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Updated: 4 hours 53 min ago

Australia’s Largest State Lifts Abortion Restrictions

September 27, 2019

(NPR) – Lawmakers in Sydney have voted to decriminalize abortion in the country’s most populous state, overturning legal restrictions that have been in place since the start of the 20th century. On Thursday, lawmakers in New South Wales voted to pass the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019. The bill will allow women to get abortions up to 22 weeks into a pregnancy and will abolish any common law rules relating to abortion.

China’s Pharmaceuticals Industry Is Growing

September 26, 2019

(The Economist) – THE GLEAMING campus of BeiGene, a biotechnology company in Beijing, has all the trappings of a well-heeled research laboratory. They include screening machines to test the 500,000 compounds in BeiGene’s library, its animal-testing quarters with 10,000 creatures—and Wu Xiaobin, who last year left a job as Pfizer’s head for China to run the Chinese firm’s domestic operations. Signs of expansion are all around—especially for research on cutting-edge treatments that include gene and cell therapies. The number of scientists working on such drugs has almost doubled since last year; more are being hired. Fresh lab space has replaced old offices. BeiGene, founded in 2010, is emblematic of China’s fast-changing pharmaceuticals industry—in more ways than one. 

US Vaping Illness Count Jumps to 805, Deaths Rise to 12

September 26, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – Hundreds more Americans have been reported to have a vaping-related breathing illness, and the death toll has risen to 12, health officials said Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 805 confirmed and probable cases have been reported, up 52% from the 530 reported a week ago. At this point, illnesses have occurred in almost every state.

23andMe, Moving Beyond Consumer DNA Tests, Is Building a Clinical Trial Recruitment Business

September 26, 2019

(STAT News) – Consumer genetics giant 23andMe announced Thursday that it would move deeper into the business of clinical trial recruitment, partnering with a fast-growing startup to help match its customers with nearby study sites based on their diseases, demographics, and DNA. The Silicon Valley company has for months been quietly making inroads into clinical trial recruitment by emailing customers who’ve opted in with recommendations about studies that might be appropriate for them.

New Frontier in Health Fraud: Genetic Tests of the Elderly

September 25, 2019

(Reuters) – The genetic-screening sales reps turn out at health fairs, houses of religion, parks and elder enclaves, offering seniors a chance to learn if they or their loved ones are at risk of developing cancer. All they need, the reps say, is a free cheek swab. In truth, U.S. federal investigators say, some of the sales representatives are part of a burgeoning industry that threatens to become what multiple government investigators call the next big frontier in healthcare fraud: genetic testing, which is reaping millions of dollars from unnecessary tests that target senior citizens. 

U.N. Urged to Investigate Organ Harvesting in China

September 25, 2019

(Reuters) – A senior lawyer called on Tuesday for the top United Nations human rights body to investigate evidence that China is murdering members of the Falun Gong spiritual group and harvesting their organs for transplant. Hamid Sabi called for urgent action as he presented the findings of the China Tribunal, an independent panel set up to examine the issue, which concluded in June that China’s organ harvesting amounted to crimes against humanity.

IVF Associated with Higher Risk of Gestational Diabetes

September 25, 2019

(Medscape) – Mothers who undergo assisted reproduction are more likely to develop gestational diabetes than those who conceive naturally, shows a new meta-analysis presented here at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) 2019 Annual Meeting. Specifically, the analysis found that women who became pregnant through assisted reproductive techniques (ART) were 53% more likely to develop gestational diabetes than those who conceived naturally.

A Catholic Hospital in Canada Has Been Ordered to Provide Assisted-Suicide Services

September 25, 2019

(CNN) – A Catholic hospital in Nova Scotia must provide physician-assisted suicide assessments to eligible patients who request them, the province’s public health service has ruled. St. Martha’s Regional Hospital will now perform assessments for patients seeking medical assistance in dying at its hospital, said Tim Guest, vice president of the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA). The hospital was previously exempt because of its faith-based identity. But the Sisters of St. Martha, the order of Catholic nuns who used to operate the hospital, said in a statement that assisted suicides will not take place at the hospital itself.

As Made-to-Order DNA Gets Cheaper, Keeping It Out of the Wrong Hands Gets Harder

September 24, 2019

(NPR) – Making genes from scratch used to be laborious and time consuming, but not anymore. That’s why federal officials are now considering new measures to prevent this rapidly advancing technology from being misused to create dangerous viruses or bioweapons. Genes are made up of DNA, a “code” determined by four chemical bases — known as A, C, T and G — that can be strung together to make the biological instructions that govern cells.

Vaccination Strategy in Long-Running Ebola Outbreak Comes Under Fire

September 24, 2019

(STAT News) – The World Health Organization’s vaccination strategy in the long-running Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is coming under fire, with Doctors Without Borders accusing the agency of rationing vaccines and calling for an independent committee to ensure “more transparent management” of the situation. The broadside, issued Monday, follows a prolonged effort by Doctors Without Borders to campaign for wider use of an as-yet unlicensed vaccine, developed by Merck.

In Tiny Doses, an Addiction Medication Moonlights as a Treatment for Chronic Pain

September 24, 2019

(NPR) – As the medical establishment tries to do a huge U-turn after two disastrous decades of pushing long-term opioid use for chronic pain, scientists have been struggling to develop safe, effective alternatives. When naltrexone is used to treat addiction in pill form, it’s prescribed at 50 mg, but chronic-pain patients say it helps their pain at doses of less than a tenth of that.

Prominent German Neuroscientist Committed Misconduct in ‘Brain-Reading’ Research

September 24, 2019

(Nature) – A prominent German neuroscientist committed scientific misconduct in research in which he claimed to have developed a brain-monitoring technique able to read certain thoughts of paralysed people, Germany’s main research agency has found. The DFG’s investigation into Niels Birbaumer’s high-profile work found that data in two papers were incomplete and that the scientific analysis was flawed — although it did not comment on whether the approach was valid.

Patient Records Found at Shuttered Indiana Abortion Clinic

September 23, 2019

(ABC News) – Investigators found thousands of abandoned medical records at three shuttered Indiana abortion clinics that were operated by a late doctor who took home more than 2,200 sets of fetal remains, Indiana’s attorney general said Friday. No fetal remains were found during Thursday’s searches of Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s former clinics and other properties in Gary, South Bend and Fort Wayne, Attorney General Curtis Hill said at a news conference. But he said thousands of patient medical records were discovered, though he didn’t give an exact number.

How Juul Hooked Kids and Ignited a Public Health Crisis

September 23, 2019

(TIME) – To a remarkable degree, a single company is front and center in one of the biggest public-health crises facing the country: the sharp rise in vaping among teenagers and young adults. In 2018, 30% of the nation’s 12th-graders reported vaping nicotine at least once in the past year, according to a January 2019 study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The study said the increase in vaping last year was “the largest ever recorded for any substance in the 44 years” that it has tracked adolescent drug use.

With Abortion Restrictions on the Rise, Some Women Induce Their Own

September 23, 2019

(NPR) – The Food and Drug Administration has an approved two-drug protocol for medication abortions, a combination of misoprostol and mifepristone. Mifepristone is especially heavily regulated in the U.S., and the combination is typically prescribed by a doctor during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy to cause what’s essentially a medically induced miscarriage. That two-drug combination is most effective, but the World Health Organization says misoprostol alone can also be used to safely induce abortion, provided patients get follow-up care.

Philippines Declares New Polio Outbreak After 19 Years

September 20, 2019

(ABC News) – Philippine health officials declared a polio outbreak in the country on Thursday, nearly two decades after the World Health Organization declared it to be free of the highly contagious and potentially deadly disease. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said at a news conference that authorities have confirmed at least one case of polio in a 3-year-old girl in southern Lanao del Sur province and detected the polio virus in sewage in Manila and in waterways in the southern Davao region.

French Weight-Loss Pill Scandal Set for Landmark Trial

September 20, 2019

(Reuters) – Privately-owned Servier, regulator Agence nationale de securite du medicament (ANSM) and 21 defendants will face more than 2,600 plaintiffs who believe the drugmaker deliberately misled patients for decades, helped by lenient authorities. The charges range from deceit to manslaughter which, under French law, could result in fines and jail sentences.  The case caused an outcry in France, where authorities have said as many as five million patients were exposed to the drug, known as Mediator, before its withdrawal in 2010, causing between 500 and 2,000 related deaths.

The Secret History of Fort Detrick, the CIA’s Base for Mind Control Experiments

September 20, 2019

(Politico) – Detrick is today one of the world’s cutting-edge laboratories for research into toxins and antitoxins, the place where defenses are developed against every plague, from crop fungus to Ebola. Its leading role in the field is widely recognized. For decades, though, much of what went on at the base was a closely held secret. Directors of the CIA mind control program MK-ULTRA, which used Detrick as a key base, destroyed most of their records in 1973. Some of its secrets have been revealed in declassified documents, through interviews and as a result of congressional investigations. Together, those sources reveal Detrick’s central role in MK-ULTRA and in the manufacture of poisons intended to kill foreign leaders.

IVF, Assisted Reproduction Techniques Linked to Increased Gestational Diabetes

September 20, 2019

(MD Magazine) – A new meta-analysis containing information of nearly 2 million women over more than a decade has found that use of assisted reproductive technologies, including in vitro fertilization(IVF), before giving birth are at a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes. Results of the analysis, which was presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Annual Meeting, revealed that women who became pregnant via assisted reproductive techniques increased their risk of developing gestational diabetes by 53% compared to women with spontaneous conception.

Amid Privacy Concerns, Startup Becomes First Consumer DNA Company to Offer Anonymous Sequencing

September 19, 2019

(STAT News) – The upstart direct-to-consumer DNA-testing company Nebula Genomics announced on Thursday that it will offer anonymous genome sequencing, becoming the first to do so amid public concerns about the privacy of genetic data and law enforcement use of public DNA databases to identify suspects. Customers will be able to purchase Nebula’s whole-genome sequencing “without sharing their name, address, or credit card information,” said Nebula co-founder and chief scientific officer Dennis Grishin.