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One in Five ‘Healthy’ Adults May Carry Disease-Related Genetic Mutations

June 28, 2017

(Science) – Some doctors dream of diagnosing diseases—or at least predicting disease risk—with a simple DNA scan. But others have said the practice, which could soon be the foundation of preventative medicine, isn’t worth the economic or emotional cost. Now, a new pair of studies puts numbers to the debate, and one is the first ever randomized clinical trial evaluating whole genome sequencing in healthy people. Together, they suggest that sequencing the genomes of otherwise healthy adults can for about one in five people turn up risk markers for rare diseases or genetic mutations associated with cancers.

FDA Takes Steps in Increase Availability of Generic Versions of Medications

June 28, 2017

(UPI) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken two new steps to provide more lower-cost prescription drug alternatives and increase competition. As part of the FDA’s Drug Competition Action Plan rolled out in May, the agency on Tuesday published a list of off-patent, off-exclusivity branded drugs without approved generics and implemented a new policy to expedite the review of generic drug applications in places where competition is limited.

111 People Died under California’s New Right-to-Die Law

June 28, 2017

(CNN) – One hundred eleven people died last year under California’s new right-to-die law, according to a report released Tuesday by the state’s Department of Public Health. The End of Life Option Act went into effect on June 9, 2016. It allows for California residents, age 18 and older, to request life-ending medication from their doctor if they are suffering from a terminal illness and want to set their own timetable for their death.

Gene Therapy: A New Twist on an Old Helix

June 28, 2017

(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – After these setbacks, clinical trials testing gene therapies started to decrease. At the same time, gene therapy was retooled. For example, it began to incorporate more effective vectors. Eventually, clinical trials picked up, and in 2012 the European Union issued its first gene therapy approval. Today, more than 2300 clinical trials using gene therapies are in progress, with over half of trials in Phase I. Finally, after decades of halting progress, gene therapy seems poised to realize its promise.

51 Percent of Opioid Prescriptions Go to People with Depression and Other Mood Disorders

June 28, 2017

(STAT News) – More than half of all opioid prescriptions in the United States are written for people with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders, according to a new study that questions how pain is treated in this vulnerable population. People with mood disorders are at increased risk of abusing opioids, and yet they received many more prescriptions than the general population, according to an analysis of data from 2011 and 2013.

Wealth, Poverty Propping Up Pakistan’s Illegal Kidney Trade

June 28, 2017

(Yahoo! News) – When Pakistani authorities burst into a makeshift hospital in Lahore this year, doctors were caught mid-way through two illegal kidney transplants, the local donors and Omani clients still unconscious on the tables. The doctors were allowed to finish the operation then arrested, along with their assistants and the Omanis, in a raid Pakistani authorities say is a turning point in their battle against organ trafficking. Pakistan has long been an international hub for the illegal kidney trade, but medical and local authorities complain they have been unable to act against the practice, frustrated by ineffective enforcement policies and what they perceive as a lack of political will to crack down.

The Consequences of Sequencing Healthy People

June 28, 2017

(The Scientist) – Physicians are increasingly using patients’ genomic data to fight cancer or diagnose unexplained symptoms. But in individuals with no discernable signs of illness, it’s uncertain whether knowing their genomic blueprints is beneficial, and whether primary care physicians are up to the challenge of managing these data for their patients. In the first study of its kind to evaluate whole genome sequencing in a randomized fashion, published today (June 26) in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers report that although primary care physicians are capable of contending with genomic information, its value for healthy patients remains ambiguous.

Cancer Studies Pass Reproduciblity Test

June 28, 2017

(Science) – A high-profile project aiming to test reproducibility in cancer biology has released a second batch of results, and this time the news is good: Most of the experiments from two key cancer papers could be repeated. The latest replication studies, which appear today in eLife, come on top of five published in January that delivered a mixed message about whether high-impact cancer research can be reproduced. Taken together, however, results from the completed studies are “encouraging,” says Sean Morrison of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, an eLife editor. Overall, he adds, independent labs have now “reproduced substantial aspects” of the original experiments in four of five replication efforts that have produced clear results.

Making Babies, No Sex Necessary

June 27, 2017

(The Atlantic) – When Greely tells people about his theory—which is the subject of his 2016 book, The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction—they tend to say, “‘This is Gattica,’ or ‘this is Brave New World,’” he said during an interview with the New York Times reporter Carl Zimmer on Monday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. Greely is skeptical of this argument. “This is not designer babies. This is not super babies. This is selecting embryos,” he said.

WHO Hopes Yemeni Cholera Outbreak Is Half Done at 218,000

June 27, 2017

(Reuters) – A major cholera outbreak in Yemen may have reached the halfway mark at 218,798 cases as a massive emergency response has begun to curb its spread two months into the epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday. Two years into a devastating civil war between a Saudi-led coalition and Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, Yemen became a perfect breeding ground for the disease, which spreads by faeces getting into food or water and thrives in places with poor sanitation.

Human Trafficking: US Downgrades China over Record

June 27, 2017

(BBC) – China “is not making significant efforts” to stop human trafficking, the US says, claiming that fewer people are now being prosecuted than before. The US Department of State released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report on Thursday, and downgraded China to one of the worst offenders. The reports highlights the forced labour of Uighur people in China’s restive Xinjiang province. There has been no response from China, which could now face sanctions.

Court Rules Hospital Can Withdraw Life Support for Sick Baby Charlie Gard

June 27, 2017

(CNN) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday a hospital can discontinue life support to a baby suffering from a rare genetic disease. Born in August, Charlie Gard has a rare genetic disorder known as mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. Caused by a genetic mutation, it leads to weakened muscles and organ dysfunction, among other symptoms, with a poor prognosis for most patients. Charlie is on life support and has been in the intensive care unit at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London since October. His doctors wish to take him off life support, but his parents disagree.

STAT Forecast: Opioids Could Kill Nearly 500,000 Americans in the Next Decade

June 27, 2017

(STAT News) – Opioids could kill nearly half a million people across America over the next decade as the crisis of addiction and overdose accelerates. Deaths from opioids have been rising sharply for years, and drug overdoses already kill more Americans under age 50 than anything else. STAT asked leading public health experts at 10 universities to forecast the arc of the epidemic over the next decade. The consensus: It will get worse before it gets better. There are now nearly 100 deaths a day from opioids, a swath of destruction that runs from tony New England suburbs to the farm country of California, from the beach towns of Florida to the Appalachian foothills.

Insurers Battle Families over Costly Drug for Fatal Diseases

June 27, 2017

(The New York Times) – The desperation in Mrs. Hoke’s voice reflects a sobering reality for families of boys with the disease since their elation last fall over the drug’s approval. Because the Food and Drug Administration overruled its own experts — who weren’t convinced the Exondys 51 had shown sufficiently good results — and gave the drug conditional approval, many insurers are now declining to cover it or are imposing severe restrictions that render patients ineligible. The story of Exondys 51 raises complex and emotionally charged questions about what happens when the F.D.A. approves an expensive drug based on a lower bar of proof. In practice, health insurers have taken over as gatekeeper in determining who will get the drug.

Fertility Exploitation: The Couples Paying a High Price for Wanting a Baby

June 27, 2017

(The Telegraph) – Yesterday it was revealed that some NHS hospitals were charging up to 40 per cent over the odds for private IVF treatment. And in another study researchers from Oxford University found that almost all of the additional treatments that are sold alongside IVF to boost its success have no scientific backing and the results were published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Church and State Braced for Biggest Battle on Euthanasia

June 27, 2017

(The Guardian) – The American state of Oregon has allowed doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for terminally ill patients for almost 20 years, and local doctor William Toffler is in Australia to tell Australians it has been a disaster. “It’s important that Australia does not make the same mistake,” he says in a phone interview. “It’s fundamentally incompatible with the role of physician as as healer to be involved in assisted suicide and it’s caused mistrust between patients and their physicians.” Toffler’s Australian tour marks the start of serious resistance to a new wave of attempts to legalise assisted dying in Australia, particularly in the big states of Victoria and New South Wales.

UK Prisons Are Housing a Record Number of Elderly Offenders

June 27, 2017

(Quartz) – The makeup of Britain’s incarcerated population is dramatically changing. Prisons are now providing residential care for an increasing number of elderly men in England and Wales. Since 2002, the number of prisoners over the age of 50 increased proportionately more than any other age group. There were around 13,000 prisoners over 50 at the end of 2016—a 169% increase from 2002. (There’s even one prisoner aged 101.) By 2020, the number of prisoners over the age of 50 is projected to increase to 13,900. To put that number in perspective, there were a total of 67,000 men in care homes in England and Wales.

Research on Male Animals Prevents Women from Getting Best Drugs

June 27, 2017

(New Scientist) – Women are missing out on optimum medical treatment because most pre-clinical drug research is done in male animals, a new study suggests. New drugs must be evaluated in animals before being considered for human trials. Over three-quarters of these studies use only male animals because of concerns that female hormone cycles will affect experiments. It is also widely assumed that what works for males will work for females. However, research by Natasha Karp at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge and her colleagues casts doubt on this assumption.

The Fertility Doctor Trying to Commercialize Three-Parent Babies

June 26, 2017

(MIT Technology Review) – A U.S. fertility doctor has started a company with a provocative vision for older women: become pregnant by having their DNA shifted into a young woman’s egg. The company, Darwin Life, was quietly established last year by John Zhang, also founder of a New York City clinic called New Hope Fertility Center, to deploy a cutting-edge fertility technology called “spindle nuclear transfer.” Originally developed as a way to prevent women from passing certain rare diseases on to their children, Zhang says it can also be used to create rejuvenated eggs.

‘Catastrophe for Rape Survivors’ as Poland Limits Access to Morning-After Pills

June 26, 2017

(The Telegraph) – A leading human rights organisation has warned a new law in Poland limiting access to emergency contraception will have a “catastrophic impact on rape survivors”. The law, which comes into effect next month, ends prescription-free access to the morning-after pill. Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, gave his official consent to the law late on Friday despite the opposition of human rights groups and opinion polls showing must Poles opposed it.

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