News from Bioethics.com

Changing Dynamics of the Drug Overdose Epidemic in the United States from 1979 through 2016

2 months 3 weeks

(Science) – Better understanding of the dynamics of the current U.S. overdose epidemic may aid in the development of more effective prevention and control strategies. We analyzed records of 599,255 deaths from 1979 through 2016 from the National Vital Statistics System in which accidental drug poisoning was identified as the main cause of death. By examining all available data on accidental poisoning deaths back to 1979 and showing that the overall 38-year curve is exponential, we provide evidence that the current wave of opioid overdose deaths (due to prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl) may just be the latest manifestation of a more fundamental longer-term process.

A Man Says His DNA Test Proves He’s Black, and He’s Suing

2 months 3 weeks

(The Atlantic) – In its four-decade existence, the DBE program has long wrestled with questions of how to determine if someone is a minority. Proof of race and ethnicity “has been a thorn in the side of the DBE program for years,” said a 2001 article in the magazine Government Contractor. But Taylor’s case appears to be the first time, according to Jennifer Sommerville, a lawyer who has written about DBEs, that DNA evidence has come up in a lawsuit over eligibility for the program. According to several legal experts I spoke with, it might also be the first time a genetic test is being cited as evidence of race in any type of court case.

From Syria to Southern California: Refugees Seek Care for Wounds of War

2 months 3 weeks

(Kaiser Health News) – Syrian refugees struggle disproportionately with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression because of their exposure to extreme violence and anxiety about relatives still in Syria, clinic staff and community volunteers say. Most who have fled spent years holed up in camps or apartments, with little access to routine medical care for war wounds or chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Virtually all of the people who enter this country as part of the federal government’s refugee resettlement program qualify by income for Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program for low-income people (known as Medi-Cal in California).

Thousands of Foster Children May Be Getting Psychiatric Drugs Without Safeguards, Watchdog Agency Says

2 months 3 weeks

(STAT News) – A report released Monday by the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office found that about 1 in 3 foster kids from a sample of states were prescribed psychiatric drugs without treatment plans or follow-up, standard steps in sound medical care. Kids getting mood-altering drugs they don’t need is only part of the problem. Investigators also said children who need medication to help them function at school or get along in social settings may be going untreated.

Unprecedented Medical Case Shows How 4 People Got Cancer from Just One Organ Donor

2 months 3 weeks

(Science Alert) – It’s a devastating case that serves as the medical warning we didn’t even know we needed. An organ donor didn’t just pass on her kidneys, lungs, liver, and heart to five desperate recipients – she also unknowingly bequeathed her undetected, malignant cancer at the same time. In doing so, this insidious transmission – which scientists only discovered months later – ended up killing three of the patients, researchers report in what they describe as an unprecedented, “extraordinary case”.

Study: Drug Companies Hike Prices During Shortages

2 months 3 weeks

(UPI) – Pharmaceutical companies appear to be engaging in price gouging during drug shortages, with costs rising at double the normal rate when medications are in limited supply, a new study claims. Prices can be expected to rise about 20 percent for drugs facing a shortage, but only about 9 percent for medicines in good supply, researchers report.

Denied ‘Life-Extending Opportunities’: Black Patients Are Being Left Out of Clinical Trials Amid Wave of New Cancer Therapies

2 months 3 weeks

(STAT News) – The Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2015 after patients in a clinical trial gained an average of six months without their cancer spreading. That trial, though, had a major shortcoming: its racial composition. One out of five people diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the U.S. is black, and African-Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to be diagnosed with the cancer. Yet of the 722 participants in the trial, only 13 — or 1.8 percent — were black. The scarcity of black patients in Ninlaro’s testing left unanswered the vital question of whether the drug would work equally well for them.

The Arbitrary 10-Year Time Limit for Women Who’ve Frozen Their Eggs

2 months 3 weeks

(Quartz) – But women in the UK who attempt to plan ahead face a particular hurdle. The law mandates that eggs frozen for “social” reason can only be kept for 10 years, after which they must be destroyed. Eggs harvested for medical reasons, and sperm, can be kept for 55 years.

Physician Burnout Taking Center Stage

2 months 3 weeks

(Reuters) – The medical establishment may finally be coming to grips with the issue of physician burnout. The evidence: two studies on the topic reported in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. One study found that nearly half of junior physicians were already having burnout symptoms at least one day a week. The other study underscored how hard it is to assess the problem. After reviewing previous studies, researchers found huge variations in definitions of burnout and estimated rates among doctors, which ranged from 0 to 80 percent.

AbbVie Is Accused of Paying Kickbacks, Using a Stealthy Network of Nurses to Promote Humira

2 months 3 weeks

(STAT News) – Over a five-year period, the drug maker offered physicians a familiar menu of tempting items, from cash, meals and drinks, to gifts and trips, along with patient referrals, in hopes they would write more prescriptions for its Humira rheumatoid arthritis treatment, a $12.3 billion seller in the U.S. last year. However, AbbVie also engaged in an allegedly more nefarious practice in which registered nurses were hired to act as “ambassadors” to visit patients at home and help with administering the drug, but instead were used to ensure that prescriptions were continually refilled, the lawsuit stated.

Why Your DNA Is Still Uncharted Territory

2 months 3 weeks

(New York Times) – You have a gene called PNMA6F. All people do, but no one knows the purpose of that gene or the protein it makes. And as it turns out, PNMA6F has a lot of company in that regard. In a study published Tuesday in PLOS Biology, researchers at Northwestern University reported that of our 20,000 protein-coding genes, about 5,400 have never been the subject of a single dedicated paper. Most of our other genes have been almost as badly neglected, the subjects of minor investigation at best. A tiny fraction — 2,000 of them — have hogged most of the attention, the focus of 90 percent of the scientific studies published in recent years.

Children Disadvantaged by Liver Transplant Wait List Scores

2 months 3 weeks

(UPI) – The scoring system used to determine who has priority for receiving a liver transplant disadvantages children compared to adults, a study published Monday indicates. People in need of a liver transplant are put on one of two national wait lists — one for children 12 and under and one for those older than 12. Each patient is given two scores based on how sick and in need of a new liver they are.

Birth Defects Cluster Not Just Down to Zika

2 months 4 weeks

(SciDevNet) – The study found a correlation between the distribution of chikungunya infection and congenital microcephaly in the region, which the authors say may indicate that previous arbovirus infections or co-infection with chikungunya can increase the severity of Zika infections. They also speculate that malnutrition and overall poor health associated with poverty could compromise immunity, as well as the body’s response to infection and the clinical progression of the disease.

Hurricanes Are Especially Hard on Children

2 months 4 weeks

(The Atlantic) – Self-Brown, now the chair of the health-policy-and-behavioral-sciences department at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health, and her fellow researchers wanted to better understand how parents and children coped with having lived through a natural disaster. She found that in addition to being physically disruptive, Katrina—along with Hurricane Rita, which followed a month later—was psychologically disruptive, too, affecting some children even years later. “You really see similar impacts from tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes, even man-made disasters [like] 9/11,” Self-Brown says.

Ukraine’s ‘Baby Factories’: The Human Cost of Surrogacy

2 months 4 weeks

(Aljazeera) – Ukraine has become an increasingly popular destination for foreign couples seeking affordable surrogacy services since they became legal in 2002. The average package costs around $30,000, compared with prices between $80,00 and $120,000 in the United States. Demand has surged since 2015 when Thailand, India and Nepal outlawed commercial surrogacy following reports of widespread exploitation of women. The Ministry of Health was unable to provide data on the number of surrogate mothers in Ukraine.

Oral Contraceptive Use Link to Childhood Leukemia

2 months 4 weeks

(Medscape) – A nationwide cohort study in more than 1.1 million Danish children shows that the use of combined estrogen and progestin oral contraceptives in the 6 months before conception or during pregnancy is associated with a small increase in the risk for any type of childhood leukemia, particularly the nonlymphoid types. The increased risk for leukemias was mainly associated with the use of oral combined contraceptive products containing estrogen, and not with progestin-only contraceptives.

Scientists Are Developing New Ways to Treat Disease with Cells, Not Drugs

2 months 4 weeks

(TIME) – While blood stem cells from bone marrow have long been a cornerstone of treating blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, Mackenzie’s trial extracting the cells from a pregnant woman to treat a developing fetus in utero is just one of several innovative uses of stem cells to treat a growing list of diseases with cells instead of drugs. And promising studies are inching more of these stem-cell-based treatments closer to finally being tested in people.

As Massive Zika Vaccine Trial Struggles, Researchers Revive Plan to Intentionally Infect Humans

3 months 10 hours

(Science) – In 2016, as the mosquito-borne Zika virus spread through the Americas and cases of infected women having brain-damaged babies mounted, investigators raced to develop a vaccine. Now, a $110 million vaccine trial is underway at 17 sites in nine countries, but it faces an unexpected, and ironic, challenge. Cases of Zika have plummeted to levels so low that most people vaccinated in the trial likely will never be exposed to the virus, which could make it impossible to tell whether the vaccine works.

Health Officials Rush to Protect Seniors, the Most Vulnerable Group, from Hurricane Florence

3 months 10 hours

(Scientific American) – Perhaps no other population is as vulnerable during a hurricane as frail, older adults, especially those who are homebound or living in nursing homes. With Hurricane Florence predicted to slam the North Carolina coast Friday, health officials are already scrambling to keep older residents safe. Seniors “are not only the most likely to die in hurricanes, but in wildfires and other disasters,” said Dr. Karen DeSalvo, a New Orleans native who served as health commissioner in that city after Hurricane Katrina and went on to be named acting assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services for the Obama administration.

Aid Agencies Ramp Up Response to Zimbabwe Cholera Outbreak

3 months 10 hours

(Reuters) – The World Health Organization and the Red Cross said on Thursday they were ramping up their emergency responses to Zimbabwe’s deadliest cholera outbreak in a decade, with politicians trading blame over contaminated water and collapsing infrastructure. The death toll rose to 26 from the disease, testing the capacity of a new government to handle a major crisis just weeks after violent demonstrations that followed the first election since Robert Mugabe was toppled in a coup.

Long-Term Effects of ADHD? Study Links Disorder to Parkinson’s, But Don’t Be Alarmed

3 months 11 hours

(ABC News) – They found that people with ADHD were more than twice as likely to develop one of the movement disorders, while those prescribed stimulants had an “especially pronounced” risk — 8.6 times higher than the non-ADHD population. This increased risk, however, is still small when considering the overall risk of Parkinson’s among the general population — only 0.1 to 0.2 percent of adults and 1 percent of those over 60 years old develop it. There are also several limitations to the study.

Stem Cells from Baby Teeth Patch Up Dental Injuries in Clinical Trials

3 months 11 hours

(New Atlas) – Your teeth are one of the only parts of your body that can’t naturally repair themselves – so when a kid injures a permanent tooth at a young age, they’re stuck with that for life. But a new clinical trial has shown promising results in using dental stem cells derived from a patient’s baby teeth to bring a “dead” tooth back to life. The study builds on previous work that investigated human deciduous pulp stem cells (hDPSC), which may be able to replenish pulp – the soft, innermost tissue of a tooth.

Cancers ‘Rising Around the World’

3 months 1 day

(BBC) – There will be 18.1 million new cases of cancer and 9.6 million people will die with the disease this year worldwide, a report predicts. The rise, from 14.1 million cases and 8.2 million deaths in 2012, is partly due to a growing and ageing population.  The figures suggest one in five men and one in six women will develop the disease in their lifetime. And as countries become wealthier, more people get cancers related to lifestyle rather than those linked to poverty.

An ‘Epidemic of Nicotine Addiction’ Among Youth Prompts FDA to Get Tough on E-Cigarette Makers

3 months 1 day

(Los Angeles Times) – Responding to an “epidemic of nicotine addiction” among American youths, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday announced a comprehensive crackdown on e-cigarette manufacturers, directing the industry’s giants to draw up detailed plans for halting sales to minors and threatening to pull a wide range of products, including flavorings that appeal to underage buyers, from an exploding market. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called the agency’s steps the largest coordinated enforcement effort in his agency’s history and said it was prompted by alarming new evidence that e-cigarette use by minors has risen to levels he called “simply not tolerable.”

The New Apple Watch, with FDA’s Blessing, Comes with an EKG App

3 months 1 day

(STAT News) – After years of coming close, Apple has officially broken into the medical device space. The company announced Wednesday that it received Food and Drug Administration clearance to market its latest Apple Watch, which is capable of conducting an electrocardiogram to measure heart rhythm. The company also received clearance to alert people who may be at risk for atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can lead to more serious health concerns, based on measurements the watch takes.

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