(STAT News) – At a time when drug company lobbyists are widely vilified as icons of avarice, patient advocacy groups still wear the white hats. But those organizations, which promote cures for every type of cancer and hundreds more diseases, have come under criticism lately for favoring their drug company funders in contests on Capitol Hill. In one case, a diabetes group accepted money from food companies and played down the health risks from their high-sugar products; in another case, a mental health association, reliant on drug company dollars, opted to keep quiet about the soaring prices of its antidepressants. And many of the patient advocacy groups pushing for passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which consumer groups argue rolls back patient protection, are funded in large part by pharmaceutical firms.
(Science Daily) – Newborn screening is mandatory in most states, unless parents refuse for religious or other reasons. Screening is generally accepted because screening is only performed for a small number of conditions where measures are available to save the baby’s life or mitigate the harms of such conditions, if found early enough. However, now that scientists have developed methods for sequencing the entire genome, what would happen if states began incorporating genome sequencing to find out more about baby’s health? How would that work? What should parents learn about their baby’s genome? What shouldn’t they?
(CNN) – The abortion rate in the US has fallen to its lowest level since Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure, a new report finds. The report, by the Guttmacher Institute, found the rate has declined to 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women of, what is considered, childbearing age (that’s 15 to 44). That’s the lowest rate recorded since the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1973. Another notable finding: the annual number of abortions in the US has dropped to under 1 million for the first time since the mid-1970s. It reached its peak of more than 1.6 million abortions in 1990.
(Kaiser Health News) – Cerezyme is an “orphan drug” which means it was created to treat a rare disease, one that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. The orphan drug program overseen by the Food and Drug Administration is loaded with government incentives and has helped hundreds of thousands of patients like Luke feel better or even stay alive. But the 34-year-old program has opened the door to almost unlimited price tags and created incentives among drugmakers to cash in, and to cash in repeatedly, a Kaiser Health News investigation shows.
(Pro Publica) – The long arm of the pharmaceutical industry continues to pervade practically every area of medicine, reaching those who write guidelines that shape doctors’ practices, patient advocacy organizations, letter writers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and even oncologists on Twitter, according to a series of papers on money and influence published today in JAMA Internal Medicine.
(New York Times) – The W.H.O. ended the emergency status in November, but the consequences of the outbreak will be with us for years to come. So maybe now is a good time to ask: How’d we do? Not so great, according to more than a dozen public health experts who were asked to reflect on the response. The battle was a series of missed opportunities, they said, that damaged still-uncounted numbers of babies across a whole hemisphere.
(New York Times) – The breakthrough sidestepped the embryo controversy, offering researchers an unlimited supply of stem cells. Dr. Yamanaka shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for reprogramming mature cells into what are now called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. Still, the march toward new treatments has been halting. Dr. Yamanaka directs Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application. He also leads a small research lab at the Gladstone Institutes, affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco, where his group studies the molecular mechanisms that underlie pluripotency and the factors that induce reprogramming. I interviewed him recently in San Francisco. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
(Wired) – Doctors and trainers gauge how badly you’ve been banged up by instructing you to count backward from ten to one or follow a finger with your eyes. But with high-powered protein assays and microfluidic technologies, soon there will be a better way. And it will all start with the prick of a finger.
Public Health Nursing (vol. 34, no. 1, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Eliminating Health Disparities through Action on the Social Determinants of Health: A Systematic Review of Home Visiting in the United States, 2005–2015” by Laurie S. Abbott and Lynn T. Elliott
- “Community Health Needs Assessments: Expanding the Boundaries of Nursing Education in Population Health” by Robin Evans-Agnew, David Reyes, Janet Primomo, Karen Meyer, and Corrie Matlock-Hightower
- “Public Health Nurses in Israel: A Case Study on a Quality Improvement Project of Nurse’s Work Life” by Ilya Kagan, Sara Shachaf, Zofia Rapaport, Tzipi Livne, and Batya Madjar
JAMA (vol. 317, no. 2, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “The Risks of Marijuana Use During Pregnancy” by Nora D. Volkow, Wilson M. Compton, and Eric M. Wargo
- “Global Burden of Hypertension and Systolic Blood Pressure of at Least 110 to 115 mm Hg, 1990-2015” by Mohammad H. Forouzanfar, Patrick Liu, and Gregory A. Roth
Genetics in Medicine (vol. 18, no. 12, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “Newborn Genetic Screening for Hearing Impairment: A Population-Based Longitudinal Study” by Chen-Chi Wu et al
- “Variants of Uncertain Significance in Newborn Screening Disorders: Implications for Large-Scale Genomic Sequencing” by Alekhya Narravula, Kathryn B. Garber, S. Hussain Askree, Madhuri Hegde, and Patricia L. Hall
- “Comprehensive Genetic Analysis of Pregnancy Loss by Chromosomal Microarrays: Outcomes, Benefits, and Challenges” by Trilochan Sahoo et al
- “Newborn Screening for X-Linked Adrenoleukodystrophy: Evidence Summary and Advisory Committee Recommendation” by Alex R. Kemper et al
(Aeon) – In 1979 China introduced one of the largest social engineering efforts in human history – the ‘one-child policy’ – to combat population growth. In addition to leaving the country with problematic demographic imbalances, this family planning policy has created an underclass of 13 million unregistered people, all born ‘illegally’. Parents with more than one child have been fired from their jobs and burdened with exorbitant fines or fees to register their unsanctioned children. Even more troubling, people without official registration are not classed as Chinese citizens, and so can’t access even the most basic forms of social welfare, including healthcare, education and protection under the law, nor do they have the right to work or marry.
(Managed Care Magazine) – Wearable sensors that monitor heart rate, activity, skin temperature, and other variables can reveal a lot about what is going on inside a person––including the onset of infection, inflammation, and even insulin resistance, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
(Japan Times) – A Japanese research team says it has successfully produced from human cells miniature bowels that can make the muscular movements needed to transport food through the digestive tract — just like natural intestines. The bowels, no larger than 1 or 2 cm, were created from human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, the team said Thursday.
(Reuters) – A camp on the Greek island of Lesbos housing more than 2,500 migrants denies people the most basic human dignity in bitterly cold winter weather, a doctor working at the camp said. Diane Sampson, an American paediatrician, said she had treated desperate patients at the Moria camp suffering from frostbite, shivering with cold and drenched by snow and rain that had washed through the flimsy tents they are staying in.
(News-Medical) – Sequencing of HSA21 revealed the presence of 364-protein coding genes on this chromosome. Fortunately, HSA21 is the smallest and among the poorest chromosomes in terms of the number of functional genes. Among the >300 genes, only a small number are expressed in the brain regions associated with learning and memory and have been linked to normal or abnormal functions in the nervous system. Normalizing the expression of a number of critical genes would be able to prevent a part of nervous system abnormalities in DS.
(Newsweek) – Testing the immune system is one of a growing number of additional services offered to couples who can’t conceive through IVF treatment alone. Some clinics say they do it because certain antibodies can interfere with embryo implantation, but these claims are not backed by evidence. According to a study that appeared in the BMJ at the end of November, the same is true for many other extra services—of nearly 30 fertility clinic add-ons reviewed, only one increased a woman’s chances of having a baby. That was an endometrial scratch, in which a small nick is made in the uterus’s lining to increase the likelihood of an embryo implanting on it. And that had good results only if a woman had been through two previous rounds of IVF.
(Tech Times) – With the growing popularity of artificial intelligence and advancements in the field of robotics, Europe is now making the necessary preparation for a robot revolution. European Parliament members on Thursday warned that the inevitable rise of robots in human lives calls for urgent EU rules, which include giving robots legal status and kill switches that would prevent them from causing dangerous damages.
Information Technology for Development (vol. , no. , 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Mind the Gap: Assessing Alignment Between Hospital Quality and Its Information Systems” by João Barata, Paulo Rupino da Cunha, and Ana Paula Melo Santos
- “Countering the “Dam Effect”: The Case for Architecture and Governance in Developing Country Health Information Systems” by Mikael Gebre-Mariam and Elisabeth Fruijtier
- “The Clinic-Level Perspective on mHealth Implementation: A South African Case Study” by Brendon Wolff-Piggott, Jesse Coleman, and Ulrike Rivett
(BBC) – A highly effective vaccine that guards against the deadly Ebola virus could be available by 2018, says the World Health Organization. Trials conducted in Guinea, one of the West African countries most affected by an outbreak of Ebola that ended this year, show it offers 100% protection. The vaccine is now being fast-tracked for regulatory approval.