Bioethics.com

Subscribe to Bioethics.com feed
Your global information source on bioethics news, issues, & events
Updated: 3 hours 22 min ago

In Men, It’s Parkinson’s. In Women, It’s Hysteria

August 23, 2019

(ProPublica) – Once it was called “hysterical” movement disorder, or simply “hysteria.” Later it was labeled “psychogenic.” Now it’s a “functional disorder.” By any name, it’s one of the most puzzling afflictions — and problematic diagnoses — in medicine. It often has the same symptoms, like uncontrollable shaking and difficulty walking, that characterize brain diseases like Parkinson’s. But the condition is caused by stress or trauma and often treated by psychotherapy. And, in a disparity that is drawing increased scrutiny, most of those deemed to suffer from it — as high as 80% in some studies — are women.

The Promise and Price of Cellular Therapies

August 23, 2019

(The New Yorker) – For most of the twentieth century, the definition of a drug was simple, because drugs were simple: they were typically small molecules synthesized in factories or extracted from plants, purified, and packaged into pills. Later, the pharmacopoeia expanded to include large and complex proteins—from insulin to monoclonal antibodies. But could a living substance be a drug? Thomas, who saw bone-marrow transplantation as a procedure or a protocol, akin to other organ transplants, would never have described it as a drug. And yet, in ways that Thomas couldn’t have anticipated, he had laid the foundation for a new kind of therapy—“living drugs,” a sort of chimera of the pharmaceutical and the procedural—which would confound definitions and challenge the boundaries of medicine, raising basic questions about the patenting, the manufacturing, and the pricing of medicines.

UN: Ebola Outbreak in Congo Has Killed Nearly 2,000 People

August 23, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief said the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo is approaching a “stark” milestone with nearly 2,000 people killed by the virus in the year-long epidemic. 

Vaping Sicknesses Rising: 153 Cases Reported in 16 States

August 22, 2019

(New York Times) – Sixteen states have now reported 153 cases of serious, vaping-related respiratory illnesses in the past two months, and many of the patients are teenagers or young adults. In a statement on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that all of the cases occurred in people who acknowledged vaping either nicotine or tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, the high-inducing chemical in marijuana. Federal and state officials say that they are mystified as to what is causing the illnesses, but that it does not appear that an infectious disease is responsible.

Scientists Attempt Controversial Experiment to Edit DNA in Human Sperm Using CRISPR

August 22, 2019

(NPR) – First it was human embryos. Now scientists are trying to develop another way to modify human DNA that can be passed on to future generations, NPR has learned. Reproductive biologists at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City are attempting to use the powerful gene-editing technique called CRISPR to alter genes in human sperm. NPR got exclusive access to watch the controversial experiments underway. The research is aimed at finding new ways to prevent disorders caused by genetic mutations that are passed down from men — including some forms of male infertility.

FDA on Novartis Data Manipulation Controversy: ‘We Happened to Be Lucky’

August 22, 2019

(STAT News) – Since the Food and Drug Administration blasted Novartis (NVS) earlier this month over data manipulation, one of the major questions looming over the matter has been why the agency came down so publicly on the drug maker. The answer, according to a top FDA official, is because the stakes were too high to do otherwise. Dr. Peter Marks, who wrote the statement that created a storm of controversy around Novartis and data used to support approval of the drug Zolgensma, said in an interview that any case in which data are mishandled and patients are harmed could set the whole field of gene therapy back, just as the death of a patient, Jesse Gelsinger, froze research two decades ago.

The ‘Unwarranted Hype’ of Stem Cell Therapies

August 22, 2019

(BBC) – That’s where crowdfunding comes into its own. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association identified 408 US campaigns for stem cell treatment on YouCaring and GoFundMe, with more than $7m sought and 13,050 donor pledges. The clinics often actively encourage these campaigns: one at Northwestern Medicine has a handbook with a section on “soliciting methods”. The campaigns often underplay potential risks or omit them entirely.

The Collapse of a Hospital Empire–And Towns Left in the Wreckage

August 22, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – And, in town after town, the people believed him. He offered what they could not resist: hope, and the promise of survival. Then a few major health insurance companies got suspicious, as did some government officials. How could Unionville, Mo. — a town of 1,790 — generate $92 million in hospital lab fees for blood and urine samples in just six months? Why had lab billings at a 25-bed hospital in Plymouth, N.C., nearly tripled to $32 million in the year after Perez’s company took control? The lab billings, insurers alleged, were simply fraudulent. Blue Cross Blue Shield and other insurers started filing lawsuits, stopped making reimbursements and shut off the spigot.

Why Parents Are Turning to a Controversial Treatment for Food Allergies

August 20, 2019

(Undark) – Over the past decade, the number of OIT providers has grown from just a handful of doctors nationwide to a small, influential cohort of more than a hundred today. Thousands of food allergy patients who have tried oral immunotherapy in the United States and abroad swear by the treatment, often calling the results life-changing. And with an FDA decision expected by early 2020 for Aimmune Therapeutics’ “peanut capsules,” OIT could soon go mainstream.  But at the moment, allergists remain deeply divided over the treatment, which doesn’t work for everyone and carries uncertain risks.

Brain Scans Could Help Personalize Treatment for People Who Are Depressed or Suicidal

August 20, 2019

(Science) – People like Moe present a conundrum to doctors but an opportunity for researchers: a group whose health could be transformed by precision psychiatry. Depression is often treated as a single disease, but many researchers agree that it is actually multiple, distinct ailments. Some of those conditions may heighten suicide risk more than others. How many depression subtypes exist—and how they differ—is hotly debated. One way researchers are trying to settle the question is by peering into the brain. They’re studying the neural circuits that light up during specific tasks and then correlating those patterns of activation with symptoms.

Damaged Babies and Broken Hearts: Ukraine’s Commercial Surrogacy Industry Leaves a Trail of Disasters

August 20, 2019

(Australia Broadcasting Co) – I arrive at the Sonechko Children’s Home, a collection of rundown double-storey brick buildings in a city south east of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. I’m here to meet a little girl I’ve been searching for over the past six months. She’s been abandoned by the very people who paid for her to be born — her American parents. Now she’s an orphan and has disabilities which require medical attention. Marina Boyko, the flame-haired nurse who’s cared for the little girl since she was a baby, is taking us to meet her.

15 Studies Retracted Due to Fears They Used Chinese Prisoners’ Organs

August 16, 2019

(New Scientist) – Fifteen studies about transplanted organs by researchers in China have been retracted this month due to concerns the work may have used organs from executed prisoners. Three other papers have been the subject of expressions of concern for the same reason, according to the website Retraction Watch which monitors questions raised over published research.

Do C-Section Babies Need Mum’s Microbes? Trials Tackle Controversial Idea

August 16, 2019

(Nature) – When a baby passes through its mother’s birth canal, it is bathed in a soup of microbes. Those born by caesarean section (C-section) miss out on this bacterial baptism, and researchers are sharply split on whether that increases the risk of chronic health problems such as obesity and asthma. A wave of clinical trials now under way could help to settle the question — and feed into the debate over whether seeding babies born by C-section with their mother’s vaginal bacteria is beneficial or potentially harmful. At least four groups of researchers — in the United States, Sweden and China — have begun separate experiments, in which they are swabbing hundreds of C-section babies with their mother’s microbes, while comparing them to a control group.

New Jersey’s Medically Assisted Suicide Law Put on Hold

August 15, 2019

(ABC News) – A New Jersey judge put a temporary hold on a new law allowing terminally ill patients to seek life-ending drugs. The order means that New Jersey’s recently enacted measure cannot be enforced by the state attorney general and comes in response to a lawsuit brought by a doctor practicing in the state.

Why Some Doctors Purposely Misdiagnose Patients

August 15, 2019

(The Atlantic) – More than a decade later, Martinez is one of hundreds of patients who have accused Awaad of intentionally misreading their EEGs and misdiagnosing them with epilepsy in childhood, all to increase his pay. In June, Martinez’s case became the first to go to trial in Michigan. The case shines a light on the grim world of health-care fraud—specifically, the growing number of doctors who are accused of performing unnecessary procedures, sometimes for their own personal gain.

Dozens of Young People Hospitalized for Breathing and Lung Problems After Vaping

August 15, 2019

(New York Times) – Nearly three dozen young people have been hospitalized around the country in recent weeks for severe respiratory problems after vaping either nicotine or marijuana, stumping doctors treating them. The Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin public health departments are investigating these cases and at least 20 additional emergency admissions that doctors suspect are related to vaping some substance, possibly even illegal street drugs or adulterated liquids laced with T.H.C., the ingredient that produces marijuana’s high.

Medical Abortions Can Be Safely Supervised Via Telemedicine: Study

August 15, 2019

(Reuters) – Terminating a pregnancy with medication under virtual supervision from a clinician is just as effective and safe as doing so at a medical facility, a study across four U.S states suggests. The findings mean that telemedicine could give more U.S. patients access to safe and legal abortion, especially in states passing legislation to impose severe restrictions on a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy, the researchers said.

Scientists Discover New Cure for the Deadliest Strain of Tuberculosis

August 14, 2019

(New York Times) – Five years later, Ms. Msimango, 25, is now tuberculosis-free. She is healthy at 103 pounds, and has a young son. The trial she joined was small — it enrolled only 109 patients — but experts are calling the preliminary results groundbreaking. The drug regimen tested on Ms. Msimango has shown a 90 percent success rate against a deadly plague, extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis.  On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration effectively endorsed the approach, approving the newest of the three drugs used in the regimen.

Vaping Linked to Marijuana Use in Young People, Research Says

August 14, 2019

(CNN) – Young people who vape are more likely to use marijuana, according to a study published Monday. The findings, researchers say, support the theory that nicotine rewires the developing brain, changing how people respond to and crave addictive substances. “Adolescents have a brain that’s still changing and developing,” said Dr. Nicholas Chadi, the lead author on the study, who conducted the research as a fellow in pediatric addiction medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Novartis Ousted Top Scientists Over Manipulation of Data for Gene Therapy

August 14, 2019

(STAT News) – Novartis dismissed the top two scientists at its gene therapy division shortly after CEO Vas Narasimhan learned of internal data falsification that has since snowballed into a damaging scandal, a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday. The company previously said it was “in the process of exiting” scientists who were responsible for the scandal but did not identify them.

Pages