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Americans Are Going Bankrupt from Getting Sick

March 15, 2019

(The Atlantic) – Medical debt is a uniquely American phenomenon, a burden that would be unfathomable in many other developed countries. According to a survey published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, nearly 60 percent of people who have filed for bankruptcy said a medical expense “very much” or “somewhat” contributed to their bankruptcy. That was more than the number who cited home foreclosure or student loans. (The survey respondents could choose multiple factors that contributed to their bankruptcy.)

An ICU Staple Has Exponentially Spiked in Price. Can Compounding Solve the Problem? Now the Courts Will Decide

March 15, 2019

(STAT News) – Until recently, the drug was so vital and so cheap that hospital staffs kept it stashed in every corner of the ICU. In 2011, a box of 25 tiny vials cost less than $200. But after the Food and Drug Administration granted an Endo Pharmaceuticals subsidiary the exclusive right to make the drug in 2014, the price spiked: the same box, now bearing the brand name Vasostrict, cost over $4,000 in 2018. It sounds like a time-worn tale in the vein of daraprim and EpiPen: another drug maker cornering the market and spiking the price of an old and vital drug.

Ebola Response Is Working, WHO Director-General Says, Amid Criticism and Violence

March 15, 2019

(STAT News) – The director-general of the World Health Organization said Thursday that health officials are making progress against the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that the footprint of the outbreak zone is actually contracting. The cautiously hopeful remarks from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who visited the outbreak zone last week, came just hours after the most recent attack on an Ebola treatment center, one in a series that has plagued efforts to bring this outbreak, now in its eighth month, to an end.

Victims Sterilized Under Japan’s Eugenics Law to Get ¥3.2 Million Each Under State Redress Plan

March 15, 2019

(The Japan Times) – Ruling and opposition party lawmakers on Thursday decided on a bill to provide ¥3.2 million ($28,700) in state redress to every surviving victim of a state sterilization program that was conducted under a now-defunct 1948 eugenics law. The bill marks progress toward offering relief to the victims of the program that only came to an end in 1996, but the level of compensation was immediately criticized as insufficient by lawyers involved in damages suits filed by victims across the country.

French Gynecologists’ Union Threatens to Stop Performing Abortions

March 15, 2019

(The Guardian) – A French gynaecologists’ union has threatened to halt pregnancy terminations in an attempt to force the country’s health minister to meet disgruntled doctors. The Syngof union wrote to its 1,600 members calling them to be prepared to stop carrying out abortions to “make ourselves heard” and force the government’s hand. Syngof, which represents about a quarter of France’s gynaecologists and obstetricians, published the letter as a protest over what it claims is a lack of insurance funds for colleagues convicted of medical errors.

Marketing Medication as His and Hers? This Is ‘Anxiety Economy’ at Its Worst

March 14, 2019

(The Guardian) – The furious reaction this prompted on social media was not a surprise (the company has now apologised). For one, it’s dangerous – people should probably not be able to obtain psychiatric medication online via an opaque consultation system. In one tweet, Hers says the site is “so chill” it’s like “shopping for leggings, not prescription meds” – not stopping to think the two experiences should be antithetical by default.

Jury Awards $29 Million to California Woman Who Claimed Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Caused Cancer

March 14, 2019

(ABC News) – A California jury awarded $29 million on Wednesday to a woman who sued Johnson & Johnson, claiming that asbestos in its talcum-based baby powder caused her cancer. An Alameda County jury in Oakland, California, held Johnson & Johnson responsible for Teresa Leavitt’s mesothelioma — a cancer linked to asbestos exposure — through her use of baby powder.

The Human Cost of Insulin in America

March 14, 2019

(BBC) – This is the list of what Laura Marston has sacrificed to keep herself alive: Her car, her furniture, her apartment, her retirement fund, her dog. At 36 years old, she has already sold all of her possessions twice to afford the insulin her body needs every day. Insulin is not like other drugs. It’s a natural hormone that controls our blood sugar levels – too high causes vision loss, confusion, nausea, and eventually, organ failure; too low leads to heart irregularities, mood swings, seizures, loss of consciousness.

PTSD Blood Biomarkers Identified

March 14, 2019

(GEN) – Researchers headed by a team at Indiana University School of Medicine have identified blood-based genetic markers of psychological stress that could help scientists develop improved, earlier diagnostics for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other stress disorders, and offer up new leads for the development of drug or natural compound-based therapeutics. The 10-year study involving veterans visiting the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center, identified hundreds of biomarkers that could potentially help to diagnose PTSD, as well as determine the severity of their stress and predict future hospitalizations.

‘They Don’t Want His Story to End’: Efforts to Save the Sperm of the Deceased Come with Heartache and Tough Questions

March 14, 2019

(STAT News) – The Zhus’ plight has reignited a debate around what is known as postmortem sperm retrieval, or posthumous sperm procurement, a procedure that was first attempted in 1980 and is typically considered when a young man dies unexpectedly. The Zhus’ case is particularly complicated because it involves a request from parents instead of a partner or spouse, whose directives hospitals are more inclined to follow.

Will Machines Be Able to Tell When Patients Are About to Die?

March 14, 2019

(Wired) – Now we’re talking about machines. An 18-layer DNN learning from the electronic health records of almost 160,000 patients was able to predict the time until death on a test population of 40,000 patient records, with remarkable accuracy. The algorithm picked up predictive features that doctors wouldn’t, including the number of scans, particularly of the spine or the urinary system, which turned out to be as statistically powerful, in terms of probability, as the person’s age. The results were quite powerful: more than 90 percent of people predicted to die in the following three to twelve months did so, as was the case for the people predicted to live more than 12 months.

New Call to Ban Gene-Edited Babies Divides Biologists

March 14, 2019

(Science) – Their call, which is endorsed in the same issue of Nature by Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is a departure from statements issued by two global summits on genome editing in 2015 and 2018, a 2017 report from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), and a 2018 report from the United Kingdom’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics. None has banned human germline editing, and most have stressed that it holds promise to help correct some heritable diseases. All have warned against using germline editing for cognitive or physical “enhancement” of people. Scientists including Nobel laureate David Baltimore of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena remain opposed to a moratorium.

‘Cruel’: Major Hospitals Roll Out Trials of Fasting Diets for Teens

March 14, 2019

(News_com_au) – Children’s hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne are enrolling overweight teenagers in a controversial weight-loss trial that experts have slammed as “cruel”. The Fast Track Trial involves participants aged 13 to 17 not eating on alternate days of the week and enduring severe calorie restrictions. The $1.2 million taxpayer-funded program is aimed at teenagers who “might be above a healthy weight” and includes a month-long “very-low energy” diet.

IBM Stirs Controversy by Using Flickr Photos for AI Facial Recognition

March 14, 2019

(CNet) – Some photographers who contributed photos to the Flickr photo-sharing site were surprised IBM used those same photos in a million-image collection to train AI face-recognition systems — but perhaps they shouldn’t have been. The Flickr photos had been shared under a Creative Commons license, a framework under which people can loosen restrictions on photos, text, video or other material that otherwise would be protected by copyright.

Online Activists Are Silencing Us, Scientists Say

March 13, 2019

(Reuters) – The emails, tweets and blog posts in the “abuse” folder that Michael Sharpe keeps on his computer continue to pile up. Eight years after he published results of a clinical trial that found some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome can get a little better with the right talking and exercise therapies, the Oxford University professor is subjected to almost daily, often anonymous, intimidation.

An Abandoned Baby’s DNA Condemns His Mother

March 13, 2019

(The Atlantic) – More dead and abandoned babies are likely to be identified soon. The Sioux Falls police worked with a forensics company called Parabon NanoLabs, which opened a dedicated genealogy unit after the surge in interest following the Golden State Killer case. Another company called IdentiFinders, run by the forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, says it is working on three abandoned-baby cases.

Cutbacks by Some Doctors Halved New Opioid Prescriptions Over 5 Years

March 13, 2019

(Reuters) – The rate of first-time opioid prescriptions declined 54 percent between 2012 and 2017 in the U.S., largely because many doctors stopped prescribing the painkillers, according to a study of more than 86 million people covered by private insurance. The number of prescriptions for three days’ worth of an opioid – the recommended amount for an initial prescription – fell 57 percent during those five-and-a-half years and there was a 68 percent decline in the number of prescriptions offering seven days of opioid therapy.

Bill Passes to Ban Abortions Based on Gender, Disability

March 13, 2019

(ABC News) – Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature on Wednesday passed its latest measure to put more restrictions on abortion, setting up another legal fight with abortion-rights defenders. The legislation would ban abortion for women seeking to end their pregnancies because of the gender, race or disability of the fetus. The GOP-dominated Senate voted 32-4 to send the bill to the state’s anti-abortion governor, Republican Matt Bevin.

States Weigh Bans on Shackling Jailed Moms During Childbirth

March 13, 2019

(ABC News) – The practice of keeping inmates shackled during childbirth was once common around the United States, but that’s gradually been changing after women began speaking out, with 22 states passing laws against it over the past two decades. Utah and at least three other states are considering joining them this year, after the federal government recently banned the practice with a sweeping criminal justice reform law. Many other states have policies against shackling, but advocates say that without a law it’s harder to stop a practice they condemn as dangerous and inhumane.

FDA Proposes New Measures to Crackdown on Youth E-Cigarette Use

March 13, 2019

(Good Morning America) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration put out a new proposal Wednesday for how it will crack down on the “epidemic-level rise in youth e-cigarette use.” But some critics say the efforts do not go far enough in preventing young people from vaping. In a statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released Wednesday, the FDA outlined a comprehensive plan to crack down on youth access to flavored e-cigarettes.

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