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Here Come the Right-to-Try Profiteers. The FDA Is Powerless to Stop Them

June 22, 2018

(STAT News) – The newly enacted right-to-try law allows drug makers to earn a profit by selling unproven therapies to desperate and dying patients. The FDA is powerless to stop it. You’d think no drug maker would be dumb enough to actually try to make money this way, given prevailing public opinion that already views the drug industry as greedy, price-gouging profiteers.

We Need More Answers About Immunotherapy for the Elderly

June 22, 2018

(STAT News) – An old idea — using the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells, first proposed more than a century ago — has become one of the most promising approaches to treating cancer today. Immunotherapy is effective against a variety of cancers, with sometimes spectacular results. But I worry about how effective it is in people over age 65, who make up half of cancer patients. We know that immunotherapy is tolerated by older individuals. But how well they respond to it and the side effects it causes them may be different from those observed in most clinical studies for two reasons.

Doling Out Pain Pills Post-Surgery: An Ingrown Toenail Not the Same as a Bypass

June 22, 2018

(Kaiser Health News) – What’s the right painkiller prescription to send home with a patient after gallbladder surgery or a cesarean section? That question is front and center as conventional approaches to pain control in the United States have led to what some see as a culture of overprescribing, helping spur the nation’s epidemic of opioid overuse and abuse. The answer isn’t clear-cut. Surgeon Marty Makary wondered why and what could be done.

Pain Is Weird. Making Bionic Arms Feel Pain Is Even Weirder

June 22, 2018

(Wired) – Pain is an indispensable tool for survival. The prick of a nail underfoot is a warning that protects you from a deep, dirty wound—and maybe tetanus. The sizzle of a steel skillet is a deterrent against a third-degree burn. As much as it sucks, pain, oddly enough, keeps us from hurting ourselves. It’s a luxury that prosthetic users don’t have. But researchers report in Science Robotics that they’ve developed a prosthesis that can feel sharp pain and automatically drop a pointy object—in addition to telegraphing that pain to the wearer.

WHO Gaming Disorder Listing a ‘Moral Panic’ Say Experts

June 22, 2018

(BBC) – The decision to class gaming addiction as a mental health disorder was “premature” and based on a “moral panic”, experts have said. The World Health Organization included “gaming disorder” in the latest version of its disease classification manual. But biological psychology lecturer Dr Peter Etchells said the move risked “pathologising” a behaviour that was harmless for most people. The WHO said it had reviewed available evidence before including it.

House Approves Bill Expanding Treatment for Opioid Abuse

June 22, 2018

(ABC News) – The House has overwhelmingly approved legislation designed to give health care providers more tools to stem an opioid crisis that is killing more than 115 people in the United States daily. The legislation passed Friday by a vote of 396-14. It incorporates dozens of opioid-related bills that lawmakers have made a campaign-season priority.

The ‘Right to Try’ Could Cost Dying Patients a Fortune

June 22, 2018

(Bloomberg) – A small biotechnology company may be the first to offer dying patients unproven drugs under a new U.S. law called Right to Try that deregulated access to such experimental treatments. But it won’t be for free: Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics Inc. would charge for a therapy it is developing for the deadly condition known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. While details are still being worked out, the company’s chief executive officer pointed to the price of bespoke cell therapies used to treat cancer that cost more than $300,000.

Informed Consent Ruling Could Burden Physicians, Experts Say

June 22, 2018

(Medscape) – Excess caution after a Pennsylvania legal decision about informed consent could unnecessarily burden physicians and sideline other qualified healthcare professionals from the process of helping patients understand risks and benefits of treatments, according to lawyers who’ve studied the case Shinal v Toms. Holly Fernandez Lynch, JD, MBE, and colleagues from the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, examined the potential consequences of a 2017 decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Doctor and Journalist Atul Gawande Picked for Dimon-Bezos-Buffett Health Firm

June 21, 2018

(Bloomberg) – Atul Gawande, a surgeon and journalist who has written extensively about the U.S. failure to grapple with rising health-care spending, has been named to head a new health venture for Amazon.com Inc., Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The new firm — meant to help the three companies improve care and lower costs — will be based in Boston and Gawande will start on July 9. It will be independent from the three firms, whose leaders formed the group as a way of contending with what Berkshire Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett called a “tapeworm” eating the U.S. economy.

First Phage Therapy Center in the U.S. Signals Growing Acceptance

June 21, 2018

(STAT News) – That was 2016. Phage therapy is still very much experimental — but it’s come a long way since then. New companies have popped up, hoping to get approval to sell these viruses as drugs. A phage directory has come together, lab by lab, helping doctors figure out who has which virus. Now, the U.S. is getting its first phage therapy center, at the University of California, San Diego. Its mission is to run clinical trials, but also to streamline the mad dash to secure the right phage before a patient dies.

Emerging Stem Cell Ethics

June 21, 2018

(Science) – It has been 20 years since the first derivation of human embryonic stem cells. That milestone marked the start of a scientific and public fascination with stem cells, not just for their biological properties but also for their potentially transformative medical uses. The next two decades of stem cell research animated an array of bioethical debates, from the destruction of embryos to derive stem cells to the creation of human-animal hybrids. Ethical tensions related to stem cell clinical translation and regulatory policy are now center stage and a topic of global discussion this week at the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) annual meeting in Melbourne, Australia.

Prosthetic Hand Gets Sense of Touch with Electronic ‘Skin’

June 21, 2018

(UPI) – Engineers have developed an electronic “skin” that allows prosthetic hand users to perceive a real sense of touch. The e-dermis, when layered on top of the prosthetic hands, restores the sensation of touch through the fingertips. Engineers at Johns Hopkins University published findings Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics.

With FDA Input, Compassionate Use Programs Appear to Work Well: Study

June 21, 2018

(Reuters) – When terminally ill Americans receive experimental medicines through so-called “compassionate use” programs, they typically only get these drugs after extensive tests for safety and effectiveness, a U.S. study suggests.

Toowoomba Woman Wins Court Bid to Use Her Dead Boyfriend’s Sperm to Have a Baby

June 21, 2018

(Australian Broadcasting Co) – In what has been described as a landmark decision, the Supreme Court in Brisbane has granted a Toowoomba woman the right to use her dead boyfriend’s sperm to have a baby. Ayla Cresswell’s partner Joshua Davies died suddenly in August 2016, and within hours the court granted permission for his sperm to be harvested. Ms Cresswell sought approval from the court to use the sperm, which is being held at an IVF clinic.

Colorectal Cancer Is on the Rise in Young Adults

June 20, 2018

(Scientific American) – There has been increasing attention directed towards the rising rate of colorectal cancer in younger age groups. In the United States, there was a 51 percent increase in colorectal cancer incidence in adults younger than 55 years old between 1994 and 2014. Partly in response to this alarming trend, the American Cancer Society (ACS) lowered the recommended age at which to begin screening from 50 to 45. Several screening options exist, although the two prominent ones in the United States are colonoscopy and fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), stool tests that detect small amounts of blood.

The Way We Treat Pregnancy at Work Isn’t Just Wrong–It Could Be Dangerous

June 20, 2018

(Quartz) – The link between maternal, infant health, and overwork is just beginning to be explored. One study last year that looked at 34 pregnant women, for instance, examined the link between mothers who experience prolonged stress and hormones that impact the growth of an unborn child. Insufficient data is an obstacle for looking at correlations between work, maternal health, and infant deaths.

The Scientific Controversy Over Whether Gaming Addiction Is a Disease–Or a Symptom

June 20, 2018

(Quartz) – Scholars from around the world are already debating WHO’s move. In a letter of concern published on November 9, 2016, a dozen academics write that “the premature inclusion of Gaming Disorder as a diagnosis in ICD-11 will cause significant stigma to the millions of children who play video games as a part of a normal, healthy life.” They warn that a “moral panic” over gaming might lead kids with normal gaming habits to be diagnosed as having a disorder, which could stigmatize them and set them on a course of treatment they don’t need.

Facebook to Redirect Users Searching for Opioids to Federal Crisis Help Line

June 20, 2018

(STAT News) – Facebook users attempting to purchase opioids or seeking out addiction treatment will be instead be redirected to information about a federal crisis help line, the company announced Tuesday, a major step for an industry leader facing pressure to more aggressively police illicit drug sales on its platform. The announcement comes a week before an “opioids summit” convened by the Food and Drug Administration to get Facebook and other tech companies, including Twitter and Google, to take additional measures to help curb the nation’s opioid crisis.

‘No Other Way to Earn Money’: Why Women from Poor Families Become Egg Donors for Infertile Couples

June 20, 2018

(Scroll) – Most egg donors in India are poor women and the money from selling their eggs is substantially more than what they otherwise earn. But over-stimulating the ovaries multiple times could have medical consequences. For instance, medical researchers are investigating whether women who take hormones for such procedures have a higher chance of developing cancer. The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill that is yet to be passed by Parliament requires donors to be informed of the possible consequences of egg donation. However, most donors interviewed by Scroll[dot]in for this story seemed to be unaware of the repercussions.

Study: Effects of In Vitro Fertilization Depend on Genetic Variation Inherited from Parents

June 20, 2018

(News-Medical) – In vitro fertilization affects the regulatory region of genes essential for placental and embryonic growth, as well as the birth weight. A new study suggests that the effects depend on genetic variation inherited from the parents. This information could be useful in development of assisted reproduction technologies. It is known that in vitro fertilization, IVF, can affect the size of the newborns. Children derived from fresh embryo transfer have smaller birth weight, and surprisingly, children derived from frozen embryo transfer have subtly higher birth weight in average.

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