA from three people — as part of the first known clinical trial to use the controversial procedure to treat infertility. The procedure, known as mitochondrial replacement therapy, is banned in the U.S., because of concerns that introduction of DNA from a third “parent” into an embryo is a form of genetic modification that could affect generations to come.

Alcohol-Linked Diseases Overtakes Hep C as Top Reason for Liver Transplants

3 weeks 6 days

(Kaiser Health News) – An estimated 17,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a liver transplant, and there’s a strong chance that many of them have alcohol-associated liver disease. ALD now edges out hepatitis C as the No. 1 reason for liver transplants in the United States, according to research published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine. One reason for the shift, researchers said, is that hepatitis C, which used to be the leading cause of liver transplants, has become easier to treat with drugs.

FDA’s Opioids Adviser Accuses Agency of Having ‘Direct’ Link to Crisis

3 weeks 6 days

(The Guardian) – The Food and Drug Administration is sacrificing American lives by continuing to approve new high-strength opioid painkillers, and manipulating the process in favor of big pharma, according to the chair of the agency’s own opioid advisory committee. Dr Raeford Brown told the Guardian there is “a war” within the FDA as officials in charge of opioid policy have “failed to learn the lessons” of the epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past 20 years and continues to claim about 150 lives a day.

Unfair Diagnosis: Socioeconomic Gap Drives Cancer Outcomes

4 weeks 10 hours

(Scientific American) – While the United States has experienced a 27 percent decline in death rates overall over the last 25 years, cancer outcomes continue to be greatly influenced by socioeconomic status and race. Specifically, poor people and people of color have significantly higher cancer mortality rates than average. A newly released study in the January 2019 issue of the American Cancer Society’s CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians shows a decline in the mortality gap between blacks and whites, moving from 33 percent in 1993 to 15 percent in 2016. But the findings note that blacks have the highest cancer mortality rate when compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

Scientist Behind CRISPR Twins Sharply Criticized in Government Probe, Loses Job

4 weeks 10 hours

(Science) – He Jiankui, the Chinese researcher who claimed to have edited the genomes of twin baby girls in a heritable way—and earned widespread condemnation for conducting a risky procedure with little potential benefit—deliberately sidestepped regulations, dodged oversight, and used fake ethical review documents in hopes of gaining “personal fame” for a worldwide first, according to preliminary results from a Chinese governmental investigation reported today. In response to the news, the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, announced it was rescinding He’s contract as an associate professor and terminating his teaching and research activities, effective immediately.

China Confirms He Jiankui Gene-Edited Babies, Says Scientists Involved Will Be ‘Dealt with Seriously’

4 weeks 1 day

(Newsweek) – An investigation by authorities in China has concluded that a scientist in the country did create the world’s first gene-edited babies. According to a report in China’s Xinhua news agency, He Jiankui performed human embryo gene-editing activities despite them being “officially banned in the country.” The report said He, along with the other researchers involved, would be punished in accordance with the law. The case has now been handed over to the Ministry of Public Security.

China Says Doctor Who Claimed Using CRISPR to Make Gene-Edited Babies Acted on His Own

4 weeks 1 day

(STAT News) – Chinese investigators have determined that the doctor behind the reported birth of two babies whose genes had been edited in hopes of making them resistant to the AIDS virus acted on his own and will be punished for any violations of the law, a state media report said Monday. Investigators in the southern province of Guangdong determined Dr. He Jiankui organized and handled funding for the experiment without outside assistance in violation of national guidelines, the Xinhua News Agency said.

The Doctors Who Invented a New Way to Help People Die

4 weeks 1 day

(The Atlantic) – In 2016, a small group of doctors gathered in a Seattle conference room to find a better way to help people die. They included physicians at the forefront of medical aid in dying—the practice of providing terminal patients with a way to end their own lives. And they were there because the aid-in-dying movement had recently run into a problem. The two lethal medications used by most patients for decades had suddenly become either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. When doctors briefly tried a substitute, some patients had rare but troubling experiences.

The Tricky Ethics of Transplants for Addicts

1 month 4 hours

(The Atlantic) – In the early days of liver transplantation, saving patients with alcoholic liver disease was generally considered an inappropriate use of such a limited resource. Yet now that the practice has been supported by data showing that outcomes for these transplants are as good as or better than outcomes for other diagnoses, the policy has changed. Many programs require candidates to have been abstinent for at least six months. The rule, which has been widely adopted at transplant centers around the country, came from a retrospective study of 43 patients who underwent transplant for alcoholic liver disease. In this analysis, abstinence for less than six months prior to transplant was considered a risk factor for recurrence.

Genetics Extends the Long Arm of the Law

1 month 4 hours

(Knowable Magazine) – Forensic genetic genealogy compares the genetic profile of a crime suspect or victim to genetic profiles of people in public databases — primarily, the volunteer-run GEDmatch, where customers of any genetic-testing company can upload their information. Genealogists search for a target’s relatives in GEDmatch, then pursue these leads to pinpoint their John or Jane Doe’s identity.

The UK’s Restrictive Surrogacy Laws Are Hurting Couples and Pushing Many Abroad

1 month 5 hours

(CNN) – For Prior, the lack of legal security was her chief consideration in deciding to go abroad: the fact that there was a chance “that somebody would change their mind and keep the child that was destined for us.” According to law in the United States, where they sought their surrogate, “he was our child … and that’s just very, very reassuring,” she said. Gamble’s study echoes this sentiment. Parents who traveled to the United States to use a surrogate were the least likely to have encountered difficulties returning to the UK, it says.

Study Links Opioid Epidemic to Painkiller Marketing

1 month 3 days

(Reuters) – Researchers are reporting a link between doctor-targeted marketing of opioid products and the increase in U.S. deaths from overdoses. In a county-by-county analysis, they found that when drug companies increased their opioid marketing budgets by just $5.29 per 1,000 population, the number of opioid prescriptions written by doctors went up by 82 percent and the opioid death rate was 9 percent higher a year later.

A ‘Digital Pill’ for Cancer Patients Is Rolled Out for the First Time, in Hopes of Improving Outcomes

1 month 3 days

(STAT News) – A Silicon Valley company on Thursday announced what it described as the first “digital pill” program of its kind, one in which the chemotherapy pills taken by cancer patients are packaged with a sensor that can alert a physician, pharmacist, or caregiver after it has been swallowed. Seven patients — all of whom have colorectal cancer in stage 3 or stage 4 and are being treated in Minnesota — have been provided with the treatment since September, according to Proteus Digital Health.

Macular Degeneration Trial Will Be First Human Test of Nobel-Winning Stem Cell Technique

1 month 3 days

(STAT News) – The cause of AMD is well-known, the recipe for turning stem cells into retinal cells works like a charm, and the eye is “immunoprivileged,” meaning immune cells don’t attack foreigners such as, say, lab-made retinal cells. Yet more than a decade after animal studies showed promise, and nearly eight years since retinal cells created from embryonic stem cells were safely transplanted into nine patients in a clinical trial, no one outside of a research setting (or a rogue clinic) is getting stem cell therapy for macular degeneration.

Death on Demand: Has Euthanasia Gone Too Far?

1 month 3 days

(The Guardian) – If western society continues to follow the Dutch, Belgian and Canadian examples, there is every chance that in a few decades’ time euthanasia will be one widely available option from a menu of possible deaths, including an “end of life” poison pill available on demand to anyone who finds life unbearable. For many greying baby boomers – veterans of earlier struggles to legalise abortion and contraception – a civilised death at a time of their choosing is a right that the state should provide and regulate. As this generation enters its final years, the precept that life is precious irrespective of one’s medical condition is being called into question as never before.

FDA Moves to Fast-Track OTC Naloxone for Opioid Overdose

1 month 4 days

(Medscape) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced “unprecedented” steps to support companies in developing over-the-counter (OTC) naloxone to help reduce opioid overdose deaths. “With the number of overdose deaths involving prescription and illicit opioids more than doubling over the last 7 years to nearly 48,000 in 2017, it’s critical that we continue to address this tragedy from all fronts,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in a statement. This includes new ways to increase availability of naloxone, which typically can counter the overdose effects within minutes when administered quickly, said Gottlieb.

Why Vaping Is So Dangerous for Teens

1 month 4 days

(CNN) – Most of what we know about nicotine addiction in teens, we know from cigarettes. But experts say the technology and chemistry of vaping might pose an entirely different threat. “It turns out that e-cigarette use by kids doesn’t look the same at all,” said Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “How you’re delivering [nicotine] and how much you’re delivering … everything you change really matters.” Levy said she’s seen vape-addicted kids in her program showing what appear to be psychiatric symptoms rarely seen with traditional cigarettes or among adults.

Rise in Serious Birth Defect Might Be Tied to Opioid Use, Study Says

1 month 4 days

(CNN) – A potentially deadly birth defect in which babies are born with exposed intestines is on the rise, and researchers are concerned that it might be tied to the opioid epidemic. The birth defect, called gastroschisis, happens early in a mother’s pregnancy when the walls of the baby’s abdomen don’t develop properly. While science hasn’t figured out the exact cause of the condition, there are risk factors. Teen mothers are more likely to give birth to a baby with the defect, as are women who drink and smoke. Now it appears there’s an association with prescription opioid use.

Call the Midwife! (If the Doctor Doesn’t Object)

1 month 5 days

(Kaiser Health News) – Every morning at Watsonville Community Hospital in Northern California, the labor and delivery team divvies up its patients — low-risk ones go to the midwives and high-risk ones to the physicians. Then, throughout the day, the doctors and midwives work together to ensure the births go smoothly. “We kind of divide and conquer,” said Dr. Julia Burke, chair of the hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department. The hospital began allowing certified nurse midwives to deliver babies in 2017, part of an effort to decrease cesarean sections and make mothers happier.

Doctors Fired after Giving ‘Potentially Fatal’ Doses of Pain Medication to 27 Patients

1 month 5 days

(CNN) – A doctor is accused of giving potentially fatal doses of pain medication to at least 27 patients who were near death, according to an Ohio hospital. The osteopathic physician ordered “more than what was needed to provide comfort” to patients whose families had requested that all life-saving measures be stopped, Mount Carmel Health System in Columbus said in a statement. The doctor was removed from patient care and fired, following an internal investigation, the hospital said.

A Remarkable New Study Shows Stem Cells Can Reverse MS in Some Patients

1 month 6 days

(Vox) – The treatment is an experimental chemotherapy and hematopoietic stem cell transplant offered in the first randomized trial comparing the outcomes of patients receiving the treatment to patients who took standard MS medications.  The results of the trial appeared Tuesday in the journal JAMA, and they are impressive: Among the 55 patients in the control group who took medication, 34 saw their disease worsen. But for the 55 (including Loy) who received the chemo and stem cell transplant, only three got worse. The rest saw their quality of life and disability improve.

Microsoft and Walgreens Pair Up Amid Fierce Competition to Deliver Digital Health Care

1 month 6 days

(STAT News) – Microsoft has struck a deal with Walgreens to build digital health tools for pharmacy customers that will include efforts to use artificial intelligence to deliver stepped-up telehealth, improve medication adherence, and reduce emergency room visits. The impact of the seven-year partnership, announced Tuesday, remains to be seen, but it represents another attempt by a large provider of health care services to increase the use of technology to deliver medicines and medical advice. The world’s largest technology companies, including Apple, Amazon, and Google, are making aggressive forays into health care, both through partnerships with providers and the development of their own health care businesses.

‘A Blizzard of Prescriptions’: Documents Reveal New Details about Purdue’s Marketing of OxyContin

1 month 6 days

(STAT News) – When Purdue Pharma started selling its prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin in 1996, Dr. Richard Sackler asked people gathered for the launch party to envision natural disasters like an earthquake, a hurricane, or a blizzard. The debut of OxyContin, said Sackler — a member of the family that started and controls the company and then a company executive — “will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”

Pregnancy in Women in Vegetative State Is Rare, But Not Unprecedented

1 month 6 days

(NBC News) – The woman, 29, delivered in December while receiving long-term care at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix after a near-drowning incident. Authorities do not know who impregnated her and have opened a sexual assault investigation in search of her rapist. The case echoes one from 1995, when a comatose 29-year-old woman was raped by a nurse’s aide at her nursing home near Rochester, New York. Staff discovered she was pregnant early on, a key difference between her and the Arizona woman.

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