News from Bioethics.com

Australia Built a Hell for Refugees on Manus. The Shame Will Outlive Us All

1 month 3 weeks

(The Guardian) – In the camps the refugees were made to answer to numbers given to them as their new identity. Denied their names they were not even allowed their stories. Every attempt that could be made was made by the Australian government, from the petty to the disturbing, to deny journalists access to the Pacific lager. When it came to imprisoned refugees free speech became a crime: for some years any doctor, nurse or social worker in the camps who publicly reported on the many instances, now well-documented, of rape, murder, suicide and sexual abuse of refugees was liable to two years’ imprisonment.

US Abortion Rates Plummet to a Historic Low

1 month 3 weeks

(New York Post) – Abortion rates in the United States have fallen to a historic low, according to the latest data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC report, which was released on Wednesday, found that the abortion rate nationwide dropped two percent between 2013 and 2014 amid the use of more effective contraception, the shuttering of many abortion clinics and an overall decline in pregnancy rates.

Rohingya Crisis: Push for Contraception, Even Sterilisation, as Bengladesh Struggles with Refugee Influx

1 month 3 weeks

(Australian Broadcasting Co) – Last week the Red Cross revealed the Balukhali camp’s water table was dropping so rapidly, some areas could go dry before new deep bores can be dug. Bangladesh and Myanmar have entered negotiations for the refugees’ repatriation, but few expect a speedy solution to their statelessness. Public health official Dr Pintu Bhattacharya thinks the Bangladesh Government’s family planning program should be extended to refugees. Under the scheme, local men and women are paid small stipend for undergoing voluntary sterilisation.

U.S. Judge Strikes Down Texas Measure to Limit Second-Trimester Abortions

1 month 3 weeks

(Reuters) – A U.S. district judge on Wednesday struck down parts of a Texas law that would ban the most common type of second-trimester abortions in the state, after plaintiffs argued the procedure was safe, legal and necessary for women’s health.  U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin issued a permanent injunction against the provisions that were in legislation known as Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) and set to take effect this year, saying they “are facially unconstitutional.”

FDA Warns against ‘Do It Yourself’ Gene Therapy Kits

1 month 3 weeks

(Boston Business Journal) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a stern warning against the use of “do it yourself” gene therapy kits, pushing back against a nascent “biohacker” movement that seeks to make experimental medicines and technologies available to the masses, often by circumventing regulators. A statement posted on the FDA’s website on Tuesday cautions that it is illegal to sell gene therapy products and kits intended for self-administration. Gene therapy involves inserting new, healthy genes into cells to cure diseases that are caused by faulty genes. The FDA has classified gene editing — cutting out and replacing parts of faulty genes — as a form of gene therapy.

Online Software Spots Genetics Errors in Cancer Papers

2 months 2 days

(Nature) – Two scientists have rolled out a program that spots incorrect gene sequences reported in experiments — and have used it to identify flaws in more than 60 papers, almost all of them studies of cancer. Jennifer Byrne, a cancer researcher at the Kids Research Institute of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, Australia, and Cyril Labbé, a computer scientist at the University of Grenoble Alpes in Grenoble, France, made public an early version of the program, called Seek & Blastn, in October and now they want other researchers to test the program and help to improve it. They then plan to offer it to journal editors and publishers as an addition to the tools that most already use to check papers, such as software to detect plagiarism.

Substituting Methadone for Opioids Could Save Billions

2 months 2 days

(Reuters) – Policymakers and insurers have been pushing people addicted to opioids into abstinence-based detox programs, but a new study concludes that methadone and similar drug-maintenance treatments save lives and money. If the nearly 47,000 Californians who began treatment for opioid-use disorder in 2014 had received immediate access to methadone or another opioid-agonist treatment – instead of first being forced to completely withdraw from opioids – the healthcare and criminal-justice systems would have saved $3.8 billion, researchers estimate.

Years Before Heading Offshore, Herpes Researcher Experimented on People in U.S.

2 months 2 days

(Kaiser Health News) – Three years before launching an offshore herpes vaccine trial, an American researcher vaccinated patients in U.S. hotel rooms in brazen violation of U.S. law, a Kaiser Health News investigation has found. Southern Illinois University associate professor William Halford administered the shots himself at a Holiday Inn Express and a Crowne Plaza Hotel that were a 15-minute drive from the researcher’s SIU lab. Halford injected at least eight herpes patients on four separate occasions in the summer and fall of 2013 with a virus that he created, according to emails from seven participants and interviews with one participant.

Doctors’s Rx for a Stiff Knee: A Prescription for 90 Percocet Pills

2 months 2 days

(Kaiser Health News) – As public health officials grapple with how to slow the growing opioid epidemic — which claims 91 lives each day, according to federal statistics — the over-prescription of narcotics after even minor surgery is coming under new scrutiny. While patients are today often given opioids to manage post-operative pain, a large supply of pills may open the door to opioid misuse, either by the patients themselves or others in the family or community who get access to the leftovers.

Some U.S. Hospitals Don’t Put Americans First for Liver Transplants

2 months 2 days

(ProPublica) – Little known to the public, or to sick patients and their families, organs donated domestically are sometimes given to patients flying in from other countries, who often pay a premium. Some hospitals even seek out foreign patients in need of a transplant. A Saudi Arabian company, Ansaq Medical Co., whose stated aim is to “facilitate the procedures and mechanisms of ‘medical tourism,’” said it signed an agreement with Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans in 2015. The practice is legal, and foreign nationals must wait their turn for an organ in the same way as domestic patients. Transplant centers justify it on medical and humanitarian grounds.

New Gene Treatment Effective for Some Leukemia Patients

2 months 2 days

(New York Times) – A new way of genetically altering a patient’s cells to fight cancer has helped desperately ill people with leukemia when every other treatment had failed, researchers reported on Monday in the journal Nature Medicine. The new approach, still experimental, could eventually be given by itself or, more likely, be used in combination treatments — analogous to antiviral “cocktails” for H.I.V. or multidrug regimens of chemotherapy for cancer — to increase the odds of shutting down the disease.

F.D.A. Speeds Review of Gene Therapies, Vowing to Target Rogue Clinics

2 months 4 days

(New York Times) – The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday issued new guidelines to speed the introduction of treatments involving human cells and tissues, including gene therapy. But the agency also said it would crack down on rogue clinics offering dangerous or unproven versions of those treatments. The therapies aimed at diseases like leukemia are known as regenerative medicine and have quickly grown into a booming industry worldwide.

Losing Hope Amid Uganda Doctors’ Strike

2 months 1 week

(BBC) – Uganda’s doctors have gone on strike, fed up with what they say are the lowest wages in Africa and a lack of resources. They are demanding that their salaries, currently starting at just $260 a month for junior doctors, increased 10-fold, as well as benefits like cars and domestic workers. But as the fight between the Uganda Medical Association and the government rumbles on, what does it mean for those Ugandans in desperate need of medical attention?

Human Head Transplants Are about to Happen in China: But Where Are the Bodies Coming From?

2 months 1 week

(Newsweek) – Whether or not we believe head transplants will “work” or whether or not we want them to happen, the fact is the technology to perform them is being developed in China right now. We have been disappointed by the initial responses from experts weighing in on the matter. So far the general response has been either to mock the character of Sergio Canavero, the neurosurgeon proposing the operations, or ignore the subject in the hope it goes away. But we think these opinions and the reporting on this procedure has missed two critical questions: Why China? Why now?

A Human Being Has Been Injected with Gene-Editing Tools to Cure His Disabling Disease. Here’s What You Need to Know

2 months 1 week

(Science) – For the first time, researchers have infused a person’s blood with gene-editing tools, aiming to treat his severe inherited disease, The Associated Press (AP) reported today. The 44-year-old patient has a rare metabolic disorder called Hunter syndrome. But how big is the advance—and what does it mean for using hot new technologies such as CRISPR to help people with other genetic diseases?

$1 Million Price Tag in Spotlight as Gene Therapy Becomes Reality

2 months 1 week

(Reuters) – Battle lines are being drawn as the first gene therapy for an inherited condition nears the U.S. market, offering hope for people with a rare form of blindness and creating a cost dilemma for healthcare providers. Spark Therapeutics, whose Luxturna treatment has been recommended for U.S. approval, told investors last week there was a case for valuing it at more than $1 million per patient, although it has yet to set an actual price.

US Health Agency to Crack Down on Risky Stem Cell Offerings

2 months 1 week

(ABC News) – U.S. health authorities announced plans Thursday to crack down on doctors pushing stem cell procedures that pose the gravest risks to patients amid an effort to police a burgeoning medical field that previously has received little oversight. The Food and Drug Administration laid out a strategy for regulating cell-based medicine, including hundreds of private clinics that have opened across the nation in the last decade. Many of the businesses promote stem cell injections for dozens of diseases including arthritis, multiple sclerosis and even Alzheimer’s. They can cost $5,000 to $50,000, but there’s little research that such procedures are safe or effective.

Research Team Unlocks Secrets of Ebola

2 months 1 week

(Medical Xpress) – Conducting a sweeping analysis of everything from enzymes to lipids to immune-system-associated molecules, the team—which includes researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the University of Tokyo and the University of Sierra Leone—found 11 biomarkers that distinguish fatal infections from nonfatal ones and two that, when screened for early symptom onset, accurately predict which patients are likely to die. With these results, says senior author Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a virology professor at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, clinicians can prioritize the scarce treatment resources available and provide care to the sickest patients.

A New Study Found a Big Problem with a Popular Opioid Addiction Medication

2 months 1 week

(Vox) – For the first time, a new study in The Lancet, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), compared the effectiveness of naltrexone with buprenorphine in the US. The results were both promising and disappointing. While naltrexone is as effective as buprenorphine once treatment begins, it is also significantly more difficult to actually start naltrexone because it requires an extensive detox period — which can span more than a week — that buprenorphine does not.

FDA Clears Electronic Earpiece to Block Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – A wearable device claiming to block the pain of opioid withdrawal has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration under an expedited review process for medical devices. However, patient safety advocates note that the device has limited evidence for its effectiveness. The NSS-2 Bridge is a device that attaches to the ear and transmits small electrical pulses through four cranial nerves. It’s marketed by Indiana-based Innovative Health Solutions, and was cleared to treat chronic and acute pain in 2014. IHS can now market the device as one that reduces symptoms of opioid withdrawal including nausea, anxiety, and aches.

Doctors Are Attempting the First Case of Gene Editing Inside the Body of a Living Human

2 months 1 week

(Quartz) – But Madeux’s life might be about to change. He is the first patient to receive an experimental gene therapy as part of a clinical trial. Earlier this week, Sangamo Therapeutics injected Madeux with viruses containing a package of gene-editing material, according to the AP. The hope is that these viruses will enter Madeux’s cells, specifically liver cells, inject the missing gene at the right place in his DNA. Only about 1% of the liver’s cells need to be fixed, and give his liver the ability to produce the enzyme he has been missing all his life.

Should a Hospital Block a Recently Jailed Father from Donating a Kidney to Save His Son?

2 months 1 week

(Quartz) – A.J. has now survived long enough that he can receive a kidney transplant, something that would allow him a healthy and normal childhood unmarked by the trials of constant dialysis. His father Anthony Dickerson is an excellent match and eager to donate, but the hospital has said no. The reason why reveals a troubling strain of paternalism in how our transplant field treats living organ donors. Anthony’s donation was scheduled for Oct. 3, but on Sep. 28 he was jailed for a parole violation. The authorities released him in time for surgery, but that’s when the transplant center balked, requiring that Dickerson “demonstrate good behavior” for three months before he would be reconsidered as a donor candidate.

FDA Issues Strong Warning against Kratom, an Herbal Supplement Used to Treat Pain and Other Conditions

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued a public health advisory about the potential risks of an herbal supplement called kratom, warning that people who use it to treat pain in place of opioids or to wean themselves off opioids are exposing themselves to an unregulated product that has not been proven safe or effective. The announcement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is sure to rile devoted kratom users, who contend the supplement has provided them with a way to manage pain, anxiety, and a range of other conditions.

Pros and Cons of the New Digital Pills That Connect to Your Smartphone

2 months 1 week

(Quartz) – The health-care community lit up in conversation after news broke that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the world’s first digital drug. It’s a pill that contains a minuscule chip—made of magnesium, silicon, and copper—that can send information from inside the body to an adhesive patch that’s placed on a patient’s torso. The patch can send data to a doctor’s office, as well as to a special smartphone app for those who wish to monitor themselves, until the chip is naturally digested.

Supreme Court Takes on Case about Free Speech and Abortion

2 months 1 week

(NPR) – Does a California law violate the Constitution by requiring anti-abortion pregnancy centers to inform clients about free or low-cost abortion and contraception services? That’s the question the Supreme Court is taking on, in a new case it accepted on Monday. California’s Reproductive FACT Act became law in October of 2015. It requires licensed and covered facilities to give all their clients notice that the state “has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, prenatal care, and abortion, for eligible women.”

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