(UPI) – Opioid-based painkillers are the standard for pain treatment, but the drugs have been linked to an epidemic of misuse and addiction, and are costing Americans billions of dollars beyond the health conditions they are meant to treat. The overuse, misuse and abuse of opioid-based painkillers is costing the United States about $78 billion per year for additional care, lost work productivity and the criminal justice system, according to a new study published in the journal Medical Care.
(The Telegraph) – The editor of the BMJ has written to the Chief Medical Officer asking for an independent review of statins following years of controversy. Dr Fiona Godlee has asked Dame Sally Davies to intervene after medical journal The Lancet published a review claiming the drugs were safe and effective and warning that their harms had been exaggerated. The Lancet said that thousands of people had been misled into stopping their medication after two articles appeared in the BMJ questioning their use and warning of side-effects.
(The Atlantic) – The United Nations is having trouble getting aid deliveries to Syria in the midst of a cease-fire between government troops and rebel forces, Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, said Thursday in Geneva. “We have a problem,” de Mistura said in public remarks about the delivery of much-needed humanitarian relief to civilian populations. Despite the on-going cease-fire, which went into effect this week following a U.S.-Russian agreement, de Mistura cited a lack of cooperation by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
(Reuters) – Fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, the jury is still out on whether firefighters who worked at the World Trade Center site have increased odds of developing cancer, a U.S. study suggests. Some previous research has linked working at the site with higher rates of certain cancers than are seen among people who weren’t at the World Trade Center during that time. The current study, however, found firefighters who responded to the attacks in New York don’t appear to have a greater cancer risk than firefighters from San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia who were not part of the 9/11 emergency response – with the exception of two cancer types.
(Managed Care Magazine) – Mylan Pharmaceuticals––currently the target of public and congressional ire over its hefty price increases for the EpiPen––had the second-highest executive compensation among all U.S. drug and biotech firms during the past five years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. The big paydays are unusual in view of the company’s small size in the U.S. drug industry, where it is No. 11 by revenue, the article notes.
(Medscape) – Early implementation of palliative care can improve quality of life (QOL), mood, coping, and the frequency of end-of-life discussions for patients with newly diagnosed lung and gastrointestinal (GI) cancer, according to new findings. The study also found that early integration of palliative care resulted in an increase in discussions about patient end-of-life care preferences. However, the effect of palliative care interventions, when compared with standard care, differed by cancer type, noted lead author Joseph Greer, PhD, clinical director of psychology and a research scientist in the Center for Psychiatric Oncology and Behavioral Services at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
(The Guardian) – Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the alleged theft of thousands of DNA samples from a research laboratory in Sardinia that had been collected more than a decade ago as part of a study into longevity. The launch of the inquiry comes weeks after rights to the DNA samples were apparently sold to a British biotechnology company called Tiziana Life Sciences in a bankruptcy deal that has been vigorously opposed by some citizens and local politicians.
(Nature) – Likewise, the citizens of dozens of European cities have no idea that their sewage is being sifted through right now, officially to protect them; or that the police are studying the results to track crime. The toilet bowl and its contents, once extremely private, are becoming very public indeed. It’s called wastewater-based epidemiology. Improved sensing techniques and analysis have made the contents of sewers and waste pipes a powerful source of data.
(MIT Technology Review) – A company that stepped in to salvage the first-ever medical use of human embryonic stem cells says it has encouraging results in patients with spinal-cord injury. Today, Asterias Biotherapeutics, the company in Fremont, California, that’s developing the treatment, will present data it says shows some gains of movement and sensation in five patients with spinal injuries who received injections of nervous system cells. The company’s technology is notable because of its link to the original discovery of human embryonic stem cells nearly 20 years ago.
(Washington Post) – A cross-ideological group of ethicists recently signed a powerful public letter opposing the proposed federal regulation banning the sale of hematopoietic stem cells, used in bone marrow transplantation. These cells are used in the treatment of patients with serious blood or bone marrow cancer. Often, cell transplantation is needed to save the patient’s life. The new rule would reverse a 2011 court decision holding that offering payment to bone marrow donors is not forbidden by the National Organ Transplantation Act, if it is done by means of a new, relatively noninvasive procedure known as apheresis.
(Managed Care Magazine) – This hasn’t been the best of years for the pharmaceutical industry on Capitol Hill. Even with pro-business Republicans running the show in Congress, pharma executives could not avoid being dragged before the C-Span cameras repeatedly to defend the spiraling cost of drugs and some particularly egregious displays of hubris by certain individuals (e.g., “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli). The bad publicity — along with individual Americans’ sticker shock at their own prescriptions — has led most Americans, including some Republicans, to support some kind of government action to reduce drug prices.
(NPR) – Health care providers and insurers agree that it’s in everyone’s best interest to refer women for genetic testing if their family history of breast or ovarian cancer puts them at higher risk. What they don’t agree on is what should happen before testing — whether women need to be advised by a certified genetic counselor or someone with similar training before the test is ordered.
(New York Times) – The documents show that a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies used in the review were handpicked by the sugar group, and the article, which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.
(Nature) – After more than a decade of controversy, the United States is nudging towards approving research on human–animal embryos. Last week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) closed a month-long public consultation on ‘chimaera research’, and is widely expected to lift a moratorium that forbids federal funding for such work. Human–animal chimaeras are essentially research animals that contain transplanted human cells. Such biologically mixed animals have long been used as staple experimental systems in biomedical studies, including cancer and AIDS research. But, for some, adding human stem cells to animal embryos is a step too far — which is why the NIH imposed the moratorium, in 2015. Before then, it funded chimaeric embryo studies as long as they did not use primate blastocysts.
(BBC) – Scientists say early experiments suggest it may one day be possible to make babies without using eggs. They have succeeded in creating healthy baby mice by tricking sperm into believing they were fertilising normal eggs. The findings in Nature Communications, could, in the distant future, mean women can be removed from the baby-making process, say the researchers. For now, the work helps to explain some of the details of fertilisation.
(Nature) – Ebola survivors are teaching scientists some surprising lessons. Long-term studies have revealed that the virus lasts longer in survivors’ bodies than previously suspected. The findings, presented on 12 September at an Ebola-virus conference in Antwerp, Belgium, underscore the need for extended tracking of people who have beaten Ebola and other rare infections. Researchers have long known that the virus can persist in people who have recovered from the infection. But the size of the West African outbreak, coupled with improved monitoring technologies, is changing how scientists view life after Ebola — and how to prevent future outbreaks.
(BBC) – The Belgian Paralympian Marieke Vervoort, who suffers from an incurable degenerative muscle disease, says she will choose euthanasia, but not yet. The wheelchair racer, who won a silver medal on Saturday in the 400m, said she signed euthanasia papers in 2008. The Belgian press had reported she might take her life after Rio, but she rejected the speculation at a news conference following her victory.
(Medical Xpress) – A new study on euthanasia trends in Belgium, which shows an increase in reported cases since legislation was introduced, provides lessons for countries that have legalized assisted dying. The research is published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). In 2002, Belgium legalized the intentional ending of life by a physician at the patient’s explicit request. The government introduced safeguards to protect patients, including a multidisciplinary review panel—the Belgian Federal Control and Evaluation Committee for Euthanasia—to ensure that each procedure was performed according to legal guidelines.
(The Guardian) – British surgeons have successfully performed the world’s first robotic operation inside the eye, potentially revolutionising the way such conditions are treated. The procedure was carried out at John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, where surgeons welcomed its success. On completing the operation, Professor Robert MacLaren said: “There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future. Current technology with laser scanners and microscopes allows us to monitor retinal diseases at the microscopic level, but the things we see are beyond the physiological limit of what the human hand can operate on.”
(Daily Mail) – Abortions of babies with a minor facial deformity have nearly tripled in the past five years, official figures show. A growing number of terminations are carried out due to a cleft palate or lip – a condition which causes a gap in the roof of the mouth, upper lip or both, but is usually easily fixed by surgery. It is thought that increased access to tests that diagnose the condition in the womb are behind a rise in the number of parents choosing to end pregnancies.