(New York Times) – A high-ranking Senate Democrat is pushing for more answers on why doctors and patient advocates with financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry came to serve on a panel that advises the federal government on pain issues. Sen. Ron Wyden says he is “even more concerned” about these apparent conflicts of interest after receiving a response from the National Institutes of Health, which vetted and selected the panel members. In a letter sent Thursday to the Obama administration’s top health official, Wyden requests a series of documents related to the pain panel, including financial disclosure forms filled out by its members.
(Wired) – To keep that business running, Facebook doesn’t just need users: It needs active, engaged users. Facebook needs to get in your head, to understand how you’ll respond to a product or an offer or a marketing campaign—and more and more, it’s using internal experiments to predict those behaviors. But using those methods, commonly referred to as neuromarketing, means that Facebook needs to address the same ethical questions other behavioral scientists do.
(New York Times) – People say that one day, perhaps in the not-so-distant future, they’d like to be passengers in self-driving cars that are mindful machines doing their best for the common good. Merge politely. Watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk. Keep a safe space. A new research study, however, indicates that what people really want to ride in is an autonomous vehicle that puts its passengers first. If its machine brain has to choose between slamming into a wall or running someone over, well, sorry, pedestrian.
(Nature) – It was the result that most scientists didn’t want. The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union has plunged it into political and economic uncertainty — and left researchers worried over the future of their funding and collaborations, the UK’s participation in major European research programmes, and the freedom of movement and employment status of thousands of scientists.
(News-Medical) – Scientists at the University of Bristol have developed a new kind of bio-ink, which could eventually allow the production of complex tissues for surgical implants. The new stem cell-containing bio ink allows 3D printing of living tissue, known as bio-printing. The new bio-ink contains two different polymer components: a natural polymer extracted from seaweed, and a sacrificial synthetic polymer used in the medical industry, and both had a role to play.
(Managed Care Magazine) – Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell have announced a nationwide sweep led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in 36 federal districts, resulting in criminal and civil charges against 301 individuals, including 61 doctors, nurses, and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $900 million in false billings.
(The Economist) – Canadians older than 18 who suffer from a “grievous and irremediable condition” and whose death is “reasonably foreseeable” may now ask a doctor or nurse to help end their lives. Those who administer life-ending drugs will not be prosecuted; they can refuse for reasons of conscience or religion. The families of members of the armed forces and veterans who die this way will not be deprived of their pensions. Some legislators opposed the law on the ground that life should never be taken deliberately. But the fiercest opposition came from those who think the law does not go far enough.
(National Post) – Canada should limit how long human embryos can be stored in deep freeze to reduce the number of embryos hanging frozen in potential “perpetuity” in fertility clinics across the country, academics are arguing. These “abandoned” embryos belong to people now “lost to followup” — individuals or couples who have finished or dropped out of fertility treatment, stopped paying yearly storage fees or who can’t bring themselves to make a decision, leaving clinics in the legally tenuous position of either destroying the embryos without clear authority to do so, or storing them indefinitely.
(Times of San Diego) – The founder of a San Diego-based medical tourism company was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he stole more than $2 million from infertile clients who sought his help in finding surrogacy services, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday. Acharayya Rupak, a Canadian national living in Calabasas, acted as a broker between his Planet Hospital clients and Mexican clinics that provide egg donors, in vitro fertilization and surrogates, according to prosecutors.
(The Epoch Times) – When the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.Res. 343, the Chinese Embassy in Washington said it was a groundless accusation, and they also said in 2015 that the Chinese government was stopping the harvesting from executed prisoners. Huang Jiefu, China’s top transplant official, has never admitted to a single Falun Gong so-called “donor.” They always talk about capital prisoners. Over the past five or seven years, we’ve never seen Huang Jiefu admit they’ve been taking organs involuntarily from prisoners of conscience, mostly of course Falun Gong, and as Ethan Gutmann has pointed out, a much smaller number of Tibetans, Uyghurs, and House Christians.
(Medical Xpress) – Soaring numbers of overdose deaths are adding to woes already plaguing medical examiner and coroner offices, resulting in a shortage of spots to store bodies and long delays in autopsies and toxicology testing. The Connecticut medical examiner’s office has considered renting a refrigerated truck to store extra bodies because its storage area has neared capacity at times. In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office sometimes has to put bodies on Army-style cots in its refrigerated storage area because it runs out of gurneys. The Hamilton County coroner’s office in Cincinnati has a 100-day backlog of DNA testing for police drug investigations, largely because of increased overdose deaths.
(BBC) – Fears over the Zika virus have contributed to a “huge” increase in the number of women in Latin America wanting abortions, researchers say. Estimates suggest there has been at least a doubling in requests in Brazil and an increase of a third in other countries. Many governments have advised women not to get pregnant due to the risk of babies being born with tiny brains. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
(Boston Globe) – Gass, 67, the former general counsel for Osram Sylvania in Wilmington, had chosen a particular clinic in Mexico in part because former San Francisco 49ers quarterback John Brodie had stroke treatment there that he considered successful. But in the year after he returned from Mexico in September 2014, when he had his last treatment, he began experiencing extreme back pain and additional paralysis in his right leg, which had not been affected by the stroke, he said in an interview. That was what led him to the Brigham doctors for surgery last year. Now Gass is more disabled than he was prior to stem cell therapy.
(Kaiser Health News) – Six years after promising a plan to “repeal and replace” the federal health law, House Republicans are finally ready to deliver. The 37-page white paper, called “A Better Way,” includes virtually every idea on health care proposed by Republicans going back at least two decades. It would bring back “high risk pools” for people with very high medical expenses, end open-ended funding for the Medicaid program and encourage small businesses to band together to get better bargaining power in “Association Health Plans.”
(Manged Care Magazine) – The first patient has been vaccinated with an active tau vaccine, AADvac1 (Axon Neuroscience), in the phase 2 ADAMANT trial. AADvac1 was developed to be the first disease-modifying tau vaccine for patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other tauopathies. The ADAMANT trial is a 24-month, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, double-blind, multicenter study designed to assess the safety and efficacy of AADvac1 in patients with mild AD.
(The Guardian) – Pro-choice activists have delivered abortion pills to women in Northern Ireland using a drone. The stunt aimed to highlight the strict laws around terminations on both sides of the Irish border. Courtney Robinson, 18, from Belfast, who took the tablets, said: “We are here to say we are going to defy the law in helping women obtain these pills and we are going to work to make the law unworkable and stand in solidarity with all women who want to have an abortion and have the right to do so in Northern Ireland.”
(South China Morning Post) – Understaffed and undertrained, Hong Kong’s end-of-life care services struggle to meet needs of an ageing population, despite government plans to expand the stretched provisions to cover support for those who wish to die at home. Hong Kong has only 19 palliative care specialists – those who focus on providing physical and psychological care to patients suffering from terminal illness – and university training has been criticised by experts.
(News-Medical) – The risk of HIV infection as a result of receiving an organ transplant is low. All organ donors undergo screening for HIV risk factors and are tested for the infection. However, although HIV testing is very accurate, the test can fail to detect HIV in individuals who have only been exposed to the virus very recently. Thus unexpected transmission to patients receiving a transplant from infected donors has been reported.
(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – Invariably, even medications that have widespread success and effectiveness will often display unpredictable levels of efficacy or adverse drug reactions (ADRs) at some point during clinical administration. Pharmacogenomics is one approach the scientific community uses to address genetic variants among the population related to unwanted and potentially life-threating drug effects. Scientists have attempted to couple drug development with new pharmacogenomic discoveries in an effort to improve current regimens or design new therapeutic strategies.
(Nature) – The first and only published papers to describe genome modification in human embryos have come from Chinese laboratories. For some, this is another signal of China’s successful transformation from a closed society focused on farming and the manufacturing of commodities to a world leader in innovation. For others, these studies are the latest in a list of feats reported over the past decade that reflect the country’s lax regulation or cultural indifference to fundamental ethical tensions. In our view, fears that China’s scientific ambitions are overwhelming its ability to exercise appropriate caution in the life sciences — particularly in research involving human embryos — are overblown.